Intellectual property rights during divorce

Protecting Intellectual Property Rights During a Divorce

Divorce is a complex process, and when intellectual property rights are at stake, the challenges can multiply. From creative works to business innovations, understanding how to protect these assets is important for individuals facing marital dissolution. You should speak with an experienced divorce attorney to help you take the right steps that protect your assets and provide the fair resolution you want in your family law matters. 

What is Considered Intellectual Property for Divorce Purposes in Alabama?

Intellectual property refers to various creations of the mind that have commercial value. These creations may be the result of an individual’s intellectual or creative efforts and can include the following types:


Original works of authorship, such as literary works, music, artistic creations, and software, are protected by copyright. During divorce, the rights and ownership of these works may be subject to distribution or protection.


Trademarks protect symbols, names, logos, or slogans used to identify goods or services in commerce. If a business owned by the couple has trademarks – their ownership and value may be considered during divorce proceedings.


Patents protect inventions or discoveries. If one spouse holds a patent for a product or process, the ownership and value of the patent may be addressed in the divorce proceedings, especially if it is associated with a business interest.

Trade Secrets

Trade secrets include confidential business information, such as manufacturing processes, formulas, customer lists, or marketing strategies. Protection of trade secrets may be a significant consideration in divorces involving businesses or professional practices.

Royalties and Licensing Agreements

Income generated from intellectual property, such as royalties from books, music, or licensing agreements for patented inventions, may be considered as part of the marital estate and subject to distribution.

Software and Computer Code

Software programs, computer code, and other forms of computer-related intellectual property may be subject to consideration during divorce, particularly if developed or used for business purposes.

Division of Intellectual Property During a Divorce

Alabama law (Code of Alabama § 30-2-51) guides the court in determining what is considered fair and equitable in the distribution of property. The court will evaluate various factors, including the length of the marriage, the financial and non-financial contributions of each spouse, and the future financial prospects of each party.

The contributions and efforts of each spouse in creating, developing, or enhancing intellectual property may be considered. This includes the time, resources, and skills invested by each spouse during the marriage. The terms of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements that address intellectual property will be taken into account. These legal documents can define the treatment of intellectual property and influence the court’s decision.

An experienced family law attorney with knowledge of Alabama divorce laws can advocate for your rights, present a compelling case, and guide you through the complexities of the legal process.

Tips to Protect Your Intellectual Property Ownership During a Divorce

Protecting intellectual property (IP) rights during a divorce in Alabama involves a combination of legal, strategic, and communication measures.

  • Maintain Clear Ownership Records: Keep ownership records updated and clear. If there are changes in ownership or licensing agreements, ensure that the documentation reflects these updates accurately.
  • Separate Business Entities: If your intellectual property is associated with a business, consider structuring the business in a way that separates the IP from marital assets. Establishing a distinct legal entity, such as a corporation or LLC, may provide an added layer of protection.
  • License Agreements: Utilize licensing agreements to delineate the usage rights of the intellectual property. By licensing the IP to the business or another entity, you can maintain ownership while allowing controlled use. Include terms that explicitly address the impact of divorce on the license.

You should consider engaging an experienced family law attorney with a deep understanding of intellectual property matters. Choose an attorney who understands Alabama divorce laws and can advocate for your rights regarding the protection and division of intellectual property.

Role Played by a Family Law Attorney in Protecting Intellectual Property Rights During a Divorce

Strategic Planning

Based on the specifics of your case, your divorce attorney can develop a strategic plan to protect your intellectual property. This may involve recommending legal structures, such as trusts or separate entities, to shield IP assets from direct impact during divorce proceedings.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses intellectual property, your attorney can ensure that the terms are legally sound and advocate for their enforcement during the divorce process.

Negotiation and Settlement

Lawyers are trained negotiators who can engage in discussions with the opposing party to reach a settlement that protects your intellectual property rights. They can work to craft detailed agreements that specify the treatment of IP assets, ensuring clarity and preventing future disputes.

Enforcement of Agreements

If there are existing agreements related to intellectual property, such as licensing or non-disclosure agreements, your attorney can enforce these agreements during divorce proceedings. This may involve taking legal action if the opposing party breaches the terms.

Court Representation

In cases where an amicable resolution is not possible, your divorce lawyer will represent you in court. They will present a compelling case, utilizing legal arguments and evidence to advocate for the protection of your intellectual property rights during the property division process.

Choose a Dedicated Family Law Attorney to Protect Your Rights

The seasoned team of family law and intellectual property attorneys at the Smith Law Firm is dedicated to protecting your creative and innovative assets during this challenging time. Our divorce lawyers go beyond standard legal representation by actively planning for the protection of your legacy. From valuation to strategic negotiations, we always stay one step ahead. To schedule your consultation, call us at 334-377-1674 or fill out this online contact form.