Basic Training: J is for Just Keep Your Hands Off of Other People’s IP!

Posted on April 30, 2014 in IP & Social Media

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There are times when I start to sound like my mother, scolding my brother for messing about with other kids’ toys. “That doesn’t belong to you! No, you may not have it!” One of those times is when I’m asked, “Can I just take someone else’s product/stuff/idea/design and sell it?” The short answer is NO.

Q: I have an idea for the new use of an old product. I don’t need to make any changes to the old product, other than repackage it with a new name that identifies its new purpose. Do I need permission from the makers of the current product for its new use? Can I repackage it under a new name? As for advertising and distribution, I’m thinking infomercial since I work in television. My contacts and connections should help me save money, theoretically, at least! As for cost, it cost me nothing to produce because it’s already made. For pricing, I figure five times the price of the new packaging plus wholesale cost of pre-existing product. This might be sufficient to cover distribution cost as well.

The short of it Is this: By your own words, you want to “lift” someone else’s product and put it into your packaging.  Not kosher. Without knowing more about the product, your choices really are to make your own product or work out a licensing agreement.

Let’s say you wanted to take a Baby Bjorn carrier and use it for pets. You could make your own baby/pet carrier–nothing prevents you from making a product that’s already out in commerce (look at how many different kinds of sneakers there are). But you can’t take the labels off the Baby Bjorn, stick your own on, and say, “But hey–it’s for puppies!”  You’d need to contact the company, work out a license arrangement, and go from there.

In terms of the costs, your first step is to do some preliminary digging and create a business plan. What the product is, how you choose to manufacture it, where you choose to sell it, how much you choose to charge for it, who your target market is . . . all affect the costs involved in getting this venture off the ground. It also affects the complexity of the legal work you may require.  Your numbers are very sketchy–I would strongly suggest that you take the time to really look at them and speak to contacts to determine the real feasibility of your idea first.

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