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Our Intellectual Property policy

Our mission

We, along with our commercial 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 OS data by exploiting the Intellectual Property Rights that subsist in the data through trading.

Principles of IP

Intellectual Property (IP) is a term which is used to describe a range of legal rights that attach to certain types of information and ideas and their particular forms of expression. IP is protected under national law and international conventions.

IP rights enable businesses to protect what they create, and secure a return on their investment. They provide huge value to the British economy. OS’s data now underpins up to £136 billion-worth of economic activity in Great Britain. Further, the level of legal protection offered by IP law encourages creativity and growth within the European Union and worldwide.

The different types of IP include:

  • copyright
  • patents
  • registered and unregistered trade marks
  • 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 IP.

By using IP law to protect our mapping and geospatial information, we can invest in new content, technology and capability and continue to provide our customers with new and up-to-date products, services and solutions.

By using IP law to protect our brand our customers can be confident of the quality of our products, services and solutions.

IP rights protect our:

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

Crown Rights Agreement

Ordnance Survey Limited is a wholly owned government company limited by shares (GovCo). We are Britain’s mapping agency, and have a Public Task which defines the role and activities required of Ordnance Survey by HM Government, and which identifies the datasets and products that are created to deliver the Public Task.

The Crown Rights Agreement grants Ordnance Survey Limited a licence from Her Majesty’s Stationary Office to use and re-use the Crown copyright and database rights that subsist in Ordnance Survey data. It assigns to the Crown any copyright and database rights which arise in Ordnance Survey data following the transfer of our business to a wholly owned Government company, but grants Ordnance Survey Limited a licence to use and re-use the same.

The Crown Rights Agreement effectively replaces the Delegation of Authority previously granted by Her Majesty’s Stationary Office when we operated as a Trading Fund. It therefore authorises Ordnance Survey Limited to now grant non-exclusive licences and otherwise manage the exploitation and protection of the copyright and database rights which subsist in Ordnance Survey data.


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.


Our brand includes the names OS and Ordnance Survey, our logos and our product and service names, designs and layouts, and is protected by copyright and trade mark law.

We recognise the importance of applying for registered trade marks for our brand and trade names.

A registered trade mark (shown by ®) affords us the exclusive right to use the trade mark in respect of the specific goods or services for which the mark is registered, and it allows us to take action to prevent other people or organisations from using the same, or a confusingly similar mark.

We also have a number of unregistered trade marks (shown by ™) and we have acquired substantial goodwill in other elements of our brand which entitles us to prevent other people or organisations from using the same, without our permission.

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 unlawfully. We will always try to come to an amicable agreement, where possible, but we will take legal action if necessary.

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