Is there a form that I should have him/her sign to protect my design idea, to prevent him from using my design himself? 13 Answers as of March 26, 2013

I will have an artist draw for me a design/picture for a T-shirt idea I have. Then I will copyright/trademark these pictures/graphic designs for my t-shirt printing use.

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Mark S. Hubert PC
Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
You should have him assign all of his IP rights in the designs by contract and file a copyright on the artwork.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 3/26/2013
Law Office of Mathew R. P. Perrone, Jr. | Mathew Roy Patrick Perrone, Jr.
Copyrights, like patents, have specific provisions therefor in the United States Constitution.Chapter 17 of the United States Code is the copyright statute.If the author owns his own copyright, the copyright lasts for the author's life plus 70 years.On a work not owned by the author, the owner of the copyright has either 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation, whichever is shorter. A major change in the copyright law occurred with the decision in Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Company, 499 U.S. 340 (1991) .A minimal spark of creativity is required to obtain a copyright now.While this requirement is no where as strenuous as the requirement for a patent, it is major increase in the requirements for getting a copyright.Thus, copyrights are somewhat more difficult to obtain. At anytime, it is possible to claim a copyright interest in a created item by marking the item with "copyright", a year, and a name.If the copyright application is filed within three months of the publication date of the item with a proper copyright notice, the copyright holder can recover from an infringer from the date of publication, most likely including punitive damages.If the copyright application is filed later than three months after publication, the copyright holder can, in most cases, only recover severe punitive damages under the federal law, from infringers from the date of copyright issuance. If two different people come up with the same idea and express that idea in the same manner, each independently of the other, both are entitled to an copyright on that idea.One may not exclude the other.On the other hand, a patent or a trademark is exclusive. Copyright protection applies to literary works, musical works (including any words), dramatic works (including any music), pantomimes, choreography, pictorials, sculptural works, graphic works, motion pictures, sound recorders, solid state circuits and computer programs.The copyright provides a person the exclusive right to reproduce a work, prepare derivative works thereof, sell it, perform it publicly, and display it publicly. If someone hires another person to make a piece of artwork it wants to own that piece of artwork, that someone needs a written agreement with the artist that the artist is making a work for hire to be held by that someone. Without that written agreement, the artist could own the right to make copies of the work.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 3/24/2013
Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. | Ernie Linek
Look on the Internet for a Copyright Assignment form. The artist and you may be co-creators of the ultimate design/picture - especially if you work together to finalize the design. Otherwise - if you only give a general concept to the artist - the artist may be the "author" of the final work. For you to own the design outright - you want the artist to assign any rights he or she may have in the design to you.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 3/22/2013
Mark Torche | Mark Torche
You need to have the artist sign a work for hire contract or you will likely not be the owner of the copyright. In most cases, the artist retains the rights to their work unless they contractually agree to sell it to you. Make sure you have the artists sign the work for hire contract before you pay them. You can download this kind of a contract from many online document sources, but it is always better to consult an attorney to make sure that you are protected and that you have the full rights to your design.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 3/22/2013
DANIEL NESBITT | Hasse & Nesbitt
Yes, it is be known by various names: Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA), and Confidentiality Agreement. A patent attorney could prepare one for you fairly inexpensively. Or you can go on-line and look for examples that you yourself think would meet your needs.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 3/21/2013
    Sebby Law Office
    Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
    You will need to have the artist sign a work for hire agreement that transfers any and all rights in the original work, including copyright, to you. Generally, the USPTO will not grant trademark status to a design on a t-shirt.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Tran & Associates | Bao Tran
    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. I would recommend the use of software from called ProvisionalBuilder. Software costs $99 so it i very inexpensive yet guides you to prepare a high quality patent application that one year later you can turn to a lawyer to convert into a utility application for you. A feature summary is at THe software helps you organize information, and through your summary description, brings back sample patents in the same field for you to use as examples.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Barton Barton & Plotkin
    Barton Barton & Plotkin | Maurice Ross
    There is no cheap form. You need to retain counsel to draft and negotiate a work for hire agreement. These can be complicated and it is critical to get it right.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Michael M. Ahmadshahi
    Michael M. Ahmadshahi | Michael M. Ahmadshahi, Ph.D., Esq.
    Make sure you get the artist to sign a "work for hire" agreement, in which he assigns all copyrights to you, otherwise he could claim copyright ownership and force you to pay him license fee in addition to what he's getting paid to do the t-shirt design. You can get a work for hire agreement from the Internet but it's recommended to consult a lawyer, all depending on your budget.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Webb IP Law Group
    Webb IP Law Group | Jason P Webb
    You need to have the artist sign an assignment that transfers the rights to the artwork to you.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Law Office of Kirk Buhler
    Law Office of Kirk Buhler | Kirk A Buhler
    You should have them sign a contract for the work that outlines the work to be performed and the payment for the work. Just add a line to the contract that any and all works performed by the artist are your exclusive property, to do with as you choose, and the artist relinquishes all rights to the work performed under the contract. Let me know if you have any questions in regard to this issue.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Ochoa and Associates
    Ochoa and Associates | Susan Ochoa Spiering
    Have the artist who does the drawing sign a release that all intellectual property rights including any rights associated with a work for hire belong exclusively to you. There is no form that I am aware of, since I usually see this done as a release agreement by an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 3/21/2013
    Shimokaji & Associates
    Shimokaji & Associates | Michael Shimokaji
    You may want to consider having your designer execute a non-disclosure agreement and/or assignment of copyright to you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2013
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