UK Accounting Glossary
In law, to say a piece of knowledge, invention, or creative work is part of the public domain means that no one can or should claim intellectual property (IP) rights to that work. Legal rights that remove an intangible asset from the public domain include patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Generally, these IP rights expire after a certain number of years, and then the work automatically enters the public domain. Although public domain is most commonly used to describe intangible assets which no one can claim property rights to, the term can also be used with tangible assets. For instance, land owned by the US government is sometimes called public domain. New technologies have begun to create more complex distinctions about what is, or should be public domain. For instance, software developers will sometimes release executables into the public domain, but withhold the source code as proprietary. More controversially, biotechnology companies have begun applying to patent individual gene sequences, which critics assert are clearly part of the public domain. This page’s contents are not public domain!
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This glossary post was last updated: 6th February 2020.