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Our Intellectual Property policy

Our mission

Ordnance Survey and its Partners will be the content providers of choice for location based information in the new information economy.

It is part of our remit to increase the use of Ordnance Survey data by exploiting Intellectual Property Rights in the data through trading. Our Intellectual Property (IP) includes Crown copyright, database right, and trademarks.

Principles of IP

IP is information and the expression of ideas that countries recognise as having value in the individual and the economy. IP is protected under national law and international conventions.

IP rights are there to protect creators of this property (such as our mapping information) against theft or use in a way that would mean no return on their investment.

The level of legal protection offered to IP owners reflects the high priority given to encouraging creativity and investment within the European Union and internationally.

IP includes:

  • copyright;
  • patents;
  • registered and unregistered trademarks;
  • registered and unregistered designs;
  • database right; and
  • confidential information and trade secrets.

Why IP is important to us

We are in the information business, and our income mainly depends on the exploitation of our intellectual property (IP).

By using IP law to protect our mapping and topographic information, we are able to provide customers with the benefit of up-to-date and new products.

Our brand protected by IP rights means our customers can be confident of the quality of our products.

IP rights protect our:

  • map databases;
  • trademarks and brands;
  • results from our knowledge and skills; and
  • technical know-how.

Delegated authority

We are a government department and Executive Agency. We operate as a trading fund. Ministerial responsibility for us lies with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. We aim to maintain the national topographic database for England, Wales and Scotland, to market products and services based on this database, and to licence the reproduction of these products and or data within government guidelines.

The Controller of HMSO through the Secretary of State has delegated authority to us for the day to day management of Crown copyright in our material.

We can grant publication rights and provide non-exclusive licences for Crown copyright material.

Exclusive licences and assignments are only available in very exceptional circumstances and only by agreement with the Controller of HMSO.


Our licences are available to all applicants to suit a wide variety of customer and partner needs.

We encourage the use of our material in new ways and in commercial products.

We apply our rules and terms fairly across all customer groups.

Any organisation or person wanting to use or copy our material, or material based on ours, for their own business or private use must be licensed.

Our Partnership Licensing Team supports the use of our mapping information by our business partners. We actively encourage partners to propose new and exciting ways of using our mapping information, challenging us to embrace new technology and market opportunities.


  • We recognise the importance of applying for, and registering, brand names as trademarks.
  • A registered trademark (shown by ®) is the legally registered version of an unregistered trademark (shown by ™). Registering our brand or product names as trademarks means that we are legally recognised as owning them, and can prevent other people or organisations from using them without our permission.
  • We also protect our IP, where appropriate, by obtaining patents.

Fair information trading

When we licence the use of our material, we treat all our applicants fairly.

A competition compliance awareness programme makes all staff aware of the requirements of Competition Law.

Protection and enforcement

While we actively encourage the licensed use of our material, we will vigorously protect it against unlicensed use. We will follow up any cases where people are using our material without a licence and will try to come to an amicable agreement. We will take legal action if necessary.

Copying for public administration

We recognise that certain public administration and fair dealing uses are allowed under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, and do not need our licence.

If you would like further information, please contact us.

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