Can my friend sue me for “stealing” IP?

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Can my friend sue me for “stealing” IP?

A friend and I developed a concept together. We’ve been working on validating and researching the concept the past year. In terms of intellectual contribution, it is 50/50. There is currently no operating agreement but we do have an LLC together. I’ve now realized he’s not a great business partner and would like to pursue the concept myself. Can my friend sue for stealing IP? If I change the name and make a new LLC, would I be fine?

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You might have issues in terms of he is able to prove that it was half his idea. Yet, ideas are not always protected. The type of intellectual property you have will call for either trademark, copyright or patent protection or a combination thereof. You need federal protection, which means you need to register your ideas, plans, and so on with these federal agencies and go through the process of obtaining protection.  The results there will help you decide what is truly protectable. You should consider how far you have come with these plans and ideas and so meeting with an intellectual property attorney will help you determine if you are walking into a landmine if you get federal protection before obtaining a clean break.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

An "IP" is a unique number that every computer connected to the internet is assigned. If the "IP" is an asset of the limited liability company that you and your friend have an ownership interest in and you steal this "IP" from the venture for your own benefit, your friend factually and legally would have a basis for bringing a legal action against you under various theories of recovery as well as for injunctive relief.

I suggest that you simply seek a new "IP" for the new limited liability company that you wish to create and do business under.


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