How is information gathered by my company protected?

Intellectual Property Database Rights

What is meant by a database?

A database has been defined as a collection of independent works, data or other materials which are arranged in a systematic or methodical way and are individually accessible by electronic or other means.

What will be included within this definition?

The following things will be included within the definition of a database:

  • Mailing lists
  • List of customers
  • Telephone directories
  • Card indexes
  • Encyclopaedias

Please note that a database is the information gathered together in one of the above forms and will be provided protection as a whole database. The individual elements will not be provided protection as a database and will only be the subject of intellectual property protection if they themselves qualify through some other intellectual property right.

Database Protection

How is a database protected?

A database is afforded protection as an intellectual property right by one of the two following ways:

  1. Under the laws of copyright found in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998
  2. In its own right as a database using the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997

Copyright Designs and Patents Act

Under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 databases are regarded within the class of literary works. They receive protection for the selection and / or the arrangement of the contents of the database.

Test of Originality

As is the case for any work to receive protection as a copyrighted work the work must be original. This means that the contents of the database must be original. This often is a strange concept for a collection of data but a test has been established which states that the work will be original by reason of the selection or arrangement of the contents of the database constitutes the author’s own intellectual creation.

Time, skill and effort

In order for there to be originality and for copyright to therefore exist the author must have directed his time, skill and effort to the selection and arrangement of the database and shall not merely be gathering information.

Therefore information that has simply been collected and arranged in alphabetical order will not meet the test of originality and will therefore not be afforded copyright protection.

What if the information does not fall within the definition of a database?

Under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act there is copyright protection for tables or compilations. In order to receive copyright protection under the Act however they will again be subject to the usual test of originality in that the author must have used his own skill and effort in creating the table or compilation.

How long will this copyright protection last?

If a database is to be provided with copyright protection under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act this will run for a duration of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.

If I ask a member of my staff to produce a database will I own it?

As is the case in relation to all forms of copyrighted work the owner of the copyright is the author or the person who has created the work. However, if this work has been undertaken by an employee during the course of his normal employment then it will be the employer who owns the copyright in the work.

What rights will I be given in relation to the copyrighted work?

The owner of the copyright is provided with certain rights in relation to the use and the exploitation of the work and is also provided with the right to prevent any other person from using the work in any means.

Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997

If a set of data falls within the above definition of a database protection will be provided for it under the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations.

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For more information on:

  • What needs to be established?
  • Substantial investment
  • Definition of substantial investment
  • Independent source
  • What happens if I create the data myself?
  • Ownership  
  • How long will a database right last?
  • What if I make changes to my database?
  • When will infringement occur in relation to a database?
  • Permitted Acts