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What law can do to the person who purchased the stolen property with the knowledge its stolen?

Palo Alto, CA |

i and others developed a software. others sold the software without my knowledge. X purchased it from them. before X could purchase i have told him that others cheated me.
despite knowing the fact it was partially stolen, he purchased it with out my knowledge. through third party i came to know X purchased.

what way law can help me take action on X if i have all the proofs that i told X that others stole the software from me? what are the causes of action?

daniel, my question is about what happens to x. not about me or others. what law does to the person who possesses the stolen property provided all proof, agreement in place that the owner is not paid.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

The way law help you take action is you go see an intellectual property lawyer who has experience in software, copyright, trademark and patent law and discuss the specifics. You should have a case, and perhaps a substantial one as you seem to have proof that this was deliberate.

There are a lot of good software IP lawyers in Palo Alto and in Silicon Valley, so find one and ask for a free initial consultation and go from there.

So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

To elaborate, do not just think copyrights, which be a small gold mine here, also consider possible theft of trade secrets, which may be the mother lode.

Posted

Your fact description is not sufficient to provide you advise. You need to consult one of the many fine IP attorneys in your area. The answer depends on the facts, amongst other things, and what you may think it stolen property may or many not be so.

USPTO Registered Patent Attorney, Master of Intellectual Property law, MBA I am neither your attorney, nor my answers or comments in AVVO.com create an attorney-client relationship with you. You may accept or disregard my free advice in AVVO.com at your own risk. I am a Patent Attorney, admitted to the USPTO and to the Florida Bar.

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Posted

I'm not at all sure you're right to conclude that the software was "stolen." The other folks who helped develop the software [by which I take to mean they wrote some of the code] are, absent an agreement otherwise, joint authors of that software and are, therefore, co-owners of the copyright in that software. Again absent an agreement otherwise, any of those co-owners may lawfully sell copies of that software. Their only requirement is to pay you a pro rata share of the revenue earned from the sale. You've concluded that you've been wronged somehow but I'm not all sure that's true. You need to speak with your own intellectual property attorney.

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

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5 comments

Molly Cristin Hansen

Molly Cristin Hansen

Posted

Asker, I agree with Attorney Ballard. It sounds as if you are a co-author and as such cannot stop the other co-authors from selling or exploiting the software, and you should be careful about calling them cheaters, etc. It is unclear to me from your statement of facts whether the other co-authors sold a software license to X, or actually sold their rights in the underlying software to X. If they sold a license, they owe you your pro rata share of the sale (i.e., if there were 4 co-authors and no other agreement between you, you are owed 25% of the proceeds from the sale of the license). On the other hand, if they sold out their entire interests in the software, then you and X are now co-owners of the software -- with you having the same share of ownership you had prior to the sale. For more on co-authorships see: http://artlawteam.com/two-heads-better-the-legal-side-of-collaboration/ In any event, you need to speak with an IP attorney who can help you to assert your rights based on the actual facts and circumstances. Good luck to you!

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Asker, Attorney Ballard give you solid advice as regards the copyright issue. There is also a possible trade secrecy issue that may be in your favor here, and may even show the "theft" of which you speak, depending on the facts. Be sure to get to an intellectual property lawyer who deals with trade secret law issues, as well. For your software related issue, I would recommend Aaron Hendleman of Wilson, Sonsini in Palo Alto. He was formerly IP counsel for Apple and before that a clerk for the 9th Circuit Ct. of Appeals. He can get you the most you can get. Realize that may, as Attorney Ballard suggests, just be your pro-rata share of revenue of the others, but if there is theft of trade secrets, you may obtain substantially more.

Asker

Posted

its not a license, they sold the entire product and got money and cheated me by not paying anything for my work. x knows that i was not paid and entered into the deal to take advantage of it.

Molly Cristin Hansen

Molly Cristin Hansen

Posted

If they purported to transfer a 100% ownership interest in the software to X, X may not have received what X bargained for, and it is likely X has a claim against the other co-authors for a breach of their representations and warranties. I would argue that you continue to own your % interest, and have a claim to that % of any amount that X makes (unless X wants to buy you out). But, as all of us have indicated, you need to meet with an experienced IP attorney in your area and go through all of the relevant facts and circumstances in the privacy of an attorney-client meeting. I would second Attorney Burdick's recommendation of the Wilson, Sonsini firm (if they do not have a conflict). Again, good luck to you.

Asker

Posted

in that case whom i should sue? x or others or both? given the fact x knows that others cheated me before he bought it.

Posted

Possession of stolen property can be a criminal offense in most states. But I would need to know much more before I could conclude that "x" was in possession of stolen property. I agree with Daniel----if you developed the software with others, and if there was no written agreement among the authors of the software defining how their ownership interests would be divided and administered, then each of the owners has the right to license the software even without consent of the other co-authors. Just because you told "X" that you were cheated does not make that so.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

my question is about what happens to x. not about me or others. what law does to the person who possesses the stolen property provided all proof, agreement in place that the owner is not paid

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Posted

You're still assuming that the software is "stolen." But it isn't "stolen" if the seller had the right to sell it to X -- and the seller could very well have that right even if he did not financially compensate you for your contribution to the creation of that software. As Bruce notes, if some of the code qualifies as a trade secret and X was provided that code [along with the software itself] then the analysis of whether the sale to X was lawful or not gets complicated because the seller may NOT have had the right to convey to X those trade secrets. Again, your own attorney needs to dig deep into the facts. For your part, do NOT assume that X is in possession of "stolen" software -- and certainly do NOT publicly accuse him of that or else YOU will be on the wrong end of at least a defamation lawsuit.

Asker

Posted

its not a license, they sold the entire product and got money and cheated me by not paying anything for my work.

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Posted

Yes, perhaps the other co-authors of the software "cheated" you out of your share of the proceeds of their sale to X. So, for the last time, hire an attorney to look into the matter.