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Is there any way one can have their own intellectual property licensed to their own company, such that the person owns that IP and not the company?

A concrete example: I thought of a good premise for a book. I write a that book (let's call it thunderbolt) and I copyright it. I now officially own the copyright and intellectual property for my work, no?

Now I open up my own company which will be creating content based on my thunderbolt intellectual property. But I do not transfer the IP to my company, instead I license my IP to my company for each and every project individually. So let's say I license the rights to thunderbolt the movie and thunderbolt the game to my company. The licenses only allows my company to create one specific thing based on my IP, and can only do so for a limited time (like 4 years) and without the possibility of an update or expansion (in case of a the game).

Now another company wants to buy my own company. If I agree to the sale, the new company will ONLY own the licenses that I gave to my company, and NOT my IP correct?

Or another scenario: my company is going bankrupt and because of that all the assets (including the licenses) have to be liquidated. Does this, in any way, affect the IP that I personally hold? Can I be forced to cede the rights to my intellectual property?

This question is relevant because in the gaming industry it happens very often that some people make a really good game, then they fail for awhile and go bankrupt, and then suddenly another company with no regards to quality gets their hands on that intellectual property and starts ruining it.

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Is there any way one can have their own intellectual property licensed to their own company, such that the person owns that IP and not the company?

Yes. This is quite common.

The ideal asset protection strategy is to have one company that deals with customers, one that deals with suppliers, one that employs and one that owns property (including intellectual property). Local tax law may make it better for some assets (such as real property) to be held personally.

Obviously this imposes additional overhead which may not be warranted for small businesses and such ... pessimistic shall we say, arrangements are not acceptable in public companies.

If I agree to the sale, the new company will ONLY own the licenses that I gave to my company, and NOT my IP correct?

The issue is not if you agree to the sale, it’s if they will agree. If you can get a buyer, expect to receive much less if you are not actually selling the thing that makes your business a business. Effectively your are renting the IP and you don’t get as much for renting out your house as you do for selling it.

Licensing models do work: for example, McDonalds (everywhere but the US) has a licensing agreement with McDonalds (USA) for the IP but that agreement is geographically exclusive, long- term (decades at least) and very secure.

Does this, in any way, affect the IP that I personally hold?

No

Can I be forced to cede the rights to my intellectual property?

Providing every transaction was arms length and at market rates and above board: no.

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  • If you are personally the copyright holder, and I buy your company which does not hold the copyright, you could forbid me to use your work five seconds after the sale and destroy the business. I would never buy the company without some protection. – gnasher729 Mar 22 at 20:18
  • @gnasher729 - In the OP's scenario the company has a valid license from the copyright owner. That would not change with the sale of the company. I agree that the time-limited and piece meal nature of the license would severely impact the companies value. – George White Mar 23 at 0:12
  • Thanks for the answers, here's another point to look at it: let's say my company is in big debt and going bankrupt. Will I be forced to sell my IP that I personally own when the company gets liquidated? – Franko Mar 29 at 7:28
  • @Franko no - that’s why you have a company – Dale M Mar 29 at 8:48

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