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.

Ownership

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.

Duration

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.

Infringement

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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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use the trade mark notice ™ on my marketing and advertising materials and packaging even if I have not registered my brands?

Yes.  The trade mark notice ™ indicates that your brand, whether it is a word, series of words, symbol or logo is being used by you as a trade mark and you should use the trade mark notice to maximise your protection.

If I apply for a Community Trade Mark and there is a problem in one country which means that I cannot or do not want to proceed in that country can I still get a registration for the rest of the EU?

No. A Community Trade Mark application is for all or nothing. If you have a problem in one or more member state of the EU you will lose the application and will need to start again by applying in each member state in which you want protection.

If I have sold my branded goods in the EU can I stop them from being resold by one of my customers via particular distribution channels such as discount shops or on eBay?

It depends! Generally it is not possible to prevent how your products are dealt with once they are sold in the EU. If you can show that you have a valid reason for managing your distribution channels and have in place an active distribution channels policy then it may be possible. This is a complicated area of the law and it may be worth you having a conversation with one of our lawyers to explore your options.

If I have already sold my product can I still apply for registered design protection?

Yes you have 12 months from the first sale or marketing of a new product to get registered design protection.

If I have no registered design protection and a competitor is copying my designs can I stop them?

You may be able to stop them if your design is less than 10 years old and is not a commonplace design. This is a complicated area of law and requires careful consideration. John Sykes has just updated his reference book for lawyers on Design Law and John, or one of the team would be happy to advise you.

Be careful because making a threat to a competitor may be grounds for the competitor to bring proceedings against you for “groundless threats”. A threat would include making a complaint to eBay or Amazon to take your competitor’s products off sale.

I have shown my invention to my friends in the pub and they think I should get patent protection for it. Can I get a patent?

Not unless:

  • your friends were bound by terms of confidentiality because you cannot get patent protection for an invention which has been disclosed AND
  • your invention is new AND
  • your invention is capable of industrial application

If you want to show your ideas to third parties whether friends or potential customers or manufacturers you MUST HAVE A CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT in place.  If the answers to the above questions are all “yes” then speak to us about getting patent protection.

I told my friend to keep my idea for an invention secret. I think he is working on building a business to exploit it. Can I stop him?

Only if you have a patent application in place which successfully proceeds to grant or he has copied an original material work you created or own. So, for example, if you built a prototype or created drawings of your invention and your friend has copied these.

You could issue proceedings for breach of confidence but this is a difficult claim to bring if there is only your word against his and he may not be “good for the money” and/or you do not want to spend the monies required on legal action to get an injunction and any other legal remedies to which you may be entitled.

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Get In Touch Today!

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