Tag Archives: copyright infringement

Intellectual property

Intellectual Property Rights – Frightening?

I was speaking to a designer recently who said that people find IP rights very frightening.

That intrigued me. Why fear IP? Is it that you fear what you don’t understand? Is it that IP is a nuisance perhaps?

Whatever the reasons for this designer’s comment the reality is that IP is part and parcel of business. You need to be mindful of IP all the time, whether you’re starting a new project or business or growing or exiting a business.


It’s Possible It’s Not Your Intellectual Property

The fact that it’s possible that something you assume is yours is regarded by the legal system as not yours is a difficult concept to grasp perhaps. That’s because IP often resides within something else. At it’s simplest you may own a book but you don’t own the copyright in that book. It belongs to the author or the publisher. Similarly, you may own your website in the sense that it’s your site, but not necessarily own the copyright in its designs and functionality. What this means is that you can use it for your business but if you try to licence valuable parts of the design or functionality to others in order to generate a new income stream you would be prevented from doing so because you don’t own the copyright and designs in it.

Questions that arise in relation to IP include:

  • What type of IP is it?
  • How should you protect it so it can be yours?
  • What should you do to turn your idea into IP that you can own?
  • Is it essential to keep your idea secret so you can own valuable IP?
  • Are you infringing on other people’s Intellectual Property?

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (“IP”) is an umbrella term that describes a range of rights in intangible assets, such as:

        • Copyright: in various works like photographs, words, music, logos, and software.
        • Designs: rights in the shape of goods like ipads, or bottles, or in the surface design of materials such as wallpaper.
        • Trademarks: rights in packaging, names, slogans, and logos.
        • Patents: over an innovation which was previously unknown, like the bagless Dyson vacuum cleaner.

IP rights are territorial, which means you are generally protected in the countries in which you register them. For IP rights that arise automatically, such as copyright, you will have wider protection worldwide thanks to international treaties between countries.

Also, there are useful measures you can and should take in other countries to better protect your assets.


Owning Intellectual Property

To own intellectual property rights it’s necessary to take the right actions in relation to your ideas. That’s how you avoid discovering that your ideas become someone else’s intellectual property. It’s important when commissioning someone to carry out certain types of activity that results in new IP to have the right agreements in place.

Otherwise, you could find that:

  • your logo belongs to the designer who created it.
  • your website is not yours to do with as you like

Due to the IP default rules, it’s all too possible if you don’t know the right actions to take, to find that you pay for work to be created, but that you don’t own the rights to exploit it.

The biggest trap to avoid is finding that your idea for business software becomes the IP of those who develop it.


Avoid Infringement

It’s necessary to think of IP in two ways. Firstly, whether you will be infringing on someone else’s intellectual property rights. Secondly, whether someone else is infringing on your rights.

Doing searches of various kinds and registering rights is key to protecting inventions and names. As it’s necessary to protect your turf against copycats, disputes can arise all too easily, so you need help to manage and resolve them, even if that doesn’t involve a last resort of using the court process.

Typically, not owning copyright to something important in your business is undesirable. This could result in the sale of your business falling through.

To protect IP involves implementing a range of legal agreements, not just when you’re setting up a new website, or licensing your IP or selling products and services online, but also as you grow the business. It becomes even more important with growth of a business to have good agreements in place that protect your intellectual property.

Protecting a new name, software and other assets against copying of all kinds, or an invention that could be patentable are reasons to deal with IP. It’s what makes your business valuable.

So going back to the question I started with, whether IP is frightening, it’s not IP that is the problem so much as ignorance of something important in business.

We are still at the early stages of the digital economy, but the more digital our lives become the more essential it is to get a good understanding of IP and protect your business. Start by having an intellectual property assessment and advice. We provide this at Azrights.

copyright dispute

Copyright Infringement and Copyright Disputes

copyright disputeThe most common copyright dispute we see involves an image used on a website which the website owner does not own or have permission to use.

The reason this happens is that either a web designer has grabbed an image from the internet and used it in the site design, or someone within the business has done so. This mistake is invariably caused by the assumption that material on the internet is in the public domain and may be freely used.  Alternatively, people unwittingly use material that infringes on someone else’s rights because they had not realised that the copyright licence they obtained does not permit them to use the image for the purpose or in the ways they have used them.

