Intellectual Property and Prenuptial Agreements

In the December 21, 2016 New York Times, Orly Lobel wrote that she has discovered that millennials are getting prenuptial agreements in ever greater numbers than ever before. She said that this trend has been increasing steadily- as we know- for the past decade. What has not been addressed much, however, is that the reason for this uptick in getting prenups in New York (the city in particular). There is a reason that prenuptial agreements are on the rise, and it is because the content of many of them is changing.

More and more individuals – particularly of this ‘millennial’ age- are placing monetary assignment on their intangible value- their intrinsic qualities that make them creative, intellectual, business savvy, or engineering- minded. That’s right, these newly-engaged are not as worried about their current income, their property or any possible inheritance when they plan their financial future with their partner.

What, then, could it be?

The contingency plan for today’s soon-to-be-married has more to do with their intellectual property than their real estate property.

It seems strange, at first, when we think about the traditional prenuptial agreement. However, on second thought, it isn’t so far out of left field. The world in general has been shifting –for a plethora of reasons- and is now in an era where we place a very large emphasis on intellectual property. These days, don’t be surprised if upon taking a new job you are required to sign a document, or several, that state that you will not make money based on any of your ‘ideas’ that you obtain as a result of working there. There are non-compete clauses which basically leave the employee without the ability, legally, to break off from that business and go off on his own. Part of this could include signing away your rights to ideas.

Much like a legally binding employment contract, a marriage contract (a/k/a prenup) shares many of those common interests and financial underpinnings. It is very crucial to word the prenuptial agreement properly, since you do not want  to leave room for unwanted interpretation in the event that the document needs to be used. NYC Prenup is experienced and adept at handling intellectual property issues and specific clauses pertaining to it, within prenuptial agreements. NYC Prenup understands what our client wants when he tells us he wants to maintain control over his intellectual property, and how he would like to do that, and we are also prepared to offer suggestions for solutions to how to work a tricky subject into the document.

Remember- a prenuptial agreement is necessary for many reasons, but one of the reasons the document is so vital to a healthy marriage is to provide certainty, stability and a feeling of peace of mind. If you have business ideas, an invention, something theoretical or conceptual, you are going to want to make sure that you ‘own’ it. You will want to build these things into your prenuptial agreement insofar as you can name them, and show that they are a part of your intellectual property.

Lobel, in her article, goes on to focus on inequity for women in divorces, addressing the point that the prenuptial agreement has leveled the playing field and brought a predetermined asset and wealth protection plan for the future of each woman in a marriage that begins with a prenuptial agreement. The comparison she draws is with the stay at home wife and mother, the homemaker, who then finds herself getting divorced, with no work history or assets to show for her years of hard work. Likewise, says Lobel, the start-up culture of our society and thus economy is posing serious tangible questions about intangible ideas. There is no doubting that historically women have been short changed in every manner related to finances, specifically related to divorces. However, this inequity may be “equally disparate” for the ‘lesser earning spouse’ in today’s marriages, regardless of gender, but let’s take a look at some examples.

The example we can use to look at the concept is:

Stacy is a nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Putting in at least 60 hours every week, smart and determined Stacy sees herself rising into administration, and a law degree. She is also committed to her husband. Alan is an engineering and IT genius. Stacy does not know much about the app he has been developing, but his buddies who are lawyers and work at a software company seem to all think he is sitting on a goldmine, a certain windfall for him once the red tape behind the legal and startup is complete. Fast forward 3 years and it turns out that Alan and his friends were right- the app is a success and ends up selling to an enormous website that yields him royalties and other ad-related income indefinitely. He becomes an overnight millionaire. However, this is 3 years after he started the app-creation process. During those three years, the stress and tension of finances and Stacy’s crazy shifts put a strain on their marriage that they could not sustain the relationship. In the divorce, because the app was not finalized at the time the agreement was signed in court, Stacy got next to nothing in the way of financial assets as a result of the app that Alan created, despite having funded and supported his way through the process. The reason? At the time of the divorce, the app didn’t really- technically- exist yet. It was just an idea. An idea that, yes, would likely make them money one day. There’s the rub. Alan and Stacy had been working towards a common goal, but with nothing in writing that gave Stacy any rights to the business he was forming, Stacy had little to show for her end of things, other than a lot of late nights and overtime shifts. In hindsight, Stacy regrets the decision to not obtain a prenuptial agreement.

What the New York Times article stresses is the way women are getting the short end of this stick, and how regardless of who has the intellectual property, it behooves everyone to move forward with protecting themselves legally. This has little to do with gender itself- as in any situation you could swap out the gender and it would be the same.                                                                                                                                

If you think you may have a need for intellectual property being included in your prenuptial agreement, NYC Prenup is New York’s premier prenuptial agreement document preparation service. Our staff attorneys are fully committed to your prenup, not being pulled in multiple directions, and remember, we specialize in this area of the law. We look forward to creating your prenup today.