Subcontracted design documents...who owns the rights to them?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Betty, Nov 11, 2006.

  1. Betty

    Betty LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    I am a landscape designer and this past season I worked as a subcontractor for a local landscape supply business. I was paid a commission for sales, hourly wage for directing the landscape supply companies' crews, 1/2 my cell phone bill, and mileage for use of my vehicle. Shortly after the season began I found that the commission I made fell very short compared to the actual hours I invested on the sale. After discussing this with the owner of the business, he and I verbally agreed that I could add my hourly charges including added research, design revisions, and extra consultations to the bid. These "design" hour monies would be paid to me once the customer paid the balance of the installation. My question is about legal ownership of the designs. The customer always received a copy and, of course, the crew always had a copy to work from. Now that I have left the company, the owner believes he is entitled to and has paid for copies of all designs.

    If anyone has advice, direction to a legal source, or general comments of questions, please email me.
     
  2. PMLAWN

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,535

    I am not a lawyer, and do not play one on TV:)
    but my advice would be to talk to one

    Now for my guess, I do believe he "bought" the design and has rights to use them again at another sight if he wishes. I am pretty sure that would be true if you were an employee and I still think as a sub it is also.
     
  3. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,563

    if you did the design work while employed by his company, then he owns the rights to the work. He also carries the liability of any design related problems that arise. Remember that if there is a problem in the design and it is installed as per designs, then the designer is liable, even if it was a glaring issue that the install crew should have caught. So he now owns the design, and any profits/liability derived from said designs.
     
  4. Betty

    Betty LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    PMLAWN,
    Thank you very much for the information and I appreciate your time.
    Betty
     
  5. Betty

    Betty LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    YardPro,
    Thank you very much for the information and I appreciate your time.
    Betty
     
  6. DUSTYCEDAR

    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Posts: 5,137

    i always paid a flat fee to whoever i hired to do designs for me
    and once i paid it was mine to do with as i wish

    I am a landscape designer and this past season I worked as a subcontractor for a local landscape supply business. I was paid a commission for sales, hourly wage for directing the landscape supply companies' crews, 1/2 my cell phone bill, and mileage for use of my vehicle. Shortly after the season began I found that the commission I made fell very short compared to the actual hours I invested on the sale. however u were paid even if u didn't like it After discussing this with the owner of the business, he and I verbally agreed that I could add my hourly charges including added research, design revisions, and extra consultations to the bid. These "design" hour monies would be paid to me once the customer paid the balance of the installation. My question is about legal ownership of the designs. they r his unless u have some written contract with him stating otherwiseThe customer always received a copy and, of course, the crew always had a copy to work from. Now that I have left the company, the owner believes he is entitled to and has paid for copies of all designs.

    If anyone has advice, direction to a legal source, or general comments of questions, please email me.
     
  7. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,953

    I've worked as a designer all three ways- FT employee, sub, and freelancer- and it sounds as though ownership of the designs have been transferred to the company owner and/or homeowner. The way I work, as soon as the client has paid me for the design, it's theirs to do with as they like.

    If you don't mind sharing, what was the commission %? I've found 7-10% to be the most reasonable for making a good living, and at the job where I made 7% there were a few of us in the low six figures.
     

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