The Traklight Blog

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

Mike Willee

Mike is Traklight's Internet Media Coordinator, handling any project thrown his way. No matter how big or small, important or trivial the task might be, give it to Mikey. Before joining Traklight, Mike spent four years in the Navy, where he saw the world; the ocean parts of it, anyway. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Toledo, which is a superior school to Bowling Green State University in every respect. In his spare time, Mike enjoys writing about baseball and complaining about how underrated Joey Votto is to anyone who’ll listen.
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Recent Posts

Fortnite Rolls Out Mute Feature to Combat Copyright Complaints

Copyright in the present day presents any number of questions for the interested observer, not least of which are questions completely unrelated to copyright itself. New technology presents new challenges to both copyright and to the understanding of people who have aged out of the demographic of said tech.

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Hershey Takes Ex-Exec To Court Over Alleged Trade Secret Theft

Gone are the days when people put in their thirty years at a single company and retired with a gold watch and a pension. Mobility is not only necessary, it's the preferred option for many people who hope to rise through the professional ranks more quickly than the old-school approach of waiting your turn and paying your dues. Such movement isn't a problem or most employees with most companies, but in some instances, there are questions of proprietary information that might walk out the door with some key employees without due consideration to protecting it, or even with it.

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Rockstar Wins Summary Judgment in Grand Theft Auto Cheat Copyright Case

Building on top of existing works is a fundamental principle of creation, and one that has its place within precepts of intellectual property. But that idea increasingly seems to run up against a modern interpretation of IP law, and copyright in particular — specifically, the hyper-protective view that many well-heeled creators take in protecting their work. It goes beyond the product itself, particularly in the case of entertainment: don't even mention a film or show or any sort of product in a YouTube review, lest you risk having your videos flagged for infringement. It's IP law as aggressive, a tool of offense, rather than as a defensive measure against misuse, and that theory is being fought over in the courts on a regular basis.

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Netflix Chooses Wrong, Loses Bid to Have $25 Million Copyright Lawsuit Tossed

It's inevitable that artistic works of art reference other works, particularly in our present nostalgia-fueled moments. Usually it's just an homage, but more and more you see things directly referenced, things that evoke a time and place and experience in our lives. And usually it's fine, from a legal perspective; most studios and creators are smart enough to know what they need to license, or the rules regarding fair use. But what happens when a work is built entirely around the precept of another property?

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MLS Loses Initial Argument in Inter Miami Trademark Lawsuit

A fair bit of branding is trying to carve out your own space in the marketplace wheels still hewing close enough to the general themes of the industry to be identified as being of the same ilk. It's maybe not the perfect example, but the one front of mind to me is Dr. Thunder, the soda you see sold at Wal-Mart that's clearly meant to evoke Dr. Pepper. You know what you're getting when you buy Dr. Thunder — something similar in taste to Dr. Pepper — but it's not so close in name as to be actionable. Wal-Mart's version is evocative without being entirely derivative.

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The Sleeper Has Awoken: Dune Takes Aggressive Copyright Approach to Logo Leaks

If there is a theme to be found in this week's blogs, it's that sometimes less is more when it comes to enforcing your copyright. Disney going after what is a rounding error for them from an elementary school is an extreme example, to be sure, but there are other instances of companies taking a hardline approach that, rather than preserving the brand and its value, do some damage in tangible or intangible ways. It is, after all, the case that sometimes free publicity is worth the cost of what you might perceive to be a bit of infringement.

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Disney Backtracks in Lion King Copyright Case Against Elementary School

Big companies don't get big by letting others trample on their intellectual property, nor do they stay big by getting themselves become complacent in that regard once they've climbed to the top of the pile. Big revenue means a big legal department, eager to pursue every possible instance of infringement and justify their considerable billable hours. More often than not it's an arrangement that works out well for the conglomerate in question, but that zeal can occasionally lead to the occasional misstep.

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NFL Goes After Fan Shop With Parody Merch With Trademark Claim

A big part of IP law is the ability for companies to protect their ideas and their brand — the main part, really. And it's important and necessary for such protections to exist, to prevent things like theft and infringement from becoming rampant problems with little or no means or seeking justice and recompense. But we've seen that the power and protection offered to rights holders through the law also enable bad behaviors as well, notably in the case of patent trolls working the system to extort what money they can.

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Instagram Targets Github API copyright

Social media doesn't have the best history when it comes to copyright to this point in its history. The poor record makes a kind of sense: it's hard to govern a platform with tens of millions of users, provided that we believe they even want to regulate behavior, and tech companies in general have struggled to find the right measure of action to take, often swinging wildly between indifference and overreaction based upon the crisis of the moment. These companies want growth at all costs, and problems are often left to grow and fester until such a point that they threaten that growth. All this is to say that social media companies as a whole don't seem to have a coherent ideology on much of anything, let alone copyright and copyright protection.

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Reminder: Use Your Trademarks or Risk Losing Them

"Use it or lose it" isn't a principle we generally associate with ownership — we all have closets filled with unused stuff that nevertheless remains ours for years — but it is one of the hallmarks of trademark law. Whatever your opinion of our current IP laws, it's almost unquestionably a good thing that individuals and companies can file for a trademark only to sit on it, not unlike those domain squatters eyeing an opportunity to capitalize not on a fully-formed idea, but rather happening upon a name likely to be sought out for use. Conversely, there's always the chance that the one messing up your chance at a trademark is yourself.

