What protection do you have against clients (or even worse – prospective clients) taking work you have produced in a pitch to them, and using it with another provider?
This is a serious problem in the industry, particularly if you are staring down the barrel of having spent time, money and resources on coming up with ideas for a pitch, only to find out that the organisation you have pitched to, has taken your work to another provider.
The first thing to bear in mind is that copyright (like all intellectual property rights) don’t protect ideas themselves. Rather, they protect the form of the ideas.
Given this limitation, it can be quite difficult to protect the “ideas” or “concepts” in your pitch. You do however generally own the copyright in the way you have expressed the pitch (for example in the graphics you have used , or the story board). But where the line is between breach of your copyright while the project is in this early, unfinished phase, is quite grey.
One of the best ways to approach this is with simple straightforward honesty. Have a document in place that you provide to your clients before you give the pitch, or show them the concepts.
Explain (either yourself, or through your document) that you have expended time, money and resources in preparing this proposal for them. Explain that the work in this pitch is valuable to you, and that it’s really important that they understand that you own and retain the rights in that work, and that they don’t have the right to take your work and use it with another service provider.
Perhaps you could also add that if they like the ideas, but don’t want to use you for the work, you would be happy to discuss a fair deal for them to allow them to purchase the work that you have done to that point.
Use plain English.
Use wording that conveys the message with sincerity.
And if you adopt this approach, it is much more likely that they will think twice before doing something behind your back.
This is in fact one of the main reasons for contracts, to get the issues out in the open and to ensure that both parties understand the expectations of the other before getting started. If you want to get more serious – then you could use your formal terms and conditions before you ever even start in dialogue with a client or prospect (and of course in that case, your terms and conditions would need to spell out in detail your full ownership of the work, and that your clients don’t have a licence to use the work until they have paid for it).
Whichever way you go, make sure you start out with communicating your stance on your IP rights with your prospects, and make sure this is in writing somewhere, even if it is only just an email on record.
If you have any questions at all about this area, contact us at any time – we have lots of resources available for organisations involved in design and branding, and are always happy to help. 02 8006 0830 or [email protected]