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Roseville Intellectual Property Law Blog

What is a 'poor man's copyright?'

Have you heard someone say that they took out a "poor man's copyright?" Have you wondered exactly what they meant and whether or not it is a good idea?

This expression typically refers to the act of mailing yourself something to prove when you created it. For instance, maybe you wrote a novel. You could print off the rough draft at work, pack it into an envelope and mail it to your house. When you get home, you simply take that package -- without opening it -- and put it in your safe.

Nondisclosure agreements: 5 common uses

Employees are often asked to sign nondisclosure agreements when they're hired. In essence, the owners of the company understand that employees need access to certain sensitive information in order to be effective, but they also know that employees come and go. They don't want them to take valuable information that the company holds with them when they leave.

Five common things that nondisclosure agreements protect include:

  • Personal health information for patients, if used in a medical or laboratory setting.
  • Information that may be embarrassing to members of the company, even if it is not illegal -- such as a consensual and yet extramarital affair.
  • Important trade secrets that give the company an edge and perhaps give it the lion's share of its overall value. Examples could be everything from sales leads to recipes in food production.
  • Any information about new developments, from potential investors to new inventions.
  • Sensitive intellectual property that the company has to share with contractors, employees, business partners and others.

The big question in art: homage or plagiarism?

In a lot of cases, plagiarism is clear and may violate a copyright. If someone steals a text entirely and tries to pass it off as their own, that's plagiarism. They stole the content. When you compare the two, they look identical.

In art, the lines can get a bit more blurry. Artists often pay homage to older works as a way of acknowledging their greatness and their influence. However, when do things go too far?

How trade secrets can build a successful company

Trade secrets may very well be the most valuable thing that a company owns. They drive that company's success. They're more important than operational processes or individual employees. They matter more than investors or advertising. They also can define how well a company does and how long it lasts.

Just look at Coca-Cola. The recipe for Coke was created by a pharmacist over 100 years ago. To this day, the company religiously guards that recipe. Even with a company that employs tens of thousands of people all over the world, just a handful of people actually know how the product is made. As a result, Coca-Cola is perhaps the most successful carbonated beverage of all time, driving a multibillion-dollar company.

'Saturday Night Live' accused of plagiarism

In the creative arts, there are few accusations as serious as plagiarism. Stealing someone else's intellectual property and passing it off as your own is not only illegal, but it can damage the reputation of every original work you came up with.

That's what the popular TV program "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) is facing right now. A comedy group operating under the name of Temple Horses says that SNL took some of their older material and used it without their permission, claiming to have written it themselves.

How soon do you need to start a patent infringement lawsuit?

The first year that your new company is in business goes very well. You've created a new product that clearly addresses a problem and meets a need. Consumers are happy to buy it, and you make plans to expand your product line.

Then sales start to drop in your second year. You don't know what's happening. After a little investigating, you find out that someone else has made the same exact product, infringing on your patent. They're selling it for far less after stealing your idea. That's where all of your potential customers are going.

Laugh Factory countersues comedian over alleged scam

You may have heard that a man who won on Laugh Factory claimed they never paid him and decided to sue the company. It's getting even more complicated now, though, as Laugh Factory has turned around and sued the comedian, saying that he tried to run a scam to steal their trade secrets.

The owner of Laugh Factory claims that the man contacted them and said he wanted to spread the brand out in Asia. He specifically wanted to work with them to put clubs in places like Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. He said he had a high-ranking former politician working with him.

UPS says California pot company is infringing on trademark

United Parcel Service (UPS) has filed a trademark infringement complaint in California, contending a marijuana-delivery business is affecting its branding.

UPS is suing United Pot Smokers and two Southern California residents in the case.

How long will a patent last?

A patent grants you the exclusive rights to an invention or a product, and no one else can copy that design as long as you hold the patent. This may seem like a simple concept, but it is critical in the business world, where a company's entire value can be governed by the patents it holds and the ability that gives the company to produce goods for its customer base.

After you get a patent, how long do you have it? Can you count on that exclusivity forever?

Pharma company to pay $155 million in patent infringement case

The pharmaceutical company Takeda may not have expected to acquire a large liability when it bought the drug company Shire. However, the new owner of Shire has been forced to pay $155 million to Bayer over a patent infringement lawsuit.

Bayer initially filed the case against a unit of Shire, Baxalta, in 2016. Now that the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Takeda is the owner of Shire and will be the one to pay the patent infringement verdict related to the "520 patent" now owned by Bayer. They acquired the patent in June 2016.

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