As reported recently, French lighting designer Odile Soudant is claiming intellectual property protection for her contributions to the lighting design for Chateau Miraval in Provence, owned and renovated by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Apparently, Brad Pitt sought out Ms. Soudant to oversee lighting, incorporating the beautiful natural light present on the grounds of the estate. It is unclear whether Ms. Soudant’s firm had any written agreement for her work. Mr. Pitt and Ms. Soudant are now litigating the issue of intellectual property rights to the Chateau’s lighting design in French court, with each party claiming sole ownership and control.
Obviously, the substantive elements of the dispute will turn on the application of nuanced copyright and related issues arising under French IP law as applied to the specific facts that emerge in the course of litigation.
The big takeaway for the merely bourgeoise is this: Whether you are the owner or the contractor on any project that has even the slightest degree of creativity or originality, it is absolutely critical to have some form of a written agreement addressing intellectual property rights and ownership.
Here is an example of an assignment clause “Contractor hereby irrevocably releases any and all claims or rights of whatsoever kind and nature in and to all Work Product, including, without limitation all intellectual property rights, and all right, title, and interest in and to such Work Product is hereby deemed assigned to [Name of Engaging Party] pursuant to this Agreement.”
Even if you are just hiring a baker to create a custom wedding cake topped with iced figurines of you and your fiancée embracing in a cabbage field, you should have an agreement.
Rob Monath, www.robmonath.com is a copyright and trademark attorney based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He helps his clients develop and protect online proprietary content. This article is for general purposes only and is not intended as a source of legal advice.