Infringement is sometimes deliberate. For example, there may be an existing contractual arrangement in place governing copyright and the contract is terminated, breached or is otherwise in dispute.

As the copyright owner is the person that has exclusive rights to copy and distribute the image or other copyright works, infringement disputes can arise all too often.

Where someone copies or distributes copyrighted work without the authorisation of the copyright holder, they may be liable for copyright infringement. That is, unless they can establish that an exception applies or that they have a valid defence.

For example, there are exceptions to infringement in certain limited circumstances, such as. in certain situations where someone makes personal use of the work, rather than commercial use.

Copyright Ownership Disputes

When a work or product is created that the law protects through copyright, then the copyright in that work usually belongs to the person who creates it. The law refers to that person as the ‘author’.

Where a work is created by two or more people, it can be complicated to work out who owns the copyright. So, whenever a work is created jointly with others it’s important to discuss how to control that ownership so that the work can be exploited even if a dispute arises between the copyright owners.

Copyright infringement might arise if there have been many changes in ownership as it is difficult to work out who owns the copyright, and can give permission to use it.  For example, if you see an image on a website that you want to use and ask the website owner if you may use it, then even if they give you permission, you could be infringing copyright unless they have permission to give someone else permission to use the image.

Note that where work is commissioned from another business or freelancer it is sensible to clarify in writing who is to own the copyright.

The legal rules that apply in default, lead to some surprising consequences. Where a contract is not used disputes are much more likely to arise.


Resolving Copyright Disputes

The first step in a copyright infringement dispute might be a cease and desist letter.  If you receive such a letter get legal advice.

Copyright infringement disputes are normally resolved through negotiation between the parties. Failing an agreed settlement the dispute would be decided by the courts.


copyright names

Does Copyright Protect Names?

copyright namesCopyright is a wide-ranging subject, and relevant to many creative and non-creative industries.  

It is arguably the most universally relevant IP right, covering written materials, music, art, logos, and computer programs, to name a few.  It protects most visual brand elements, such as logos, packaging, and websites, albeit it may also be possible to protect these by also registering some of them as designs or trademarks to secure added protection.

Copyright protects original expression, but not ideas themselves.  So, if someone were to suggest an idea to you to execute, such as an unusual looking picture of a bird, or gave you an idea for a plot, you as the creator would own copyright in the picture or plot you produce,and the person who gave you the idea will have no rights to any share of it. So the person with ideas gets no copyright in the work created as a result of their ideas unless there is a legal agreement between the two parties that provides otherwise.

Can I copyright my name?

Some people ask to “copyright” their name.  

People wonder whether copyright prevents them from using particular words for their product or business.  Even newspapers and popular online publications make the basic mistake sometimes of reporting names as being copyrightable. In fact, names are not protected by the law of copyright.  It is trademarks that protect names.

It was in a case in 1982 Exxon Corp, where it was decided that copyright does not protect names.  The company unsuccessfully applied to stop Exxon Insurance Consultants calling themselves Exxon, arguing that it had copyright in the name as it had spent substantial amounts of money developing the name.  

In a landmark decision, the UK Court of Appeal disagreed and took the view that it was not possible to have copyright in a name because a name is too brief.  Regardless of how much investment or time is put into the creation of a name, no matter how clever it is, from a policy point of view the court decided to keep names outside the scope of copyright protection.  Instead, names are protected by the law of trademarks.  

Some famous examples of slogans which are also protected by trademarks are Nike’s Just Do It, and L’Oreal’s Because you’re worth it.

What does this mean for you?  Well, for names and slogans you need to turn to trademark law for guidance. While for other works, such as those outlined at the start of this piece as examples of copyright works, generally, all you need to do to own your work is to record it in some way (for example by writing it down, taking a photograph, or getting it on tape).  

If you ask someone else to do work for you, for example, to develop a website, then you need a contract before you engage them, to give you the copyright, otherwise, they will own the rights in the site.

If an agency helps you to choose a brand name then unless you agree otherwise in the legal agreement between you, you will have exclusive rights to the name. They will have no claim to it. 

It’s important to get an expert in trademark law to help you assess whether a name is legally effective and available.  If it is, then registering it as a trademark is a sensible step to take so you own the rights to the name. This is important as you will be generating goodwill in the name.

