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

UPDATED: Nov 15, 2012

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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 10 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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