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An overview of intellectual property protection and rights

Entrepreneurs, artists, and others in California may understand the frustration of having one's creative work copied, especially if the individual or entity doing the copying then uses that material to generate a profit. It is important to know the types of protections available so that violations are clearly understood. In some cases, legal action may be necessary to put an end to illicit use of one's materials, but this may be contingent on correctly protecting those materials in the first place.

There are various types of intellectual property to consider. For example, when one's literary or artistic work is created in a fixed form like a computer file or in print, it can be considered as copyrighted. Computer software falls into this category. An individual may use the copyright symbol with such work, and they can expect the protection to last for a certain number of years after their death. In some cases, a longer period of coverage might be allowed based on the country in which the creator resides.

Sony unsuccessful in effort to have data breach lawsuit dismissed

A federal judge in California has rejected the request of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. to have a suit filed by soem of its former employees dismissed. The legal action relates to the November 2014 data breach that occurred as the company prepared to release a controversial movie "The Interview". It is believed that the responsibility for data theft lies with North Korea, prompted by the nature of the film which was based on the fictional death of that nation's leader.

The primary allegation in this business litigation is that the company failed to protect the personal information of employees. Sony informed employees by letter of the potential theft of identification information from passports, Social Security details and driver's licenses. It is also possible that financial and health information was compromised during the breach. The allegation of negligence was not tossed out, but the judge has dismissed some other claims, including alleged breach of contract on the part of Sony. Employees have indicated that the company failed to strengthen the security system due to the costs in spite of prior hacking actions. However, the judge indicated that proof of this claim wasn't necessary for the suit to continue forward.

American Well sues competitor for patent infringement

Many California business owners know that intellectual property is a valuable asset for any company. A telehealth company is now suing a competitor to protect its intellectual property rights that constitute the core processes through which it conducts its business.

In 2009, Massachusetts-based health care company American Well was granted a patent on a process for matching patients with health care providers and facilitating delivery of those health care services over the Internet. A competitor, Teladoc, engages in a similar type of service. In a filing with the SEC prior to an initial public offering, Teladoc claims that it is not dependent on any existing intellectual property to operate. However, American Well claims that it was recently contacted by Teladoc in a request to license its existing patent. Teladoc has also attempted to invalidate several of American Well's patent claims.

Ford sued for intellectual property theft

California motorists who own Ford vehicles may have heard that the auto manufacturer is being sued for intellectual property theft. On May 7, Versata, a software company, filed a complaint against Ford for using its software without permission. Then on June 3, the Texas software company asked a judge to issue an injunction against Ford.

The intellectual property dispute has its genesis in a contract signed in 1998 pursuant to which Ford agreed to pay Versata $8.45 million per year to use the company's software. The software, called Automotive Configuration Manager, was used in Ford's vehicle development process to identify incompatible vehicle parts. Ford used Versata's software until 2014 when the vehicle manufacturer purportedly developed its own software.

Judge progresses infringement case against Sirius

Songs recorded before February 15, 1972 are not protected by U.S. federal copyright laws. Some artists, however, have been granted copyright protection by individual state laws. A judge in California recently permitted a class action lawsuit to progress against Sirius XM Holdings Inc, a New York company.

Flo & Eddie Inc., a company founded by members of the popular singing group the Turtles, initiated the suit. The group is most famous for their song 'Happy Together" that was recorded in the 1960s.

Lawsuit claims Uber founders stole trade secrets

On May 14, a man filed a lawsuit in California against Uber Technologies Inc. in which he claimed that he was the original inventor of the transportation network. Since it was founded in San Francisco in 2009, Uber has become a popular cellphone-based shared ride service that operates in 57 countries.

According to the allegations in the trade secrets lawsuit, the true inventor of Uber's 'idea, concept, coding design, appearance, application and prototype" was never compensated for his invention. The plaintiff claims that he began developing plans for the transportation network in 2002 and founded his company, Celluride Wireless Inc., in 2003. In 2006, the plaintiff says that he spoke to the future founder and chief executive officer of Uber about his ideas on a confidential basis.

Protecting business ideas from others

Entrepreneurs in California may benefit from learning more about the different strategies someone can employ to protect an original and unique business idea from being used by another party. In order to sustain profitability long-term, new entrepreneurs may need to understand more about how to protect their brand. People starting new businesses also need to avoid infringing on the trademarks owned by other parties. Trademark disputes often arise when two companies share a close similarity in their brands, designs or services.

Entrepreneurs are advised to put the time, effort and capital into researching the brand as well as the means to protect the brand from infringement. Business owners who decline to exercise legal options for safeguarding intellectual property may be forced into a settlement or changing the brand as their only recourse for protecting future earnings. A sudden change in a name or logo can be catastrophic to a budding enterprise.

Protecting intellectual property in California

Trademarks and copyrights offer intellectual property protection for businesses who come up with new ideas. However, an idea may unintentionally become popular or otherwise become noticeable thanks to social media. There are a variety of steps that a business owner can take to protect intellectual property and keep potential imitators from stealing an idea or creating similar marks or content.

First, a business may wish to file an intent to use trademark with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. What this does is establishes a date when the mark was first used that coincides with when it first enters the marketplace. In the event that someone tries to infringe on the trademark, a business can prove in court that it had formally protected that piece of intellectual property. If possible, businesses may want to register relevant domain names to stop others from capitalizing on a name or phrase.

ESPN seeks injunction against Verizon for breach of contract

ESPN is pursuing an injunction against Verizon as well as damages related to the telecommunications company's FiOS TV service. Viewers in California may not yet know that a new service allows them to customize pay-TV bundles, an attempt to compete against rivals such as Netflix and Sling TV from Dish Network.

ESPN filed the lawsuit on April 27, accusing Verizon of breach of contract with its new service. Speaking to reporters, ESPN said that it embraces innovative methods of providing quality content to consumers at value prices, but the pricing must be offered in accordance with its contracts. It is asking a New York court to stop Verizon from unjustly depriving it of the benefits that it should receive under their agreement. In response to the lawsuit, Verizon said that its customers have made it clear that they want choices, and the industry needs to focus on giving them that. The company believes it is well within its rights to offer these choices under existing contracts.

Judge rules Grooveshark's copyright violations were willful

California music lovers may be interested in a judge's recent ruling issued before the copyright infringement trial against music download giant Grooveshark. In its ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York stated that the violations by Grooveshark were willful and were made in bad faith, opening up the company to potential damages of $736 million.

At trial, the only issue that is left to be decided is the amount of damages the jury will assess. The judge's ruling allows the jury to consider awarding damages against the company of up to $150,000 for each of the 5,000 songs which are a part of the federal lawsuit against the company.

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Klein & Wilson

Klein & Wilson
326 Old Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663

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