This article has been written by Mouli Rajas.

This article has been edited and published by Shashwat Kaushik.


Now that your business has produced some very impressive technology or content, other businesses want to use it. It might seem obvious to licence your intellectual property in order to make money. Make sure you are aware of the legal ramifications before you sign on the dotted line, though. You risk losing ownership of your intellectual property or not generating as much money as you should if you enter the market with closed eyes.

Download Now

This is where you, as the business owner, come in. Companies interested in your intellectual property don’t always have your best interests at heart. Their objective is to maximise their profits, not yours. But with some knowledge of IP licencing law and a well-crafted licencing agreement, you can navigate these aspects successfully. This article will walk you through the key things you need to know so you can licence your intellectual property with confidence.

What is corporate intellectual property licencing 

Companies can authorise third parties to use their intellectual property (IP), including trade secrets, patents, trademarks, and copyrights, by licencing this intellectual property. Leasing intellectual property to other businesses can be a significant source of income and expansion for your company. On the other hand, you can licence intellectual property (IP) from other businesses to obtain access to their exclusive knowledge and technology, which you can then use to enhance your own products, services, and operations.

Key elements of corporate IP licencing include:

  1. Identification and valuation: Companies evaluate their IP assets and determine their commercial value before considering licencing opportunities.
  2. Licencing agreements: Licencing agreements are legal contracts that outline the terms and conditions of the IP licence, including the scope of use, duration, royalty rates, and any restrictions.
  3. Royalty structures: Royalty payments can be structured as a fixed fee, a percentage of sales, or a combination of both. The royalty rate is negotiated based on factors like the value of the IP, the market potential, and industry standards.
  4. Licencing models: There are different types of licencing models, including exclusive licences (granting sole rights to the licensee), non-exclusive licences (allowing multiple licensees), and cross-licensing agreements (where companies exchange IP rights).
  5. Product development and commercialisation: Licensees typically use the licenced IP to develop products, services, or technologies with the aim of commercialising them and generating revenue.
  6. IP protection and enforcement: Both licensors and licensees have responsibilities to protect and enforce the licenced IP rights, including taking appropriate legal action against unauthorised use or infringement.
  7. Duration and termination: Licencing agreements typically specify the duration of the licence period and the conditions for termination or renewal.

What can be licenced

Almost any kind of IP is available for licencing, including:

  • Patents: Licences provide the ability to use an invention that is patent-protected and is granted through licences. This is typical of modern technologies.
  • Trademarks: Licences provide the ability to use a brand name, logo, or other mark in connection with particular goods or services. Franchising is a good example.
  • Copyrights: Licences provide the ability to use and distribute creative works, such as books, articles, films, music, and software, and are granted under licences.
  • Trade secrets: Licences provide limited access to valuable corporate data, such as production procedures or client lists, which can be obtained with licences. Usually, non-disclosure agreements are essential.

Benefits of licensing

Licencing provides IP owners with several advantages:

  • Generate revenue from your IP without having to manufacture, market or sell actual products. This could be a simple, low-overhead way to make money.
  • Gain wider exposure and new opportunities for your IP through the licensee’s use. This could result in new applications or further licencing agreements.
  • Licence restrictions allow you to maintain control over how your IP is used to protect brand integrity and company values. You determine the best terms of the licence.

For licensees, the main benefits are:

  • Gain access to valuable IP that can improve your products, reduce costs, or open up new business opportunities. Otherwise, it could be challenging or impossible to acquire this expertise on your own.
  • Pay only for the rights you need. Licencing is often cheaper than acquiring a company outright to get its IP. You only pay for what you use.
  • Licences are often non-exclusive, allowing multiple companies to licence the same IP. This provides more flexibility and competitive opportunities.

In summary, corporate IP licencing is a strategic way for businesses to maximise the value of their intellectual property. Both IP owners and licensees can benefit from well-structured licencing deals. The key is finding good partners and negotiating fair and balanced terms.

Challenges associated with corporate IP licensing

Corporate IP licencing offers numerous advantages, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the key challenges associated with corporate IP licensing:

