Co-ownership is more complex to manage than many people realise. The default legal provisions governing co-ownership don’t cover everything, and unless bolstered by a written agreement on other issues, the rights and obligations of co-owners are likely to be complicated, unclear and potentially inconsistent, leaving many matters (particularly for registrable IP rights) to be agreed between co-owners on an ad-hoc basis. Differences in co-owners’ budgets and priorities can lead to disagreements, and if these cannot be resolved amicably then the only way forward is litigation (or alternative dispute resolution), which will likely be expensive and time consuming, and many issues are commercial rather than legal.
While it is certainly not unworkable in the right circumstances, we normally recommend steering clear of co-ownership unless both parties are fully informed about what it entails and are willing to negotiate and enter into a full co-ownership agreement (addressing each of the issues described above). More often than not, we find that it is more straightforward – from both a drafting/ negotiation and a practical perspective – to agree an ownership and licensing arrangement.
For advice on IP ownership, licensing or collaborations, please contact Hannah Batten.