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Two kinds of intellectual property right potentially exist in a database under English law: copyright and database rights.

A database is specifically categorised as a literary work in which copyright will subsist if the qualifying conditions are met. Secondly, it is protected by an intellectual property right called a database right, which is more limited than copyright.

Under English law a database is defined as a collection of independent works, data or other materials which have two characteristics. Firstly, they are arranged in a systematic or methodical way. Secondly, they are individually accessible by electronic or other means. A database normally has a structural element in addition to its content. Each of these can be protected by the intellectual property rights in databases either by the database right or by copyright.

Our specialist IP team can advise you on:

  • how to maximise protection in your databases
  • how to license your IP Rights in your databases
  • how to avoid infringing a third party's database
  • how to ensure that your employees do not leave to start up in competition taking your databases with them
  • claims against third party infringers of your databases.


The author (for copyright purposes) of a database will be the person who creates it. In practice many databases are produced using computer systems. If this happens, the author will be the person by whom the arrangements, necessary for the creation of the work, are undertaken. Typically, this will be a business or corporate body rather than an individual.

The maker of a database is the first owner of the database right in it. For these purposes, the maker of the database is the person who puts the effort into organising the information for the database, checking it, and investing in it. An employer will be the maker if the person who makes the database is an employee acting in the course of his employment.


The database right lasts for 15 years but you may be able to extend the lifetime of your rights if you invest substantially in updating the database.


Broadly, a person infringes the database right if, without permission, that person extracts or re utilises all or a substantial part of the contents of the database. Substantial will be considered taking into account quality and/or quantity. This pretty well speaks for itself. One point worth emphasising is that repeated and systematic extraction or re utilisation of insubstantial parts of the contents of the database can amount to infringement.

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  • This firm maintains a fine reputation across the region with offices in both Leeds and Sheffield. Its work encompasses a wide range of IP protection, including licensing agreements, enforcement injunctions, and portfolio management. In a recent highlight, it assisted PWS Distributors on matters concerning design rights and brand infringement. The group also counts Jacuzzi, Card Factory and Nufarm amongst its other major clients.

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    Chambers and Partners

    As a small and creative company, we need legal advice, which is relevant and proportionate. We have found Lupton Fawcett to be excellent on a range of issues from intellectual property to bad debt to employment. Lupton Fawcett listen well and then give expert and speedy advice, which is appropriate to our specific situation. They have also earned our trust by telling us clearly when legal action is not advisable, where other lawyers might have charged for a few meetings before reaching the same conclusion.

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    Rachel Van Riel, Director, Opening the Book
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