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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

YouTubers could face blackmail re copyright infringement

The internet now provides a steady income for many people in California and across the country. Just a decade or so ago, no one would have thought that people could make hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year posting videos on YouTube. Now, there seem to be others out there who are trying to get popular channels shut down by claiming the owners commit copyright infringement.

YouTube tends to take this type of activity seriously, as it should. While there are some YouTubers who do violate copyright laws on occasion, others do not. Even so, all it takes is for someone to make an accusation for the popular video giant to mark a strike against the channel owner. Three strikes and a YouTube channel can be shut down.

How can you protect trade secrets?

As a California business owner, you likely have a trade secret or two to protect. We at Peterson Watts Law Group, LLP, are here to give you some ways that you can keep these secrets safe from would-be thieves.

First, there are physical safety measures you can take. This includes locking up secrets in a safe and limiting access to it. For example, some businesses have a system in which anyone accessing secret documents must hold a certain pass, and only one or two of these passes are given out at a time. This allows you to easily track down who is responsible if there is an information leak.

California appeals court takes unusual step in copyright case

Five years ago, the trustee of the estate of a 1960s rock musician filed a lawsuit against members of the band Led Zeppelin, stating that their hit "Stairway to Heaven" infringed copyright by stealing its opening from an earlier song. During a 2016 trial, a jury found in favor of Led Zeppelin songwriters Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Claiming that the jury had not received proper instructions, an appellate court ordered a new trial. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California has since taken the unusual step to hear the case en banc. In other words, the full panel of 11 judges will hear the case in the interest of determining authorship of the song. 

A Stanford Law School professor states that the most difficult copyright cases are those involving music. It is extremely rare for an appeals court to take a copyright case en banc. Following several well-publicized cases in which popular musicians have had to pay damages other artists for plagiarism, those within and without the music industry hope that the Ninth Circuit will provide clarity regarding what is and is not acceptable in music borrowing. 

Intellectual property and brand strength

If you are the creator or owner of a business in California, you may well have developed some asset that you need to protect. This may be your company's logo or name. It may be a means of delivering your services to customer. It may be a completely new product or means of producing a product that has never existed before. These are just some of the types of things for which you may seek intellection property protections. A patent, a trademark and a copyright are all examples of types of IP.

As explained by the World Intellectual Property Organization, intellectual property holdings can be important elements in developing and strengthening the image of your brand and your company in the marketplace. As more and more top executives and entrepreneurs recognize their brand image as a primary asset to their business, the importance of this cannot be overstated.

Important information before submitting a patent application

If you are an entrepreneur in a field in which you are likely to develop truly unique and new products, you will want to understand how you can protect your inventions from being stolen or reproduced illegally. Many other California individuals and companies face this issue every day. There are a variety of types of intellectual property protections available and it is important for you to know which is appropriate to your situation.

As explained by the United States Government, a patent is intended to safeguard your original invention by preventing others from replicating it for a period of time. This gives you time to get your product to market and establish a solid leadership position before competitors are able to enter the scene. Not every invention may be eligible for a patent, however.

U.S. and Taiwan companies come to agreement

For California companies across many sectors, the need to protect their intellectual property can be of paramount importance in today's competitive global marketplace. The disclosure of sensitive information to the wrong parties can provide advantages to competitors in illegal ways. It is essential that businesses track their patents, trademarks, copyrights and other secret information carefully so that they are able to support a claim of IP violation if such an event ever happens.

One biotech firm based in California has been embroiled in a battle with a Taiwanese company over alleged trade secret violations for some time now. A woman who had worked with the American business was terminated from her position in 2017, although it is not known for what reason she was fired. BioSpace reported that she is said to have provided three other people, including her husband, with access to trade secrets from the employer she had been fired by.

Fair use and copyright law

California residents who have copyrighted work may think it has protection against all other use that the owner does not give permission for. However, copyright laws allow others to use copyrighted material in certain situations, and this is known as fair use.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, the law allows for some unlicensed use of certain copyright works in the interest of freedom of expression. Some examples of how someone else may use it include for research, reporting of the news, teaching and criticism. To help determine if it is fair use, a court will often consider four factors.

Startup wins IP battle against major brand

California is the home to many major global brands but is also the hotbed of innovation. Across a variety of industries, there is no shortage of businesses and ventures being started by eager entrepreneurs and scientists. Many of these smaller companies face challenges when trying to compete with their respective industries' leaders and some end up being bought out by larger competitors. 

A potential buyout of a startup based in California by a global brand did not pan out as the small business went forward on its own. Since their initial discussions, however, the two companies ended up embroiled in a legal battle related to alleged violations of intellectual property and breach of contract.

Is it possible to trademark a sound?

It is important for many business owners in California to forge a unique brand identity and protect it with trademarks. However, are there limits to what you can register as a trademark? In addition to logos and slogans, can you also trademark a particular sound? According to the Huffington Post, it is technically possible to trademark a sound. However, it is extremely difficult to do so successfully. 

To protect a sound recording that is part of your brand identity, it may serve you better to copyright it rather than trying to trademark it. The disadvantage of a copyright is that it eventually expires, whereas trademarks stay active as long as they are in use. However, your copyright will not expire until decades after your death, and even then, whoever is running your business at that time may be able to renew it at least once. 

What is novelty?

It goes without saying that the process of applying for a patent in Sacramento can be incredibly complex. Yet of all the different elements that go into patenting your invention, the one that you likely think that you fully understand is that in order to be patented, your creation must be completely new. Even this requirement, however, has its subtle nuances. What may seem new to you may not necessarily match the definitions established by patent law. Thus, it is important that prior to applying for your patent, you must understand the idea of novelty. 

What is novelty? It is the idea that your invention is something completely new, and has not yet previously been described, mentioned or detailed in any of the following areas: 

  • The public domain 
  • Previously filed patents
  • Publications
  • Published applications

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