What kind of legal right do I have to an idea?

For example, if I submit an idea to a corporation expecting compensation for it and they decline, but then use it in the future, am I able to take legal action against them if I have kept a record of my suggesting it to them?

Asked on November 15, 2012 under Business Law, Oklahoma


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

No, you have no right to compensation:

1)  First, there is no intellectual property right in an idea--i.e. no protectible copyright or patent interest.

2) Second, in the absence of protectible intellectual property, someone may freely use anything you suggest, describe, or offer to them *unless* they had signed some confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement BEFORE you submitted the idea to them, pursuant to which they contractually agreed to not use your idea unless you specifically gave them permission (presumably in exchange for payment or other consideration).

So if you don't get them to sign an agreement ahead of time and you disclose your idea, they can use it without paying you.

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