How to Blog Safely and Avoid Infringement of Intellectual Property

In my previous post, I looked at the issue of protecting your blog content and identity. This blog briefly looks at some of the issues concerning the inclusion of other people’s materials in your content.

As I mentioned in the last blog, as a blogger you need to look in both directions when it comes to intellectual property (“IP”). In particular, you should ensure that what appears on your blog – be it text, photos, or comments – does not infringe the IP rights of someone else.

Before you launch your blog, with your new blog identity, you should carry out trade mark searches to make sure your name, tagline and logo don’t infringe the registered trade marks of another person or company.


Public domain and copyright

Moreover, make sure the contents of your blog presence don’t infringe someone else’s copyright. Content is not necessarily in the public domain just because it is freely available to access on the Internet. Unless you have created the content yourself – for example, taken that photograph yourself – you cannot assume that it is not protected by copyright. In fact, you should usually assume the opposite.

Most content is protected by copyright and that copyright will only expire 70 years after the death of the author. While it’s true that there are exceptions which permit some use of protected material – fair dealing in the UK or fair use in the United States, these are limited in scope, as you will see below.


Use of stock images

These days, with search engines like Google, there are thousands of images online for bloggers to use in their blogs. However, make sure your use won’t infringe copyright by checking the terms of the sites you’re using. Do the licence terms cover your blog? For example, if you may only make non commercial use, and do have promotions or otherwise make your blog pay, then don’t download from a site that only allows non commercial use as doing so may well amount to unauthorised reproduction contrary to copyright law.


Fair dealing of copyright material

What happens if, as a blogger, I want to use material such as a photo from a news event, or if I want to quote from an article, or book or even if I want to parody such material?

Well, assuming that the content you want to use is protected by copyright (which is likely), the general position, at least in the UK, is that the reproduction of a substantial part of work amounts to copyright infringement. What constitutes a “substantial part” is a complex and large topic, and will differ in each case as everything depends on the particular facts. So, let’s not get bogged down here with the somewhat tricky issue of what amounts to a “substantial part”, and instead look at what the law permits by way of certain limited exceptions which constitute fair dealing in the UK.

Although there are a number of fair dealing exceptions, only a few are likely to be relevant to bloggers. These include (a) criticism and review, parody and quotation, (b) reporting of current events, and, (c) incidental use (which is not strictly fair dealing but convenient to mention here).

If you reproduce part of a copyright work – let’s say an online article – in order to criticise or review that work or another work, your use may qualify as fair dealing under the law in the UK. This same law also protects you when you feature a quotation of work. However, it’s important to note that you may not freely reproduce a work if you want your use to be “fair”. So, reproducing an entire article on your blog is unlikely to be fair dealing. And the exception applies only to published works. Moreover, you must normally also include a sufficient acknowledgement of the original work.

The law in the UK also provides for fair dealing of third-party copyrighted material for the purpose of reporting of current events. However, photographs are excluded from this exception and so you cannot download and reproduce a photograph for the purpose of news reporting on your blog. While it might seem obvious, the events must be “current” and you must normally include a sufficient acknowledgement.

A blogger may also make incidental use of another’s copyright work without infringing copyright in that work. However, the law in the UK expressly excludes the deliberate inclusion of another’s music or lyrics. For example, you cannot add a song in the background of a video clip and claim that your use was incidental use if the song owner objects: it is not incidental use in this example because the music was included deliberately.

Creative Commons Licences

The last decade has seen the rise of open access forms of disseminating works known as Creative Commons (or (“CC”) licences. These provide for standard-form licences allowing members of the public to reuse work in particular ways. Creative Commons have sought to develop a suite of licences for many types of works.

The CC licences offers copyright owners a suite or menu of terms for using the content. Some of these only allow reuse in an unmodified form. Some only allow reuse with attribution. Others only allow reuse for non-commercial purposes.

While CC licences have become extremely popular in recent years, the most common kind is the “attribution, non-commercial, non-derivative works” licence which only allows the user to reproduce, distribute, or play the work in a non-modified form, only for non-commercial purposes and with attribution of authorship. As a consequence, CC licences are generally better suited to users who do not seek remuneration from copyright.

