Should prenups assigning ideas and inventions not yet born be enforced? In my book Talent Wants to be Free I analyze the vast expansion of pre-innovation assignment agreements in employment relations — generic employment contracts that assign in advance any idea, whether patentable or not, whether copyrightable or not, whether it was conceived during work hours or not, whether it builds on company R&D or not — to the employer. In related research, including The New Cognitive Property, Driving Performance, and Enforceability TBD I warn that these developments can have negative effects on innovation as well as problematic distributional effects.
A related trend is the rise of couples signing prenups which pre-assign ideas and not-yet-developed IP — films, songs, software, brands and apps – to the partner who plans to develop them. The New York Times asked me to comment about these developments so I wrote a short op ed about this rising trend and in particular raise the question about potential gender inequities.
Are millennial-dominated start-up communities prone to the following pattern: The wife holds a steady job while the husband works on his app. They share the risk now, but if they divorce, the husband reaps the rewards of his intellectual property, and the prenup ensures his ex-wife, often wife # 1, gets nothing.
Would love to hear your thoughts – comment here or in the comments section of the NYT.