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What Should I Do If My Business Partner Stole Our Intellectual Property & Customers?

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Starting a business with a colleague is always an exciting new venture. Unfortunately, business partnerships can turn ugly. In many cases, business partners have disagreements, develop untrustworthy habits, or fail to communicate – which detrimentally hurts the business. In other cases, business partners steal intellectual property and customers to start their own businesses or join another company. If your business partner has abandoned you, you might be wondering if you can file a lawsuit against them. Our team at Northwest Business Law LLC explains your options if your business partner stole intellectual property and customer information.

Common Grounds for Suing a Business Partner

Starting and maintaining a successful business requires a lot of work. It takes years to network, find the right suppliers, clients, customers, along with research and product development. You can file a lawsuit against your business partner if they have violated intellectual property rights, abandoned your business, or breached your partnership agreement.

Violated Intellectual Property Rights

You might have grounds to sue your business partner if they violated your business’ intellectual property rights. Your partnership agreement must state that all copyright, patents, and trademarks are the partnership’s property. You may have a valid claim if you can prove that your former partner used the intellectual property for personal gain and misused them. If your former business partner is poaching your client, signing exclusive contracts with suppliers, or threatening your business with the information they gleaned from you, you may have the right to take legal action.


If your business partner stopped doing work for the business but continues to collect a paycheck, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against them. Abandonment is considered a breach of fiduciary duty. All partners owe the duty to place the interests of the business over their own. Failing to do so could hurt the business and the other partners involved.

Breach of Partnership Agreement

When you start your business, you should have created a partnership agreement that illustrates the duties and responsibilities of each partner, along with the steps each partner needs to take if they want to leave the partnership. A partnership agreement is essential to file a claim against the business partner. You need to prove that your business partner breached a term or terms of the contract and that your business suffered damages as a result of the breach.

Understand Your Options

If your business partner has abandoned your business, stolen intellectual property, or your customers, you have options to make it right. If you want to settle your dispute outside of the courtroom, there are various steps you can take to hold your business partner accountable. Below we list common ways to settle disputes:

  • File a Lawsuit: The most common way to seek relief from your business partner’s actions is by filing a claim against them. An experienced attorney can help you file a lawsuit to hold them accountable for hurting the business.

  • Settlement: Another option is to negotiate a settlement with your business partner. This could mean the termination of your partnership and repayment of any losses you experienced. This could save you in litigation costs.

  • Mediation: Mediation is another alternative to filing a lawsuit. However, mediation only works if both parties are willing to work together to find a solution.

If you aren’t sure which action to take, our team at Northwest Business Law LLC is here to help you. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to help you get the compensation you deserve for your business partner’s wrongdoing. Let our team guide you through the process and help you determine which option is best for your business.

Contact our Seattle business law attorneys today at (206) 565-0090 to schedule a consultation!


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