Using other’s logos or trade marks

A question that often arises is to what extent people may include the brand logos or trade marks of others in blog content. In terms of logos – say, logos of famous companies such as Virgin, Barclays, or Coca Cola – the best advice is: “don’t” because most of brand logos are usually protected by both trade mark registration, and copyright. This means that any reproduction by you on your blog of another’s brand logo is potentially copyright infringement.

In contrast, the mere reference in your blog to a word trade mark  – such as “BARCLAYS BANK” or “GAP” – is unlikely to amount to trade mark infringement. This is because, generally speaking, names do not enjoy copyright protection. Also, trade mark infringement is based on consumer confusion and so a mere reference to BARCLAYS BANK in your blog is not necessarily going to confuse your readers. That said, if your use is such that the relevant consumer might be led to believe that your blog is somehow connected to or supported by Barclays Bank, your use could potentially amount to trade mark infringement. So, when in doubt stick to merely referring to their brand names and avoid using other’s trade marks in such a way as to cause consumer confusion.

So, now that you have some basic insights into the IP laws, happy blogging!

3 Facts About Copyright Everyone Should Know

copyrightWhether you’re starting out in business, or creating new products and services for your existing business, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing things right, that your actions will set you up for success.

Unless you’re purely testing the market in a way where none of what you create needs to endure or be relied upon longer term, it pays to be mindful of the longer term implications of your early actions when implementing new ideas.  If you’re thinking big and aiming to create a business to one day sell, you definitely need to pay attention to what I’m highlighting here.

Setting yourself up for success involves being aware of how assets are created under the legal system, and the pitfalls to avoid. You should aim to implement your ideas in the right way because it’s the very early decisions and actions you take before you would even consult a lawyer, that have the greatest risk from a business perspective.

Copyright is essential to understand if you want to create assets that will grow in value as your business becomes more established. It crops up in many different ways.

Aim to understand the essentials, and avoid attracting liabilities, such as by using other people’s content. Here I explain just some of the copyright basics. I’m focusing on some key concepts that are not generally well understood. However, you need to know more than this.


What Copyright Covers

There is quite a lot of confusion generally with intellectual property terms like copyright, trademarks, and patents. You need to have some understanding of these terms as they are a type of “property” that it’s possible to own, just like land. They impact every business nowadays in the digital economy.

Copyright like other intellectual property rights is intangible. That means it is a property right that’s attached to something else. So, for example, you buy a book. You will own it, but you do not own the copyright in that book. The copyright belongs to someone else – the author or the publisher.

So, copyright ownership will often be separate from the physical object. The same principle applies for intangible objects, such as a logo or website.

Clarity about the fact that copyright is separate from the physical or intangible product you may be using or having created for you is key to understanding it:

The creator of a copyright work is the one who owns the copyright in that work, and that copyright lasts for their lifetime plus 70 years.

That’s a long time. Just like any property right, copyright may be sold, left in your will to your heirs, mortgaged or licensed to others to use.

The owner of copyright is the person who can grant permissions (a licence) to other people to use their copyright work. They can control who uses it and for what purpose just as an owner of land can decide whether to rent out their property or to give others permission to use the land for particular purposes.

The types of copyright works which are potentially relevant to individuals and businesses alike include:

  • books, brochures and written content
  • music
  • films and videos
  • photographs, drawings, and illustrations
  • logos and packaging
  • computer programs, and games.

So to conclude this section, remember that the copyright in the objects is separate to the object itself.


What Copyright Isn’t

Not everything is protected by copyright though. For example, copyright only comes into being when a work is fixed in some sort of tangible form, such as when it’s written down.

What copyright isn’t includes:

  • ideas,
  • systems, or methods,
  • names and taglines (this is mainly because the legal system has made a policy decision to protect these assets through the trademark system)

Copyright only protects the way an idea is expressed rather than the idea itself. This is often referred to as the idea/expression dichotomy.

So, the fact that copyright doesn’t exist in ideas has a number of ramifications.

For example, let’s take a copyright work like a food recipe, The words of a recipe are what copyright protects rather than the ideas contained in the recipe. That means if someone sets your recipe out in their book or copies and distributes it they would be infringing your copyright.

As for the ideas embodied in your recipe, those ideas are not protected by copyright. So, it is not infringement of copyright to cook whatever your recipe covers using every idea from the recipe. So, if it’s a recipe for making rabbit pie, anyone can make rabbit pie to the recipe, sell the pies commercially or vary the recipe and cook their own version of rabbit pie.

