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What happens to intellectual property in a millennial divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2017 | Divorce |

Discussing prenuptial agreements before marriage is no longer a taboo subject. In fact, the number of high-income young professionals in Arlington and D.C. metro who seek prenuptials is increasing. Are you a millennial who wants to ensure you protect your intellectual property? Have you written songs, created films, apps or software that you will take into your marriage? Will you continue producing intellectual property during your marriage? What happens to those assets in the event of a divorce?

While patents, trademarks and copyrights typically protect music, technology, art, films, literary works and medical or scientific developments, how can you protect it against your spouse walking away with your unique efforts? Prenuptial agreements have become a contingency plan to let scholarly wizards love their spouses while having peace of mind, knowing that the fruits of their intellect will be safe in the event of divorce. However, is this fair to the other spouse?

The wife’s perspective

There has always been a school of thought that women are short-changed when couples divorce. Historically, women who worked to support their husbands through their studies at medical school or law school believed they were helping to build a stable financial future for their families. However, in many cases, wives were destitute when marriages ended. The emerging lifestyle in millennial-dominated communities have wives working to support husbands who spend their days developing apps, music, films or such. The wives share the risk, but the prenuptials often deny them sharing in the proceeds.

The husband’s perspective

Looking at this issue from a husband’s viewpoint paints a different picture. A divorce attorney shares an experience of representing a Nobel Prize winner whose valued and creative writing were copyrighted but not protected in a prenuptial agreement. When he got divorced, his spouse claimed a share of the copyrights for published works during their marriage. He argued that, although the works were produced during the time they were married, the research and thinking of it were done long before their marriage.

Had the Nobel Prize winner consulted with a seasoned family law attorney who is skilled in drafting prenuptial agreements, a monetary value for his intellectual property might have been determined and protected in a prenup. However, as things turned out, the divorce cost him thousands of dollars, and the court ordered him to share the proceeds of his writings with his former spouse for years to come.

The solution

In areas like Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., where there are large concentrations of wealth, young adults typically enter marriages with substantial assets already acquired. Protecting your assets in divorce will naturally be a concern for both you and your spouse, and the most appropriate manner to achieve the necessary protection is a prenuptial agreement. However, the uniqueness of each individual’s intellectual property will need specially drafted agreements by skilled attorneys to ensure all eventualities are covered.


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