A common marketing agency question: who owns the files used to create a client’s deliverables?

Clients Often Ask: What is Intellectual Property, Do I Own the Deliverables?

It depends on the project.

Some clients ask about native files; few understand what this means exactly. After explaining native files and intellectual property, clients appreciate the greater clarity, and why delivering native files is not common, and can sometimes be illegal.

In light of the above, it is important to discuss native files, deliverables or projects, the Creator, and intellectual property (IP).

Native Files” include effects, artwork/graphics, creative design, and knowledge or expertise. Almost always, native files, except those provided by the Client, are owned by the Agency. Sometimes, the Client provides native files or design assets, in which case, the Agency shall not use such items for anything other than the performance of the project.

IP includes native files or proprietary files built by the Creator. These, along with creative solutions, involve talent, expertise, education, and “tricks of the trade”. This all leads to the best results and faster and more efficient ways of working. 

For example, IP related to video, includes effects, artwork/graphics, and skills the designer cultivates over years. This experience, along with the creative assets, is not project-specific. Rather, this is the secret sauce! Also known as intellectual property. 

Similar to a chef’s recipe, when one visits a restaurant he/she enjoys the meal. But, the price of the meal does not include the chef’s recipe to create the meal. 

Furthermore, and in most cases, it is illegal for Agencies to share fonts, images protected by copyright, and software.

What does the Client own?

Important, the Client owns the reproduction rights and the final product — to use, however, whenever, and wherever. 

The Client owns all rights, title, and interest in the final version of the Deliverable. The Agency transfers and assigns all rights, titles, and interests to the final Deliverable. And, if the Client provides native files to use in the deliverable, the client retains the intellectual property rights to those.

But, as an agency/creator, we cannot give away our intellectual property. 

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