Source Code, Software and Protecting IP


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in software is one of the most valuable aspects of its ownership. The four types of rights are copyright, trade secrets, trademarks and patents.  Each type of IP right will be expanded upon in future posts, but for now we want to discuss copyright as it is the most significant IPR that exists in this context.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is protected. In software these would include:

·         A computer program & preparatory design material;

·         Tables or compilations other than databases;

·         Databases that meet specific originality tests.

Other works protected under the CDPA include sound recordings, films and the typographical arrangements of published editions.

Under copyright law a ‘computer program’ means its source code or object code. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are other elements of software that would be protected; such as graphics, visuals, layout, sounds and music.

The first author is the first owner of any copyright unless created in the course of employment. In such case the first owner is the employer. If an employee wishes to maintain ownership of their work, they must ensure this is clearly stipulated in an agreement.

A contracted third party will own copyright unless it has been effectively assigned to the commissioning entity. Therefore, if you are a business who wants to own all the rights in a software product, it is important ensure you have a copyright assignment in place. Perhaps a license can be negotiated more readily. On the other hand, a developer may want to consider whether there is any background IP that should be carved out of that assignment or license. Is there any generic IP that you will need to use for other clients? Have you assigned all necessary new IP to your client?

IPRs in software can be complex and it’s important to get sound legal advice before agreeing to anything. Klio assists developers, data scientists, businesses and consumers with every side of intellectual property protection and negotiation.


Sources: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.