I am a freelance designer who is regularly commissioned by clients to produce a wide variety of products and designs. I have a problem where a client is alleging that they own the rights in the product I have created. We did not have a written agreement;

The issue of the ownership of commissioned works is complex and these were outlined in previous Q & A’s. It is always advisable to deal with the issue of ownership of commissioned works before any work is undertaken when preliminary negotiations are underway. In that regard the ACID Freelance Designer Agreement is extremely useful. This document will allow you to expressly provide for the issue of ownership. In addition, if you already have your own written terms of business, the content of the freelance designer agreement can be incorporated into those terms as additional clauses dealing expressly with IP ownership.

You may wish to retain legal ownership of the intellectual property in the designs you produce but grant the customer a licence to use the design. The customer would, in any event, have an implied licence to use the design for the purpose it was commissioned. Alternatively, you could be happy to agree that the customer will be the owner of all intellectual property rights once payment for the work has been received. Again, by reducing this agreement to writing, there is no ambiguity.

Last update on 28.09.11 by the ACID Team.

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