Monday, January 18, 2010

Wrapup: IDSA / PDMA Intellectual Property Seminar

The Industrial Designers Society of America and Product Development Management Association brought together a group of professionals to talk about intellectual property on October 15, 2009 at the Otis College of Art and Design. Felix Salvador, a student at Art Institute – Orange County, wrote the following summary. Names and contact information for the presenters are listed at the bottom of the article.


IDSA LA/ PDMA Intellectual Property Seminar
This seminar gave designers and artists alike a good sense of the world outside of simply just design, but dug deeper into legalities, and answered a lot of questions that some of us probably didn’t know we even had concerning licensing, intellectual property, etc. Here’s my recollection of the seminar and its presenters.

The first person we heard from was Krystina Castella. Krystina is currently a teacher at Art Center and she spoke to us about designing value into our products. A good example that illustrated what was meant by this was when she said “something needs to be brought to the table other than just a product, whether it’s money, distribution”. This pertains to the entrepreneur who is trying to push an original product of theirs. A few of the other ideas she presented were that some products need to exist in their own company, which then brings the issue of whether the product should become a licensed product or have its own company; investment funding for a product should match the value of the product. She made it clear that a licensing proposal and a business proposal are two different things. The last idea that really caught my attention was that when coming up with designs, spend less time on perfecting one thing and just put ideas out on the table.

Our next speaker was a gentleman named David Belasco, who is a lawyer who deals with designers. He spoke about protecting intellectual property through the development process. I learned that when a group of individuals get commissioned to do a job they usually sign an agreement saying that IP belongs to company, although sometimes the company doesn’t get around to distributing that contract until some point in the process, and in that case the intellectual property of anything done within the specifications of the job in most cases still belongs to the company. The other thing I got from Mr. Belasco was in the department of having a “co-inventor” and the chances and technicalities of one person exploiting the patent to make a profit despite the other “inventor” and his/her best interests.

The third guest speaker was trademark and copyright specialist, Melissa Dagodag. Four things she urged us to keep in mind were to: avoid expensive lawsuits (as well as cease and desist letters), protect our creations, have the ability to create a remedy if our work is ripped off, lastly it would be in our best interests to create ownership rights for our IP. One thing that Melissa wanted to make sure was clear to us was that the myth that if a design of product or anything is changed by at least a certain percentage it can be copyrighted or patented is FALSE. The original design reigns supreme and the copy cat can be in a world of legal trouble. When considering a brand name and trademarking it, keep in mind how strong the name is that you choose. Google or Amazon are two names that are kind of arbitrary but have so much power.

The next speaker at the table, Steve Boyer, told a few “live and learn” stories. He was there to give us an inventor’s perspective on navigating “the minefield”. He told us about a video game he helped develop and lucked out when he got paid for it after not initially entering into a legit contract. When it came time to make part two for that game, the people he was working with stiffed him after going on good faith the first without a contract. He was screwed until his attorney prepared an after-the-fact contract which was sent certified to the company, which ended up helping Steve win the case. He urged us to not skimp on the legal stuff, if a contract is “after the fact” MAKE SURE IT’S SENT CERTIFIED, and that obtaining IP is very expensive. Lastly, if someone steals your IP and you don’t own it…you’re screwed.

Our last speaker was a boisterous attorney at law, Mark Plager. Mark referred to himself as “the devil” and claimed over and over again “You don’t want to have to see me!” He said “All of you designers and artists create things and I tear it all down!” He’d rather not have to see us because it takes us away from what we’re supposed to be doing: creating and working, being productive. A few things that he wanted to leave us with was that (for outside contractors) make sure were paid in stages at specific points throughout the job, and make sure what we’re being paid for is specifically defined. This is just in case we end up in court for some reason. Another big thing was ambiguity or leaving terms open to interpretation and how it can work against us in court. He discussed indemnification clauses so that you’re not held accountable should your product inflict harm, and mediation clauses to settle cases in front of a mediator as opposed to a judge is were also discussed.

The question “Who owns your IP” was raised and there’s actually a few answers to that depending on circumstances. If an individual is employed by a company and signs an agreement then IP belongs to company. If the circumstances are the same but no agreement is signed until later, then employee owns the IP legally unless company time and materials were used on project, then company has a right to fight for IP if they can prove that such was the case.

Another issue raised was “When is the right time in the process to file for a patent?” All that really comes down to is the more people you show your ideas and development to the more likely you will get ripped off. So, it was recommended that individuals file early and often. Also, there’s a difference between first to file and first to invent.

The experience and value that I got from this seminar was very useful and in a lot of ways priceless. The speakers were all so full of knowledge in the various stages of the design process and its technicalities. I had a great time and had a chance to mingle with various professionals before the seminar. This information will stay with me and I will hopefully continue to build upon it during my career as an Industrial Designer and be able to apply it when and wherever I can.

Felix Salvador, Student
The Art Institute of California - Orange County
October 15, 2009

Contact information for the speakers:

David Belasco
Belasco Jacobs & Townsley, LLP
Patent Attorney: Patent, trademark and copyright causes
http://www.bjtlaw.com/
310.743-1188
dbelasco@bjtlaw.com

Melissa Dagodag
The Law offices of Melissa Dagodag
Attorney: "Protecting your bright ideas! From forming companies to handling copyrights, trademarks and entertainment contracts.
http://www.melissakdagodag.com/
310.699.8155
melissa@melissakdagodag.com
Mark H. Plager
PLAGER SCHACK LLP
Attorney: Your Business Partner; Patent, trademark, copyright, trade secrets, business transactions, real estate and Insurance.
www.plagerschack.com/
714.698.0601
mark@plagerschack.com

Steve Boyer:
Conceptual Designer: Light, Sound, Motion and Space
Steveboyer.org
http://www.steveboyer.org/
310.562.4885
steve.boyer@gamil.com

Krystina Castella
Industrial Designer: Creative business, product development and licensing consultant
www.krystinacastella.com
818.545.8106
kcastella@msn.com

Eric P. Rose, NPDP, MBA
President Emeritus, Product Development Management Association-LA
http://www.pdmala.org/
818.383.8330
eric.rose@pdmala.org

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Thanks Felix! We welcome similar summaries of events from our professional design friends and students!

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