The Mattel toy company, makers of Barbie, is suing the company that produces the competing Bratz doll line.
The dispute here centers around where and when the designer of Bratz came up with the concept. Mattel claims it was during the time he worked for them, thus giving them the rights to the dolls.
I really don’t care about a fight between two toy companies but the issue of who owns intellectual property is one that comes up occasionally in our school district.
For example, one of my colleagues maintains a site for the teachers at his school (with an invitation to those in other buildings) to share a variety of thoughts, ideas, materials, basically whatever they feel like posting.
It’s hosted from an account he pays for and, like many wikis, it requires a registration to post information, although anyone can come in and read what’s been added.
The about page notes that the material is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike license.
We had an interesting discussion recently when he asked about copyright issues, specifically about whether our district could claim ownership of the materials teachers had posted to the site.
I didn’t have many answers. I’m not an intellectual property lawyer and I long ago gave up trying to pretend that I understand all the details of copyright law.
However, there may be some connection between the Barbie-Bratz legalities and the creative content produced by teachers, especially as more educators post their work to the web.
Does the fact that you work for a company or school district mean that any ideas created during the time they pay you become their intellectual property?
If I was an hourly worker, I would think that something I produced off the clock was mine. But most of us are on salary, so are our creative processes part of the mix 24/7?
What if I produced some materials during summer break, tried them out in my classroom in the fall, and then wanted to package them for sale to other teachers?
Supposed I started offering paid workshops using concepts repackaged from my experience in the classroom and what I’ve learned from others (there are plenty of examples of this!).
Occasionally there are stories in the news about intellectual property disputes between inventors and their companies, professors and their universities (and students) but they never seem offer a clear answer to the many questions in this area.
If you have any thoughts on the matter, or especially can offers any links to information or examples, please leave them in the comments or send them directly.
This is an interesting issue that potentially could affect many educators as our professional lives online evolve.