It’s really important to make sure you own the IP rights in work created as part of your business. IP rights are obviously much less valuable to you if you don’t actually own them, and you want to avoid any disputes around ownership further down the line. So who will own your IP and how do you know? Here are some commonly asked questions:

1. Who will own the IP in work created by my employees?

Generally, work created by employees in the course of their employment will belong to their employer (unless you specifically agree otherwise in their employment contract).  However, see the answer to question 3 below for an important exception.

2. I only have very basic employment contracts for my employees and there is nothing in there about IP ownership. Does that change the position?

No, provided you don’t specifically agree that the employee will own the IP, the default position is that the employer will own IP created by employees in the course of their employment.

3. One of my employees has been busy out of hours creating something in her garden shed. As her employer, will I own the IP in her creation?

It depends on whether the creation was outside of the course of her employment. In other words, whether it was outside of her normal duties as an employee. Start by checking her employment contract and job description to see what her normal duties are. If the creation is completely unrelated to her normal duties (e.g. she is employed to do your accounts and she has recorded a song) and she has worked on it in her own time, the IP may belong to her.

4. I often use contractors in my business.  Will I own the IP in anything they create?

Not automatically, no. The default position is that contractors will own the IP rights in anything they create, unless you agree otherwise. A verbal agreement won’t be enough and, to be effective, any agreement must be signed by the contractor. With that in mind, you should make sure that you always have an agreement in writing and signed by the contractor that clearly specifies who will own the IP.

Back to all posts


I’m calling security

Employee competition: top tips for start-up businesses

IP support and funding

Your Intellectual property (IP) is your business.

SEIS investment guide