  1. Complexity of IP licencing agreements: IP licencing agreements can be highly complex and involve various legal, technical, and commercial considerations. Drafting and negotiating these agreements requires specialised expertise and a deep understanding of IP rights and licencing terms.
  2. Identifying and evaluating IP assets: Accurately identifying and valuing IP assets can be challenging, especially for organisations with extensive IP portfolios. A comprehensive IP audit is essential to assess the value of IP assets and determine which ones are suitable for licencing.
  3. Managing IP rights: Managing IP rights effectively is crucial for successful IP licencing. This includes tracking IP filings, renewals, and maintenance fees, as well as ensuring compliance with licencing agreements and relevant IP laws and regulations.
  4. Pricing and royalty negotiations: Determining appropriate pricing and royalty rates for IP licences can be complex. Factors such as the value of the IP assets, market conditions, and competitive landscape need to be carefully considered to ensure a fair and mutually beneficial agreement.
  5. Risk of misuse or unauthorised use: There is always a risk that licensees may misuse or engage in unauthorised use of the licenced IP. This can lead to reputational damage, financial losses, and potential legal disputes.
  6. Confidentiality and IP protection: Protecting confidential information and trade secrets during the licencing process is essential. Robust confidentiality agreements and measures to safeguard sensitive information are necessary to prevent unauthorised disclosure or misuse.
  7. Managing cross-border IP licensing: Licencing IP across multiple jurisdictions can introduce additional complexities due to variations in IP laws, regulations, and enforcement practices. Understanding and complying with different legal frameworks is crucial to avoid legal pitfalls and ensure effective IP protection.
  8. Managing supply chain complexity: In complex supply chains, managing IP rights and licencing arrangements can be challenging. Coordinating IP-related activities across multiple tiers of suppliers and partners requires careful attention to detail and effective communication.

Types of corporate IP : patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets

As a business, your intellectual property (IP) is among your most valuable assets. To maximise the value of your IP, you may licence it to other companies. There are three main types of IP that companies commonly licence


Patents protect inventions and new technologies. If your company holds any patents, you can licence them to other companies to manufacture or sell the invention in exchange for licencing fees and royalties. For example, if you hold a patent on a new manufacturing process, you might licence it to companies in the same industry. Licencing patents is a great way to generate revenue from your IP without having to commercialise the invention yourself.


Trademarks are distinctive names, logos, slogans, and designs that identify a company’s products or services. Many well-known brands and logos are trademarks. If you have a strong trademark, you can licence it to other companies to use in association with their products or for promotional merchandise. For example, Coca-Cola licences its brand and logo to apparel companies to print on t-shirts, water bottles, and other gear. Licencing trademarks is an easy way to expand your brand’s visibility and generate extra revenue.


Copyrights protect original works of authorship like books, articles, music, movies, software, and more. As a company, you may hold copyrights to content, multimedia, or software that you’ve developed. You have the licence to distribute and use that content for other companies. For example, a news publisher could licence article reprints to other websites or an educational software company could licence its programmes to schools. Copyright licencing provides another opportunity to generate revenue from your IP.

Trade secrets

Licencing your corporate IP, whether patents, trademarks, copyrights or trade secrets, to other companies is a smart way to maximise the value of your intellectual property. With the right licencing strategy and agreements in place, IP licencing can become an important source of income and help grow your business.

Key legal considerations for IP licencing agreements

When licencing your intellectual property (IP) to another company, there are several key legal considerations to keep in mind. Failing to address these points upfront can lead to issues down the road.

Ownership rights

Be very clear about who owns the IP rights, especially if any IP was co-developed. Specify if ownership will transfer to the licensee or remain with you, the licensor. If ownership is retained, detail the scope of rights granted, like exclusive or non-exclusive use.

Licence scope

Clearly define the scope of the licence to avoid misunderstandings. Specify the IP covered, permitted uses, licence duration, and renewal options. Will the licence be for a single product or an entire product line? A single territory or global? The more specific the scope, the less chance of disagreement.

Royalties and payments

Establish upfront how much the licensee will pay for the rights granted under the agreement. This is typically an upfront fee and/or ongoing royalty payments, such as a percentage of sales revenue. Specify payment amounts, schedules, and reporting requirements to avoid late or missed payments. Consider a most favourable licensee clause to ensure you get the best deal.

Quality control

To protect your brand and IP, you’ll want to specify certain controls over how the IP is used. This may include pre-approving all uses of your trademarks, reviewing the licensee’s goods or services for compliance with your standards, or reserving the right to inspect facilities where your IP is used. Fail to do this, and you risk your IP becoming generic or of lower perceived quality.


Require the licensee to keep all information shared under the agreement confidential to avoid unauthorised use or disclosure of your IP. Be specific about what information is considered confidential and for how long. This is especially important if any secret or proprietary IP will be shared


Consider requiring the licensee to indemnify you against any claims, losses, or damages resulting from their use of the licenced IP. This helps ensure you are not held liable for issues outside of your control. You may choose to indemnify the licensee against third party claims resulting from defects in the IP itself.

Discussing these key points with your legal counsel and addressing them in your licencing agreements will help set the right legal framework to protect your interests in any IP licencing deal. Doing so gives you the best chance of a successful, mutually beneficial partnership.

Negotiating licence scope, term and territory

When negotiating the scope, term, and territory of an IP licence, several key points should be considered. Think of these as the foundations of your agreement. The scope defines exactly what intellectual property rights are being licenced. This could include:

  • Patents (design, process, etc.)
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights 
  • Trade secrets 

Be as specific as possible in listing the IP, products, services, etc. covered. For example, you may licence Patent #12345, which covers the design of a solar panel but excludes any improvements or new patents. The scope should match your business objectives.

