A licensor may grant a license under intellectual property laws to authorize a use (such as copying software or using a (patented) invention) to a licensee, sparing the licensee from a claim of infringement brought by the licensor. A license under intellectual property commonly has several component parts beyond the grant itself, including a term, territory, renewal provisions, and other limitations deemed vital to the licensor.
Term: many licenses are valid for a particular length of time. This protects the licensor should the value of the license increase, or market conditions change. It also preserves enforceability by ensuring that no license extends beyond the term of the agreement.
Territory: a license may stipulate what territory the rights pertain to. For example, a license with a territory limited to “North America” (Mexico/United States/Canada) would not permit a licensee any protection from actions for use in Japan.
A shorthand definition of license is “a promise by the licensor not to sue the licensee.” That means without a license any use or exploitation of intellectual property by a third party would amount to copying or infringement. Such copying would be improper and could, by using the legal system, be stopped if the intellectual property owner wanted to do so.
It is undeniable that intellectual property licensing plays a major role in today’s business and economy. Business practices such as franchising, technology transfer, publication and character merchandising entirely depend on the licensing of intellectual property. Licensing has been recognized as an independent branch of law. It is born out of the interplay of the doctrine of contract and the principles of intellectual property.