If you find yourself in a dispute about who owns what part of an idea, data, content, brand or the like, something has gone wrong somewhere. Unlike an infringement lawsuit, which really can come out of left field while you’re minding your own business, ownership disputes are avoidable because they are or can be governed by a contract. The nice thing about contracts is you can head off most future problems on the front-end by clearly delineating who owns how much of what.
Of course, if it were this easy, we wouldn’t be writing this. Disputes about the ownership of IP and similar abstract properties are distressingly common—for two main reasons. First, at the beginning of a project, everyone trusts everyone else, everyone has a kind of unspoken “understanding” of how everything is going to be divided up, and everyone thinks it’d be kind of rude to actually speak about who owns what. Second, it’s not always easy to tell when you’re creating something that could be owned. It’s not until later, when the business is successful, that people start to wonder: well, who actually owns all this?
Next thing you know, you’re in a dispute, often with people you’re fairly close to. As we explain in this primer, lawsuits are not an entirely pleasant way to resolve disputes, but they are also not always avoidable.
If you’d like to learn more about the principles that guide who owns what in IP, we have prepared this primer.
Rick Sanders Law can help you navigate the ownership questions that can arise all along the creative channels. Contact us now, before the questions start getting harder and harder to answer.