Legal Question in Business Law in Massachusetts

Apple has a web site listed policy stating the following with regards to unsolicited idea submitting. Is this legal??

Terms of Idea Submission

You agree that: (1) your submissions and their contents along with related intellectual property rights will automatically become the property of Apple, without any compensation to you; (2) Apple may use or redistribute the submissions and their contents for any purpose and in any way on an unrestricted basis; (3) there is no obligation for Apple to review the submissions; and (4) there is no obligation to keep any submissions confidential.

Asked on 10/05/20, 5:41 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Lawrence Graves Coolidge & Graves PLLC

Quite legal, and unsurprising if one thinks through the issue. Unsolicited idea submissions are prickly things. Disney took one and lost a nasty case concerning a concept for some golf course, if I remember rightly. The only defense for big companies against claims by submitters (whose ideas might already be under independent development within the company) is to institute this kind of blanket policy. Then, of course, the question for an inventor wishing to present to the big company (here, Apple) is how to evoke an interest in the idea without giving away the chance of remuneration. The inventor has to present enough to whet the appetite but keep the key trade secrets undisclosed until an agreement different from the blanket terms can be reached. This is different if the inventor has a patent, of course, as the blanket submission terms would not be read to be a conveyance of the patent without consideration.

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Answered on 10/05/20, 6:15 am

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