Orange County Family Law Attorneys
Intellectual Property

What Are My Spouse’s Rights to My Intellectual Property?

General Property Division Principles in California

In California, all property acquired during divorce is equally divided between the parties upon divorce. Property that a party acquired before the marriage or after the parties’ date of separation is considered to be their separate property and not subject to division at divorce. Additionally, property that a party acquires in their name by way of gift, bequest, or devise, will be considered as their separate property as well.

Copyrights

Copyrights give the copyright holder the right to preclude other people from doing certain things regarding works protected by copyright. Only original works of authorship reduced to a tangible medium of expression garner copyright protection.

Copyright holders have the exclusive right to the following with regard to the works:

  • Print
  • Publish
  • Perform
  • Film
  • Record

Anyone who exercises the above rights without a license from the copyright holder is liable for copyright infringement. A copyright license allows others to exercise the above rights, typically for a fee called a “royalty.” A copyright holder can recover damages in an infringement lawsuit. If the copyright was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), copyright holders are entitled to recover up to $250,000 in statutory damages per infringement.

Under California law, both spouses have an equal interest in copyrights acquired during the marriage. Unlike houses, cars, and jewelry, intellectual property rights are not tangible. However, community property copyrights give both parties a right to split damages from copyright infringement suits and royalties from licensing arrangements.

Trademarks

A trademark is a symbol, term, or phrase used to identify the source of goods or services in the market. Like copyrights, trademarks are intangible. Persons who first use a trademark to identify their products or services attain trademark rights—no registration required. However, registering a trademark with the USPTO entitles the owner to certain benefits, including recovering statutory damages for infringing marks.

Trademark infringement occurs from either the unauthorized use of a trademark or the use of a similar mark which is likely to confuse consumers as to whether the alleged infringer’s goods and services are associated with the trademark owner’s mark.

Under community property, trademarks acquired during marriage are considered to be community property. However, trademark ownership issues typically only arise when a business is involved. Thus, trademark rights are typically folded into the valuation of a business and divided with the business upon divorce.

Patents

Patent rights grant protections for certain novel, useful, non-obvious inventions. Patent holders can bar other people from manufacturing and selling their inventions for a certain period of time. Patent holders essentially have the right to sue others for patent infringement and license their inventions.

Patent rights acquired during marriage qualify as community property and are divisible upon divorce. As a result, both spouses have an equal interest in the damages and licensing fees that derive from the community property patent.

Contact Moshtael Family Law for Quality Legal Counsel

Does your divorce involve sophisticated legal issues, such as the division of intangible assets such as businesses and intellectual property? If so, you have an interest in consulting a licensed attorney for legal advice. At Moshtael Family Law, our attorneys have dedicated their practice to working on issues involving divorce, such as the division of complex assets. We can provide you with sound legal advice about the issues of your case and advocate for your rights.

Call our office at (714) 909-2561 or complete our online request form to set up a free consultation about your rights and interests today.


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