How do I obtain a license to publish another company's old, non-monetized software?
December 3, 2011 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in obtaining a license to distribute a modified version of someone else's software from a large multinational corporation. How would I go about doing this? What sort of contracts would I need, who should I contact, and how can I ensure that I get the best deal?

Some details: The software in question is part of a larger IP umbrella that has not made the rights holder (Capcom Co Ltd or some subsidiary thereof) any money in at least six or seven years. In fact, this particular title has not been published by the current rights holder; it was transferred to them as part of a large corporate sale in 1999. Further, it was only ever published in Japan.

I am, of course, just one person, and it's kind of intimidating to approach a corporate giant of Capcom's size with a business proposition that might not even make them all that much money. At least at base, my proposal would be to offer to handle all of the publication, advertisement, and distribution details while paying a royalty for each sale - essentially, risk-free money. If they're worried about it flopping their name need not be mentioned except buried in whatever licensing legalese has to be included with each copy.

I guess I'm just feeling really overwhelmed by the scope of this, and I don't really know how to approach it. I want to develop a definite plan of action before I make any rash/drastic phone calls, but I also don't want to let my fear of this get the best of me. Help!
posted by Lakmir to Work & Money (6 answers total)
It's easier to get forgiveness than permission, they say. Go ahead and publish your software, if they hear of it they'll be knocking on your door.

Of course this is not legal advice and any serious lawyer would tell you to do something else.
posted by 3mendo at 11:46 AM on December 3, 2011

Yes. Any serious lawyer would definitely tell you to do something else, specifically: Never do that.
posted by odinsdream at 12:09 PM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Given that patent trolls are the hotness right now and generally forgo the 'knocking on the door' part for a hefty fine unless you have the right resources to back you up, I would ignore everything 3mendo just said.
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:16 PM on December 3, 2011

Yeah, I definitely want to get permission. I intend to use this as a model for similar future ventures and I'd rather not get sued into oblivion on my first attempt.
posted by Lakmir at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2011

There are lots of attorneys who do exactly this sort of work. Look up software licensing attorneys in your area. "Technology transactions" is another search term you can use. All the big firms have people doing this; and many smaller ones - if you don't know where to start, figure out who's doing the work for the tech startup companies near you. E-mail a couple of attorneys your question, get a quote for the work, and decide whether you can afford it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2011

Here's another potential stumbling block: Which branch of the company would I need to deal with, the US branch or the mother corporation in Japan? If I hired an IP lawyer as fingersandtoes suggests, would they be able to handle international negotiation? I imagine that would dramatically increase their fee.
posted by Lakmir at 5:41 PM on December 3, 2011

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