They can even publish their own recipe of rabbit pie drawing on inspiration from your ideas.

There is no copyright infringement involved as long as the recipe they write isn’t a word for word copy of your recipe with just one or two minor changes say.

So, they should express their ideas in a different way and not slavishly borrow from you.

Unfortunately, this neat categorisation has become murky due to the way some cases have been decided by the courts.


When Does Drawing Inspiration Become Copying?

Sometimes people wonder whether they might be infringing on someone else’s copyright if over many years they’ve studied a topic, attended courses, read books, and developed their own way of working. How can they be sure that it is their own “IP” that they’ve developed from all their learnings, and that they’re not infringing on other people’s copyright? Should you be giving credit where it’s legally due?

There is no categorical answer whether someone is crossing the line between drawing inspiration from a copyright work and copying (that is, infringing copyright).

At both ends of the scale, it will be very clear. So there is no copying when someone has simply got ideas and drawn inspiration from the ideas embodied in a copyright work and gone and created something of their own that is not a copy of expression of the original copyright work.

At the other extreme is where there is widespread copying of the original source, word for word copying of the majority of work.

When it is not clear cut an experienced copyright lawyer may be able to advise you, but ultimately if it’s really borderline whether there is copyright infringement or not, this is ultimately a question of fact.

There is no “ready” formula which says that if x% of a work is copied it will infringe.  There have been cases in the UK where the minutest % of copying has amounted to infringement (involving music where the copied element was very distinctive of the entire song). There have been other cases where taking whole sections of a book didn’t amount to copyright infringement as it was deemed to be quite generic material that was copied.

Where a dispute arises the issue is generally negotiated between the lawyers and a compromise reached reflecting the rights and wrongs of the situation. If a matter can’t be resolved then it would go to court and a judge would need to decide the issue.

Ultimately we all stand on the shoulders of giants and there is no completely original thought. So, if you’ve developed your ideas drawing from a combination of sources then it’s more likely than not that it would be your own IP.  It’s often a good idea to list your sources in a bibliography at the end of your book.



Copyright is just one of the intellectual property rights to be aware of when implementing ideas. There are in fact many other aspects of copyright that your business should protect itself again. Here I’ve just touched the surface so as not to overload you with information.

Who owns the copyright and how you secure copyright ownership is the other really important practical point to grasp about copyright and to remember to address throughout your business life. I cover this fully, in the mini-course which discusses everything you need to know about copyright ownership, how it arises, what to do to own copyright, how to manage this risk. You’d be doing yourself a favour to get hold of it.

Alternatively, if you want to discover other aspects of copyright as well as other intellectual property risks then Legally Branded Academy is the online course for you. It includes copyright ownership and much more.  Find out more about it. If you buy before the price doubles in mid-2019 you’ll get access to the revised course at half the price.


Copyright Protection of an App

The way copyright works to protect an app provides useful insights into copyright generally. Essentially, the important point to hold onto about copyright is that the default rules mean that the creator of the app will be the owner of the copyright in it rather than you the person who pays for the development work.

Therefore, an important first step before you select the right developer is to make sure they will be happy to give you a copyright in the end product.

However, don’t just have a verbal agreement on this point as that’s not enough under the law. You’ll need to reflect this in writing and also have a good development agreement in place. That agreement should clearly specify what is the be developed, the phases of the development, the payment plan, and how to resolve any disputes that may arise. Don’t agree to terms that only give you copyright when the project is concluded and you’ve paid for it. If for any reason you need to part company with the developer before then, you will want to have the source code and all rights in the work so you can find another developer to finish the work.

It’s also important to be mindful about the limitations of copyright protection. Copyright protects the expression of an idea rather than an idea itself.

This means that if I publish a recipe for how to make rabbit pie, my copyright in the recipe isn’t going to prevent you or anyone else from making the rabbit pie using my recipe. You would not be infringing my copyright in doing so.

If, on the other hand, you copied my recipe and distributed it to others, then my rights would be infringed because copyright protects the way I’ve expressed my idea. The law gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to copy the recipe in order to distribute it to others.

