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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Oklahoma City, OK

    Default Business Idea Developed in Class - Must Other Students Consent to its Use

    My question involves business law in the state of: Oklahoma

    I recently completed a group project at my school at OU. The idea was all mine and I did about 70 percent of the work. The idea was so good that I would actually like to make it a official business. This Idea is a service that I would like to provide to other Oklahomans. My teachers says that I have to first have my other classmates sign off that they do not want to be apart of the project before I can work on it alone. Is this true? I have been able to get everyone to sign off except for this kid who really didn't help much at all.

    Please help me... I don't want to be sued after I start this business... What if I change the name of the business and the startup location from the original plan?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    Default Re: Student Project. Can I Be Sued

    You can start the business without having anyone's signiture to anything. An "idea" cannot be protected, that is an imagitive thought. A "concept", or detailed explanation of an idea, can be. So, if you and a group of friends came up with a business model, etc and shared in it as a group project then you can take that idea and turn it into reality. To lessen the chance that you may be sued for using the work of someone else, just don't use their work in your business model. If the hold out only did a study on cost analysis, then re-do that part of the project on your own. Problem solved.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Default Re: Business Idea Developed in Class - Must Other Students Consent to its Use

    It is not clear to me why you could legitimately be sued.

    For example, you did none of the work, and Bob did all of the work. If you took his idea and started a business (without using the document), he could not sue you under the claim "jwardworth stole my idea" because ideas are not protected.

    A possible claim may arise from copyright. Suppose the group project consisted solely of creating a document. Then everyone who contributed writing to the project would be an owner of the part they contributed. If several people edited one section, they could claim joint ownership of that section. In your case, look at precisely what writings The Kid contributed, and to what extent he helped sections of the final document. It is only those writings and sections he would have a chance of suing over. You could prepare for that by cutting out those writings and sections from the complete document. Then, if you start your business and you that revised document as part of your business, you would not be violating any copyright he had.

    He can not sue under trademark infringement. Suppose your project involved creating trademark "Blarg" for your company. That's all and good. But in the United States, actual trademarks are established by advertising in your target market so that people in that market associate your trademark with your company or product. Assuming the word "Blarg" does not already match an existing trademark or commonly used word in that market, then "Blarg" would not have been an actual trademark, because no person in the targeted market even heard of "Blarg". (Semi-trivia: A small 'TM' after a phrase indicates that a company is trying to establish that phrase as a trademark. An R-in-a-circle indicates that the company has succeeded in convincing the Trademark Office that most people the targeted market associates that phrase with your company or product(s).)

    Did you sign any agreement with the other students? Or as part of joining your school? If so, read the agreement/contract carefully as it may relate to this question.

    Conclusion: Other than possible agreement/contract issues, if you revise your document to exclude contributions from The Kid, I do not see any legitimate basis for suing you.

    You could ask your teachers why they think you could be sued.

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