The Traklight Blog

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

3 Effective Ways to Safeguard Your Ideas

How to safeguard your ideas or inventions is an important concern for many first time inventors or entrepreneurs. A small business, especially one that is looking to grow, has a lot to consider as they move through the winding roads of business success. Often times, small business owners are concerned about whether or not their innovation or IP can be lost.

While the number of ideas that are legitimately stolen is relatively low, it isn’t an unheard of scenario considering IP theft in the US tops $250 billion annually. Each year, hundreds of cases regarding patent, copyright or trademark infringement are heard in US courts. With this in mind, many business owners might wonder what they can do to protect themselves, especially when a small business is in a delicate growth phrase. We’ve collected three easy ways to safeguard a small business’ innovation.

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What Does Intellectual Property Mean for Small Business?

How is intellectual property defined? Intellectual property (IP) pertains to things you create with your mind, not the ideas themselves, but the expression of the ideas in some form. An idea all by itself in your head, is not IP.

If you created something original, you may have a certain degree of protection against someone else using, claiming, modifying, or selling it. There are four common types of IP: copyrights, patents, trademarks (including design rights), and trade secrets. Every once in a while we like to recap these four intellectual property types and distinguish them for our readers. Enjoy!

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A Video Game Trademark Snafu

For many young people, video games were a huge part of their formative years, and continue to be a hobby in their adult lives. While the more curmudgeonly can debate the merits of kids spending hours on video games, it's hard to deny how much fun they can be. What started for most of us as a reddish blob purported to be a plumber has now developed into ever more lifelike games with entire communities surrounding them. Video games are now a huge industry, with studios spending millions developing some of the largest titles. Given the investment, one company's trademark snafu could force them to restart at the last checkpoint.

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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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How to Acquire Secondary Meaning for Your Trademark

Trademarks that aren't inherently distinctive, like descriptive trademarks, must have secondary meaning to be protected under US Intellectual Property Laws. Secondary meaning occurs when the particular trademark transcends public awareness such that people, in general, don't associate it with the product category, but with the actual specific company/brand. For example, most people associate Apple with the specific company rather than with computers in general.

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Bat Your Lashes at this DC Comics Trademark Infringement Case

World football is steeped in history, tradition, and culture unlike that of any other sport. Tradition is why West Ham fans are forever blowing bubbles and Liverpool supporters never walk alone. Part of that great tradition is a club's crest, passed down across decades and forever affixed upon the team's shirts amidst ever-changing kit sponsors. And while there are countless great and unique crests across the world, one team's design has landed it in a tussle with the Caped Crusader.

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Star Wars Director is After a Beer Brewery in Trademark Suit

If you were anything like me as a child, you had an unyielding love of the Star Wars films. From the wreched hive of scum and villainy that was Mos Eisley to a floating outpost called Cloud City, the films presented a world unlike anything I had ever seen. Perhaps most important to its longevity, it created an entire universe ready to be filled with stories of heroes and villains and rogues and every dramatic possibility that might ensue. And in the 35+ years since A New Hope landed in theaters, Star Wars has grown from a single movie to an entire industry, with numerous books, video games, and TV series building on the far,far away galaxy George Lucas created. Given the moneymaking potential inherent in putting the Star Wars name on a product, the desire to protect the brand is understandable, which is why Luke and Leia's parent company finds a recent trademark filing disturbing.

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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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3 Reasons Why You Should Protect Your Intellectual Property

You've heard people talk about intangible assets and why it's important to protect your intellectual property (IP), as well as why you should protect it from the time you have the idea (not after you get into business). Have you ever asked yourself, "So what? Why is it important to me as a small business owner?"

Here are some examples of recent cases and how protecting their IP helped them make a case for what was originally theirs:

If I still haven't gotten your attention, here are three reasons why you should consider securing that IP:

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Add Trademarks to the "Trill" List

College football is one of America’s most popular sports, and it affords the young men who play it the opportunity to become household names before they even reach the legal drinking age. From the greats of yesteryear like Archie Griffin, Herchel Walker, and Doug Flutie, to more recent icons like Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel, the game affords these nascent stars a brief moment to burnish a legacy that will live as long as their respective universities field a football team. Given the fleeting nature of college athletics (and college in general), and the particularly short shelf lives of football players, it would seem the logical step for any high-profile athlete to try and cash in on that stardom, which is exactly what one young quarterback seems poised to do.

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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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TwitPic Learns a Trademark Lesson the Hard Way

For social media fans, Twitter is a great tool for staying informed on the latest news, sharing your personal adventures with your followers, or getting in fights with strangers (maybe that last part isn’t so great). And because Twitter has become a huge platform, with 271 million active monthly users, third parties are quick to integrate themselves with the site to try and take advantage of the huge market it offers. Just about every blog and news site you’ll read offers you the ability to post a story to your Twitter feed. Sites like Bit.ly offer link-shortening services so that you can share without running into the 140-character limit, and platforms like Instagram and Vine allow you to share what you’ve uploaded with them to your Twitter account. Unfortunately, due to a trademark scuffle, that list of apps will drop by one by the end of this month.

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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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Trademark Infringement on the Big Screen?

The world of comic books is a fanciful place, featuring heroes and villains that can seem wholly unrealistic but nevertheless fun. Indeed, if recent box office returns are any indication, our appetite for movies based on those characters have never been higher. Our summers for years to come would appear to be stocked with films that will take us to realms of men of iron, women of wonder, and delightful dancing trees. But one software company tried to claim there’s a bit too much reality in one of our most iconic hero’s films, to no avail.

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