Robert G. Smith, PLLC

You just sunk my battleship patent

During a marriage, income earned and assets acquired are presumed to be joint property of both the husband and wife, unless they are a personal gift or part of an inheritance. During the property division, marital property will be divided and distributed to the parties.

The New York courts distribute the marital property by equitable distribution during a divorces, which allows the court to equalize the sometimes uneven financial position of one spouse.

For instance, where the husband is a medical student, slogging through years in training to become a doctor, while the wife works a to provide a basic income for the couple, a court will infer to her some of her husband's much greater earning capacity should they divorce later in life.

In a recent case, a woman alleges that she worked with her husband to create successful adaptations of popular board games to be used as electronic games in casinos. During their marriage, they created a company specifically to develop these games.

They spent years working on the project and eventually put together a pitch to Milton Bradley to sell the concept.

Shortly after they divorced in 1994, the husband began working with another partner and obtained patents for 14 adaptations of Milton Bradley board games, including "Yahtzee, Monopoly, Battleship, Trivial Pursuit, Stratego and Clue."

Apparently, the former wife was unaware that the patents had only been filed in the name of her ex-husband, stealing away her rights as co-inventor of the patents.

In this case, her legal claims appear to all derive from the patents, and it does not appear that she is attempting to reopen the property division, which generally cannot be modified absent fraud.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Ex-Wife Demands Rights to Monopoly Patents," Aug. 11, 2014

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