Know-how—protection and licensing
Know-how—protection and licensing

The following IP practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Know-how—protection and licensing
  • What is know-how?
  • Legal protection of know-how
  • Common law protection for confidential information
  • Contractual protection for confidential information
  • Benefits and limitations of relying on confidential know-how
  • Transferring know-how
  • Why licence know-how?
  • Key terms of a know-how licence
  • R&D agreements
  • More...

What is know-how?

‘Know-how’ is technical or practical knowledge resulting from research or experience and usually relates to the way something is done. This technical or practical knowledge can be recorded in any form or even just held in the memory of an inventor or key employee and can include operating manuals, designs, blueprints and other technical information.

Due to the fact that know-how is not always written down, it can be difficult to define. There is no statutory definition for know-how in UK law but Article 1 of Regulation (EU) 316/2014, the Technology Transfer Block Exemption Regulation provide the following definition:

‘“Know-how” means a package of practical information, resulting from experience and testing, which is:

(i) secret, that is to say, not generally known or easily accessible,

(ii) substantial, that is to say, significant and useful for the production of the contract products, and

(iii) identified, that is to say, described in a sufficiently comprehensive manner so as to make it possible to verify that it fulfils the criteria of secrecy and substantiality.’

Legal protection of know-how

While the form in which information is recorded may attract IP protection, for example, copyright in an operating manual or design right in a prototype, there is no statutory IP protection for information as such. Instead, know-how may be protected by an obligation of confidentiality arising either under equitable common law principles or because

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