International Intellectual Property Legal Blog

What Apple can teach us about trademarking and secrecy

Apple has a way of keeping even their biggest secrets under wraps until it is time for their well-planned reveal. Because of this, the general public no longer believes “leaks” are unintentional, but they soak it up all the same. Everyone is eager to get a look at what Apple is up to, even when they have no desire to purchase an Apple device.

Even so, a company needs to register its trademark name to protect it just in case one leak turns out to be legitimate. So, how does a company pull this off when everyone is watching their every move? Business Insider notes that when it came to the iPad, Apple chose the ingenious route of using a British company named “IP Application Development LLC.” One look at the name will spell it out for you: I.P.A.D.

Photographers losing money to thieves worldwide

When it comes to international copyright laws, most of the focus tends to be on music and movies. Every so often a software company may also make the news. But, what about photographers? According to ABC, photographers are losing income to news agencies, travel agencies and other businesses who use their images with neither credit nor payment.

As with other types of media, the internet is the vehicle through which the thievery takes place. Many photographers who share their works online through social media or their website often find those images downloaded and reuploaded elsewhere. Photographers who continually pursue legal action have since been called “copyright trolls.” Many businesses complain that even when the infringement was accidental, rather than receive an initial request to remove the photograph, negotiations began with legal threats and a demand for licensing fees.

Do you need a plant patent? What about a utility patent?

Many people have an idea at some point in their lives that they believe could have significant impacts. You may have had an idea for an invention with which you decided to move forward. Because you know that risks exist for others copying your work or otherwise trying to benefit off your idea, you certainly want to understand your protection options.

When it comes to protecting an original invention, the safeguard you most likely want to put in place is a patent. Of course, different types of patents exist, and the process of obtaining one is not always easy. Still, it pays to gain information on your options in order to determine how you would like to move forward.

Does copyright protection cover digital content?

In many cases, it is easy to copy online content, such as digital photographs and text. As such, you may wonder if it is possible to copyright your online content and prevent others from using it without your permission. In most cases, you may protect your digital content from unauthorized use. If someone copies and re-publishes your original content without your permissions, these actions often constitute a copyright violation. In most cases, your content falls under standard copyright protection, no matter where in the world you created and published it.

According to FindLaw, copyright law tends to treat digital content in the same manner as traditional offline content. That means the law usually considers it a copyright violation if someone copies or publishes your work without getting your permission. In the United States, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act specifically states that copyright protection extends to online digital content. While you may want to place a copyright notice on your website or watermark your digital images, you do not have to do so to protect your content from unauthorized use. As soon as you create an original work and publish it online, copyright protection may begin. If you create a digital version of your original non-digital content, both forms have copyright protection.

What is special handling?

There are some circumstances that warrant expedited copyright. In this case, special handling is an option that allows faster processing of copyright applications when certain factors are present. Copyright.gov explains the rules and regulations surrounding special handling so you can determine whether you're eligible. 

Your special handling request must be approved by the chief of the Receipt Analysis and Control Division, which is a part of the Copyright Office. Special handling is granted based on three factors, which must be present for approval. First, you must show that you will be subject to future litigation. Special handling is also granted if you're facing customs issues, which may prevent you from conducting business in another country. Finally, special handling may be granted if there is an upcoming deadline related to a contract or other business venture. The office will also consider its current workload when reviewing a request. That means even if an applicant meets the criteria, he or she might still be turned down. 

How can I protect a trade secret?

While things like patents and trademarks can help you protect certain aspects of your business, trade secrets cannot be registered for protection. That means it's up to you, the business owner, to determine how to safeguard valuable information and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The U.S. Small Business Administration explains the necessary steps to protect your business. 

Trade secrets can encompass a lot of different information, so the first step is to determine what would be most valuable if it fell into the hands of competitors. This includes recipes, specialized techniques, programs, customer lists, and pricing data, just to name a few examples. Anything that could potentially be of commercial value to your enterprise is a trade secret, and because the definition is so vague it can be difficult for a company to implement the proper protections. 

In which countries do you want your invention patented?

Protecting your intellectual property is of utmost importance when you have inventions you want to bring to market. Whether you keep your work quiet during the development stage or publicly build anticipation, you would be wise to protect your rights before someone else tries to lay claim to your ideas.

But while filing a patent application is important, it may be even more crucial to recognize that there’s no patent that will protect your concept worldwide. However, an International Patent Application can help you apply for protection in multiple countries.

Common counterfeit products

Most people are aware of counterfeit money and fake handbags, but there are numerous other counterfeit items that result in high cost to the global economy. If you have an idea of common types of products that are counterfeit, you may learn to have a more discerning eye the next time you shop. 

According to USA Today, counterfeit products have a global financial impact of around $250 billion a year. Luxury items are especially vulnerable to imitation, and the quality is such that the costs of many products are similar to the originals. The most common counterfeit products are wallets and handbags, with jewelry and watches coming in second. Other common fake items include:

  • Electronics
  • Accessories
  • Clothing
  • Foot apparel
  • Computers
  • Labels
  • Optical media

What should I know about a cease and desist letter?

If you own a business and you find out that another company or party is using your intellectual property (IP) without your permission, whether domestically or internationally, you probably want to take action to secure your rights. If so, you will likely need to understand what a cease and desist letter is. Many IP cases start by sending one of these documents to an infringing party to alert them of their infringement and to stop.

QuickBooks explains that a cease and desist letter should consist of several important parts. You need to address the letter to a particular person or a position within the infringing company and explain the instance where and when you saw your IP being used without your permission. The letter should specify a clear action for the other party to take. For example, you may want the other party to stop using your company logo on the party's website. The action should come with an ultimatum that is reasonable. You should make it clear that you may pursue further action if the party does not comply.

Trade secrets and the betrayal of former employers

Trade secret theft can have significant consequences and many businesses have been damaged as a result of the misappropriation of trade secrets. When confidential business information is misused, competitors may gain an unfair advantage and companies that are targeted by this behavior may be affected so much that they are prompted to shut down. Trade secret theft happens for many reasons and in this write-up, we will look into the theft of trade secrets by former employees who decide to betray a company they used to work for.

There are many possible motivating factors when it comes to the betrayal of former employers. Some former employees may hold a grudge against someone they used to work for, while others may be motivated by financial incentives at their new place of employment. Regardless, this is an extremely serious violation that can have a massive impact on its victims, and former workers who have broken the contracts they signed should be held responsible for their actions.

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