The Traklight Blog

Explore the world of intangible assets and IP with guest blogs, business owner interviews, and more.

Specialized Intellectual Property Courts to be Established in China

Facing increasing disapproval from international bodies as well as other countries, China has finally decided to take action to show the world that it is indeed willing to protect intellectual property (IP) rights. China is all set to open a specialized court to deal entirely with IP issues in Beijing within the month. It also plans to open two other similar courts within the year in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Read More

One Shoe to Rule them All: Converse All-Star's Trademark Dispute

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Nothing is constant, but change.” This applies markedly to the fashion industry. Style is a constantly evolving phenomenon. We laughed at the clothes our parents wore but it’s not long till our children start mocking the clothes we wear. Each generation etches its own signature in the ebbs of time but one product has stood out amongst the rest. Something that our grandparents wore while playing basketball, our parents wore while being rebels and listening to punk, and something most of us have worn at some point in our lives. 

Read More

Be Smart About Licensing your Intellectual Property

If you have been anywhere near Traklight or its members, protecting and leveraging your intellectual property (IP) has probably been drilled into your head so many times you have started reciting ‘work for hire’ and non-disclosure provisions in your sleep. Although there are many advantages to protecting your IP, let’s delve into how you can make money off of it, specifically in terms of licensing your intellectual property.

Read More

Introducing the Business of Legal

No business wants to give away its products. As an attorney, when you spend time evaluating potential clients that don't pan out, you're giving away your product—valuable billable hours. If a client needs only basic professional services and your firm is looking for bigger opportunities, your efforts can be time wasted.

With the right technology your firm can identify a potential client's intellectual property, determine contract needs, and reveal legal issues that need your expertise. Since the process is initiated at the clerical level, most client pre-qualification information can be gathered without lawyer involvement or time. The lawyer's first notice of a potential client can be accompanied by enough relevant information to determine the next step.

Read More

Are Pictures Of Money Copyrighted?

Among the many questions about intellectual property (IP) rights, one of the most interesting I’ve come across is, "Are pictures of money copyrighted?” Sure, we’ve all had fleeting thoughts of printing out our own money and retiring to a beach somewhere to live like royalty, before the realities of things like prison and more prison snap us back to reality. But behind such fanciful thoughts is a more salient question regarding the legality of using images of currency for artistic or creative purposes. So what are the rules as it regards images of money?

Read More

Eminem and Iggy Azalea Out for Blood: Copyright Infringement

Last week saw two popular artists file a complaint for copyright infringement.

Eminem, the Detroit rapper who rocked the world with his hard hitting rhymes is suing the National Party of New Zealand for using the music for his hit song "Lose Yourself" in a campaign video. The campaign video to promote John Key, who is up for re-election, has since been taken down but the National Party rejected the allegations leveled against it stating the music was taken from the Beatbox library and, although similar, is not identical nor does it include any lyrics.

The complaint has been filed in Wellington, New Zealand. Hopefully the High Court will recognize the importance of respecting foreign copyrights, certainly considering how important the New Zealand legal system considers intellectual property rights. A spokesman for Eminem’s publisher stated, “It is both disappointing and sadly ironic that the political party responsible for championing the rights of music publishers in New Zealand by the introduction of the three strikes copyright reforms should itself have so little regard for copyright.” Lose Yourself has been licensed to only a handful of companies and certainly not to any political party as the publishers are against such usage.

Read More

Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights: Protection v. Free Speech

Intellectual property (IP) protection is necessary. But with rights comes responsibility; a responsibility to not misuse such rights. Automattic, the web publishing platform most famous for Wordpress, uploaded a ‘Hall of Shame’ list after getting tired of its users being harassed by copyright and trademark infringement notices. Wordpress is a free blogging tool and content management system. As with any site uploading content there are bound to be intellectual property issues from time to time but not all have merit.

At Traklight we are all about protecting intellectual property, but understanding when you have an actual cause of action is equally important as needless litigation wastes time and effort, while giving you a bad reputation in the market (assuming you do not have a legitimate claim). Creation of IP rights is to protect against exploitation, not curb the freedom of speech. Among the various people/ companies on Automattic’s list is Janet Jackson. Her lawyers attempted to remove / control all references of her on Wordpress. One of the claims included trademark infringement for using her name in the following blog “Dinner Party Conversation: What would your WWE Smackdown name be?”:

Read More

Disney And DJ Locked In Trademark Dispute Over Mouse Logo

Disney has been known to aggressively protect its intellectual property (IP) in the past and the latest IP issue involving mouse ears is no different. People familiar with electronic dance music (EDM) are no stranger to the music of DeadMau5. Joel Zimmerman, the man behind the mask, is an established producer from Canada that has been performing and selling records for over 10 years now. He has trademarks over his mouse themed logo, known as Mau5head, in over 30 countries.

Read More

Ice Bucket Challenge Trademark Controversy

 The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took America by storm a month ago and has since gained momentum internationally as well. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a debilitating illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration eventually leads to death and there is still no cure.

