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Delta-Lawyer, Patent Prosecutor
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3546
Experience:  Patent Bar Certified
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I offered the owners of guest cabins where I had stayed in

Customer Question

Hello - I offered the owners of guest cabins where I had stayed in Taos, NM a deal to re-paint their fading exterior sign in exchange for future lodging (I live in Denver, CO) One of their employees contacted me to redesign the logo first, for a fresh look. I did an original illustration that was separate from, and the centerpiece of, the logo and business card I re-designed. After sending it to them for input, my contact person there was let go, and the owners refuse to answer any of my attempts to contact them over the past six weeks. I was ripped off.
Although I know I have no claim to their name on the logo, every other concept and all artwork were 100% mine.
I want to know if, for purposes of my obtaining a copyright in my name, what I did was consider "work for hire". There was a 'go-ahead' given by them to my suggestions, but I was not an employee.
And, if I can't obtain a copyright, what recourse do I have? My artwork was stolen, and is being used. They have printed business cards and use the artwork for ads, yet have cut off all communication, so I cannot collect on the agreement of lodging.
I have the originals and all email communication to back my story. I do not have a lot of money to fight this, and that's what they're counting on.
What can I do?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  Delta-Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

I hope this message finds you well, present circumstances excluded. I am a licensed IP attorney with over a dozen years of experience. It is a pleasure to assist you today.

Based on what you have shared with me, I believe you do have rights to the artwork (absent the name of their business) as this was not truly a work for hire situation wherein they would have the rights, absent an agreement to the contrary. The reason it was not a work for hire situation is because they never provided you any consideration (something of value in return for your services - like lodging and/or monetary compensation). As such, the IP remains yours.

So, you can and should file for copyright protection on the artwork (you already have the copyright at common law). You can file on the US Copyright Office website for around $30.00.

You can either wait until the federal copyright is granted or you can use the common law copyright and send a cease and desist to the owners of this establishment to stop them from using your work. You can, in that certified cease and desist letter, explain that they have no ownership in the artwork since they provided no consideration for its commissioning or use.

If they do not cease and desist (or provide you with reasonable consideration for its use) you can sue them in state court on the common law copyright, or you can sue them in federal court once the federal copyright is granted.

Let me know if you have any other questions or comments. Please also rate my answer positively (THREE OR MORE Stars) on the ratings interface on your end so I can receive credit for my response.

Best wishes and thank you!

Expert:  Delta-Lawyer replied 1 year ago.

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