Can I sue a company for an idea I mailed to them 4 years ago that they are developing today? 8 Answers as of February 14, 2013

I sent a mail to a company about a future technology 4 years back. But they did not get a reply. However, I found out today that they are coming up with that product. Can I sue them for that?

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Ochoa and Associates
Ochoa and Associates | Susan Ochoa Spiering
Not usually. There are quite a few issues to consider before you can sue. For example : do you have rights in the idea? was the company independently developing that same idea when you sent them yours'? did the two of you sign any documents? generally a Non use, non disclosure agreement (NDA) would indicate terms of confidentiality and terms of use for the idea. Or did you just mail them your idea with nothing else agreed to? If no agreement was signed, or terms pre-agreed to before sending them the idea, you have given the idea to them. Many companies do not sign NDAs, and will accept the idea if you chose to give it to them. Your consolation is that the idea was developed and (now) commercialized. If you are serious about a potential suit, you need to speak with a litigating patent attorney.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 2/14/2013
Law Office of Kirk Buhler
Law Office of Kirk Buhler | Kirk A Buhler
Probably not. Without a patent, or even a pending patent, there is limited protection you have. If you have some signed non-disclosure contract document you might be able to contact them for breaking the agreement for breach of contract. Since your question detail indicated that "they did not get a reply" then you probably do not have an agreement.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/13/2013
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
If you can prove that they are developing the product based upon your specific and detailed idea not just a general concept and they signed a non-disclosure agreement before you sent them the idea, you can sue for unauthorized disclosure of proprietary property.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 2/13/2013
Barton Barton & Plotkin
Barton Barton & Plotkin | Maurice Ross
Probably not, but the only way to know for sure is if you retain IP counsel to review the facts and details, including all relevant documents. However, unless you required the company to enter into a written non-disclosure agreement before providing the idea, you are most likely out of luck.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 2/13/2013
Shimokaji & Associates
Shimokaji & Associates | Michael Shimokaji
Its possible if you have an issued patent.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/13/2013
    Tran & Associates | Bao Tran
    Unless you have a confidentiality agreement (NDA) or a patent in hand, it will be hard You should get patent application as soon as you can to prevent others from copying you. This is important as we move into the First to File era.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 2/13/2013
    Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. | Ernie Linek
    You can try - but it is likely that no attorney will take your case. Unsolicited disclosures are usually either returned unopened or they are thrown away - company policies differ. Most companies have these policies because they have numerous ideas in development which can take many years before a product is launched. You likely approached the company because your idea was something that you believed would fit in their current product line. Unless you already have a patent on your idea before you send it to them - you have very little chance of success against them - especially four years later.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 2/13/2013
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