International Intellectual Property Legal Blog

Software company fights back against patent troll

Much has been written in recent years about a legal tactic known as patent trolling, which is the practice of acquiring patents for the sole purpose of pursuing litigation. The defendants in lawsuits filed by patent trolls usually settle quickly to avoid the costs of mounting a defense in court. Patent infringement lawsuits are often extremely complex and legal fees can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the California-based software company Cloudflare took a different approach in 2017.

That was the year when Cloudflare was sued for intellectual property infringement by a Chicago-based technology firm that had obtained dozens of patents for products it had no intention of actually making. Rather than settle discretely, Cloudflare fought back by publicly accusing the technology company of patent trolling on its company blog and in several media articles. Cloudflare also asked members of the public to search for prior art that could be used to invalidate the patent at the center of the dispute. The case was subsequently dismissed.

Appeals court reverses copyright decision in Taylor Swift case

A federal appeals court in California has ruled that a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against pop star Taylor Swift can go forward. The claim was originally dismissed by a judge in a lower court.

The case before the court was filed by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, who wrote the 2001 song "Playas Gon' Play" by R&B group 3LW. The song, which was considered a minor hit, featured the lyrics "playas, they gonna play" and "haters, they gonna hate". The lawsuit contends that Swift's massive 2014 hit "Shake It Off" infringed on the songwriters' copyright by including similar lyrics in its chorus.

U.S. House approves online copyright bill

On Oct. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would create a copyright small claims court for online content creators. The measure was approved by a vote of 410-6.

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act, or the CASE Act, would let authors, graphic artists, photographers and other internet content creators go after copyright infringers in a special small claims court if they are seeking a total of $30,000 or less in damages. Currently, all copyright cases are required to go through the federal court system, which takes a significant amount of time and money. The bill was introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., in 2018.

Does copyright law protect web page content?

Whether your business focuses on local clientele or has an international reach, chances are you have a company website that provides information on your products and services. Your site may also contain unique content, such as blog posts, whitepapers or news articles. Protecting the rights to your digital content may seem more difficult than invoking copyright protection for traditional printed materials. However, United States law makes it clear that copyright protections apply to web page content as well as printed media.

A FindLaw article states that the digital content on a website generally has the same type of copyright protection as original printed material, such as books, songs or news stories. According to the article, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 explicitly states that digital materials published on the internet enjoy copyright protection. As such, your company likely owns the copyright to the text, pictures, videos and other content on your website. Legally, others must get your permission before copying the content and posting it elsewhere.

Minimizing the impact of a business dispute on your company

Learning of a business dispute that is happening in your company can be highly disconcerting. Depending on the severity of the dispute, who it involves and what it is about, such disagreements can have a debilitating effect on organizational processes that ultimately affect productivity and success. At Bilicki Law, we have been able to help concerned business owners in New York to solve issues within their organization. 

One of the biggest challenges of operating a business is creating an environment where people can work well together. This requires you to implement policies designed to promote tolerance, as well as responsibility and professionalism in accomplishing business objectives. Your efforts can help to reduce conflict before it even begins. However, in the situations where a dispute does arise, the sooner you can detect it, intervene and provide a solution, the more effective you will be at minimizing its impact. 

Strengthening a claim of trademark violation

Having a trademark can add a level of protection to your intellectual property that could prove invaluable in the future. Your images, phrases, slogans or designs could all benefit from trademark protection, but the protection does not necessarily mean that others will not attempt to use your images or phrases.

Trademark infringement is a serious issue, and if another person or entity attempts to infringe on your trademark, you may have to take steps to enforce the protection you obtained for your intellectual property. Otherwise, your business could face harm due to another person's actions.

How can you minimize the exposure of confidential information?

Keeping important information from getting into the wrong hands is imperative to your company's protection and success. While you can monitor who has access to confidential information in order to minimize their exposure, it is also important for your company, especially if you have an International presence, to implement protocols designed to keep your most sensitive information private. 

Being aware of the steps that can be taken to more effectively protect trade secrets and other valuable information is only the beginning of keeping your company safe. Once protocols are in place, they should be regularly analyzed to determine that they are working optimally. Frequent analysis can help you identify areas where additional support is necessary to prevent loopholes from creating hazards. 

What are the most frequently asked questions about trade secrets?

As a business owner or inventor, you may have a lot of questions about trade secrets. Trade secrets refer to the data you prefer to keep hidden from competitors and even some employees. These secrets provide your business with a competitive edge that may be destroyed if it got into the wrong hands.

Forbes notes that the closest cousin of trade secrets in law is patent law. When people file a patent, it becomes public information in exchange for the protection. In contrast, most business people do not mean for trade secrets to ever see the light of day. Here are some commonly asked questions regarding this and their answers.

IP strategies are sometimes tax-motivated

In 2013, Uber grew from a $330 million company to a worth of $3.5 billion due to venture capital investments. However, before pursuing the additional funding, Uber’s co-founder decided to do some tax-planning. According to Fortune, the ridesharing company created a new business in the Netherlands known as Uber International C.V., which essentially moved the company’s intellectual property overseas.

U.S.-based Uber then created an agreement to split profits in half. Thus, when venture capitals sped up Uber’s growth process, it could legally avoid paying taxes on almost all of its non-U.S. rideshare income. Fortune reports that Google and Facebook employed similar strategies for similar reasons. In fact, American companies often find it easier to move their IPs overseas than relocating a physical subsidiary. For tech companies, where so much of their core business takes place online, there is hardly ever a need to attempt a physical move.

How not to accidentally invite intellectual property litigation

The common advice for companies that want to avoid intellectual property litigation is simply not to steal or appropriate another entity’s IP. However, there is one major problem with this advice; it is one-sided. What happens when the business owner is the one who gets their idea stolen? Or, what happens when an entrepreneur gets sued for creating and capitalizing on technology that bears a close but accidental resemblance to someone else’s?

Business News Daily notes that entrepreneurs often do not give enough thought to intellectual property rights. Because of this, they are often taken aback by the large expense these types of litigation can present for a company, especially a small one with fewer resources to draw from. When protecting IP, the first step is identifying what counts as IP and then utilizing the following tools where applicable:

  •          Trade secrets
  •          Trademarks
  •          Copyrights
  •          Patents

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