Who owns the copyright of a design?

Occasionally the question arises of who ‘owns’ a design. For example, if a client asks a designer to provide them with the files used to create a design.

Under English law, the intellectual property rights in a design belong to the person who creates the work, not the person who commissions it. The rights of design can only be transferred to a client by a written agreement; a verbal one is not enough.

Obviously good sense prevails in most cases, but legally, what a client pays for is a licence to use the design, so they are not technically entitled to re-use it or modify it.