The term refers to the length of time the licence is in effect. Common terms are 3 to 5 years for technology, longer for trademarks and copyrights. Consider your product lifecycle, the time needed to commercialise IP, and other factors. You want a term that allows you enough time to benefit, without locking you in long-term if it needs changing. Terms can often be extended if both parties agree. The territory specifies the geographic regions where the IP can be used. This could be a country, region, or worldwide. Define territories that match your distribution channels and growth plans. If licencing IP for a new product launch, you may start with a pilot territory, then expand over time. You can also exclude territories where IP rights don’t exist or aren’t enforceable.

Negotiating a balanced scope, term and territory for your IP licence will lay the foundation for an agreement that benefits both parties. Be prepared to discuss your key objectives, priorities and concerns to reach a compromise that works for your current needs as well as your future business goals. With open communication, win-win deals are possible!

Royalties : determining a fair rate and payment structure

When licencing your intellectual property (IP) to another company, determining fair royalty rates and payment structures is crucial. Royalties are essentially the fees paid by the licensee for the right to use your IP.

Royalty rates

Royalty rates are often calculated as a percentage of sales revenue from products that incorporate your IP. The industry standard can vary quite a bit based on the technology field and how core your IP is to the end product. Do some research on recent licencing deals for comparable technologies to determine an initial range. You’ll want to consider factors like:

  • The uniqueness and demand for your IP. Groundbreaking or highly sought-after tech can command 5-10% or more.
  • Whether your IP is a key component or ancillary to the end product,. If integral, aim higher.
  • The licensee’s projected product sales and growth. Higher volume and faster growth mean higher potential royalties.
  • Your bargaining position. Do you have other interested parties? How eager is the licensee? The more leverage you have, the better.
  • Ongoing support is required. Higher rates are reasonable if you’re providing significant tech support or continuing R&D.

Payment structures

Royalty payments typically follow one of two models:

  1. Royalties are based on actual sales. This is the most straightforward method. The licensee pays based on periodic sales reports, e.g., quarterly. However, it can be complex to track and audit sales, and payments may fluctuate.
  2. Upfront lump sum plus ongoing royalties. This combines an initial lump sum payment at signing to secure rights with ongoing royalty payments. The upfront fee provides immediate value, while royalties maintain the alignment of interests over time. The split between upfront and ongoing fees depends on your needs and risk tolerance.

Negotiating a fair and favourable deal takes effort and patience. But with a reasonable starting position, a flexible mindset, and a willingness to compromise, you can craft an agreement that benefits both parties. Keep an open mind, focus on mutual gains, and you’ll be well on your way to win-win.

Ownership, infringement and indemnification clauses

When licencing intellectual property (IP) to another company, several key legal clauses will determine who retains ownership and control, as well as responsibilities in case of infringement. It’s important to understand these to protect your rights.


Who will retain ownership of the IP being licenced? For corporate IP like patents, trade secrets, and trademarks, the licensor (you) will usually retain full ownership. The licensee is granted certain rights to use the IP for a limited time. Make sure the agreement clearly states that you retain all ownership and rights not expressly granted in the licence.


What happens if a third party infringes on the licenced IP? The agreement should specify that the licensor (you) has the initial right to enforce against infringement, allowing the licensee to join any legal action if needed. The licensor should not give up the right to control enforcement, as that could weaken your ownership rights.


Who will be responsible if the licenced IP infringes on another party’s rights? Include clauses requiring the licensor (you) to indemnify (compensate) the licensee for any costs arising from such infringement claims. You should also require the licensee to indemnify you for any claims arising from their unauthorised use of the IP.

Cross-indemnification clauses will specify each party’s duty to indemnify the other in certain circumstances. For example, you indemnify the licensee for claims arising from the licenced IP itself, while they indemnify you for claims arising from their modifications to it.


List any uses of the intellectual property that are forbidden, such as the licensee’s inability to sublicense or transfer the licence to another party, to safeguard your ownership. It is also possible to limit the area, domains of application, or categories of goods that are covered by the licence. These assist in making sure the IP is only used in the ways that you have authorised.

Following these tips will put you in a legally sound position when licensing your intellectual property to another company. While the agreement may be complex, understanding ownership, infringement, indemnification and restriction clauses will help safeguard your rights and clarify responsibilities between both parties.

Confidentiality, non-disclosure and non-compete terms

When licencing intellectual property to another company, certain legal protections need to be put in place. Confidentiality, non-disclosure and non-compete agreements help safeguard your trade secrets and prevent unfair competition.


