Intellectual property (IP) can be just as valuable as—or even more valuable than—tangible property. Many companies make money exclusively through marketing products based on intellectual property rights. That’s why it is so important to protect your intellectual property through patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other legal devices that keep your intellectual property safe.
However, once you have secured your intellectual property rights, it is sometimes more convenient or valuable to let someone else use them in exchange for a fee, which is why intellectual property agreements and intellectual property contracts exist. These documents are complex agreements that determine the manner in which third parties can use your intellectual property. Intellectual property agreements and intellectual property contracts require careful negotiation, and owners of intellectual property should conduct these negotiations with the support of an experienced intellectual property lawyer. Through Priori, you can connect with a vetted a lawyer who can help you draft and negotiate an intellectual property agreement or an intellectual property contract.
Understanding Intellectual Property Agreements & Intellectual Property Contracts
Because you have the right to confer your intellectual property rights to other parties, intellectual property agreements can take one of two basic form: assignment agreements and IP license agreements.
About Assignment Agreements
Under an intellectual property assignment agreement, you permanently transfer some or all IP rights to the assignee in exchange for a specified sum. Essentially, you sell the rights to a third party the same way that you could sell physical property for a permanent transfer. Generally, you relinquish all control, involvement, and claim on the intellectual property rights transferred.
About Intellectual Property Licensing
Under an intellectual property licensing agreement (also known as an intellectual property license or an intellectual property license agreement), you retain ownership of your patent, copyright, or trademark, but you give another party permission to use some or all of your intellectual property rights for a specific amount of time for a fee or royalty. These intellectual property contracts typically specify termination dates and procedures.
There are several types of intellectual property licenses embodied in a typical intellectual property agreement. The following three are the most common:
- Exclusive License. You agree not to grant any other licenses of the invention and rights concerned, as well as not to use the technology yourself.
- Sole License. You agree not to grant any other licenses of the invention and rights concerned, but you can use such rights yourself.
- Non-Exclusive License. You agree to give the licensee certain rights, but you also reserve the right to grant licenses of the invention and rights concerned to third parties or to use them yourself.
You can also combine elements of these three types of intellectual property agreements, such as by giving an intellectual property license for exclusive rights in certain geographic areas. You can review a sample patent license agreement in Priori's Document and Form Learning Center. You can also learn more about software licenses here.
Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement vs. Intellectual Property License
Which is better, an intellectual property assignment agreement or an intellectual property license? The reality is that there are pros and cons to each choice, depending on your needs and interests. Most of the time, IP holders want to maintain control of their IP, and they choose intellectual property licensing. This is advantageous because you can determine the manner in which your IP is used and change partners if a partnership isn’t advantageous. Also, intellectual property licensing allows you to produce a steady income from your IP over a particular time period and possibly confer the same rights to multiple users.
Intellectual property assignment agreements can also have its advantages, however. If you assign intellectual property to a third party, you no longer have any responsibility towards the product. That means you cannot generally be sued for problems relating to your IP and you are not responsible for any maintenance fees. Intellectual property assignment is generally more appropriate when you are selling your business or leaving a field entirely.
Depending on the complexity of your needs, the cost of drafting intellectual property licensing or intellectual property assignment agreements may vary. Priori attorneys typically create flat-rate packages ranging from $400 to $1,500 for relatively straightforward intellectual property agreements. In order to get a better sense of cost for your particular situation, put in a request to schedule a complimentary consultation and receive a free price quote from one of our lawyers.
How does an exclusive license differ from an assignment?
While both exclusive intellectual property licenses and intellectual property assignment agreements give exclusive exercise of that right to another person in exchange for monetary compensation, an exclusive license is much more limited than an assignment. If you assign an IP right to another person, you permanently transfer that right and would have to repurchase it in order to use it again.
An IP license is generally subject to a certain term and possible renewal. For that reason, you generally get more money upfront with an assignment. In addition, unless otherwise stated in the contract, an exclusive license cannot generally be handed off to a third party without your permission, but if you assign that right to someone else, they can then license or sell it as they see fit.
What is an implied license?
In certain circumstances, an implied IP license arises without the existence of a formal licensing agreement if the conduct of the parties indicates that the IP right holder intended to license certain rights to the other party. Often, courts grant implied licenses in cases where one party created a copyrighted work at the request of another under a contract that did not explicitly confer the copyright to the purchaser after payment and completion of the work.