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What is meant by 'Intellectual Property'
What is meant by 'Intellectual Property'

This article explores what is meant by Intellectual Property and how that can be dealt with in your Will and on death

Sindy Allen avatar
Written by Sindy Allen
Updated over a week ago

Your intellectual property relates to your legal rights over those items you have created using your mind, such as a story, a piece of art, an invention. They are entirely unique works or products you have created.

It is however important to appreciate that an idea alone, will not count as intellectual property. This explored further below.

Intellectual property will be owned by you. It is sometimes referred to as ‘intangible property’ as, unlike other property such as your house or possessions, intellectual property is not something you can physically touch.

There are many rights which may constitute your intellectual property. They include:

  • Copyrights

  • Patents

  • Trademarks

  • Designs

  • Artist Resale Rights (ARR)

  • Library lending rights

The intellectual property rights you have over something you have created will typically allow you to do what you like with them, to the exclusion of everyone else, although more than one person can own the intellectual property for a creation. For example, co-authors of a book would both have intellectual property rights in the work.

Intellectual property is treated separately from any physical manifestations of your work. If you have painted a picture, the painting, as an object, would be counted as one of your possessions. However, if you sell or give away the painting, this does not necessarily mean you are giving away your intellectual property rights to it. If you retained these rights, you would be able to continue making and selling prints of the image, for example.

This is an important distinction to make.

What can I do with my intellectual property after I die?

Your intellectual property will form part of your estate when you die.

  • If you have made specific provision for who should receive it in your Will, it will pass in accordance with your Will. There is no need for all your intellectual property to go to the same person or organisation; the intellectual property for different works can be dealt with individually if you wish.

  • If you have not make provision in your Will, all your intellectual property will go to whoever is the ‘residuary beneficiary’ of your estate. The residuary beneficiary is the person (or people) who will receive the remainder of your estate after all specific gifts have been made and/or debts and liabilities have been settled. This is not necessarily what you would want to happen.

  • If you have not made a Will, or your Will is invalid, your intellectual property will pass with the rest of your estate to whoever inherits under the intestacy rules.

In summary, if you do not make a Will, or you do not specifically refer to your intellectual property within your Will, you cannot clearly determine who will inherit your intellectual property.

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