Updated November 25, 2020

Intellectual property clearance is a multi-level process that involves licensing of the property to be able to use the property for an event or production. Rights clearance is a common process for:

  • Authors.
  • Musicians.
  • Artists.
  • Movie and TV producers.
  • Those who own web content.

Rights clearance can also be referred to as a vetting of the production. When performing a rights clearance, you will need to pay close attention to all the elements of the work that is protected as well as the various laws revolving around the property such as:

  • Patent law.
  • Copyright law.
  • Trademark law.
  • Privacy laws.
  • Defamation.

Most intellectual property will be protected in some respects by copyright laws. The amount to which these laws protect the work will have largely to do with the type of work produced as well as where it is produced.

The use of rights clearance will come into play in the event that multiple pieces of work will be used at the same time. This can occur often in events such as movies and is a process that can help reduce the liability of those who invested in it.

One of the most difficult types of rights clearance involves protected musical works. This process can be more difficult because there are typically more than one element that is protected. There is also more variance in the types of authors that produce musical works.

In any situation where a third-party's content is used to create a new work, there must be a review to see if the material being used falls under material that has rights clearance. If unauthorized use occurs it, could subject the user to the possibility of a violation of property rights. Because of this, it is important to obtain clearance rights to all forms of content including:

  • Films.
  • Books.
  • Songs.
  • Television Shows.
  • Advertisements.
  • Online Videos.

There are rights clearance organizations such as the Author's Guild and Copyright Clearance Center to help you with the process.

Why an Intellectual Property Risk Management Program is Necessary for Business

The most common violation of intellectual property is copyright infringement of software. The most common scenario is when a company will purchase the licensing for a couple of hundred members of their staff but then fail to buy more licenses when they add 50 more employees.

In a survey performed by BSA Global, it was estimated that at least 43 percent of software that was installed on personal use computers was not licensed. They also have found that only 35 percent of companies had an actual written policy regarding the requirement of properly licenses software.

Ensuring compliance with the rights of others is important and can be considered a valuable business asset. Some of the reasons it is important to have a plan in place include:

  • Facing legal action for infringement or intellectual property violations.
  • Performing expensive software audits to prove that software is licensed.
  • Possible data breaches from using unlicensed software.

Your business's IP risk management program should be comprehensive and proactive and be pertinent to the specific laws that govern your business. It is essential to consider a risk management program as a tool to grow your business while protecting its investments.

There are many items you will want to make sure you include in your risk management program such as:

  • A way to track both licensing agreements and obligations for royalties: This is important to make sure that your business is receiving the licensing rights it requires and also living up to the terms of contracts it has with others.
  • A formal procedure for clearance and registration: You should have a set protocol for performing your IP search and it may be beneficial to have a designated intellectual property attorney to perform this function. If an IP title is clear you should also include the appropriate process to handle registration.
  • It should include the appropriate provisions: This includes the work for hire arrangement in which the IP rights are assigned, or a licensing agreement for the use of the IP is defined.
  • A dispute resolution and response plan: If your IP rights are challenged, you should have a response protocol ready to follow.
  • Education protocols: A section should be laid out that details the training that employees will receive about mishandling or misuse of IP.

If you need help with intellectual property clearance, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.