How likely is it to get sued over a contract I signed with a past employer?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Riverside, CA

I was recently fired from my job working for a furniture retailer/ Design Center. There part of my job was designing interior spaces and do space planning to ensure the furniture would fit. I was also designing custom goods such as window treatments, bedding etc. I was obligated to sign a contract stating that all work done and photo's of my work done were property of the the company and could not be published or duplicated. I worked for that company for almost 7 years before they fired me. I have now decided to start my own Interior Design business and will have to show some of my past projects which are all from when I was employed by this company. I am concerned that me posting these pictures on my website will get me sued if they find out.

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Robin Mashal

    Contributor Level 19

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Disclaimer: The materials provided below are informational and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

    You raise a valid concern. To the extent you agreed that your work product was the property of your former employer, using those materials may expose you to liability. If you are on good terms with your former employer, perhaps you an get their written authorization to use your design materials in your promotional materials. Be sure to consult your own attorney to protect your legal rights.

  2. David Andrew Mallen

    Contributor Level 14

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . This sounds like a trademark / copyright issue. You may have a right to "fair use" if you are not making money off the designs, but you would need to speak with an intellectual property lawyer.

    You probably have no ownership right to the materials you created on your employer's dime.

    David

    David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo for general information only. This offer of free, general answers is not... more
  3. Meghan Hayes Slack

    Contributor Level 16

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Take the agreement to a local employment attorney for review. Perhaps there is some loophole that will allow you to display your work without risking suit from your former employer.

    You can search for an attorney on Avvo or contact your local bar association for a referral.

    Good luck.

    This answer is provided for guidance only. DO NOT rely on it as legal advice. We DO NOT have an attorney-client... more
  4. Bruce E. Burdick

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Ask your former employer that fired you how likely it is. Ask us how legal it is. These are not YOUR projects, your designs, or your property. They are works for hire since you were an employee, which means the employer is the author and owns them, not you. Posting them would be copyright infringement. Is it "fair use" to post them to divert business to you, not hardly. If you already posted these, delete them. If you did not post them yet, do not post them. Either way, if you are starting a new design business, then design your budget so as to include a consultation with an IP attorney so you get your designs in order and protected and so you don't design your way into legal trouble.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is... more
  5. Randall B. Bateman

    Contributor Level 5

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . I think Bruce is right. The reason that the provision is in your agreement is to address this very type of situation. They do not want you using "their" projects and holding them out as your own. The fact that they fired you (as opposed to a lay-off) suggests that they are probably unlikely to agree. I have not seen the exact language, but you might be able to contact former customers and ask if you can come photograph your place. Then do not call it "your" work, just indicate that they are photographs of projects you worked on.

    Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and you should consult an attorney to discuss the particulars of your case.

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.

 

Ask now

24,433 answers this week

2,955 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

24,433 answers this week

2,955 attorneys answering