Dr. Noam Shemtov

Reader in IP & Tech’ Law

Deputy Head – Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Centre for Commercial Law Studies

Queen Mary University of London


The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.

It is the Legal protection for literary & artistic works (e.g. books, paintings, musical compositions). To qualify work needs to be in its original form, Work needs to be fixed in material form.

To register a book or other creative work, simply go to copyright.gov, the website set up by the Library of Congress. There is an online portal to register copyrights for photographs, sculptures, and written works. Fill out the form, pay the fee and you are registered.


One important thing to note is Ownership of copyright rests with the author, Exception being when the work is created in the course of employment or, sometimes, commissioned work. The author of the work is granted exclusive rights, including:

  • The right of reproduction (copying)
  • The right of adaptation (the right to make derivative works)
  • The right of making available to the public (distribution)

Copying a ‘significant’ part of a copyrightable work is infringing the owner’s copyright, this part could be very small in quantitative terms or form a fraction of the overall work. The focus is on the qualitative nature of the part taken.


You can never copyright an ‘idea’. Yes, the code and the UI elements of your app can be copyrighted but then, it will be fruitful only if someone copies the complete app and not make a variation of the same.

It is important to know that computer programs are protected as literary works under copyright law, both source code & object code. Limited protection for functional elements or ideas

Where a particular function or idea may only be expressed in one way or a limited number of ways, the expression is regarded as incidental to the unprotectable idea or function and is therefore not eligible for copyright protection.

No protection for externally dictated expressions, certain forms of expression is dictated by hardware requirements, compatibility and interoperability restraints.

Contrary to more traditional works of authorship, verbatim copying may be allowed when the expression is dictated by hardware requirements, compatibility or interoperability constraints.

However, for a developer, it is essential not to copy any portion of the proprietary code. An app developer should avoid using a portion of code written by someone else regardless of size, function or nature unless they are absolutely certain that it is not eligible for copyright protection. It is recommended to seek the advice of an IP expert under such circumstances.


A patent gives an inventor the right to stop other people from making or using their invention. If someone makes or uses that invention without being allowed to, the inventor can sue that person in court to make them stop.

A patent is an exclusive right to market a particular invention. A patent definitely meets the balance-sheet definition of an asset, which is something of future economic value to a company, but patents don’t qualify as current assets.

While there are at least six different types of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the three most common types are utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. It is important to note that you cannot patent an idea for an invention, the invention must be new, non-obvious, and capable of industrial application, you cannot patent an idea for an invention.

A patent grants exclusive rights over an invention in return for disclosure of the invention in a manner that would allow someone skilled in the art to reproduce it.

For a patent to be granted, it must be registered, including:

  • The process of registration
  • Formalities examination
  • Substantive examination
  • Process of registration may take a few years and may require great financial resources

The owner of the patent is the inventor or joint inventors unless created in the course of employment       (Laws may vary as to how inventions created during the course of employment are treated) The owner of a patent has the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented invention without the patent owner’s consent.

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