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How should I protect my precious ideas?
December 9, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

How should I handle a potential contractual situation where I want to protect my own previous ideas and work?

Ie: Through work I have to attent an education where we're obliged to sign contracts to not develop "similar products". But I have several developing ideas for product that may or may not be similar.

As far as I understand, if I have an similar idea (or product) previous to the education it's OK. But if I develop the idea after the education, I'm (more or less) f---ed.

The education is in short notice. What can I do to protect my potential future products?

(Unfortunately I can't skip the education - that's not possible. If I could, I would.)

I'm pondering to make an video of myself, outlining the product-ideas. Or print an document outlining the products I'm developing. But how would this stand up if I ever need to go to court?

What - dear Hive - would you do in this situation?

Kind regards,
Rabarberofficer
posted by Rabarberofficer to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I would not sign any sort of agreement of this type without running it by an intellectual property lawyer. No one here can tell you whether or how it's possible to protect yourself and your future work without reading the entire agreement and understanding the specific laws that govern this area in your jurisdiction. If you're worried about ending up in court, you need to talk to an attorney ahead of time.
posted by decathecting at 12:52 PM on December 9, 2011


I'd mark up the contract and cross out any sections that bother you before signing it. Chances are that whoever is gathering the signed documents will not notice or care.
posted by bq at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You probably can't mark up the contract and expect those changes to hold, since it's a form contract. Take a look at UCC 2-207 - which is only for goods but probably a similar theory applies here.

Non-competes are treated differently in different states and countries, so if you're really concerned you should ask a real lawyer. Generally, they have to be reasonable, particularly if they're on a form contact.

If you're really concerned that you have no option but to sign the contract, I suppose you could plead duress if it ever got to court. IANAL, IANYL, etc.
posted by iamscott at 1:00 PM on December 9, 2011


Is this for Sweden?
posted by rhizome at 1:31 PM on December 9, 2011


Bq - that's a possible route. But I'm quite certain that that would be noticed in this situation. I have previously scratched passages in similar contracts and signed without repurcussions.

Rhizome - Yes, this is Sweden, but for an international company/situation.

RE: Bring in a lawer. Yes, that would naturaly be the best solution for me. But it is not possible (constraints of time and place).

I just want to make sure that I can point to some kind of evidence and say "I was already developing this before the education." And say it with some kind of confidence.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 1:41 PM on December 9, 2011


I just want to make sure that I can point to some kind of evidence and say "I was already developing this before the education." And say it with some kind of confidence.

The point is, that may not be what the law requires in order to protect your project. Swedish law or international intellectual property law may require something completely different. And there's really no way for you to know for sure without talking to an expert, an attorney. If you say you don't have time to do that, what you're really saying is that you're willing to take the risk of being unable to continue with your project. Which is a fine decision to make; just know that you've made that decision.
posted by decathecting at 1:56 PM on December 9, 2011


Also, if it holds under Swedish law, this situation might be critiqued as a contract signed under duress if your job requires it and you don't know what it says until you have to sign it.
posted by rhizome at 2:03 PM on December 9, 2011


I agree with the folks saying check with a lawyer before you sign anything, but:

One thing a lot of writers do to prove something is their original work, is seal a signed & dated copy into an envelope, then mail it to themselves. If you try this, DO NOT open it after you receive it in the mail! Put the package away someplace safe, like a safe deposit box; the postmark is proof of date. I'm not a lawyer, nor am I in Sweden, this certainly isn't legal advice, and I still think talking to a lawyer is your best plan.
posted by easily confused at 5:46 PM on December 9, 2011


One thing a lot of writers do to prove something is their original work, is seal a signed & dated copy into an envelope, then mail it to themselves. If you try this, DO NOT open it after you receive it in the mail! Put the package away someplace safe, like a safe deposit box; the postmark is proof of date.
Please don't.
posted by vsync at 5:53 PM on December 9, 2011


Thanks all for your input. I understand that you're not laywers or anything, but you all give damn good advice. You've put my mind running in other directions than just in a circle.

Rhizome: You might be on to something with the duress-angle.

Waync: I'd love to hear why Easily confuced's advice about mailing yourself is a bad idea. Because to me it's sounds just about perfect in my case.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 1:23 AM on December 10, 2011


Probably because neither of us is sure it'd really work for you if this all ended up in court.
posted by easily confused at 2:03 AM on December 10, 2011


I'd sign it with my other hand, and then if push came to shove, deny ever having done so. But then I wouldn't ever work for any organization that ever attempted to make me sign any form of non-compete, ever. Life's too short for that shit.
posted by flabdablet at 5:53 AM on December 10, 2011


Alternatively, I'd forge my boss's signature on it. Or at the very least put down an indecipherable, vastly over-simplified scribble bearing no relationship at all to my real signature.

And while doing that, I'd be thinking: duress that, you arseholes.
posted by flabdablet at 6:02 AM on December 10, 2011


Also note that I am not advising you to do any such thing; that would most likely be terrible advice. But you asked what I'd do in your situation, and I've told you.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 AM on December 10, 2011


Thank's guys. I think I have an angle to work with now. You insigths have helped me.

The question was about how I could claim former knowledge if it comes to that. Not about forging signatures or denying participation. I'm not into that.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 12:09 AM on December 17, 2011


Waync: I'd love to hear why Easily confuced's advice about mailing yourself is a bad idea. Because to me it's sounds just about perfect in my case.

Poor Man's Copyright (ignore the red text)
posted by rhizome at 12:02 PM on December 17, 2011


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