The Traklight Blog

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

A True Crowdfunder's Nightmare: The Importance of Safe Crowdfunding

To say that entrepreneurs work hard on their business is an understatement. They pour untold hours into their work, whether it's getting their venture off the ground or reaching for that next rung on the ladder of success. It would be fair to say that for most, it is their life's passion. Given that level of commitment, there are likely no more frightening, wake-up-in-a-cold-sweat scenarios about the theft of your idea. Unfortunately for one entrepreneur, she was forced to live that nightmare.

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To License or Assign? An Intellectual Property Conundrum

As a small business owner with intellectual property (IP), you have to leverage your assets to work for you. We have talked a number of times about the importance of protecting your IP and the necessary steps to achieve that end. The next step involves making the IP generate capital in more ways than just product sales. You may at times need to enter into an agreement with a third party with respect to that intellectual property. There are a number of different types of agreements that affect IP.

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Brand Recognition: The Intangible Asset Supporting Your Business

Paramount to the success of any business is its brand, and thus brand recognition. You can have the best product, the brightest employees, and the most upscale offices or stores, but all of that is for naught if no one knows who you are. The most successful companies are able to build their brands to become synonymous with either a service or product so that people know reflexively what they do. But what if a company lost that brand? How readily would we be able to recognize it without the name, logo, or colors we've come to associate with it? Unfortunately for one Romanian football side, they may learn exactly what that experience is like.

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A Brief History of Early IP Law

By now, you've certainly heard the terms 'intellectual property' and 'IP' bandied about. We live in a time of creative wonder, where anyone with a great idea and access to technology has the potential to disrupt the market. In such a world intellectual property carries more weight than its tangible counterparts. But does everyone understand how the concept and terms originated? Do you? There is a long and fascinating history behind the copyrighting of human creations. Here are a few things you might not already know about IP law.

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What Types of Inventions Are Patentable?

This guest blog was written by patent attorney David Stein of Cooper Legal Group, a firm that specializes in providing a range of intellectual property services to clients in high-tech industries. David resides in Fairfax, VA, and frequently visits the patent office to conduct examiner interviews in furtherance of patent prosecution. David’s practice focuses on patent procurement for computing technologies, including software and electrical and computer engineering.

When individuals and companies develop valuable ideas, their first question is: "Can I patent this?"

Patents generally involve concepts that are functional and useful. Artistic works, such as books, music, and videos, are typically not patentable (but are likely protected by copyright); and other types of information, such as proprietary data, can be protected by trade secrets.

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Your Wireless Carrier is Indebted to a U of M Professor's Innovation

Our nation's universities are on the forefront of research and innovation. Brimming with clever, inquisitive minds and endowed with support from generous alumni, college researchers and academics are able to make advances in science, medicine, and even the paranormal. Personally, I don't recall my own college years being filled with an abundance of good ideas, but the results speak for themselves. And one university is taking legal action to ensure their innovations aren't infringed upon.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?”:

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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