Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Sold Business, Can I Compete?

Calvert Vaux - Landscape Architect
Dear Rich: If someone sells their business which owns their copyrighted landscape design work, can they still send pictures of the work to potential clients as something they created? Can they post these photos on a website? If the business they sold has their name in it (e.g. Ann Jones Landscape Group), could she start another business (there is no non-compete) with the name? (i.e. Ann Jones, PLA, LLC)?
If the sale of your business included the transfer of your landscape design copyrights, then you would need permission to reproduce those designs. The transfer (or "assignment") of copyrights must be in writing so check the paperwork connected with the sale of the business. (Look for an "Intellectual Property" provision in the sales agreement.) Portfolio rights. Keep in mind that the purchaser of the copyright may be willing to grant you "portfolio rights" (permission to reproduce as part of your resume or to seek clients). If the sales agreement doesn't address the designs, it's very possible you retain ownership of the copyrights and you can do as you wish with them.
Using your name for a new business. Most sales of businesses include the transfer of the business name. After all, customers associate the name and goodwill with the business. If the buyer acquired the name, then your use would violate the sales agreement. Even if the sales agreement wasn't clear about name ownership, the purchaser could still pursue you under state laws based on unfair competition.

No comments: