Q&As

To what extent is it possible to ‘own’ data and what can you do to protect the rights arising in relation to data that is in your possession or control?

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Published on LexisPSL on 05/03/2019

The following IP Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • To what extent is it possible to ‘own’ data and what can you do to protect the rights arising in relation to data that is in your possession or control?
  • Data
  • Databases
  • Copyright
  • Sui generis database right
  • Confidential information and trade secrets

Data

Data can be defined as ‘facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis’. There is no basic property right in a piece of data, so it is not possible to ‘own’ the data itself. However, ownership rights can accrue in relation to the recorded, aggregated or collected form of data by way of intellectual property rights arising in relation to the same. Copyright may arise in relation to the data, depending on the type and amount of data collected. For example, data may be protected as a literary work, a film or sound recording or a typological arrangement. For more information, see Practice Note: Copyright—protectable works.

Databases

In many cases, data will be aggregated within a database. In the UK there are two intellectual property rights which can subsist in a database: copyright and a sui generis database right. Both rights can be owned in relation to the same database. These are discussed briefly below, and for more information, see Practice Note: Legal protection of databases in the UK.

Copyright

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988), databases fall under the umbrella term ‘literary work’ which can be protected under harmonised copyright law in the EU. CDPA 1988 sets out that a database is a col

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