An arrangement where more than one entity owns an intellectual property rights. A classic example is a work of Joint Authorship. Although co-ownership of IP may sound fair and reasonable, intellectual property lawyers tend to “recoil in horror” from such arrangements. This is because the rights of co-owners of intellectual property is poorly defined, may vary by the nature of the intellectual property assets, i.e., copyright, trademark and patent, and may also vary by jurisdiction.
At one extreme each co-owner is free to use the intellectual property right as it wishes and grant licenses to third parties (even parties in infringement litigation with another co-owner) without any obligations to the other co-owners; at the other extreme each co-owner must account to the other co-owners for its use of the IP and potentially pay compensation. Co-ownership situations can arise where there are unacknowledged contributors to the creation of the intellectual property or where subcontractors are used but not proper assignment of rights was secured.