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Roseville Intellectual Property Law Blog

Comedian claims Conan O'Brien co-opted his quips

Alex K. has been a comedy writer for at least 20 years. Jay Leno has used thousands of his jokes. You may not have heard Alex's name, but he's still in the game. He blogs about humor and sometimes posts dozens of pithy, topical jokes at a time.

It might be tempting for a less-successful comedian to steal some of those jokes. But would it be tempting for writers on a hit comedy show?

Did Uber know the Waymo engineer it hired would bring secrets?

Ride-sharing giant Uber is in the midst of a hard-fought battle to get ahead in the exciting field of autonomous vehicle technology. Unfortunately, a judge has just ruled that it took the contest a bit too far when it hired a former engineer from Waymo, Google/Alphabet, Inc.'s self-driving vehicle unit.

The federal judge in San Francisco unsealed a ruling on Monday that Uber knew or should have known that the engineer was bringing along Waymo's valuable trade secrets. Waymo produced "compelling evidence" that the engineer had downloaded a lot of files just before he left Uber to start his own autonomous vehicle business last year. Uber bought that business and hired the engineer to run its research and development.

A unicorn is supposed to be something you don't see every day

Unicorns are mythical beasts, so they're not just out there walking around, right? Unfortunately, it seems there is one too many unicorns in New York City these days, and a local coffee shop claims it is Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino.

According to Reuters, the owners of a coffee shop called The End Brooklyn and its owner, Montauk Juice Factory, say they created their signature Unicorn Latte last year and began selling it in December. When the drink's popularity took off, Montauk filed a trademark application for it. That application was filed on Jan. 20 of this year.

Should the Register of Copyrights be a presidential appointee?

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1695, the first step toward changing the reporting relationships of the Register of Copyrights. Currently, the Librarian of Congress appoints the Register. Under the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, the Register would become a presidential appointee who would have to be confirmed by Congress.

Bipartisan groups of Representatives support each side of the argument, backed by their industry constituents. The House vote went 378 to 48.

What can I do to protect my business trade secrets?

One challenge of running a business is knowing whether or not it's right to pursue a particular strategy. In the area of intellectual property, California law provides protections for a wide array of things making it hard sometimes to identify how to categorize an asset. Is it a trade secret? Maybe it's something that needs patenting. What's the best way to protect a company's asset value?

What constitutes a trade secret can vary. Generally speaking, a trade secret is any confidential information that gives you a competitive edge in your market. It might be an unpatented invention or process, a prototype design, or any non-public documents that contribute to your operation's success.

Wrangling continues over copyright to 6 unreleased Prince songs

Just before the anniversary of Prince's death, a former colleague thrilled fans by promising to release six new, previously unreleased songs the artist recorded with him. Then, a federal judge issued an order that he refrain from releasing unreleased recordings made by Prince. The former sound engineer responded by posting one of the songs, "Deliverance," online and making it available for download.

It all started when the internationally renowned artist was working with the sound engineer in 2006. The engineer claims that he and Prince agreed to share ownership of the songs -- but Prince's estate claims Prince had "sole and exclusive" ownership of the tracks.

Is Abbott & Costello's 'Who's On First?' protected by copyright?

During his confirmation hearing, Chief Justice John Roberts said that being a judge is like being a baseball umpire calling balls and strikes. He may get the chance to make the call on one of baseball's oldest and most venerated comedy routines, Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?"

It turns out the venerable comedy routine took an unusual route to copyright protection. About 80 years ago, "Who's On First?" was performed on radio, but Abbott and Costello didn't register the copyright or publish the material with a copyright notice, as would have protected them under the Copyright Act of 1909. Instead, they lent part of the routine to the 1940 film "One Night in the Tropics."

ABA IP section asks for less ambiguity in patent eligibility law

The ambiguity of patent eligibility has been a growing issue of concern for many, particularly in the wake of recent rulings by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Among those concerned is the American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL).

In response to a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invitation for public comment on patent matter subject eligibility, the ABA-IPL Section sent a letter to request amendments to Section 101 of the Patent Act.

Fitness equipment company wins $6.8 million in patent lawsuit

Last month, a verdict was rendered in a California-based patent infringement lawsuit. Fitness Anywhere LLC, a San Francisco-based company, filed suit against San Carlos-based company Woss Enterprices LLC, for alleged infringement of three suspension trainer equipment patents.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California tried the case, and found in favor of Fitness Anywhere, finding a willful infringement of all three patents by Woss Enterprises. The court awarded $6.8 million to Fitness Anywhere, which includes $5.75 million in lost profits damages, $820,200 in trademark infringement damages and $191,500 in reasonable royalty damages.

'Stairway to Heaven' copyright infringement case now in appeals

The battle rages on over copyright infringement and the famous Led Zeppelin song "Stairway to Heaven." The case has now been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Last April, the original lawsuit was filed in California federal district court by the estate of Randy Wolfe, guitarist for the 1960s rock band Spirit. The suit alleged that former Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stole the opening riff from their iconic song from a Spirit song called "Taurus." The federal jury ruled in favor of the defendants, stating the songs were not similar enough to constitute copyright infringement. 

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