Do I have rights to a business idea that another company used? 4 Answers as of July 28, 2011

Does submitting a business idea to a suggestion/ support line relinquish rights to the idea? I suggested a business idea to amazon, and two months later they announced that they were adopting a product using my core idea, and a month after that they released it. Am I owed for the idea?

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DANIEL NESBITT | Hasse & Nesbitt
Probably not. You may want to read the fine print on the webpage or form used to submit the idea to Amazon, since often such companies will not agree to accept such submissions on any confidential basis. Please also don't discount that Amazon may have come up with the idea completely on its own, independent of your suggestion. But if you'd like a specific opinion, please contact a patent attorney and provide the details.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 7/28/2011
Mark S. Hubert PC
Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
Why would they owe you anything? Do you have a patent on your invention? If not you don't own anything. Did you send it to them with a written agreement that they would not use it without your permission or that they would pay you for it if they liked it, or did you just send it to them as a suggestion? Without a signed contract you have nothing. Best thing to do is to apply for a patent on the invention if it has been less than a year since you disclosed the idea to them. Remember only the true inventor can file for a patent. If you get the patent granted then you can sue them for infringement.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 7/28/2011
Devon & Associates
Devon & Associates | Marcia A. Devon
It would be difficult to collect money for an idea you disclosed to Amazon, or any third party, if you did not have the third party sign a Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA). A CDA provides that you are disclosing your design (which you disclose in writing, marked "confidential") and that Amazon (or whoever) agrees not to use the disclosure for any other reason other than to evaluate whether they would like to purchase the rights to the design from you. A judge (from the 19th century) famously stated in a well-known case: "Ideas are as free as the air". Only when you make the idea concrete with a specific design and then obtain a U.S. patent are you entitled to receive royalties or damages for patent infringement and/or to prevent others from making using or selling in the U.S. The claims of your patent define what products infringe your patent In contrast, the CDA protects you, usually while you are working on your patent application, by providing you with a legal claim for breach of contract. If Amazon made oral promises to you about compensation, they may be enforceable. However, the difficulty would be proving what was said and as plaintiff, you would have the burden of proof.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/28/2011
Barton Barton & Plotkin
Barton Barton & Plotkin | Maurice Ross
Probably not but I would need a lot more information before I could advise you. Intellectual property laws do not protect mere ideas.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 7/27/2011
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