Intellectual Property – Why it’s Fashionable to Consider when Estate Planning.
Much to the sadness of many celebrities, socialites, fashionistas and even politicians, world renowned fashion designer, Oscar de la Renta, passed away on Monday, October 20, 2014, from complications with cancer. Mr. de la Renta was 82 and had been intermittently ill with cancer for close to eight years. Mr. de la Renta’s obituary, as published in the New York Times, can be found here.
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1932, Mr. de la Renta moved to Madrid at the age of 19 to study art. Once there, Mr. de la Renta was swept away by the nightlife and lavish lifestyle. Due to his new expensive tastes in clothing and entertainment, he ended up drawing clothes for newspapers and fashion houses to earn some extra money; however, what started out as a part-time job quickly led to a career in fashion design which would take him to Paris and ultimately New York. Mr. de la Renta’s designs are known to be worn by celebrities, socialites, and first-ladies alike, and both he and his designs will be missed by many.
Whenever any artist passes away, whether a writer, musician, designer or other, it reminds those in the Estates world of the importance of considering one’s intellectual property when Estate planning. Just like any other form of property, intellectual property, such as trademarks and copyright, can be bequeathed in one’s Will. Where well-known and desired to be used by others, the ownership of intellectual property can be extremely lucrative. For instance, licensing out the rights to use one’s intellectual property can generate significant income.
Additionally, the rights that a person can have in a deceased’s intellectual property can continue for a long time after the Testator’s death. For instance, section 6 of the Copyright Act provides that the term of a copyright shall be “the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year”. Similarly, pursuant to section 46 of the Trade-marks Act, a registered trademark can be renewed for up to 15 years after the original date of registration. As such, the financial significance of one’s intellectual property should not be discounted when Estate planning.
According to the old adage, most artists only become famous after they’re dead. While this certainly wasn’t the case for Mr. de la Renta, who likely gave great consideration to his intellectual property when Estate planning, perhaps more of us humble artists should do the same. After all, you never know – your finger paintings could be the next big thing in 50 years.
Thank you for reading.