Who owns copyright when the agreement is unsigned?

A recent High Court decision shows the importance of finalising the documentation before beginning work on a project, in this particular case for software development. Failure to do so can lead to disputes over IP ownership.

Disputes about the ownership of copyright come before the courts with depressing regularity. The typical scenario is where a business engages a freelancer to provide copy and then fails to get a written assignment of the intellectual property rights generated by the freelancer. Another common pitfall is where an employee creates material. Subject to the terms of the contract of employment, which ideally should address the issue of employee-generated intellectual property, where the employee does so ‘in the course of their employment’ the intellectual property rights so generated will vest in the employer. However, the meaning of ‘in the course of their employment’ is a notoriously grey area — nor is it always obvious whether someone’s status is actually that of an employee or an independent consultant.

A third problem area concerns the situation where an agreement is negotiated but never signed. This was the issue in the recent High Court case of Destra Software Ltd v Comada (UK) LLP…

If you are registered and logged in to the site, click on the link below to read the rest of the Walker Morris briefing. If not, please register or sign in with your details below.

Sign in or Register to continue reading this article

Sign in


It's quick, easy and free!

It takes just 5 minutes to register. Answer a few simple questions and once completed you’ll have instant access.

Register now

Why register to The Lawyer


Industry insight

In-depth, expert analysis into the stories behind the headlines from our leading team of journalists.


Market intelligence

Identify the major players and business opportunities within a particular region through our series of free, special reports.


Email newsletters

Receive your pick of The Lawyer's daily and weekly email newsletters, tailored by practice area, region and job function.

More relevant to you

To continue providing the best analysis, insight and news across the legal market we are collecting some information about who you are, what you do and where you work to improve The Lawyer and make it more relevant to you.

Briefings from Walker Morris

View more briefings from Walker Morris

Analysis from The Lawyer

View more analysis from The Lawyer


Kings Court
12 King Street

Turnover (£m): 42.50
No. of lawyers: 188