Translating that into how copyright protects an app means that if someone sees your app and decides they can do better than you, say you’re Magic Cabs and an Uber comes along, looks at your app, and thinks, this is a good idea, I’ll also develop an app along similar lines, they can do so without infringing your copyright. The only way they would be infringing your copyright is if they actually copied the code of your app. But if they got the idea from seeing your app and then go away and implemented the idea in their own way they would not be infringing your copyright.

So, when you have an idea for a new app bear in mind that innovation alone is no guarantee of success. You need to do thorough research, set your marketing strategy, and consider how best to develop the app to meet a market need. You can achieve a strong barrier to entry with the name you use for your app if it’s well conceived and addresses a market need. Be sure to pay close attention to the intellectual property rights around names before you buy domain names.

Raising investment

If you need to raise investment, while you may believe your idea is unique, bear in mind that investors will often be approached by numerous start-ups, some of whom may have very similar apps. So, don’t make the fundamental error of asking them to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement to look at your app idea.  You need to have taken all the necessary steps to protect your idea before you turn to investors. There should at least be a proof of concept for them to see, and if yours is a product that could be patented, then you need to file the patent-pending application before discussing the idea with third parties. Only confidential ideas that are not in the public domain are patentable.

So, once you’re ready to discuss your idea with investors you should be in a position to do it openly without need of NDAs.

Essentially, there is no guaranteed formula for success. There will be aspects to your business plan which you cannot control, yet they may have a great impact on your chances of success. Factors include national and global economic climate, geographic location, trends in popular culture, access to valuable contacts. Plain old luck also plays a part.

 Obtaining financing is not necessarily about the technical feasibility or the originality of the idea itself.  Sometimes, it can be more about you as a person, and whether you are aware of the qualities and skill sets needed to convince the right people to support you.

Private investors (also known as Venture Capitalists or Angel Investors) take a lot of interest in the make-up of the team. Often, they are very interested in the people that are backing the idea. They are predominately looking for a person who, as one investor put it, has the ‘disease of entrepreneurism’. For most investors, the personal dimension is so important that they would even invest in an average idea if the people were right. This suggests that if you’re looking for financial backing for your app, you should have entrepreneur drive, and some of the key skills that potential investors will look for in you are inventiveness; creative ability; the ability to package and communicate ideas. Without this, it is difficult to get the necessary investor confidence.


This blog has highlighted how copyright works, what it does and doesn’t protect, and the importance of first protecting your idea before turning to investors for funding.

Given the traits investors will look for before investing in your ideas, there are areas of self-development to consider if your vision is for something big. Focus on developing some key qualities, such as leading a team, which is essential for success in business. You’ll need to ‘re-invent’ yourself or find the right team to work with who can make up skills that may be lacking in you.

Legally Branded Podcast – Intellectual Property: The Challenges of Protecting Ideas

podcast_shireen_smithEven if an idea involves creating something tangible, the product resulting from that idea has many components, which are intangibles, that are necessary to its existence. So if you happen to have a great idea, how do you protect it? In this episode, find out how you can address the challenges of protecting intellectual property.

Click to Listen to Legally Branded podcast.

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • The challenges of protecting intellectual property
  • The best way to begin to address intellectual property
  • How to reduce the legal costs
  • The intangibles and their impact
  • How to make it easier to build management of IP in the day to day running of your venture


Key Takeaways:

  • For many people, an idea is their key to economic success. Therefore, being able to protect its resulting output as intellectual property is crucial if the business is to grow in value.
  • People assume that they automatically own intellectual property, but this is not true. An action is required to turn an idea into IP.
  • Leveraging IP is how the value embedded in it is realised.
  • A new venture, when it’s just in your head, that’s when you need to understand the risks and opportunities.
  • The best way to achieve success and avoid wasting unnecessary time and energy down the line is to learn the essentials of trademark and other intellectual property that are involved when turning ideas into something that’s out in the real world.
  • Intangible assets cannot be measured unless they are managed.
  • For any new venture, the time to think about IP protection and intangibles is when writing the business plan. And the business plan, when it’s written, should set the strategy on IP matters.


Action Steps:

  • To avoid losing an opportunity and create valuable intellectual property, first identify what it is you’re going to create, what actions you need to take to capture it and, depending on the IP in question, what other actions you need to take.
  • Conduct proper checks of trademark registers. It’s also possible to create a liability instead of an asset where proper checks of trademarks registers aren’t first undertaken.
  • Consider IP really early on in the early stages of a project. Get a good understanding of IP and eliminate the risks that dealing with IP in a piecemeal fashion has.
  • Focus on the intangibles. This is the way you can preserve the investment of your business in its brand, creative efforts, design, and technology.


