Carling CupOn Saturday 30 July Kaizer Chiefs played Orlando Pirates for the Carling Black Label Cup. Big deal you say, they seem to play each other all the time. But this match had an interesting little twist – the team selections weren't done by the coaches, but by the fans through SMS voting. For weeks in advance, Ruud Gullit told all those who cared to listen that they could 'Be the Coach.'
A fascinating little idea, but just whose was it? Well, wouldn't you know it, that's in dispute, with a bloke claiming he had the Eureka moment a few years ago. He claims that he took his idea to a number of possible takers, who all said thanks but no thanks. All signed non-disclosure agreements in advance. All but one that is, who said don't be silly, we're people of honour, you can trust us. He now claims that he was, they're not and you can't.
It happens every day – a client comes bounding in and says I've come up with a great business idea, I want to present it to a company, how do I patent the trade mark in my copyright? With great difficulty is the answer, because you can't patent something like this. Yes, you can get a trade mark registration for the name you've devised for your brilliant scheme, but unless the name's absolutely critical to the success of the plan, that registration will count for nothing. And yes, you have copyright in any written or artistic materials that you've created, but if the company doesn't need to copy these materials in order to use your idea, your copyright counts for nothing either. Sorry! Here's your bill.
That leaves you with the law of confidential information - if someone uses your confidential information without your consent you can take action against them. Although you don't have to put anything in writing, it's a good idea to get the company to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This will say that you're disclosing confidential information in anticipation of a possible commercial arrangement, and that the company won't use that information if no deal is struck. But there are still probs aplentch. Some companies will tell you to sod off, we don't sign these things, take it or leave it. And commercial realities will often dictate that you leave it (the information that is, without any undertaking in return). And, with or without an agreement, the chances of you successfully taking on a big corporate are slim. Even if you have the bucks, the company will almost certainly raise this defence – what you told us or showed us was nothing new. And trust me, they'll find someone to say they had the idea long before you came come onto the scene. Life's a bitch!
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.