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Fort Lauderdale Intellectual Property Law Blog

Copyright renewal

If you hold a copyright to a work, you probably have a vested interest in knowing how long the copyright lasts and whether or not you can renew it to continue controlling the rights associated with that work. Copyright renewals are possible, depending on your relationship to the work and the date when the original copyright was filed.

If the work that you hold the copyright to was originally copyrighted between Jan. 1, 1964 and Dec. 31, 1977, the copyright is renews automatically. If your work was created and copyrighted prior to Jan. 1, 1964, a copyright should have been properly renewed, but at this time may have expired.

Trademarks and copyrights often overlap

Trademarks and copyrights are very similar legal concepts, but do have some key differences that are important to understand for anyone creating works that that they wish to protect through intellectual property law. Despite the fact that these two types of protection have distinctly different uses, they also share some uses in common.

Trademarks generally protect the words or symbols used to identify a product or brand to protect against consumer confusion, while copyrights work to protect writings, musical works, visual arts and other kinds of work from unauthorized use or reproduction.

When should I start protecting intellectual property?

When you're working to develop a new idea and get it off the ground, it can sometimes be difficult to know when it is the right time to begin working on your intellectual property policies and protections. Many companies face this difficulty, and if it is not handled wisely, it can leave you and your ideas dangerously vulnerable.

It's never too early to start working out the broad strokes of your intellectual property agreements and protections. In general, patents may be filed within one year of public disclosure of your idea. Of course, public disclosure can occur before you think it does. In some cases, testing a product in the public without the use of nondisclosure agreements could qualify as public disclosure.

Protecting your intellectual property

You lock your car, alarm your house and change your passwords to protect your property. However, how have you undertaken to protect your intellectual property? For example, if you have written a book, composed a song or created a computer program, you have intellectual property to protect.

Failing to protect your intellectual property may allow others to capitalize from your hard work or creative plan. However, the manner in which you can protect your intellectual property depends on the type of idea you have.

How long do patent protections last?

As a person with a valuable idea to protect, understanding the basics of patent protection can get lost as you wade into the specifics of the law. If you are considering filing for a patent, you probably want to know how long that patent protection lasts, and when it begins. The length of protection depends on the type of patent you register, among other things.

There are two types of patents you can register — utility patents and design patents. Under current federal patent law, a utility patent usually grants the holder 20 years of protection starting on the date that the patent application gets filed. This, however, is not the end of the story. In many cases, the patent holder must pay occasional fees to keep the protections enforceable.

Amazon amends its user agreement to protect clients

Intellectual property rights have only become more complex in the digital age, especially as it relates to using online services. Amazon recently took steps to address a number of intellectual property concerns by removing a passage in the Amazon Web Services user agreement, hopefully encouraging more business customers to use their cloud service without fear of third-party legal conflicts.

The issue originates from a problematic clause in the user agreement that prohibits users from suing Amazon for patent infringement. While it is understandable that the service provider would want to protect itself against litigation, in doing so, it has driven customers into the arms of other cloud computing providers with less restrictive user agreements. For many companies, the prospect of storing their proprietary business secrets with Amazon and having no recourse to sue if something goes wrong was simply untenable.

Is your creation a work for hire?

When a work is created, there are generally a number of rights that also arise with the creation of the work. If the person or persons who created the work did so independently, then the rights belong to them. However, in some circumstances, the copyright to a work may not automatically belong to the individual or individuals who created it. This is usually true when a piece of work is created as a part of employment. This is generally known as a "work for hire."

If a person makes something because it is his or her job to do so, then the entity employing him or her legally owns the rights to the created work, at least in most cases. If this is difficult to understand, you may consider thinking about it in terms of building a table.

Defending against patent infringement

If you create a something and choose to patent it, what can you really do if you believe that someone is violating your patent? This all depends on the nature of the violation and the steps you are willing to take to reach a just resolution. Often, patent violations occur when a very large company with many complex operations uses something patented by a small innovator. In theses cases, it can feel like a literal David-and-Goliath scenario, and it is often difficult to know where to begin.

First, it is important to understand that even an intentional patent violation is not a criminal act. If you have seemingly airtight proof that someone or some entity has unfairly used your patented process or product, you are facing a lengthy legal battle with no real guarantees. However, there are plenty of precedents of patent holders receiving significant victories because of patent violations by large and small companies.

Do I own a copyright?

Copyright infringement is a complicated matter, governed by a very specific set of laws. If you believe that some party or another may be infringing on your creative work, you should consider consulting with an experienced intellectual property attorney. Before you can move forward with an infringement case, you must establish that you properly hold the copyright in the first place, which may be more complex than you think.

In very broad strokes, if you created some piece of work, then you own the copyright to that work. However, there are number of circumstances where copyright ownership may spread to more than one party.

Making a name for yourself in your chosen market

How you brand and market your business heavily influences its success. Your efforts to make your business known often begin with the choice of its name. With so many other businesses out there offering the same type of service or products as you, finding a way to stand out could present a challenge. 

You need to find a name that makes your business stand out among the others while not making the name too similar to that of another company. You must also make sure that the name does not infringe upon another company's trademark rights. In your efforts to find the right balance, there are some things you should and shouldn't do.

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