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YouTube's Copyright Reporting Problems Continue Apace

I've written before about the problems with both the aggressive assertion of copyright and the inability of online platforms to discern legitimate claims from the misuse of reporting tools on offer, with YouTube as the convergence point of these dual phenomena. Invariably the response from these platforms is that their user base is too large and too spread out to offer any effective administrative policing, so the task falls to users to police one another. The problem with this approach comes from the baseline assumption that users can be trusted with these tools and this power; as we've seen in society at large, while the vast majority of people will probably do the right thing, it only takes a few to do wrong and ruin the whole thing for everyone.

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Former Coca-Cola Employee Absconds With Trade Secrets

We don't often talk about trade secrets in this space, because they are by definition secretive and unreported. It's easy to understand and follow stories about trademarks or patents because we can identify what's been infringed upon and how it relates to the products we know and consume. Trade secrets, on the other hand, have to stay vague in what we read of them; companies don't want their proprietary information to disseminate any further than it's already been. You protect your trademarks and patents by declaring them to the world as yours; you protect your trade secrets by telling no one.

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Is Copyright Killing Music?

There's much made of the importance of copyright for creators, and for good reason: without any sort of legal protection or ownership rights, the act of creation itself would be meaningless, with the ultimate profit and benefit for a work ultimately going to whomever has the resources to both exploit it and muscle out the original creator. Why record a song if a more popular artist could simply come along and record their own version or sample your work without permission and reap all the benefits? So goes the thinking for those taking a more strident view about the application and enforcement of copyright, and given how we consider people with a big ideal looking to capitalize on it within the American ethos, there's probably a fair base of support for that position.

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Fitbit Facing Investgation Into Patent Infringement From USITC

Wearable tech has been a fairly recent trend, unless you want to count the calculator watch. And preeminent in that trend has been Fitbit, which offers devices that monitor your activity and your health, should you actually want to know about such things. To those of us less technically-inclined, it seems like magic that a small device can determine our daily steps and our heart-rate and any number of other data points by just sitting on our wrists, but indeed there is substantive technology behind the magic, although if a recent complaint is to be believed, it's not tech that Fitbit has a legal basis for using.

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SCOTUS Hearing Case on Trademark Profits and Willful Intent

It's easy to wonder, given how relatively easy it is to search the respective databases containing registered trademarks, why anyone would thus infringe upon those marks given that they could or should know the error of their ways. One view is that it's a simple oversight on the part of the offender, an honest mistake, a view that is both accurate and somewhat naive at once. The other interpretation is that there is malice aforethought, that the perpetrator intended to infringe upon the mark because there was gain to be had for them, which is also true and also cynical. Whatever the reason, there is profit to be had in violating someone else's trademark, otherwise it wouldn't happen. But the Supreme Court might be looking to change that in the near future.

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Someone Tried to Trademark Breakfast Burritos, Because Of Course

Say what you want about American intellectual property law (and I do), but it certainly lets people try their luck at obtaining just about any sort of mark or patent, even if the application is ultimately rejected. It's undoubtedly someone's notion of the American ideal that ambition in this arena not be bound by common sense or an actual understanding of the law but solely by their willingness to try and get one over on the governmental bodies in charge of intellectual property rights. It's the freedom to try anything you want, no matter how stupid or futile it might be, that is fundamentally American, you might argue. It probably won't work out, but at least you tried.

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European Patent Office Rejects Application From Artificial Intelligence

Questions about the future of intellectual property are seemingly tied to the future of creativity as it relates to technology. We've already seen the USPTO look for input and guidance as to new rules for copyright law regarding works created by artificial intelligence, and the matter will only become more pressing as AI becomes more adept at creating unique works that warrant copyright protection. It's a complicated topic, one that wrestles with questions originated in our science fiction: can machines be said to have consciousness, enough so that their work could rise to the same level of that created by human hands and minds?

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YouTube Rolls Out Updates to Improve Copyright Claims Process

There's been much written about the manifold issues facing YouTube as it comes to copyright complaints — not only the inevitable problem of copyright violation but the manner in which the tools offered to try and address the problem are weaponized by bad-faith actors or overzealous entities in an attempt to simply remove videos and creators from the site, regardless of the merit or severity of the alleged violation. Users compiling enough strikes for copyright violation, as reported by other users, faced the possibility of having their account suspended, and even in cases where the complaint was proven unwarranted, there was still the time and hassle of having to deal with the complaint. It was an outcome as concerning as it was predictable, seemingly another case where tech companies shunting off responsibilities to users simply created a new problem while not fully addressing the old one.

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Cox Faces Staggering $1 Billion Verdict in Copyright Case

Culpability has become has become an ever-more-relevant question in cases of copyright violation, with technology making both the dissemination of creative works and the subsequent violation of creators' rights easier than ever. The ultimate blame in those belongs to those actually perpetrating the acts, but our sense of justice and the system put in place around that notion seeks both to assign some responsibility and punishment to those who might have enabled misdeeds through direct action or negligent inaction. It's something that we see from large corporations, where inaction is often the norm for a variety of reasons, although in light of one recent case, those same companies might feel compelled to get proactive.

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Jetflicks, iStreamItAll Founders Plead Guilty in Copyright Case

The battle for creators against copyright infringement and piracy is long and ongoing, and made all the more difficult by the fact that the adversary is forever changing and shifting; no sooner does one site shut down than multiple more pop up to take its place, like the many-headed hydra that vexed Hercules and Captain America alike. Or perhaps in citing actual history, it might be more apt to say that it's hard to pin down an enemy that can simply slip away once a battle is lost; the operators of a particular site may face their day in court, but users can simply migrate to the replacements that arise.

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