Six years after the iconic musician Prince Rogers Nelson died, a Minnesota judge signed off on a deal to end the lengthy court battle over his $156 million Estate in early August 2022.
Prince passed away in April 2016 at 57 from a fentanyl overdose, leaving his surviving family without a will. His death sparked a process known as probate, in which the courts decide how to distribute a deceased person’s Estate.
The court ordered Prince’s assets—including music copyrights and other intellectual property rights—will be split 50-50 between his heirs, their advisors, and the management company Primary Wave.
Because Prince died without a living spouse or children, his six half-siblings became his legal heirs. Three of them sold their stakes to Primary Wave, an independent music publishing and talent management company, which owns approximately half of the star’s Estate. The three remaining heirs have been in court battling Primary Wave for many years.
After years of tumultuous disputes between the parties, the last major hurdle was solved in January 2022, when the heirs reached an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to establish a final $156 million tax assessment.
Prince’s Fights for His IP Assets
Prince was legendary for his control over his intellectual property rights. His dispute with Warner Music Group, which resulted in changing his name to a symbol, was about control over his musical creations.
During his almost 40 years career, he had many legal battles against record label companies, streaming services, and individuals.
He also refused to license his music to Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, and other platforms because streaming fails to pay artists substantially. He also wanted to protect the way the public enjoyed his music: to listen to his albums as they were created and not cherry-pick songs as they pleased.
As you can see, intellectual property is valuable for famous artists. Still, if you are a business owner or have a leadership role in a corporation, you probably have some form of intellectual property (IP) to protect.
What is Intellectual property?
Intellectual property can cover a wide variety of assets but is defined by the World Trade Association as “the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of their creation for a certain period.”
Intellectual property may include the following unique items that would be considered the creator’s ideas: slogans, quotes, music, lyrics, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, concepts, processes, and many more.
What happens to intellectual property assets after you pass? Will you be able to protect how it is used and by whom? Will your heirs be able to receive the profits from its use?
The importance of protecting Intellectual Property with Estate Planning
Learning about Prince’s heirs’ legal battles, you can’t help to wonder how could someone so fiercely protective of his intellectual property not have a will. We may never know, but the story of his Estate can be the motivation you need to protect your IP.
“Intellectual property not only benefits you today but can be a financial advantage for the person or people you decide to leave the rights with when you pass away,” said Intellectual Property and Business Attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta.
“Even though your intellectual property may not be as vast and valuable as Prince’s, many creators seek to protect and preserve their creations for the next generation as part of their legacies,” said Attorney Marcos
The revenue generated from a song, trademark, video, or book can last for years or multiple generations. Protecting these intellectual assets will require thoughtful planning, so it’s essential to protect intellectual property with an estate plan and seek legal guidance to protect your ideas and legacy.
For a consultation on how to take steps to protect your Intellectual property and incorporate them into your estate planning, reach out to attorney Marcos at (480) 324-6378 today.
Attorney Marcos E. Garciaacosta practices all areas of intellectual property law with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). He also can assist his clients with international trademark filings.
Follow attorney Marcos at legalbizglobal.com.