Snowboard freeriderMost people think of Ski Town USA as Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation trademarked the name in 1959.  Earlier this year, in order to entice more skiers to their city, the Visit Salt Lake organization started a campaign urging people to visit Ski City USA.  They advertised that once you visited Ski City you would never again visit Ski Town.

The Steamboat Corporation first sent a cease and desist letter and when they didn’t get the response they wanted, decided to file suit. In the lawsuit, they allege trademark infringement and violation of unfair competition laws in that Ski City USA was an attempt to confuse consumers and leverage the highly successful and long-held brand.  Also named in the suit were Snowbird, Alta, Solitude and Brighton, which are areas close to Salt Lake City. 

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Tubature, riscaldamento, compressori, bim, progettoIt’s sometimes very difficult to draft that perfect employee agreement – you know – the kind that fully protects your rights to intellectual property and inventions created by your employees while at the same time encouraging creativity.  Many employers mistakenly believe they should make the agreement overly broad – favoring their interests or make it overly restrictive -not fully protecting their interests in order to encourage new inventions; however, courts tend to frown on any type of extreme agreement.

If you make one overly broad, you run the risk of the agreement being unenforceable either in part or in whole.  If you make the agreement overly restrictive, you run the risk of employees taking the invention you paid them to make and not letting you reap the benefits from it. 

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China - Flag on Button of Black Keyboard.When it comes to intellectual property developed in the United States, everybody knows it’s important to protect your individual rights.  And most people generally understand that, in this global world, it’s important to protect your rights throughout the world.

Protecting your rights in another country means following the process and filing the proper paperwork in the other country.  In some instances, the process is not so different from the process followed in the United States.  However, in countries such as China, there are certainly unique challenges that face us.

Why is China different?

Intellectual property in a communist country is regarded much differently than intellectual property here in the US.  Historically, in a communist country, assets belong to all the people of the country and not to individuals.  “From each according to his ability – to each according to his need” is a popular communist slogan and represents the communist idea well. 

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App Vector IconEveryone loves to capture moments in time through photographs, and furthermore we all love to share them with our friends and family. Before the wave of social media, we would get our film developed and then make duplicate photos (which of course we paid for) and then send them to our families. No harm; no foul. There was no “liking” photos, “sharing” photos or even “pinning” photos (unless however, we were pinning them to a bulletin board or on our mirror). Well now, we find photos everywhere online, and oftentimes the photos are those taken by people other than ourselves. In lies the problem. We like these photos so much that we want all of our friends and family to see them too. So what do we do? We “borrow” them for a time for the world to see. Sounds harmless. Realistically, people put the photos on the Internet for people to see, right? Well, not so quick. Let’s look into this a little more deeply.

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toyotaThe most costly data breaches are usually those that are created by a malicious insider. These people normally have access to things external hackers generally don’t have access to, like intellectual property, which in turn allows them to get into areas only known to them and to have additional insight as to the areas most vulnerable to attacks.

Company insiders, not outside hackers, are involved in more than two-thirds of all cyber cases involving theft of intellectual property. Moreover, when there is intentional and malicious destruction of data, a corporate insider is frequently responsible. Whether driven by opportunism, greed, a desire for revenge, or a combination of all three, these insiders exploit their positions of trust to obtain access to their organization’s most valued digital assets. Moles, opportunists, contractors, disgruntled employees, and ex-IT personnel—all currently pose a greater risk to corporate intellectual property than state-sponsored hacking and APTs, both in frequency and in damage caused.

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wbIntellectual Property… You know that wonderful system that aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish. It’s supposed to be a ‘feel good’ approach to knowing that you’re covered and no one can take advantage of your priceless and genuinely unique inventions.  The laws behind IP are a bit more precise as to how it is able to do what it does. In a nutshell, IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. The goal is to strike the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest.

Here are a couple of cases about intellectual property that may be recognizable to you.

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  1. Determine if your work that has been copied is protected by copyright law. 

Copyright Blue GreyCopyright law protects the expression of almost every creative expression imaginable, as long as it’s fixed and original. It doesn’t protect ideas, facts and any utilitarian language.

Imagine that you spoke to someone about writing a book about an investigator who needs to go to therapy while undercover, and then that person writes a book about a firefighter who needs to go to therapy. At first glance, you might think that that person has stolen your idea, thus infringing on your copyright. That’s not accurate, though. Since when you spoke to this person about your idea, it wasn’t a fixed expression, it was still only an idea. Ideas aren’t protected by copyright law. 

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Colleagues working together in officeAs an inventor, you know everything there is to know about your inventions. You’ve studied it, revised it, tested it and shared it (at least with a few good friends). Well, now that you’ve done your part, it’s time to find the right attorney who has also studied and skillfully mastered his craft to handle projects such as yours. But you may be wondering how to find the right attorney, and wonder what makes one better than the other for your special invention.

Here are few steps to help you through the process.

  1. You should select an attorney whose engineering background relates to the field of your invention. There are four types of engineers, mechanical, chemical, electrical and computer science.
  2. Only choose an attorney who can give you a quote for what the entire bill will be. They will have to inspect your invention first. Ask how the payments will be arranged.
  3. Use a patent attorney that hires an independent professional patent searcher. An in-house searcher would provide a conflict of interest, leaning towards making the patent search more favorable.
  4. Trust you intuition and only choose an attorney who you feel understands your invention.
  5. Interview different attorneys until you have made your choice. You will be working with this individual for 2 to 3 years.

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Trademark lawWhenever you begin to embark upon the branding of your business, there are many factors to consider. First off, hats off to you for getting past the “I’m thinking about starting my own business” mindset. Many people have ideas but no follow through. But now that you’ve arrived at the next place in your business plan, it’s imperative to pick a trademark that is perfect for you and the business you’re creating.

Here are five steps to help keep you on track:

  1. Do Some Research – Start looking at other companies that share a similar vision and purpose before you come up with your own logo, taglines, trademark, etc. You’ll want to know what other people are doing with respect to style, colors, feel and ideas for two reasons. First, you’ll want to know that what you’re trying to do is something that has a market, which will allow you to jump into a segmented group to share your product or service; and secondly, you’ll want to make sure that what you’re doing (from a trademark perspective) is not already being done. The one thing you never want to be accused of is trademark infringement, which is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark (or a substantially similar mark) on competing or related goods and services. When it comes to competition, no one wants to find out that someone else is using “their stuff” in doing their own branding, and they will fight for their rights. Also, search the federal database of registered trademarks at USPTO.gov.

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PATENT PENDINGMagazines, books, comics, clothing, and a ton of other products have specialized trademarks on them. These trademarks are used to acknowledge the source of the products. For written works, art, and anything in the artistic spectrum, copyright laws apply. Patents are different from trademarks or copyright because they deal solely with an invention of some sort. Before applying for a patent, you should always be sure that your invention is up to standards and ready to be patented.

Applying for a patent can be a difficult process. This process can be done by yourself or you can entrust the help from a hired professional. Filing for a patent requires that the person filing submit claims, specifications, and drawings, which are required within certain situations.

  • Specifications: Each invention must have a written description explaining exactly what it is, how it was made and how it functions.
  • Claims: Claims are used to help determine what the invention is. When filing for a patent, a claim is used to set the invention apart from others.
  • Drawings: If the invention is complex, there may be requirements for drawings depicting each function of the invention along with the end result.

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2014