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The protection of Intellectual Property (IP) is a concern for us, as for many companies. The chief hazard posed to IP is that another company might claim control of it and, by litigation, interfere with business and profitability.
Sealand sells services, and our Intellectual Property is not for sale.
Although the majority of the contracts we take on are for support or installation, the production of documents, designs, drawings etc. and trivial computer programs is a likely part of most projects. IP is therefore an issue for Sealand because our ideas, embodying professional skill, go into all of the work that we do; we have to protect those ideas in order to remain in business carrying out work of the same nature for other clients.
We will not disclose a client's data or documents to any unauthorised third party.
Work provided by Sealand
We must also assure our clients that any work that we do for them is free of legal encumbrance. We do this by assigning to the client the irrevocable right to use and modify whatever IP we produce as part of a contract. Thus we give the client complete control over all of the work for which it has paid, while we retain the rights to continue using our own ideas in projects for other clients. (See this clause in our example contract)
More detailed protection
For a client keen for detailed protection, and particularly for programming work, we suggest placing contracted work under a proven licence such as the GNU GPL which has been shown to protect the rights of the downstream users of IP as well as the originators. Respected large corporations such as IBM and Red Hat successfully use this licence to cover themselves and their customers, and others whose ideas they share.
Note that placing work under the GPL does not make it compulsory for the work to be published – it merely confers on recipients the right to do so without violating the originator's terms.
To avoid difficulties with IP, a defensive strategy frequently adopted by companies is to try to gain ownership rights over all of the IP that they use. To this end, it is common for draft contracts to contain clauses transferring to the company a sub-contractor's IP used in the project, and obliging the sub-contractor to assist in such transfers.
For the reasons already outlined, Sealand does not enter into such arrangements because this would mean that, little by little, all of our IP would become the property of others, which clearly would eventually make us unable to carry on our own business.