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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

What does and does not a copyright protect?

A copyright is a form of protection that safeguards original works of authorship including dramatic, literary, artistic and musical works. Such works may include but are not limited to novels, poetry, songs, movies, architecture and computer software. A copyright does not protect ideas, facts, systems or methods of operation, though it may protect the way in which one expresses these things. If you wish to obtain a copyright in California, it is important that you first understand what copyright does and does not protect. Copyright.gov explains protections in detail.

Many people wish to copyright their websites. If you are one of them, know that while you cannot copyright your website per say, you can protect the content that appears on it. Content includes videos, writings, artwork, photographs and other forms of authorship. You cannot, however, copyright your domain name. If you wish to protect your domain name, you can register it with the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Net neutrality classification extended to SMS

The legal battle over net neutrality is something that most people in California have been well aware of during the past year. The state of California along with many businesses headquartered in California have voiced strong opposition to the federal government's action to disband net neutrality. Exactly what will happen to net neutrality in California or throughout the country remains to be seen. In the meantime, however, the Federal Communications Commission has made a dramatic change in how text messages are classified.

As explained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, text messaging providers have been classified as common carriers by the FCC. The agency has now approved a change that would mean they are classified as information services, not common carries. If this change is allowed to remain in effect, some people fear that the service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, may take advantage of the ability to censor messages and control what content people can or cannot receive.

Patent essentials

Inventors and entrepreneurs in California have good reason to want to protect their businesses from unnecessary or unfair competition. In some cases, the way to do this is to secure specific intellectual property protections. These include copyrights, trademarks and service marks. Patents are another form of intellectual property that may give an inventor the ability to get a new product off the ground. However, it is important to understand how patents work to know when seeking one makes sense and when it may not. 

As explained by Entrepreneur magazine, the road to being granted a patent may be long and expensive. For this reason, it is essential to identify the true need involved in seeking a patent. A utility patent, which is granted for an invention based on its function, lasts 20 years from the date for which the patent was first filed. The receipt of the actual patent can eat up several of those years, not to mention thousands of dollars.

Intel sues former employee it claims stole IP

Anyone in Sacramento who might dismiss an intellectual property lawsuit as being frivolous litigation does not understand the impact that IP can have. Should an employee take office supplies home with them, those things can be easily replaced (at a relatively minor expense). If an employee steals IP, they may threaten both a company's standing in its market as well as the proprietary information that makes it unique. Couple this with the amount of time, effort and money that companies put into developing IP, and it may come as little surprise why those choose to defend it so vigorously. 

One need only look at a recent lawsuit filed by the technology giant Intel to confirm this fact. The company chose to sue one of its former employees for stealing valuable intellectual property related to a billion-dollar project that it has been developing. In the lawsuit, Intel representatives claim that the man, who left the company for rival Micron, downloaded sensitive information regarding the new technology on to a USB drive. Intel and Micron had collaborated to a certain point on the development of the technology, but have since separated in preparation to create final products to take to market. The lawsuit claims that the former employee gave the USB drive to Micron, but that a forensic investigator later discovered that it had been wiped clean. The man's attorney claimed the information had been stored on his home computer. After being denied access to inspect the computer, Intel chose to sue. 

International protection for intellectual property

Many businesses in California whether small or large routinely do business in countries outside of the United States. This naturally gives rise to concerns that a business operating solely in a domestic setting does not have to deal with. Securing intellectual property in multiple countries is one of those concerns. 

As explained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, any type of intellectual property granted in the U.S. only offers protection in this country. This includes patents, trademarks and copyrights. It should be noted that a copyright does not require official registration in order to be in effect, but such registration can help provide protection if needed.

What to include in a nondisclosure agreement

When you hire someone to work for your California business, chances are, you do so because you find this person trustworthy, capable and credible. Regrettably, however, employer-employee relationships sometimes turn sour. If you do not take proper precautions to protect yourself and your business from the outset, you may find that your employees eventually move on and share your insights and intellectual property with your competitors. At Peterson Watts Law Group, LLP, we have helped many business owners make efforts to protect their trade secrets and intellectual property, helping them avoid potential problems before they lead to litigation.

According to Forbes, you may want to consider drafting a clear nondisclosure agreement when you face any number of different scenarios. You may, for example, choose to do so if you are presenting a new invention, idea or process to a potential business partner or investor. You may want to do the same if you typically grant your workers access to sensitive information about your business, or if you are sharing marketing or financial information relating to your company with someone who might potentially buy it.

How can I protect my social media from hackers?

It seems there are often reports about social media accounts being hacked. When hackers gain access to your social media account, they are able to get a wealth of information about you and everyone you connect to through the platform. Since hackers can be located anywhere, not just in California, it is difficult to track them down and stop them. Your best defense is to prevent hackers from ever gaining access to your account.

Entrepreneur states that there are a variety of ways to make your social media account more secure against hackers. The first thing you should do is take advantage of the two-factor authentication option. Most platforms offer this option. If you enable it, when you log into your account, you will have to verify that it is you logging in. You may get an email or text message with a code or a link that you must then use to authenticate your login. Having this two-step log in helps ensure only you can log in.

Does copyright protection last forever?

As a California copyright holder, you have the right to prevent others from using your work without your permission. However, you may not be aware of how long your copyright protection will endure. Copyrights do not last forever, nor are they intended to. 

According to FindLaw, the span of time that you can expect your copyright protection to endure depends on your work's date of creation and/or publication. Since the span of copyright protection is often based partly on the date of the creator's death, it also depends on how long you live. 

Trade secret misappropriation claims in California

In a general sense, trade secret misappropriation is the improper use or disclosure of information that a company has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources into developing and protecting. California is one of 47 states to have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, but even so, the way in which California courts approach misappropriation claims differs than how other states which have adopted the same laws would.

Under California's codified version of the UTSA, § 3426.1, the summary of which can be found on FindLaw, "misappropriation" occurs when a person acquires the trade secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to believe that improper means were used to acquire the trade secret. Misappropriation also occurs when a person discloses or uses the trade secret of another without consent, either implied or express, when a person uses improper means to acquire the trade secret of another, or when a person uses or accepts a trade secret that he or she knows has been acquired via improper means. Improper means can mean misrepresentation, bribery, theft, inducement of a breach of duty to maintain secrecy, breach of duty to maintain confidentiality or espionage.  

How can I protect my intellectual property?

As a business owner in California, you probably know how valuable intellectual property truly is. That’s why it’s vital to take the proper steps to prevent your lucrative ideas from falling into the hands of your competitors. Inc. offers the following tips in this case, which helps business owners safeguard their most valuable ideas.

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