Who owns design and production license?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by iceboater, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. iceboater
    Joined: Jan 2011
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    iceboater Junior Member

    A boat building company close to me is being liquidated. This was a family owned company, father and 3 sons that built up this company and I started my fiberglass carrier there at 17 year old 24 years ago. One of the sons and part owner, designed all of the boat they have built.
    The lawyer who is liquidating the company thinks that he can sell all the boat molds, about 6 of them, with the license to produce boats out of the molds without permission or fee to the designer.
    The designer clams that he owns the designs and whoever buys the company or molds, has no wright to build boats out of the molds without his permission.
    He claims that he designed the boats in his spare time and that he owns the designs and production license privately.

    Can a boat designer who works for a company to design their boats, claim that he owns the design and production license?

    If same designer would be fired from the company, could he leave with the production license?

    If he was designing all the boats in his spare time like he clams. would
    that change anything in the answers for the above questions?

    Thanks, Axel
  2. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    It stinks and I think the company owns intellectual rights to the design.
  3. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Agreed at first glance. The key is he worked for the manufacture, which makes the designs the property of the manufacture, not it's employees. This said, there also could be paperwork that separates his design work, from the prevue of the companies holdings. Attorneys can easily sort out this type of thing and if they say they've got a handle on it, then you can bet it's likely defensible.
  4. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    The answer in part depends on the national laws, both the laws concerning design ownership and rights, and the laws governing bankruptcy and liquidation. And the way the company and its ownership were structured may be relevant. It can be very tricky when an individual who was part owner of a company and/or involved in its management claims certain assets are owned by him personally and not part of the company's assets.

    Depending on the local laws, what actions were taken to register and protect the designs, and how old the designs are there may be no one who has exclusive rights to the designs.
  5. Wynand N
    Joined: Oct 2004
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    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder

    The way I see it;
    The designer and part owner of company designed the boats for the company and company built molds and the production profits for all owners, including designer. Technically, I would say the designs are part of the company.

    That said, if he designed the boats in his sparetime (which is doubful at best) and to support his claim that the design copyright is owned by him, there should be an agreement with the company to that effect stating the no''s and yes's of such - if no agreement can be produced (careful for forged copy now made after the effect) ownership should be vested with the company.
    However, no designer will let have his designs used (even in family business) if he is not rewarded in a way for his efforts and surely, if he designed this in his "spare" time and lay claim to the copyright, there should be evidence of an agreement with the company and rolayties paid to him by the company such as cancelled cheques, payment transfers etc to substain such an agreement.
    If no such an agreement or proof of royalty payments exsist to substain the claim of privately held copyright, the lawyers will have a field day in court with him.....
    1 person likes this.
  6. pdwiley
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    pdwiley Senior Member

    The whole question depends on what the local law is WRT intellectual property. Countries differ. Here in Australia individuals own the IP of their work absent a written agreement assigning it to their employer. I've spent most of my career creating software and I was very careful to separate my 'spare time' work from my 'paid' employment and once I had a product, every subsequent employment contract specifically excluded such work from any transfer of IP to my employer.

    However I think the designer in this case has a problem, that being that the onus is really on him to sue if he thinks his rights to his IP is being infringed. I wouldn't like his chances.

  7. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    And then there is the fundamental question of if and how the design of the boats is covered by local law. The design of functional objects is generally treated differently than software, music, photos, paintings or text.
  8. kerosene
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    kerosene Senior Member

    Not THAT differently. The main issue to be resolved is if he was doing the designs as a worker to the company or as an individual renting license to the company. If he can prove that there was a specific arangement to the license then he might have a case. You need help of local lawyer regardless.

  9. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Software, music, paintings, text, etc are primarially protected by copyright. I've previously posted what I've found about the protection of boat designs, and so far I've found that copyright does not cover the functional design of objects such as boat hulls.

    Any references anyone has on design of functional objects being covered by copyright would be appreciated.
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