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Protecting intellectual property during a divorce

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Family Law |

While dividing material assets like real estate and appliances is straightforward, things get trickier with intellectual property (IP). This usually includes creative works, inventions and business ideas. The question is, how exactly are intangible creations divided?

What constitutes intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) encompasses a wide range of intangible assets, including creations of the mind that laws protect. These laws allow creators to control and benefit from their inventions.

  • Patents: Protect inventions and improvements to existing inventions, allowing the patent holder exclusive rights to make, use, or sell the invention for a certain period.
  • Trademarks: Safeguard brand identities, such as logos and company names, ensuring that only the trademark owner can use them in commerce to represent their brand or services.
  • Copyrights: Protect artistic and literary works like books, music, films, and artwork, granting the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work.
  • Trade Secrets: This sentence covers confidential business information that provides a competitive edge, such as formulas, practices, or processes. The law protects this information from unauthorized disclosure or use.

These categories of intellectual property stimulate innovation and creativity, providing legal mechanisms to protect the interests of creators and inventors.

Safeguarding your intellectual property

In a divorce, IP may qualify as marital property and thus be subject to division. To shield your IP during a divorce, you can consider these strategies:

  • Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements: These contracts, signed before or after marriage, can specify which IP falls under separate or marital property.
  • Maintain clear documentation: Keep detailed records of your IP’s creation date, development process and obtained copyrights or patents. This strengthens your claim of sole ownership.
  • Separate business finances: Avoid commingling personal and business finances. If you run a business based on your IP, keep separate bank accounts and track business expenses.

If your IP is valuable, you may consider a professional appraisal to determine its market value. This can be helpful during negotiations or court proceedings.

Protecting your intellectual property during a divorce is vital for your future stability and professional integrity. You may want to tap legal professionals to help you safeguard your creative and business interests to emerge stronger in your new life chapter.