The 21st century definition of ownership has surpassed the possession of the mere tangible to include the most intangible of all assets-ideas or intellectual property (IP).
It is also equally important that your heirs benefit from this right to IP. While they can fight for this after you pass on, it would make life a whole lot easier for them if your will clearly states your wishes. The murky laws of intellectual property rights (IPR) can take years or decades to unravel and allocate ownership of IP.
While the concept has existed for centuries, recent interpretations of IP have made it tougher to conclusively establish ownership if not done on time and legally. With some even arguing for waiver of rights to IP, ensuring that your heirs profit from your work requires careful legal safeguards.
"Of course, most valuable IP assets tend to be owned by corporate entities, most certainly the ones in industrial use, such as patents and trademarks. Individual ownership is typically for copyrights," says Jyoti Sagar, Managing Partner, K&S Partners, Intellectual Property Attorneys. Hence, it is most important that you establish copyright, which, more than anything else, will ease succession of IPR.
What is Copyright?
You should protect anything that you create and which you consider to be of value to you, or your heirs, now or in the future. If it's worth creating, and if others would find it worthy of copying, then it's worth protecting. Copyright is generally for categories of works of authorship, such as literary, dramatic, musical, pictorial, motion picture, architectural works and even computer programs.
|Patents are valid for only 20 years and upon the owner's death, they devolve to the heirs.|
Trademarks can be renewed indefinitely and inherited through succession laws.
Designs are initially valid for five years and there are provisions for heirs to take over ownership.
You may not consider your website or your blog as something to be considered as inheritance. It most definitely is. It's an asset you own and needs to be sold, dissolved or left to someone to run. Otherwise it just sits there in virtual space, ignored and forgotten. In fact, contents of a website are protected as artistic and literary works under copyright law as long as these are original creations. So, decide what you'd like for your online assets if you were to pass them on.
Moreover, what of the many online accounts you have, such as PayPal (which might have money in it)? Don't let them lapse. Compile a set of essential information that you have locked behind virtual doors. Write down this master list somewhere, including usernames and passwords, and leave it for someone trusted in your will.
Also, think about your other applications such as Twitter, your Google Analytics account, your online bookkeeping software or even your e-mail accounts. These are all important too. Write down everything you can think of that belongs to you-license information, domain names or web hosting services. Make sure someone can access this list in case of emergency and tell them where to get the information. Lastly, make sure to let them know when memberships or subscriptions are due.