Intellectual PropertyEvery week, it seems, another news story appears about an innovative startup preparing to launch its new take on a product to a waiting market. While consumers and companies alike often eagerly anticipate these launches, they also pose potential risks to the company and its ownership of its intellectual property.

Today’s marketplace is more competitive than ever, and with more competition comes greater risk. How can companies protect themselves when creating a distribution agreement? What potential pitfalls arise, and how can they be avoided? What happens if the relationship between our company and the distributor changes? What if we wish to expand, or to end that relationship altogether?

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The Girl Scouts, in conjunction with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, have announced an Intellectual Property (“IP”) patch. Information about the patch can be found here. The Girl Scouts already offer an Innovation Badge, and the IP patch is meant to compliment the Innovation Badge. According to the USPTO website the “IP patch will show the tools that allow inventors to benefit from their inventions while also sharing them with others.The Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts also offer a Product Designer badge. This badge shows how inventions can be used to improve lives. Basic concepts of intellectual property protection are taught while Girl Scouts work to earn the IP Patch. The ways that IP protection can be used to protect an invention, as well as how various IP protection can inspire others to improve on inventions are also taught.

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prototypeYou have a great idea and you are ready to take the next step and have a prototype built. This may require the expertise of a draftsman, engineer, or manufacturing house, maybe even an investor. While the best way to protect any invention is often a patent, there may be considerations that prevent filing for a patent before you have to share your idea with other people. When it is not possible to file a patent before telling somebody about your invention, you should have a well drafted non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place before sharing any information. The signing of an NDA is standard practice in these types of situations and can help ensure that you protect your idea and preserve the ability to file for patent protection when the time is right. The NDA should be tailored to your situation and identify the information that is protected. Disclosing details of your invention without an NDA in place puts you at risk of losing protection for your product.

pods-02Most people today have heard of PODS by now. If you haven’t, they are a moving company that specializes in offering large containers you can pack your belongings up into that they call pods. The containers are then picked up by a truck and delivered to their final destination to be unpacked by the person that owns all the stuff inside. PODS built its whole company around this idea of movable containers, and the company branded those containers as pods the entire time. PODS recently got into a legal battle with U-Haul, another highly well-known company, over U-Haul’s use of the term “pods” for its new product, the U-Box.

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qualcommQualcomm has a history of fighting with a Chinese company known as Meizu. This manufacturer of portable electronics is known for producing items without taking the time to acquire all the proper patent rights for the products that it creates. That’s why Qualcomm has taken legal action against the company many times, and it’s why Qualcomm has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission against Meizu yet again.

Problems with Meizu

Meizu has been caught making use of 3G or 4G technology without actually paying for rights to the patents that make this technology possible. Qualcomm has been able to successfully work out arrangements with more than 100 other companies, but Meizu reportedly would not settle or take any measures when pressed by Qualcomm to do so. This is a serious issue that Qualcomm wants resolved, but the company can’t rush the process and must deal with Meizu presumably wronging them until a court conclusion has been made.

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Donald Trump is getting a whole lot of attention these days with the election and now being the President-elect. He’s been involved in a whole lot of controversy and people are quoting him on a daily basis, but few are talking about his copyright infringement case. Donald Trump managed to achieve copyright infringement in a Tweet that he sent out. This isn’t an issue that most people would face because they don’t have the number of views that Donald Trump has, but he was called out for the action quite quickly.

The Controversy

skittlesDonald Trump sent out a tweet including a bowl of Skittles and used the bowl to compare it to the Syrian refugees saying that they are like a bowl of Skittles that will kill you. Of course this sparked a bunch of controversy, but the only legal issue came about when British photographer David Kittos noticed that his photograph was being used without permission by the Donald Trump campaign.

He looked closely at the photo and noticed that it was identical to his own posted on Flickr, and the photo withholds permission for others to use it. Now there’s a lawsuit against Donald Trump for unauthorized use of the photo.

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lightStar Wars has been popular for over three decades now, and with the latest movies coming out in the past few years, it’s no wonder that people are trying to cash in on them as much as possible. There’s still a strong following for the Star Wars movies, and there are a bunch of companies that have all sprung up around the idea of Star Wars. Many people are offering light saber lessons, or choreography lessons that are all based on the Star Wars world. This is something that LucasFilm is trying to put a stop to, and the company recently took action against many of the companies around the country.

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kanyeMost celebrities are highly protective of their own brands and they will work hard to maintain their image. They aren’t always so protective of other people’s brands though, and even celebrities have been found guilty of infringement before.

It’s pretty common for celebrities, particularly musicians, to get in trouble for copyright problems. Blurred lines by Pharrell Williams, T.I. and Robin Thicke, is an excellent example of that. The musicians infringed on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give it Up’ and there were cases against all three musicians for that exact reason. That’s not the only type of infringement problems that celebrities suffer from, though. In some rare instances, there are celebrities running into trademark infringement issues as well, like Kanye West… 

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Great WallMany people throughout the world know that they should not do something, but when it is so easy; a lot of times they do it anyway. This is something that China is no longer going to look the other way with when it comes to their IP laws. They are coming up with better ways to protect the laws, as well as enforce them on anyone that might be found guilty of breaking them. Unlike other countries, they’re working to make this section of the law one that is not able to be penetrated.

Who Does This Cover?

Anyone that does business in China, even if they do not live or are from China needs to understand that their products need to be firmly trademarked. They cannot sell products that are not patented and protected through the current IP Laws. Additionally, anyone that is trading to or from the country must only use trademarked products to sell within the country.

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London Tower BridgeThe future is bright for so many, but with the constantly changing world that we live in, IP laws have to adapt to these changes. This doesn’t go without saying that some other laws could follow, but IP laws are quickly becoming obsolete in such a high technology driven world. The UK is currently finding ways to battle this change, and make the laws a bit more sustainable for those companies and individuals that use IP law on a regular basis.

The Previous Process of IP Law

Before, there was a long process that involved filing for a patent law throughout the country. This process involved many different people and would take too much time. By the time the patent would be finalized, the applicant would have had a new system out, or someone else might have come up with the same thing. This can be detrimental to the creative process, which can cause many people a lot of hardships, since the patent process can be a long, costly one.

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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017