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 I want a Divorce - When it all goes wrong

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former mentor




PostSubject: I want a Divorce - When it all goes wrong   Sat May 09, 2009 10:42 am

Divorce - Unfortunately It can happen in any relationships…..even Inventing.

Here you are, sitting around the den with a couple of friends on a Friday night and talk turns to some problem one of you has been experiencing. Maybe it’s a car issues, or a laundry issue….or whatever. Suddenly someone says “Wow – what if we invented one of …..” The discussion gets animated, you get excited, they get excited and before you know it you have the paper and pens out, you’re designing this new idea and they are throwing concepts around, you are throwing concepts around…the night goes on like this and by the end of the night you are partners in a new “Invention” ….How exciting!

Exciting, that is, until you find out this person is a great friend, but a really bad “partner”. At that point you will inevitably wish you had taken the time to put some agreement in place. You sometimes see these kinds of contracts euphemistically called “divorce papers”…because essentially that’s what they are. They set out the terms of the divorce up front in the event it happens….and sad to say in inventing – it does normally happen.

The agreement does not have to be anything elaborate, just a simple letter contract stating who initially came up with the idea, what each party is going to contribute to the process of taking the idea to market. and an outline of what happens when things don't work out so well.

Short of something that amicably “dissolves” the collaboration, you need to look to the future if you have any plans at all of monetizing the invention. If you did all the “heavy lifting” on the product in terms of design you can ask the other party to sign a “Letter of Indemnification” It is simply a document you write up that asks them to hold you harmless against any claims they may have to rights on the product now, or in the future.

In fact - one of the first things we look for when licensing a product from an inventor are these “loose ends” that may be floating around. We tell the inventor it is their responsibility to get letters of indemnification from anyone who could even think they had any kind of claim. Additionally, the license contract always contains a clause where the inventor is swearing there are no unaddressed claims of ownership to the invention. If there ends up being someone who causes a legal battle with the manufacturer later on, and the inventor never told them about the person – Safe bet you will find yourself in court on the wrong end of a law suit seeking the manufacturer’s investment back with damages.

All that being said - “The Laws of Fairness” State: Compensation should always be commensurate with contribution….so although you want to protect yourself - you can’t use these tools to block people from what is rightfully theirs.
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