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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

What are the ways trade secrets can be revealed?

If you have a Californian business that has a trade secret, then you understand the importance of keeping it a secret. Once it is revealed, you no longer have the trade secret protection. It requires a lot of work to keep a secret as big as a business idea. While it can be done, there are many ways the secret could be revealed. 

Inc. notes employees are often the source of a trade secret leak. It is not always done on purpose, though. Sometimes an employee may accidentally spill secret information. This could happen in a casual conversation, during a job interview or if the employee's guard is otherwise down. Secrets have been leaked many times during happy hour when alcohol has lowered inhibitions and tongues are a bit looser. If someone else wants to know your secret, they will be rather sneaky when trying to get it.

4 ways to avoid a lawsuit over pictures in your blog

For many years, blogging has been a way for people to share their views, tell news stories and be heard by countless others. Some bloggers have found great success with their blogs. Writing in your blog may be a hobby for you, or you might have a respectable following and are making a living at it. One thing that connects you and other bloggers in California and elsewhere is the media you include in your posts to make them interesting. However, at Millstone, Peterson & Watts, LLP, we understand that your blog could land in legal hot water if you include copyrighted content without permission.

Like other bloggers, you probably like to add pictures to your posts to break up the text, illustrate your points and add visual appeal. Photographs belong to the people who originally take them, and they could take legal action against you if you use their work without their permission. The following tips have been provided by Lifehacker to help you avoid a copyright lawsuit when including pictures in your blog:

  • Register an account with a stock photo company. Many sites allow registered members to use stock photographs at no charge or for a minimal fee.
  • Use photographs that are in the public domain.
  • Obtain written permission from the photographer, and keep the conversation in your records for your protection.
  • Use photographs you have taken yourself.

Trademark enforcement rights and responsibilities

Many people, including business owners, in California may believe that once they are granted a trademark or a service mark that they never need to worry about the future validity of that trademark. In reality, however, that is not true. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is the fact that other entities may actually infringe on an existing trademark either knowingly or unknowingly. Another thing people must know and that Forbes points out is that the responsibility for enforcing a trademark lies solely with the trademark owner.

The U.S. Patent ad Trademark Office may grant a trademark but it does not take on the job of enforcing that mark. In fact, if a company fails to sufficiently enforce any unauthorized uses of the mark, they may over time lose the ability to actually do so. There are past legal cases in which the entity that has sued for a trademark infringement lost their case based on this fact.

What is piracy?

Music piracy is probably something you have heard a lot about in California. However, it can be a confusing topic. You may not be completely clear on what it actually means. Could you be guilty of it? If you do not know what it is, then the chances are good that you may have actually done it at some point. In order to avoid possible legal issues, it is essential for you to understand fully what it is and how to ensure you do not do it.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, piracy is when you steal music. It can be done in many ways. If you do not buy music in any form from the legal owner or someone authorized by the legal owner to sell it, then you have committed piracy. This has always been an issue, but with the invention and widespread use of the internet, it has really become a major problem. This is because it is simple now to copy music files and share them.

Is my tweet protected by copyright?

Californians have seen it happen over and over. Someone tweets something on Twitter and suddenly it goes viral and everyone has seen it. You may have even seen instances where the same tweet is attributed to two different people. This may bring up the question of whether tweets are protected by copyright. If a tweet is a creative, published piece, it seems to fall under copyright protection. However, as it tends to go, things are not always that simple. 

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, whether a tweet has copyright protection depends mostly on the situation. To be protected, a piece must meet certain criteria, which many tweets do not. Mainly, the reason for this is they are not original enough. Many tweets are simple restatements of old adages, ideas or quotes from others. However, there is even disagreement about this. Sometimes tweets are made in groups, and the group may qualify for protection. 

When should you get a patent?

Sacramento creators and inventors like you pour plenty of time and effort into your creations. Regardless of what they are, or what you intend to use them for, you may want to consider getting a patent. But when should you do that?

Entrepreneur states that many people are urged to obtain a patent as soon as they come up with an idea. However, this can be a money sink that many small business owners or inventors who are just starting out simply can't afford. They suggest that you instead first critically examine the market you're aiming for. Is there a need for your product? Do you know how to pitch it? What about your internal business structure? These are all things you should have figured out before you drop the money on a patent.

Emoji source of intellectual property dispute

California businesses know that their brands can be powerful tools that create market recognition and preference among their customers. In addition to company brands, the names used for products, services and technologies are also vital assets for businesses. That is why these things are so commonly trademarked. Despite there being an established process for requesting and receiving a trademark, disputes may still arise surrounding individual terms.

An action recently filed against a major international company highlights the many nuances that may be involved in a trademark dispute. The issue hinges on the use of one word for a particular feature in a product. Three years ago, a new company in Japan developed an app that allowed users to create and share animated emojis. In the following year, it was granted a trademark for the term for this app.

The I love NY trademark

Most people may not be aware that the t-shirt or coffee mug they own stating their love for New York is trademarked. The logo, which shows the word "I" followed by a red heart and the letters "NY," is a trademarked slogan and logo for New York City, according to the New York State Education Department . This logo is protected and cannot be used with the express permission of the New York State Empire State Development, which is the owner of the trademark.

According to LogoWorks, this protected logo was developed in 1977. Its main purpose was to boost tourism in the city because in the 1970s, NYC was going through a difficult time. It was riddled with crime, there was a blackout and the city was facing financial ruin. Nobody wanted to visit. Someone had to find a way to turn things around and stop the negative publicity. Wells Rich Greene, an advertising agency, took on the challenge.

What is a patent troll?

When you get into the world of inventing and securing patents in California, there are many different terms you will learn and a lot of information that will come your way. Something you might start hearing about are patent trolls. According to Electronic Frontier Foundation, a patent troll is someone who buys patents with the intention of using them to start a lawsuit. They search for anyone who could possibly be infringing upon the patent and file a suit against them.

This type of frivolous lawsuit hurts everyone in the system. Real patent infringement cases may not be taken as seriously because of the trolls. They send letters saying they will take the supposed infringer to court if they do not pay a fee. In a real case, a lawyer will typically send a cease and desist letter asking the infringer to stop selling the patented product.

Can you legally use copyrighted information found online?

In this age of social media and sharing everything online, you may be concerned about the security of your copyrighted information. If you publish something online, do you lose your copyright protection? How does copyright work for online content? Copyright still is available and valid even when work is published online. The same rules apply just as if it were published in print in California. So, how can you or anyone else use information you find online without violating protection rights?

According to Stanford University, the first rule of thumb you should always follow when it comes to any material you find online is to assume it is protected by copyright. You should seek permission from the owner to use the material. It may take time to track down the rightful owner, but it is worth it to respect the person's rights and avoid any possible issues that could arise from using material illegally.

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