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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

Major retailer sued by NBA star over logo

California businesses or individuals who hold intellectual property know how important protecting those assets can be to their future and to other entities with whom they may wish to do business. From professional musicians to actors to corporate businesses and more, the world of copyrights, trademarks and other forms of IP is an essential part of their everyday world. The same can be true of professional athletes. 

Unfortunately, there are times when managing intellectual property finds someone in an adversarial position with a party they had previously been cooperating with. An example of this can be seen in a recently filed lawsuit against a major shoe manufacturer and sports apparel and lifestyle brand. The company commonly sponsors professional athletes in a range of sports and one athlete who was sponsored by the company for several years is a basketball player in the NBA.

Game show news leak could involve legal consequences

A 35-year-old sports gambler won over $2 million during a 33-game streak on the quiz show "Jeopardy!" Earlier this week, an episode of the popular program, recorded in California, aired showing another player finally deposing the long-running champion. However, some people became aware of the outcome of the game before it hit the airwaves because of a leaked video of the outcome that someone posted on the internet. 

A producer for the program informed the press that he and his colleagues have a good idea of how the leak occurred, when it happened and who is responsible, though he was unable to identify anyone as of yet. The producer went on to promise "very appropriate" action against the individual(s) responsible but did not elaborate upon what that action would be. 

Lawsuit involves mutual accusations of trade secret theft

A highly skilled worker for a technology company leaves to start a new, competing business. The former employer sues the one-time employee, now competitor, for theft of trade secrets. It is an increasingly common scenario in California and elsewhere, one that requires the plaintiff to prove that the knowledge used in the new endeavor represents secret information, to which the one-time worker would only have had access to through his or her work for the company, rather than prior general know-how. 

Such a dispute is currently playing out in Texas between Chinese telecommunication company Huawei Technologies and the founder of CNEX Labs, Inc., a one-time engineer for Huawei. Hired in 2011 at a division of Huawei located in California, the engineer worked for the company for two years to improve storage and retrieval of data by developing better chips for the purpose. He formed his company within a week after leaving Huawei, and the lawsuit alleges that he took proprietary information with him. 

Comic book cover draws ire of California-based publisher

California-based DC Comics has been publishing comic books and graphic novels featuring the character Wonder Woman for over 70 years. In the interest of protecting its intellectual property, the company has issued a cease-and-desist order against a New York-based bookstore that commissioned comic book cover art that depicts one of the state's congresswomen in the role. The order also applies to the rival comic book company that published comics featuring the controversial cover art. 

The point of contention is a cover issued as part of a comics series satirizing political figures in Congress. The cover art of the two other issues in the series so far is uncontroversial, but DC objected to one that depicted the freshman congresswoman in the iconic costume of Wonder Woman, complete with her trademark headband. Being protective of its stable of superheroes, DC issued a cease-and-desist order to both the publisher and the bookstore.

Can I pass my patent to my heirs?

If you work hard enough on an invention that you secure a patent for it, then you obviously want to protect it at all costs. If you should pass away, you do not want to lose that patent protection. The money earned from the invention could help your heirs, but the income may be lost if the patent is no longer valid. This may make you wonder what happens with your patent when you die.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you can pass your patent to your heirs. You would do this in your estate planning. You will need to complete an assignment document that will legally allow the rights and ownership of the patent to pass onto your heirs upon your death.

Why is it so hard to protect IP on the internet?

Californian entrepreneurs and business owners like you have a much wider audience now than anyone who came before. The age of the internet has brought on a lot of great and innovative changes. However, as we at Peterson Watts Law Group will discuss, it has also brought about a lot of new risks and potential issues.

One of the biggest simultaneous upsides and downfalls of the internet is the fast-paced speed at which it changes. This allows creators just like you to stay on the cutting edge of innovation, providing lighting speed services to all of your customers. You can update sites and products, keep clients well-informed, and collect information on ever-changing industries in a blink.

Can trademark infringement jeopardize your business?

When starting a small business, you may have designed a logo, brand or symbol to represent your company. You may have registered your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to help ensure no one else will duplicate your brand. Registering a trademark gives you extra protection when it comes to pursuing legal action for infringement. Even though your trademark is registered, however, you still run the risk of having someone else get ahold of your design.

Trademark infringement occurs when an entity uses another company’s mark or a mark that is extremely similar to represent another good or service without the company’s permission. Using the mark may create consumer confusion and cause customers to purchase a product they believed belonged to the original trademark holder. If someone uses your mark, they may confuse your customers into thinking they are actually purchasing your product or your service, when really they are getting something else. This can cause you to lose revenue and may affect your reputation. 

Fan fiction often violates copyrights

Writing fan fiction is a popular hobby in California and most other areas of the country. While many writers create fan stories for personal enjoyment, there are others who choose to publish their work online. Some even attempt to charge money for their stories. What many people may not realize is that most fan fiction violates copyright protections, even if it is not sold for profit.

In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount Pictures and CBS initiated a copyright infringement lawsuit against a Star Trek fan film. The makers raised over $1 million through crowdfunding platforms for their "Star Trek: Axanar" film and planned to market and distribute it as a professional production. As part of the lawsuit settlement, the amateur production company admitted their work violated copyright boundaries and agreed to follow Paramount's guidelines for fan-film content.

Why are trade secrets so valuable?

If you own a business in California, you may have something very valuable within your organization that qualifies as a trade secret. If you do, it is essential to understand why they are so valuable. This is the only way to ensure you can protect them and keep them as a valuable company asset.

To begin with, according to Business.com, a trade secret is something that helps you distinguish your company and your products or services from everyone else. It helps you to define your business and gain a competitive edge. Businesses use them all the time. The secret formula for Coca Cola and the spices in KFC chicken are two great trade secret examples.

Copyrights prevent some Netflix customers from streaming

For years, Netflix has built up its reputation as a purveyor of streaming entertainment. While most of its customers in California and around the country consume its content online, Netflix still has ties to its roots as a DVD-by-mail company, and some 2.7 million customers around the country still consume its media that way to this day. 

There are many different reasons for people to stick to this seemingly outdated mode of media consumption, including a lack of selection, poor or inconsistent broadband internet access and overpriced or unavailable streaming offerings. However, one of the most significant reasons for maintaining DVD-by-mail service from Netflix relates to copyright law

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