Licence laws


Licence laws may refer to a variety of situations in which you are required by law to obtain a licence for use of something in particular, such as an automobile or software. In legal terms the name of the document that contains the permission is also known as a licence. A licence is granted by a one party (the 'licensor') to another party (the 'licensee').

Types of license

There are two main types of licence:

  • An exclusive licence
  • A sole licence

An exclusive licence grants the licensee exclusivity in either a particular region or with regards to a set of customers. Thus, the licensor is unable to compete in that territory, or compete for those customers for the duration of the licence.

In the case of a sole licence, the licensee is the only licensee in that region or for that group of customers, as in the case of an exclusive licence. However, sole licences mean that the licensor remains free to sell his own products in that region and compete with the licensee. The proviso is that they will not grant a licence to anyone else while the licence agreement is in force.

There are compulsory licences that are well known by the general public, such as:

  • Those for driving
  • Using a television

As such there is good deal of information available about these types of licence.

Other types of licence laws may not be publicised as fervently and can cause problems when users of a certain product do not realise that they need a licence to carry out such activities. This is particularly troublesome for software users, especially those who run small businesses and depend on specific software on a daily basis.

Software licenses

Many small-business owners innocently contravene software licence laws through innocuous activity such as using the software on more than one computer or computer system when this is not permitted by the licence agreement.

They are then possibly subject to fines or even imprisonment as the regulatory body in this sector, the Business Software Alliance, frequently give incentives to employees to act as whistle-blowers.

The Business Software Alliance is unheard of by many even though it is an international organisation which polices software licence laws. They urge businesses to utilise a software licence policy so as to keep better record of the software used and to comply with the licence laws of that particular software.

A solicitor will assist businesses and individuals in implementing a proper structure to manage software licences and stay within the law. There are also a number of solicitors practising in a variety of legal spheres who can assist with any other licence law problem, from alcohol licensing to drivers’ licences.

For more information on software licenses, please see our guidance page on software licensing laws.

Do you have a dispute involving a license? Caven can put you in touch with a recommended solicitor specialising in licensing law to help you resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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