Who'd have thought that a trademark controversy would have ensued over this charitable awareness campaign?

Read More

Who Owns the Copyright On An Animal Selfie?

Monkeys and humans are similar in more ways than one: we have opposable thumbs, share a majority of DNA, and evidently, love taking selfies. Back in 2011, British photographer David Slater travelled to Indonesia to take photographs of black crested macaques. In a not-so-surprising turn of events, the macaques completely disregarded Slater’s setup and started playing with one of his cameras that produced the photo under controversy: a selfie of a grinning macaque that garnered much internet craze and went viral. The photo found its way onto Wikimedia commons where it is free to download and use and, despite Slater’s removal notices, has been kept in the public domain. Wikimedia has stated that Slater does not own the rights of the photograph as he did not take the photo but the macaque did. On the website where the photo is available for download the license states that,

“...this file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.

This raises an interesting question regarding copyright ownership. So who legally owns the photo in question?

Read More

IP Best Practices: Don't Infringe on IP Rights of Others, Step 9

Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced step eight to maximizing your IP: regular IP audits. Please check back every Monday for the next part in this series.

As important as protecting intellectual property (IP) is, it is just as important not to infringe upon someone else’s IP. Not only is it morally wrong tantamount to theft, the expense following an infringement suit can run high. This may seem painfully obvious, but a number of people who infringe do so unknowingly or believe they did not need a license or permission. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Entrepreneurs and startups need to allocate funds wisely; IP litigation is not where you want to be spending your time and resources.

Read More

IP Best Practices: Regular Intellectual Property Audits, Step 8

Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced step seven to maximizing your IP: discovering employee created IP. Please check back every Monday for the next part in this series.

Conducting regular intellectual property audits is integral to a successful IP strategy. A company is comparable to a living organism: if taken care of and provided the right nutrition, it grows. As companies scale, the same policies and compliance procedures that may have worked when the team consisted of a handful of employees, may not work in a larger company.

Read More

IP Best Practices: Discover Employee Created IP, Step 7

Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced step six to managing your IP: well-drafted agreements. Please check back every Monday for the next step in this series.

Intellectual property (IP) is continuously created in all innovative companies so if a proper discovery and disclosure protocol is not in place, employees may disclose IP by mistake. It is important to establish a process by which discovery becomes a regular affair. One of the best way for a business to ensure compliance is to provide incentives for employees to come forth proactively.

Read More

Trademark Infringement Battle of the Comic-Cons

Every July, thousands of pop culture enthusiasts descent on San Diego to take part in what has become the preeminent event in geek culture: San Diego Comic-Con. Fans come looking for merchandise, panel discussions, and the latest news on all their favorite franchises, and entertainment studios are more than willing to oblige in an effort to build excitement for upcoming projects. The name Comic-Con has become synonymous with big stars, bigger films, and internet-melting news. But alleged misuse of the name on the part of another convention has prompted legal action that might determine the course of similarly named events across the country with a trademark infringement battle.

Read More

IP Best Practices: Well-Drafted Agreements, Step 6

Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced step five to managing your IP: limiting access to sensitive information. Please check back every Monday for the next step in this series.

For all those who have absolute faith in humanity, being cautious is not the same as being cynical. Swearing on one’s honor and spit handshaking is all well and good but backing it up with signed documentation is even better. Always make sure you have your employees and clients sign iron clad contractual agreements protecting the interests of the company, especially your intellectual property (IP). I cannot stress this enough. This provides clear and irrefutable proof in case someone infringes your IP (here's a great example of why intellectual property agreements are so important).

Read More

Forbes Update: Should Startups Really Skip Legal Protection?

Last week's Traklight on Forbes series highlighted four fantastic tips on a startup's most valuable assets in her blog titled "Summer Refresher: ABCs Of Intellectual Property." 

Check back every week for more content. Thanks for reading!

In response to the recent New York Times article, "Why More Start-Ups Are Sharing Ideas Without Legal Protection," Mary notes that while it may not be worth your time to convince investors to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), it is very important to get NDA's when working with three other groups of people.

If you are a startup or small business in the fundraising stages, be sure to check out this post for some great tips. Whether or not you're at this stage in your business, Mary does offer one important piece of advice:

"Please remember that enforcing a NDA, like any type of litigation, is a huge distraction for a startup or small business. The pros and cons of both sides must be weighed to make the right decision that’s best for your company."

Read More

IP Best Practices: Limit Access to Sensitive Information, Step 5

Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced step four to managing your IP: code of conduct. Please check back every Monday for the next step in this series.

Some information is best kept limited to certain key employees. The more employees that have access to intellectual property (IP), the higher the probability that such information may be disclosed. This not only reduces the likelihood of leaks but also factors in favor of protecting IP for purposes of trade secrets. We understand that some confidential information has to be shared in order for the business to run, especially in the context of startups where most team members wear multiple hats. But as much discretion can be employed, should. For example, it is unnecessary to discuss the specifics of the venture capital funding your business is receiving to a contractor hired to build your website.

Read More