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Agencies: Attention, ideas not protected!

This post is also available in: Deutsch

For this reason, I would like to draw attention today to a problem that repeatedly falls on the feet of agencies, but also of other service providers: ideas are generally not protected by copyright. This can only be the case, if at all, in the case of specific statements.

If you try to win a customer as an agency, as a graphic designer, as a marketer or as a different service provider and is required to make a so-called “pitch” at the customer beforehand, it is usually not a good idea to send samples, examples or similar in advance without have previously concluded an agreement that has been legally examined and secured for the Agency. Such documents are only protected if they themselves enjoy copyright protection and if the customer later uses these works for his own purposes.

There are already many court decisions on the subject. For example, in 2012, the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg ruled that an agency cannot invoke a copyright infringement against a customer if the customer uses a concept or idea for its own advertising campaign without having to contact the agency with a contract and, of course, without remunerate them for the concept. This is of course very annoying, because a pitch costs an agency or a service provider itself money and time. This can be prevented, as well as compensation for a pitch, only with a clear contract, which also regulates the later use of the assets from the pitch.

Although, to the best of my knowledge, it has not yet been decided in the highest court whether, for example, a clause in the terms and conditions of an agency relating to the use of non-copyrighted services is effective, such a clause is to be recommended in the same way as compliance with a correct integration of GTC. In case of doubt, an individual contract is even better in this situation. However, it should be noted that any clause used for a large number of customers is already a GTC and must be measured by GTC law. Since a free pitch can even be anti-competitive in case of doubt, it is advisable if agreements or GTC are drawn up or reviewed by an experienced lawyer. Unfortunately, in the new media areas, such as influencer marketing or streaming, you experience again and again that contracts and pitches are created without great care (often copied from other contracts together and the like) and exactly this approach in a later dispute is relevant and, above all, falls on the agency’s feet. In this case, as an agency, you can be happy if you only lose the customer and if you do not possibly claim damages from the marketing contract to customers who are under contract for the purpose of marketing.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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