Can a business use my ideas and not pay me?

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Can a business use my ideas and not pay me?

I sent an email with my ideas for a local marketing campaign. They have billboards and posters on the subways (NYC) with funny quotes. I emailed them with ideas of quotes to use. Money was never discussed. Can they use those ideas without paying me? Or can I sue if they do that?

Asked on March 28, 2012 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Did the business sign any non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement under which they agreed to not use your idea without compensation? Or did you send the idea to them under some program they had whereby they stated (e.g on their website) that if you send them an idea, they will not use it without your permission?

If the answer to either of the above questions are "yes," then the terms under which you submitted your ideas are enforceable, and they cannot use them without your permission (which would presumably involve paying you).

On the other hand, if the answers to the above are "no"--there was no agreement or program in place whereby the business agreed to not use submissions without permission--then they can use your idea and don't have to pay you (and you can't sue them). In this case, you freely gave them your idea without any obligation on their part.


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