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 license know-how?
  • Key terms of a know-how licence
  • R&D agreements
  • More...

Know-how—protection and licensing

This Practice Note explains what know-how is and sets out the different ways know-how can be protected before providing guidance on issues relating to licensing know-how, including the licensing of know-how as part of a wider research and development (R&D) agreement. It includes analysis of why know-how is licensed, the key terms of a know-how licence, IP issues and considerations in R&D agreements, co-ownership of IP rights and competition law issues.

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. Prior to 1 January 2021, there was no statutory definition for know-how in UK law. However, on 1 January 2021 (at the end of the Brexit transition period), Regulation (EU) 316/2014, the Technology Transfer Block Exemption Regulation (EU TTBER) was converted into domestic UK law (for more information about retained EU law, see Practice Note: Introduction to retained EU law). Article 1 of Retained Regulation (EU) 316/2014 (UK TTBER) introduced the following statutory definition of know-how into UK law

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