A confidentiality agreement, also known as a non-disclosure agreement or NDA, requires the other party to keep sensitive information private. This includes trade secrets, proprietary data, and other intellectual property that is not protected under a patent or copyright. Ensure that the terms of any confidentiality agreement are explicit about the information that is safeguarded and for how long. Typically, 2-5 years is standard, but for highly sensitive data, you may want up to 10 years.


A non-compete agreement stops the other business from directly competing with you for a predetermined amount of time by using your intellectual property. For example, if you licence a proprietary manufacturing process to another firm, a non-compete would prohibit them from selling a competing product using that same process. For non-compete agreements to be enforced, their scope must be “reasonable.” Therefore, restrict restrictions to a particular region, time frame (usually 1-3 years), and sort of good or service.

Due diligence

Before signing any licencing agreement, conduct thorough due diligence on the other party. Ensure they have the resources and drive to appropriately use your intellectual property. Examine their finances, track record, managerial experience, and facilities. Find out whether they have any direct rivals who could be able to obtain your trade secrets. To test the relationship before committing to anything long-term, think about beginning with a limited licencing agreement.

Regular auditing rights are a smart addition as well, as they let you see how the other company is utilising your intellectual property. Additionally, remember to include appropriate termination clauses in case they violate the terms of the contract or cease operations. With the right legal protections and by choosing your licencing partners carefully, you can maximise the revenue potential of your intellectual property while minimising risks.

Due diligence : assessing validity and strength of IP portfolio 

Make sure your intellectual property (IP) portfolio is strong and legitimate before licencing it to another business. This is known as due diligence. To ensure they can be legally defended, this entails examining all patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Double check that any patents or trademarks you plan to licence have been properly filed and that all maintenance fees are paid and up to date. Make sure the specifications and claims in your patents are broad enough in scope to cover all commercial embodiments of the invention. Review the prosecution history for any limitations or weaknesses that could impact enforceability.

Examine whether your IP has been challenged in litigation or reexamination and the outcome. Check if any third parties have filed patents, trademarks or copyrights that could impact your IP rights. Search for any potentially invalidating prior art.

Evaluate the overall competitiveness and commercial potential of your IP. Consider conducting surveys to gauge customer interest in your technology or brand. See if there are any competing IP portfolios that could limit the success or lifespan of your IP. Try to determine realistic royalty rates and licence terms based on the strength and significance of your IP.

Confer with IP legal experts on any uncertainties or concerns with your due diligence findings. It’s best to resolve all major issues before negotiations begin, so you have a strong grasp of the true value and leverage points of your intellectual property. Conducting comprehensive due diligence upfront will put you in the best position to negotiate the most favourable IP licencing deal.

In summary, evaluating validity, enforceability and competitive strength is key. Do your homework, review IP rights thoroughly and get legal advice. Position yourself for the best licencing outcome.

Best practices for ongoing IP licence compliance and governance

  • Best practices for ongoing IP licence compliance and governance involve careful monitoring and management. As with any legal agreement, failing to properly oversee an IP licence can lead to loss of rights or legal trouble down the road.
  • To keep your IP licence in good standing, establish a system to track key dates and deadlines. Note when payments, reports, audits, renewals or any other licence obligations are due. Set calendar reminders well in advance so you have adequate time to fulfil the requirements. It may help to assign responsibility for compliance to specific employees or departments to ensure accountability.
  • Conduct periodic reviews of the IP licence terms to refresh your memory. Make sure any new products, services or business activities align with the scope of the licenced rights. Look for any changes that could impact compliance, like amendments to the agreement or updates to laws and regulations.
  • Maintain thorough records related to the IP licence including correspondence, financial documents, product details and more. Complete and file any required reports or forms on time. These records may be needed for audits, renewals or in cases of disputes.
  • Build a collaborative relationship with the IP owner or licensor. Open communication can help avoid misunderstandings and make it easier to address any issues that arise. Provide updates on how the licenced property is being used and any planned changes that could affect the licence.
  • Consider conducting internal audits to identify any gaps in compliance before the licensor does. Take corrective action as needed to prevent loss of rights or legal consequences. External audits by the IP owner should also be approached cooperatively.
  • Staying on top of an IP licence through good governance and compliance practices helps reduce risks. With diligent monitoring and management, you can maintain a healthy, long-term licencing relationship and continue leveraging the intellectual property to benefit your business.


So there you have it—the basics of what you need to know legally when it comes to corporate IP licencing. While the technical and financial aspects can seem complicated, keeping your legal ducks in a row from the get-go will save you a tonne of headaches down the road. Do your due diligence, work with experienced attorneys, and take the time to understand exactly what rights and responsibilities you’re taking on under any new licencing agreements. Your business’s intellectual property is hugely valuable, so make sure any deals you strike are structured to properly protect your interests for the long run. With the right knowledge and the right partners in your corner, corporate IP licencing can be a very rewarding strategy to grow your company. But go in with your eyes open—and this guide in hand!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here