Owning and assigning data and know-how: what does it mean?

Another evergreen topic in this golden oldie- what does it mean in legal terms to own and assign know-how?

IP Draughts

First scenario: late at night in the final stages of a corporate transaction.  You are asked to produce IP-related documents for completion (closing).  The documents are to include a know-how assignment.  You look on your office computer system but can’t find a suitable template.  What do you do?  It may be tempting to use a patent assignment, deleting the word patent wherever it appears and replacing it with the word know-how.  But is this good enough?

Second scenario: negotiation of a contract to perform R&D services.  The customer requests that a clause be inserted in the contract stating that the customer owns the data produced in the course of performing those services.

In both cases, the required assignment/clause appears to be based on the premise that know-how or data is property that can be owned and transferred.  Under English law, our understanding is that know-how and data are simply…

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