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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

Independent artists struggle to protect copyrights

Intellectual property is not something that is important only to large corporations. There are many small businesses and even individuals in California and elsewhere who hold copyrights or other forms of intellectual property for their creations and work. These people and entities may sometimes feel they have a limited ability to actually benefit from these protections, however.

An example of this can be seen on the major online retail site, Amazon. This marketplace allows consumers to buy almost anything at any time. While most consumers today see and enjoy the benefits of using Amazon, many artists find the giant a major thorn in their sides. 

Software copyright dispute leads to Supreme Court petition

Copyright disputes in California can be difficult to resolve. There are often legitimate questions as to who originated a particular work, whether a work is derivative, whether the information is so basic that copyright does not apply or whether the use of copyrighted material was fair. As digital technologies are still emerging and evolving, the courts sometimes seem to have trouble keeping up with how existing intellectual property laws apply to their continuing development. 

Technology companies Google and Oracle have been involved in a copyright dispute that dates back approximately eight years. At issue is Google's Android smartphone and the code used to create it. Google claims that the application programming interfaces are ineligible for copyright because they are too basic. On the other hand, Oracle alleges that Google's use of Java APIs in the development of the device represented improper use of its intellectual property and first accused Google of violating copyright law in 2010.  

Options for addressing IP violations

If you or your company hold a copyright, trademark, patent or other form of intellectual property, you will want to learn about your options for enforcing the protections associated with those in the event that you believe a violation has occurred. California companies often secure intellectual property protections to further their business and financial interests and defending these may at times be necessary.

As explained by Entreprenuer magazine, you may not always need to assume that a dispute will automatically end up with you facing a judge or jury in a courtroom. This may happen, but there are alternative dispute resolution methods that may provide other avenues for you. Some situations might be able to be resolved via mediation or arbitration. Some people might confuse these two options thinking they are the same but that is not true.

Motorcycle club's emblem target of California jury

A wide-ranging, eight-week racketeering trial in California has branded a motorcycle club known as the Mongols as a criminal enterprise, allegedly engaging in offenses involving firearms, drugs and violent crime. However, the decision of a California jury last week that the group must forfeit its trademarked logo raises questions about due process and free speech. 

The logo in question is a cartoonish figure brandishing a sword while seated atop a motorcycle and wearing its hair in a queue, meant to evoke an image of the medieval Asian warrior Genghis Khan. Members of the club regard it with a certain amount of reverence as a source of identity, which is purportedly why authorities have targeted it as a way to break the spirits of those within the organization. Some lawyers say that stripping the club of its symbol is even worse, in a way, than prosecution or conviction on criminal charges. 

Musician's appeal to drop copyright lawsuit denied

The music industry is certainly that built on highly creative works and endeavors. That creative nature, however, does not negate the fact that it is still a business and one that many people in California make their living from. Any companies that are involved in the music industry or that rely on protections from copyrights might understandably keep a close eye on prominent litigation in this arena.

One case that has been in the works for about two years now appears to be headed all the way to a full trial after a recent ruling by a judge in the matter. As reported by Digital Music News, the popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was accused of a copyright infringement for a song he released in 2013. The accusation was made by a man who co-wrote a song some 40 years earlier. It is asserted that Sheehan essentially plagiarized the earlier work in his piece. 

Stronger privacy laws might hurt smal business

Any business based in California that has an online presence knows there are specific laws and rules that must be followed surrounding user privacy. Some of these rules are specific to ecommerce sites, some are specific to online advertising, and some are more general. While it is important to protect consumer privacy, it is also interesting to see some of the potential ramifications of expanding online privacy laws.

In May of last year, the entire European Union was automatically under the rule of the most sweeping internet privacy laws to date. As reported by The Street, the law is called the General Data Protection Regulation, generally referred to as the GDP. In essence, it requires any company to obtain a person's approval before collecting any information about them online.

New lawsuit targets fashion IP

Most people in California have been into a Target store before and may well know that the company sells a variety of clothing and shoe products. Some of these items are from name brands and some are knock-offs of major brands. The world of fashion replica products is a complex one apparently as can be seen in a recent lawsuit initiated against Target by the shoe designer and manufacturer Vans.

As reported by Vox, the lawsuit brought forth by Vans alleges that Target in conjunction with another company, Wild Fable, have deliberately leveraged known Vans shoes markings, patterns and skateboard culture references to profit by confusing consumers. Wild Fable is a shoe designer that has made a specific shoe sold at Target. The shoe has some similarities to one made by Vans that includes a mark trademarked by Vans in the late 1990s.

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.

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