As the millennial generation has grown up and started to marry, we’ve begun to see some interesting changes in their trends. A somewhat-jaded attitude towards the institution can be seen in the increased percentage of couples who sign a prenuptial agreement. However, millennials are signing these agreements for a different reason than ever before: to protect their intellectual property as opposed to their personal wealth.
In a column written for The New York Times, Orly Lobel writes “That millennials are focusing on the future value of their talents — rather than on current salaries, real-estate and personal property — makes perfect sense in an age when intellectual property is so highly valued.” This indeed reflects the attitude on life much of this generation has been raised to believe: that they can do anything they put their mind to. Lobel continues: “Silicon Valley giants have found that millennials don’t want to be salaried employees — they want to own their company.”
This also comes in the midst of a business world that now requires employees to sign away all rights to their ideas or creative work from their position, as well as their right to potentially compete against that company later if they wish to start a similarly-oriented business themselves.
Similarly, a prenuptial agreement can ruin the opportunity for a spouse who works a dead-end job to support the couple while the entrepreneur pursues their goals. When the couple divorces, an agreement of this type could leave the supporting spouse with nothing while the spouse who they supported gets all the benefits from their property.
However, Alton Abramowitz, who penned a response column for the paper, argued that the idea of protecting intellectual property is far from new. He writes that for married couples, “A need has developed to protect “ideas” conceived by either a bride or groom who see him or herself as the next Mark Zuckerberg. In the event of a divorce, these couples want protection for what may be each person’s most valuable asset – the product of their intellect or invention. In the world of divorce law, where I ply my trade, this is not a new concept.”
He argues that prenuptial agreement for intellectual property can still protect someone’s “human capital,” or their life experiences that helped them create their intellectual property both before and during the marriage, particularly for leading intellectuals. He even cites a case of a former client of his who was actually a Nobel Prize winner, but wound up having to forego a portion of his proceeds of his entire life’s work due to a lack of a prenuptial agreement.
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