Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Collaboration agreements: who owns the IP?

Wilkinson v London Strategic Health Authority [2012] EWPCC 48 (14 November 2012) is a slightly tragic story of lost copyright, one that is repeated with (I guess) great frequency. It's all down to that modern disease, grabbing (or at least making a grab at) all the intellectual property that can be seen, whether it's needed or not.

The case turned on the construction of an agreement. The Health Authority contended that it gave them copyright in pre-existing works created by Dr Wilkinson, and not surprisingly she contended otherwise. HHJ Birss QC did not imply an assignment of copyright, but did imply a licence for the NHS to use the pre-existing materials, even in competition with Dr Wilkinson, which makes her (partial) victory in this case distinctly pyrric - and emphasises the crucial importance of getting the agreement right in the first place.

However, it is good to see that cases like this can get an airing these days, in the Patents County Court, the jurisdiction that should show the way forward for the European Union - which is resolutely going in a different direction. Read, and enjoy, this trenchant speech by Rt Hon Lord Justice Kitchin.

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