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Last checked: 28/04/2020

Licensing and selling intellectual property

Affected by Brexit?

If you own intellectual property (IP) you could grant rights of use to another legal person (An individual, company, or other entity which has legal rights and is subject to obligations), known as "licensing your IP". You may also wish to generate revenue by selling it, this is better known as "assigning" or "transferring" your IP.

Before negotiating a licensing or an assignment agreement

In certain cases, it may be useful to keep some information confidential, such as:

For this purpose, you should conclude a non-disclosure agreement (Written agreement establishing that the recipient of the information cannot disclose it to third parties) with the potential licensee or assignee.

You can also gather and assess information about your IP by submitting it to an IP due diligence investigation; a thorough examination of all aspects concerning your IP.

Licensing out of your IP

As a holder of intellectual property, you can negotiate a licensing agreement with another entity (licensee) that gives permission for it to use your intellectual property. You may have a single licensee (‘exclusive licence') or several licensees. If offering multiple licences, these can be open or limited in scope to particular industries or geographical areas (such as franchising).

In exchange, you (the licensor) get paid for giving permission, typically in the form of "royalties" defined as a percentage of the sales. You can also set the limits for the use of the IP (geographical scope, field of use, etc.).

In this case, you as licensor:

Although licensing agreements need to be prepared with the assistance of lawyers and IP professionals, there are some key IP clauses to be negotiated and included before signing the agreement.

How do you establish a licensing agreement? 

To establish a licensing agreement you should at least:

In some EU countries, you must register the licence agreement, usually at the national IP office.

For further information, check the factsheet on licence agreements by the European IPR Helpdesk.

Assignments: Selling your patents, trademarks and other IP

You can transfer the ownership of your intellectual property rights (patent, trade mark, copyright, etc.) by assigning/transferring your IP. With an IP assignment, you transfer all rights you initially possessed for the piece of intellectual property concerned.

When the IP assignment is finalised, you will have no further responsibility for that IP (such as paying renewal fees), nor will you benefit from any possible commercial success of the product or service concerned.

In addition, unless this is explicitly allowed in the assignment contract, you will not be able to further use the IP concerned (invention, trade mark, etc.), as long as it is protected.

How do you settle an IP assignment?

For further information, check the factsheet on assignment agreements by the European IPR Helpdesk.

Public consultations

Need support from assistance services?

Get in touch with specialised assistance services

European IPR Helpdesk

Free advice and training on intellectual property management for EU co-funded projects or transnational business deals.

Local business support

Do you have questions on operating a business cross-border, for example exporting or expanding to another EU country? If so, the Enterprise Europe Network can give you free advice.

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