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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

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

Protection for computer software

Many people might understandably consider California the home of the computer software and hardware industries. Over the past few decades, Silicon Valley has launched an innumerable number of companies, ventures and technologies. This explosion of products onto the world market has brought with it the need to protect these products from being copied illegally. 

As explained by the World Intellectual Property Organization, when computers were just beginning to show their potential to move into mainstream use for both business and consumer audiences, it was determined that patents should be the primary mechanism by which a business or individual could protect a hardware invention. For software, it was identified that copyrights would be the primary form of intellectual property protection.

Company sued for offering products with school's name

The argument for what is and what is not intellectual or trademarked property may seem fairly cut-and-dry: if it is the product of a person or organization's creative mind, then it is their property. Yet there may be times when the question of IP disputes in Sacramento does not come down to the nature of the property being disputed itself, but rather ancillary processes and semantics. Those looking to utilize another's creative properties without authorization may attempt to come up with creative ways to get around the regulations protecting them (even following methods that may appear to be perfectly legal). 

This is what is being alleged in a lawsuit filed by Penn State University against a sports memorabilia company. In its lawsuit, the university says that the company's owner has attempted to benefit off its reputation by selling products that cite both the school's name and mascot. The owner of the memorabilia company offers products that appear to be affiliated with a number of different sports teams, and that it has filed to trademark product names using the team's names (or those of their sponsoring institutions) with federal offices in the past, yet been rejected due to obvious infringement issues. To get around this, the owner has now started filing for trademarks through state offices, which reportedly do not check for the likelihood of confusion with other trademarked properties. In its lawsuit, the university has asked (among other things) that the company stop selling and hand over any products bearing its name. 

Facebook's $5B privacy violation settlement

For many California residents, the internet is an essential part of their everyday lives. A computer and online access can be necessary to conduct business and do a person's job and can also facilitate many aspects of one's personal life such as travel, hobbies and interpersonal connections and relationships. The ubiquity of the internet cannot be denied any longer yet that also means that the concerns about personal privacy online only continue to grow.

The companies that create and build the platforms via which people interact online are supposed to factor privacy controls into their product development. They have a responsibility to respect the data that is shared with them and to uphold the laws that govern online privacy. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Data breaches and sloppy business practices instead have become too common.

New copyright claim changes introduced by YouTube

Many people in California have at a minimum viewed a video on YouTube at least once. It is almost impossible to avoid having a video on the platform show up in a web browser search in some situations. The service offers companies and individuals a place to house and share their content. YouTube has also produced its own set of celebrities and an entirely new form of entertainment. Along the way, it has been plagued with problems related to copyrights and the protection of these rights on such a dynamic medium.

As reported by Gizmondo, a person who holds a copyright to a particular work could manually file an infringement claim against another content provider on YouTube. When doing so, the person making the infringement allegation would not be required to provide many details, only asserting that a particular piece of content infringed on the copyright. There was no way to know if an entire hour-long video was the problem or a short five-second clip.

Musicians' ownership of their work a challenge

People in California may be aware that copyrights are the legal way of protection an artistic work from being used or promoted by someone other than the creator. However, there are many complexities when it comes to the ownership of a piece or body of work, especially in the music industry. The road from writing a song to having it played on the radio can be long and winding and involves multiple parties, including record labels.

Pop music sensation Taylor Swift has recently made headlines for her response to the purchase of her former label by a company owned by a man who has been an adversary in previous situations, including those involving Kanye West. The purchase gives the music manager control over the original mixes from which all subsequent recordings are made for every song Swift recorded except for those on her newest album.

What is a trademark?

The primary goal of your business or organization is to make your mark within your local industry in Sacramento. While such a phrase is typically used in a metaphorical context, it can often be manifest literally through your company's trademarks. While you likely understand that protections are available to different types of sensitive business material, you may not fully comprehend the distinct differences between them. For example, much confusion exists over what exactly is a trademark. 

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies unique goods and/or services offered by either an individual or an organization. It differs from copyrighted material in that copyrights are meant to protect content that is in a tangible medium of expression (e.g. books, films, plays, artwork). Trademarks, on the other hand, offer protection to business brands. 

Cannabis industry grappling with new patents

To some people across the nation, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use might only make them think about using the substance, others know that the issue extends far beyond who can use pot, when or where. A whole new industry is taking shape in California and the other states that have legalized marijuana and one issue this industry is now facing is the protection of its intellectual property.

For a cannabis producer, IP might refer to a particular plant itself or it may refer to a method in which the plant or another product based on the plant is produced. As Cannabis Business Times explains, a company or individual may apply for a variety patent to protect the plant itself or for a utility patent which would protect a production method or process. As companies in this burgeoning industry seek patent protections, it has come to light that some businesses that touted their products as unique when operating underground may not actually have been truthful.

Understanding plant patents

Many in Sacramento might think that your work in botany or horticulture might preclude you from ever having to worry about patent law. Yet if your work leads you to the development of new plant species, than you will want to ensure that the important details of that species are protected in much the same way an inventor would want their product protected. Many in your field have come to us here at the Peterson Watts Law Group, LLP asking how to commence the traditional patent process. Like them, you may be surprised to learn that their actually special provision designed specifically to patent new plants. 

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a plant patent will keep your new plant species (both as a whole and in part) from being reproduced, sold and/or imported by others for a period of 20 years from the date of the patent being granted. To qualify, your plant must be a living plant organism determined by a unique genotype or genetic makeup that can be asexually reproduced and not simply manufactured. Algae and macro-fungi qualify as plants under these guidelines, but not bacteria. Your plants uniqueness may be prompted by either an invented or discovered mutation, yet in the case of the latter, the discovery must have been made in a cultivated environment. 

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.

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