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Fort Lauderdale Intellectual Property Law Blog

Can I reserve a trademark for future use?

When you begin developing a business idea, you may want to trademark a name for a specific product well before refining product to its final state or releasing the product to the market. While it is not possible to fully file for a trademark at this point in the development, the Patent and Trademark Office does offer a solution for those in just this situation.

In these circumstances, it is possible to file an "intent to use" (ITU) registration. This means that you have not yet actually properly filed for a trademark, but that you intend to in the future and are setting the trademark aside.

Circuit court dismisses copyright case

Securing and protecting the rights to your intellectual property is often not as simple as you might hope, and in many cases it is the details that make all the difference. In a recent decision for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, a judge dismissed a claim of copyright infringement because the plaintiff did not properly plead compliance with a requirement.

The issue arose when a content provider claimed that one of their clients violated their agreement after the licensing contract ended. The plaintiff, who licenses content to websites but retains the underlying copyrights to the material, objected when the former client failed to remove some of the licensed content from their website after the license expired.

Judge won't back down on demands in Uber-Waymo trade secrets case

Just before he left Waymo, Google's self-driving car unit, a star engineer downloaded around 14,000 files from the company. He then started a self-driving truck company, which was then bought by Uber. Uber also hired the engineer, which is how trade secrets from Waymo apparently "seeped into" Uber's competing program. Waymo sued for trade secret and other intellectual property violations, unfair competition and other claims.

In early May, a federal judge determined that Uber knew or should have known the engineer had possession of all those Waymo files. He ordered the engineer to be kept away from the disputed intellectual property and ordered Uber to perform an internal investigation and report back immediately. 

Anti-troll director of US Patent and Trademark Office resigns

Michelle Lee joined the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2012 and was named its interim director in 2013. The following year, she was formally nominated as director. She was the first woman to serve as director. Before joining the agency, she was an in-house attorney for Google.

The USPTO is a division of the Commerce Department. Its purpose is to review and approve applications for patents and trademarks, and to cancel patents it has previously issued.

Tell the world your ideas, but protect your rights to them first

Did you know you could own your ideas? You may have heard the words "intellectual property," but don't really understand what they mean. Intellectual property encompasses the ideas and concepts you have that make your business unique.

Here in the United States, you can legally protect your rights to those concepts and ideas using patents, copyrights and trademarks. Each has its own benefits and limitations, but that should not keep you from seeking to protect your rights under one or more of these methods.

Lawsuit: 3 Conan O'Brien jokes possibly pilfered from blogger

"The most surprising thing to me about this lawsuit is that it was filed in the first place," comments a law professor about the recent allegations that a number of jokes appeared on the "Conan" show after already appearing on a comedy writer's blog. "When you're talking about accusations of infringement dealing with fairly low-dollar-value creative work, we don't see a lot of litigation."

Nevertheless, Alex K., a writer known for hundreds of Jay Leno jokes, is suing Conan O'Brien and his writers for copyright infringement in the form of joke theft.

Court: Uber knew, or should have, of co-opted Waymo trade secrets

When Uber hired a former engineer from Waymo, Google's self-driving car unit, did it know he was illegally sharing trade secrets with them? A federal judge has ruled they did -- or a reasonable company would have. He has ordered the confidential files to be returned to Waymo, although he didn't completely shut down Uber's own autonomous vehicle program. He did, however, refer the case to the Department of Justice for an investigation into possible trade secret theft.

A trade secret can be anything a company doesn't want its competitors to know. For example, a baker's prized recipes are typically trade secrets, as are customer lists, supply chains, and internal processes. Trade secrets often can't be patented or trademarked -- which would reveal them, anyway -- but they're still an extremely valuable part of many businesses.

A tale of two unicorn-themed coffee drinks

There are too many unicorns on the streets of New York these days. One too many at least, according to The End coffee shop in Brooklyn.

The problem unicorn is Starbuck's limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino, a bright pink and blue frothy frappe that was only available in April. When it created the brightly colored beverage, Starbucks was trying to be relevant. The blended drink "was inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media."

What about the creators of the trendy drinks that "inspired" Starbucks? Wouldn't they have copyright or trademark rights? 

Does the Register of Copyrights bill politicize a critical job?

The House of Representatives just voted 378 to 48 to pass H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, which makes the U.S. Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee requiring confirmation by Congress. Proponents argue that the change merely reflects the increasing centrality of copyrights in the Internet Age. Opponents of the bill say it does no such thing and vow to fight it before the Senate.

"The bill does nothing to improve the functioning of the Copyright Office, nor to fix any of the serious problems with copyright law, including its excessive and unpredictable penalties," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a blog post.

Intellectual property: taking the mystery out of trade secrets

Nearly every small business owner has some form of intellectual property, even if they don't realize it. At the very least, one can register the company's name as a trademark. In fact, your company's name is often its largest asset.

Now that you know that you have at least some intellectual property that you didn't realize you had, you might wonder what else could qualify. Do you know that you probably have trade secrets? Any information you protect from others that contributes to the success of your business might qualify as a trade secret.

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