Ownership of Intellectual Property

Surrey Intellectual Property Lawyer | Patents, Trademarks, Copyright

By Dawn Wattie 

There is the perception that if an individual purchases intangible assets, such as a software application, a music video, a film, a game or a business pays for a designer to develop a new brand, business card or letterhead that the individual or business owns the intangible asset. Under Canadian copyright laws, except in the case of employment or clear contractual provisions assigning the copyright and waiving moral rights in favour of the individual or business, the author of such works is the owner of the copyright and moral rights and the individual or business has merely purchased a right to use (a license) the intellectual property rights and purchased only the services that the author performed in creating such intangible assets. This failure to understand the distinction could potentially affect the ability of the individual or business to fully commercialize the benefit to be derived from such intangible assets.

For example, if a party wishes to sell rights to the intangible asset to a third party, the party wishing to sell has only a limited license to the intangible assets. This could be particularly troublesome in the event that the party needed to show clear chain of title to complete a sale of the intangible asset. Another example is if the party wishes to modify the intangible asset but did not secure a waiver of moral rights, then the party would be modifying the work without the author’s approval and therefore infringing their moral rights. It is therefore particularly important for individuals or businesses dealing with intangible assets to be clear and ensure they obtain the full intellectual property rights to intangible assets which they believe have commercial value.


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