I hit on the Hack-a-thon craze in an earlier post. The IP that is created by the hackers in these programs has to be owned by someone, although there are still times where everyone walks away not knowing what everyone’s rights are. If nothing is ever signed by all participants and the hackathon sponsor, its unclear who owns what.
There are a couple different options. The sponsor may want to own everything, or may want to at least have a perpetual paid up license to use the IP created. The hackers should get some rights as well, but its been hard to delineate what and how it should be handled.
A friend of mine and a fellow startup lawyer, Dave Capuccilli of The Capucilli Firm has been working on a solution to this dilemma. Check out his latest iteration to a Hack-a-thon Collaboration Agreement, courtesy of Docracy. Its a great way to ensure all hackers and the sponsor get a fair shot at using the IP created.
I currently represent a few companies that were born at Hack-a-thons and Startup Labs (a similar idea but slightly different format/program), and if they had an agreement like this signed before they came to me it would have made things much smoother.