Frequently asked questions

  1. Who can apply for an assignment of copyright and database rights away from the Crown?
  2. Does the assignment cover the use of departmental logos and trademarks?
  3. How long does the process take?
  4. Will the copyright in Crown material become the intellectual property of the assigned body or will it always have Crown status?
  5. Are there any obligations relating to public records?
  6. Are there any obligations in terms of web archiving?
  7. Use of the Royal Arms and the word ‘Royal’
  8. What is the difference between an Assignment and an Assignation?

Who can apply for an assignment of copyright and database rights away from the Crown?

The copyright in material created by civil servants in the course of their duties for government departments, agencies and offices, rests with the Crown. Any department which holds Crown copyright material, and believes there is a clear business need for Her Majesty’s Government to divest itself of this intellectual property, may make an application for an assignment.

Does the assignment cover the use of departmental logos and trademarks?

If there is a requirement for a logo or trademark which identifies with the material being assigned away from the Crown, then it may be necessary for the copyright in the artistic work of the logo or trademark to be included in the assignment. This should be clearly indicated in the assignment application.

How long does the process take?

There is no set time for the process, each assignment is treated on a case-by-case basis, but there is a requirement to fulfil certain criteria when making the application to assign intellectual property away from the Crown. The requestor must satisfy the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO), who is responsible for the administration of Crown copyright and database rights under Letters Patent from Her Majesty the Queen, that there is a clear need for the assignment and it will not undermine the policies or activities of HMG.

Will the copyright in Crown material become the intellectual property of the assigned body or will it always have Crown status?

Intellectual property assigned away from the Crown becomes the whole responsibility of the body to which it has been assigned, but it will remain Crown copyright until the copyright expires in accordance with section 163(3) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, this will not affect the rights of ownership in the assigned material.

Are there any obligations relating to public records?

Public record status is a separate legal consideration to Crown copyright. However, the status under the Public Records Act 1958 of any assigned material should be considered at the same time an assignment is being proposed due to the relevant duties and obligations.

Are there any obligations in terms of web archiving?

The National Archives has the responsibility to archive the websites of the government estate in accordance with the Public Records Act 1958. In order to assign any material away from the Crown which has been archived by The National Archives, HMG will require legal confirmation that the material may remain in the web archive.

Use of the Royal Arms and the word ‘Royal’

The Royal Arms and the use of the word ‘Royal’ would not be included in any assignment of copyright away from the Crown.

The Royal Arms

The Royal Arms and it constituent parts are protected by perpetual Crown copyright, and may only be re-used by Her Majesty the Queen, members of the Royal Family, government departments and official holders of the Royal Warrant. The Royal Arms are Royal ‘devices’ and as such are protected by law from commercial misuse. It is also an offence under section 99 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 for a person to ‘use in connection with any business the Royal Arms […] in such manner as to be calculated to lead to the belief that he is duly authorised to use the Royal arms’ without permission from Buckingham Palace.

The use of the word ‘Royal’

If you want to include the word ‘Royal’ in the name of your company or brand logo you will need to contact the Constitutional Settlements Unit at the Cabinet Office which has the ultimate sanction over the use of Royal Crests on government and legislative documents and use of the word ‘Royal’ in place names such as Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. For further information please contact the Constitutional Settlement Unit at: royalnames@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk

What is the difference between an Assignment and an Assignation?

An Assignment of copyright is a legal document signed by the Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO, outlining the means by which copyright material created by the UK government, which includes Wales and Northern Ireland, may be assigned away from the Crown to a third party. An Assignment may also be made to enable the transfer of third party copyright to the Crown.

An Assignation of copyright is a legal document signed by the Queen’s Printer for Scotland. It is a similar legal document to an Assignment, and is used to transfer Crown copyright material created by the Scottish Government and its departments to a third party. An Assignation may also be made to enable the transfer of third party copyright to the Crown.