Shireen said:

“The name of the game with intellectual property is to be proactive in the early stages of any project when turning an idea into something concrete in the real world.”


“IP knowledge and skills are how you protect yourself. And even if you intend to use a lawyer, you need to know some of it yourself. It’s just not an option to not understand intellectual property in this day and age.”


Thank you for listening!


Look into my Legally Branded Academy Course to upskill yourself and your team, and discover the roadmap for a successful implementation of ideas! It’s not an alternative to use lawyers, it’s simply equipping YOU with the business skills in today’s digital economy.


To access the free audio on How to Trademark a Name, subscribe to this podcast and download all the past episodes, and send an email to [email protected] saying what time of day you did so.


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Legally Branded Podcast – Copyright Ownership

podcast_shireen_smithWhat exactly is Copyright? It’s a basic, fundamental question that people often ask me. In this episode, I dive into copyright essentials in order to address gaps in your knowledge of copyright or any confusion you might have around particular facets of the subject.

Click to Listen to Legally Branded podcast.

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • Examples of copyright
  • Reasons why you might want to have copyright.
  • Some ideas on how to avoid some common copyright problems.


Key Takeaways:

  • Copyright is one of the core three IP rights that impact every single business and is very wide-ranging in scope.
  • Examples of what copyright protects include photographs, images, maps, drawings, typefaces, music, films, works of art and performances, software, books, videos, content on websites and logos.
  • Copyright is highly relevant in today’s digital environment because most of the ways that businesses operate involve creating different copyright assets.
  • In countries like the UK and former Commonwealth countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand, it’s not necessary for a work to display a high degree of originality in order to qualify for copyright protection.
  • Names are not, as a rule, protected by copyright under the law. Instead, they are covered by trademark law.
  • A copyright work is an asset. If you don’t own the copyright of an asset that you use in your business, it means you’re licensing that work effectively.
  • Copyright automatically belongs to the creator and not to the person who’s paying for it. The only exception is if a contract states otherwise or if the work is undertaken for you by your employee during the normal scope of their duties.
  • Content online is not in the public domain.


Action Steps:

  • If you’re from a copyright-dependent industry, find out a lot more about copyright.
  • Copyright should be an uppermost consideration. Make sure that the works you’re having created will belong to you. And if they’re not going to belong to you, then make sure you negotiate all the necessary permissions that you’re going to need for your intended use of that copyright work before you commit to using someone’s services.
  • If you engage someone to do work for you, such as to build a website, before you engage their services and give them your best ideas, make sure your written agreement with them covers copyright ownership.
  • Find out what the copyright rules say in your country and how they impact your plans. In an increasingly global marketplace where it’s quite common to engage the services of freelancers based in other parts of the world, you should agree which country’s laws will govern your contracts.
  • Don’t leave copyright discussions for later. Pay close attention to define details at the start of a project.
  • Don’t assume that your web designer or other professionals whose services you engage know what materials or images they may or may not use. Do your own verifications.


Shireen said:

“Strategic use of intellectual property makes a big difference to a business’ fortunes. So IP is a very important consideration in any venture, whether you’re starting, growing, or exiting a business.”


“Think of copyright as you might think of a plot of land… The copyright owner is the person who has the right to exploit the rights in their assets, just as the landowner can exploit the rights in their land.”


Thank you for listening!


It’s really worth having a process in place in your business to cover off the copyright risks that you run. A really easy way to do this is to buy my Legally Branded Academy Course. It has everything you’ll need to address these copyright risks as well as cover other IP issues to bear in mind in your business.


To access the free audio on How to Trademark a Name, subscribe to this podcast and download all the past episodes, and send an email to [email protected] saying what time of day you did so.


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IP Law Makes Waves In Piracy

Online Piracy Doesnt Hurt SalesOr Does ItShireen Smith, intellectual property law expert and founder of London based law firm Azrights , has expressed her concern about the ongoing battle the games industry faces over piracy issues.

Writing in MCV (The Market for Computer and Video Games) 4 December issue, Shireen discusses how the digital revolution has bought IP law to the fore of every modern business and how the computer and video games industry is “experiencing an intellectual property revolution.”

