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Helpful Tips

Do I have to identify the designer?
It is possible to waive the name of the designer when filing a European Community Design, but you should be sure that you have the rights to the design



Copyright is another form of intellectual property protection, like patents, designs and trade marks. Unlike those others, there is no examination process for deciding whether to ‘allow’ copyright in a work. The main requirement is that a work is original, and the threshold for ‘originality’ is set quite low in the UK. If you have expended effort in creating a work, then it is most likely protected by copyright, if it is one of the types of ‘work’ that is covered by copyright. Unfortunately, copyright infringement is relatively commonplace, compared to other kinds of infringement.


If you need advice on copyright and preventing others from taking advantage of works you have created, please contact us for an initial discussion. The following sections give a brief introduction to UK copyright law.



What is copyright?


Copyright is a property right, meaning it can be owned in the same way as tangible property. Copyright automatically subsists in an original work upon its creation. Examples of copyright works include literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, as well as sound recordings, films and broadcasts. Copyright infringement is possible if the content of the copyright work is used without permission.

How do I register my copyright in the work(s) I have created?


Copyright cannot be registered in the UK (or most other countries), although we recommend keeping records enabling the date of creation of a work to be easily determined.


Note also that ownership of copyright is not transferred by virtue of commissioning work, and this should be borne in mind when engaging designers and the like. Instead, an assignment of the copyright from the designer, for example, is required for you to own the copyright in a work you commission.

What else should I know about copyright?

Whilst copyright does not need to be registered, there are still limits on whether copyright exists in a work, and how long copyright lasts if it does.


Please explore the following sections for further introductory details concerning UK copyright.

Copyright and Unregistered Design Right

Copyright protects original artistic works. UK unregistered design right can be used to protect original non-artistic designs as well as some artistic works. The question of whether an article is a work of artistic craftsmanship has to be carefully determined to decide whether the article is protected by copyright or unregistered design right, or perhaps both.

Note also that whilst unregistered design rights are useful, they are relatively short term, and should not be considered a substitute for registered rights. Furthermore, licences of right are available in the last 5 years of protection, which means that a licence on reasonable terms must be granted, if requested by another party.

If you do intend to rely on unregistered design right, then you should make sure that you keep accurate records of design creation. It is also helpful to keep dated copies of your competitor’s brochures and any other available literature.

For more information, please contact us by calling +44 (0) 1242 691 801 to speak with one of our attorneys.

Authorship and ownership of copyright

Not all works are protected by UK copyright (or by UK unregistered design right). There are certain qualifying requirements which must be met by the author (or at least one co-author) in order for such protection to exist. In general terms, a UK national or resident is a ‘qualifying person’, although the criteria also extend to a person from another country, such as one of the EU countries.

The author of a work is the person who creates it, and they are also the ‘first owner’ of the copyright in the work. This copyright can subsequently be transferred to another person (or company) by assignment. However, generally speaking, if the author is an employee and creates the work as part of his work duties, copyright is first owned the employer, unless agreed otherwise.

For more information, please contact us by calling +44 (0) 1242 691 801 to speak with one of our attorneys.

Duration of copyright

UK copyright in an artistic work generally expires 70 years from the death of the author of the work (or the last of the authors, if two or more people co-authored the work). This is measured to the end of the relevant calendar year. For example, if the sole author of a book passed away in 1945, the UK copyright would expire at the end of 2015, rather than 70 years to the day following the passing of the author.

Sometimes copyright has a shorter term. For example, if an artistic work is exploited by industrial manufacture – when making a product with a particular design, for example – then the copyright term is limited to 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which articles including the copyright work are first marketed.

For more information, please contact us by calling +44 (0) 1242 691 801 to speak with one of our attorneys.

Copyright infringement

Copyright is infringed by a person, who without the permission of the copyright owner:

  • Copies the work
  • Issues the work to the public
  • Rents or lends the work to the public
  • Performs, shows or plays the work in public
  • Broadcasts the work or includes it in a cable programme service
  • Makes an adaption of the work
  • Or does any of the above in relation to an adaptation of the work.

Copyright is also infringed by a person who, without obtaining a licence from the copyright owner, does or authorises any of the above restricted acts.

For more information, please contact us by calling +44 (0) 1242 691 801 to speak with one of our attorneys.

Copyright Law - Legal Texts

Note that we advise on copyright issues on a case-by-case basis, and you should telephone us if you require specific advice on copyright infringement or related matters. The information on this page is simplified for brevity and does not constitute legal advice.

Will both UK copyright and UK unregistered design right protect my work?


Possibly – UK copyright and unregistered design right have some overlap in protection. If your work is artistic, copyright protection is provided. For example, copyright and design right protection may both apply to sculptures, or other works of artistic craftmanship. The qualifying requirements must be met in order for the relevant right to subsist.

I have written a book. Will copyright protect me and if so for how long?


Yes – UK copyright protection will last throughout your lifetime, and until around 70 years following your passing. The same applies to any artistic works you have created. If someone copies your work without permission before this, then that could constitute copyright infringement.


If you would like further information, please email us directly here or call +44 (0) 1242 691 801 to speak to a qualified European Patent attorney or fill in the form below.