Folsom, CA asked in Copyright, Business Law and Intellectual Property for California

Q: Can a company use the design I sent them without permission after deciding to not work with me?

About 2 years ago I reached out to a beverage company about my interest in working with them to redesign their package. The company is owned by a major parent beverage company. I sent them some concept ideas I had for them to show them the kind of work I do. The company responded and said due to contract reasons they were unable to work with me. About a year ago I was walking in the store and noticed the beverage company had redesigned their packaging to almost exactly what I showed them. There were some minor changes but the general idea was the same. From what I recall I sent them a photo and a description of what the design would look like. Is there anything I can do about this to prove that the designs were originally mine? I don’t have the original email I sent however I have the response email as well as the reference number to the email chain. How and what should I do about this?

2 Lawyer Answers
Dan Rowan Cortright
Dan Rowan Cortright
  • Sebastopol, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It really depends on how you presented the sample concept idea to them. If you told them it was just a possible design, but that you reserved all copyright and other legal rights to the design, then they used it, they have violated your copyright. But if you gave it to them freely without any indication that you reserved your rights in the design, they will argue that you waived or gave up your copyright (which attaches automatically to every work created by you) and that you gave them the design freely for their use without indicating any restriction. You may still be able to sue them for copyright infringement, but it may be expensive and get very complicated. I suggest you contact a copyright/IP attorney right away to learn more about your rights.

Christie Dudley agrees with this answer

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: If you believe the company used your design without permission, you may have potential claims related to copyright infringement or intellectual property rights. To prove ownership of the design, the email exchange and reference number could serve as evidence to support your claim. Consult with a California attorney who specializes in intellectual property law to assess your case and explore possible legal remedies under California law. - James Arrasmith, Owner. The Law Offices of James L. Arrasmith.

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