UK games companies on average grew by 22% between 2011 and 2013 according to Ukie with digital game sales larger than digital video and music sales combined.  Given the commercial significance of the games market, Shireen believes that the computer and video games industry need to take a more serious overview of intellectual property law.

Commenting on Nintendo’s recent high profile legal breakthrough against circumvention devices, Shireen explains that IP issues are threatening large corporations as well as entrepreneurial firms.

“In an ongoing legal battle, Nintendo has made a breakthrough against circumvention devices with the case reaching Europe’s highest court in January 2014.”

“The ‘first instance criminal decision against the defendant puts an international spotlight on what is the legitimate use of devices such as mod chips, which can have non-infringing uses as well as infringing ones.”

“It is likely that similar cases across Europe will soon follow suit as anti-piracy campaigns continue to grow.  It also means that national courts in all EU member countries have a framework to assess whether security measures are protected – a huge success for the international computer and video games industry.  The high profile nature of the case has EU-wide implications on independent software developers, as well as gamers.”

Shireen, who recently launched her new book Intellectual Property Revolution  also provides some guidance for smaller businesses.

“Entrepreneurial businesses may have some misconceptions regarding the approach to IP law.  The advice in employing an IP expert is the earlier the better.  Nowadays SMEs are exposed to a global audience in ways that simply did not occur in the industrial era.  We have more businesses today than we’ve ever had before.”

“In a market which is constantly flooded with innovative concepts, smaller businesses can find themselves at a serious risk of losing out if IP infrastructure is not put in place.  There is greater risk in both the short and long run as smaller businesses often don’t have the time or resources to overcome a legal setback.”

It is not just the video and computer games market that is effected – the intellectual property revolution is happening across industries.

“In the fashion industry, the Kering group (who own Gucci), have recently challenged Alibaba on piracy issues.  There is also ongoing problems faced by the music and film industries with illegal downloads and streaming.”

Shireen’s MCV article titled “IP law clamps down on pirates” can be found here.

Azrights website

Azrights on YouTube

Azrights on Twitter

Intellectual Property Revolution on Amazon

Games Industry Must Ensure it Takes IP Law Seriously

Facebook users mourning the removal of scrabulousAccording to Ukie , the trade body for the games and wider interactive entertainment industry, the UK games industry was worth over £3.9 billion in consumer spend in 2014 and the sector is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8%.

The games industry is relatively new and therefore 95% of companies are microbusinesses or SMEs.  Leading intellectual property (IP) lawyer Shireen Smith thinks that many of these companies could be at risk of losing out as a result of an IP dispute, if they don’t take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

“If names are chosen without involving a trade mark expert, the business is at risk of losing out.  A poor choice of name can lead to a constant loss of value or difficulty in securing registration either in the UK or in other countries.

“An IP expert should always be consulted at the early stages of launching a new business or product.

“Otherwise, as soon as a new business starts up, the business owner might receive notice that it is infringing on another brand.  This can have serious consequences for those that have invested significantly in their branding and search engine optimisation.  Sadly for some, they don’t have the time or resources to overcome such a setback.”

Shireen Smith, who is the founder of London-based law firm Azrightscontinues to give an example.

Scrabulous was an app, created by two Indian brothers, which allowed people to play a Scrabble-like game online with friends anywhere in the world.  It was a huge hit – attracting 600,000 users per day – when in 2008, Hasbro, the owner of the Scrabble trademark, shut it down because their name suggested to the market that this was a similar game to Scrabble.  As trademark law helps to prevent piggybacking off the success of others’ brand, Scrabble was able to get Facebook to pull the Scrabulous app even though it was extremely popular.

“The founders had even applied to register a trademark for their name, clearly unaware of the wide scope of protection that trademarks give.  Had they taken advice before using the name they would have realised the choice was unwise.

“The fact that their app had gone viral did not stop Facebook from simply removing it.  This paved the way for Zynga to create what is now a highly successful app: Words with Friends.  The brothers’ advantage of being the first to build a Scrabble-like app on Facebook was lost, and we will never know how big Scrabulous would have been today if it had opted for a better name.”

Shireen Smith has recently launched a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, published by Rethink Press which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is helpful for business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here


Azrights website
Azrights on You Tube
Azrights on Twitter