Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Monday, October 17, 2016

McDonald’s sued by late artist’s estate for copyright infringement

How can you protect your intellectual property assets after death?

When it comes to asset protection, we typically think of tangible things like cars, homes, jewelry and other types of personal or real property.  Seldom do we think of intellectual property when creating an asset protection plan or otherwise planning our estate.

Intellectual Property Protection

Unless you’re an artist or businessperson, intellectual property may not come into play for you. However, for the estate of the late artist Dash Snow, it has become a serious issue. The estate recently filed a lawsuit against the McDonalds for copyright infringement, alleging that McDonalds is using Snow’s art as part of its’ décor in graffiti-themed restaurants.

Snow, whose artwork has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at Sotheby’s, never gave McDonalds permission to use his art.  For that matter, neither did the estate. McDonalds has ignored previous demands to remove the artwork.

Protecting Intellectual Property Through Estate Planning

Intellectual property can include patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and digital assets. In order to transfer these assets at death, you must explicitly discuss these transfers in your will, trust or other transfer agreement.

All transfers of intellectual property must be in writing, and in the case of trademarks and patents, specific filings must be done to effectuate the transfer.

To make it as easy as possible for your heirs to manage these intangible assets, it is important to gather certain information and documents. These can include:

  • Original applications
  • Certificates issued by the USPTO
  • Documents identifying trade secrets and their ownership
  • A updated list of all digital assets, including usernames and passwords

Valuing Intellectual Property

It may also be appropriate to get a professional appraisal of your IP in order to place a monetary value on the property for estate planning purposes. While the estate can do this after the fact, knowing in advance what the value is can assist in tax planning.

Making Your Wishes Known

Without an estate plan, the court will determine who gets your assets.  That’s why it’s important to talk to an experienced estate-planning attorney.  The estate planning attorneys at Hyden, Miron & Foster can provide you with expert advice for your loved ones. Contact us today for a consultation.

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