Obtaining a release for unused designs

There are a number of projects I’ve worked on over the years that never went beyond concept or prototype stages yet the ideas still have some potential in my mind. Does any have experience or best practice advice for obtaining the rights to defunct concepts in order to develop them on your own? As far as I know that IP would technically belong to the studio, client, or brand I was working for at the time, and it seems like the kind of thing that should be an ask for permission, not forgiveness, situation.

Nothing stopping you from buying IP. I will say it is a lengthy process involving very expensive lawyers.

Let me revise. Any advice on obtaining the IP for free? I realize this largely depends on who currently owns it. I have a great relationship with my former studio, and I don’t think it would be an issue there. Just some legal docs, I guess. Some of the past clients and brands I’ve worked for, however, have since left their companies, changed ownership, etc., and I no longer have a personal relationship with the new owners of the IP. How would you approach that situation?

In most cases, the IP of a consultancy is signed away to the hiring company. So if your former studio is a consultancy, they cannot give you anything. You have to go to the source. Of course there are exceptions, but I certainly don’t know if that is the case here.

In any case, I do think you need to offer the IP owner a wifm. If it is not money up front, you could offer a licence agreement. You give them a cut of any profits. And if you can, make sure those are profits after you have paid off the development costs. Still going to cost you several hours of an expensive lawyer (a part of the development costs).

For friends and family, I would likely give away IP on a handshake. But a business relationship? It’s hard for me to imagine to give away something where another person sees value. I applaud your willingness to give it a go. And I think your efforts should be rewarded, but what about mine as the owner of the IP?

Thanks, iab. That’s super helpful.

If the contract terms said that all IP regarding all project content would be transferred to the client party, then you need their written consent to transfer it back to you regarding said concept. It is better to state in your project terms that one (1) creative solution is to be obtained by the client, including its intellectual property, with all the content generated leading up to that solution, in whatever form, remains your IP. Another thing you can do for concepts you create is to register them in a legal database, at least in Europe there is one, so it allows low-cost registration of inventions that legally make you the owner of the idea if 1. you can prove you developed the idea before the claiming party, which the database does, and 2. you haven’t shared the idea with any other party before registration.

Gracias. I do remember asking my old studio director how that worked in our contracts, and we retained all IP not directly related to the final deliverable (i.e. and early round and unused concepts.) Any of those should be no problem. I don’t see my old boss having any issue with it. The trickier one is the company I worked for after that which has since changed ownership (it was incubated in the studio but ultimately incorporated separately and sold off.) The concepts I’m interested from them are from a time when I was a full-time employee there, as opposed to the studio.