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Who Owns the Rights to Your Design Work?

Posted: 3rd July 2017

Businesses of all sizes depend on their logos and websites to reach customers worldwide.

With visibility on the Internet more important than ever, having a distinctive logo and website has become an invaluable tool for the majority of the UK’s businesses. However, many business owners are not aware of significant dangers when commissioning the creation of logo and website design from a third party agency.

An issue that has landed businesses in trouble in the past and one which I frequently see is in relation to the ownership of copyright of their logos and website. If ownership rights are not dealt with prior to the signing of a commissioning contract, the completed product – whether that be a logo, a website or a piece of software – will belong to the creator of the work, rather than the business which paid for it! It seems unfair, but that is the law.

For example, in the case of logos, it’s important to have copyright assigned to you because if anyone were to copy your logo, it’s only the copyright owner who could legitimately complain. As it’s likely to be you who would want to object rather than the designer who created the logo, you need to own the copyright.

It is possible to secure a transfer of copyright after the design work has been created, but only if the design agency is happy to transfer it to you and this could come at an additional price. Of course, if the agency is not in a position to pass on the necessary rights to you, its reputation could suffer dramatically.

But why take the risk?

The ideal time to discuss copyright ownership rights in the process of hiring a branding agency, web designer or software developer is before any contracts have been agreed.

Smaller businesses rarely have the resources to review contracts with a fine tooth-comb, so they are more commonly caught out by intellectual property pitfalls than larger commercial firms.

Use of intellectual property protection can make or break a business. By properly protecting your logo, website, piece of software or any other intellectual property, you can create valuable assets for your business. However, failing to take the necessary precautions can leave you vulnerable to competitors and the creators of commissioned work.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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