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Roseville Intellectual Property Law Blog

What exactly is trademark dilution?

If you own a widely-recognized trademark, then the last thing that you'd probably want to happen is for it to be applied to products that don't fit in with your standard offerings or ones that live up to the quality standards that you've set for your business. This could all decrease the value of your trademark and therefore Roseville company's net worth. Trademark dilution is one of many factors that can cause this to happen.

Trademark dilution is a situation in which a well-known brand name and its associated marks are used on goods that don't already belong to the company's product line and that don't compete with its other offerings. An example of this may be a dog leash. The manufacturer of that pet product may be prohibited from using a Corvette logo or other registered branding on it under existing trademark dilution laws.

Want to protect your trade secrets? Here's how to start

Trade secrets -- the information that your company owns and jealously protects from its competitors -- have a lot of value. If you're a business owner today, you'd be very remiss not to take steps to protect your trade secrets. In fact, failing to do so means that you could lose the right to call some of that information a "trade secret" at all.

Whether you, like the Coca-Cola company, keep a secret recipe that's important to your success or you're seeking to protect your business methods, processes and proprietary programs, here are some steps you should take:

  1. Identify what you consider your trade secrets. Don't waste energy or resources on anything that's not truly unique or secret, however, because that weakens your position.
  2. Identify any relevant documents as confidential and label them as such. You want to make files and documents instantly identifiable as private company business.
  3. Restrict access to these pieces of information. If necessary, require documents to be signed in and out. Further secure access by restricting passwords and creating a tiered-entry system to your computers for employees, if needed.
  4. Assess your security needs. You may need nothing more than a locked safe or a secured filing cabinet -- or you may need an armed guard. Badges, code keys and other devices can also increase security and keep out interlopers.
  5. Create a secure atmosphere. This means stressing the importance of protecting trade secrets within the company. Make sure that employees understand the requirements to sign in and out. Limit the access the public has to your facility, workspaces or computers.
  6. Maintain confidentiality agreements with outside parties. Your vendors and independent contractors, for example, need to sign an agreement that will legally require them to protect your trade secrets.

Dilution can weaken a trademark's appeal

The main issue that crops up when someone infringes on a trademark is that they may use it to make sales. For instance, they could use the logo of a famous company to produce knock-off items and sell them for far less. Every sale that they make potentially takes a sale away from the company that owns the trademark. They can potentially lose a lot of income over the issue.

However, there is a much larger issue to consider, as well, which is the weakening of the trademark. This is known as dilution. It impacts the way that the public sees the trademark, and therefore, lowers the value of that mark.

Can you copyright performing arts?

You know that copyrights protect things like novels and photographs. These solid works of art are owned by their creators in most cases, unless that ownership is sold -- in the case of a commissioned work, for instance. But what about the performing arts? Do those get the same protection?

They do. These works, which are meant to be performed for the viewer, still need protection in the same way that any other work of art does. Perhaps the most obvious example is a motion picture. It is a type of performance art, but it is also recorded and distributed in a way that makes illegal copying possible. As such, laws are in place to ensure that this theft and distribution does not happen.

Facebook takes aim at lookalikes

Would you think that a website called "instagrambusinesshelp.com" was related to Instagram? Would you think that "facebook-login.com" was actually part of Facebook? Would you probably assume that "whatsappdownload.site" was connected to WhatsApp?

A lot of people might, which is why Facebook wants to put a halt to the practice. Trying to track down every one of the individual people or companies that registered those names, however, is a big job. In the meantime, Facebook wants to stop new websites that can be used for "phishing, fraud and scams" from popping up. To that end, it's sued a domain name register called Namecheap. Namecheap and its proxy service, Whoisguard, are based in Arizona.

Who owns the copyright on commissioned work?

Generally speaking, a copyright is automatically granted to an artist as soon as they create a work. This could be a painting or a photograph or a song, for instance. Once it has been created, the work is theirs and cannot be used by anyone else without their permission.

But what if someone else commissions the work or pays for it to be made? Does the creator still have the copyright?

When do you get a photo copyright?

The internet is a great place for spreading pictures, art, information and much else, but it also creates a problem. For photographers, for instance, it may mean that their photos get stolen and used without their permission. Many pictures get passed around so much -- all people need to do to save a digital picture is right-click and save it to the computer -- that few people have any idea who the original creator was.

This does not mean you have no rights, though. It's just that things are far more complicated than they used to be, and you may have to do more to protect those rights.

2 legal steps when trade secrets get stolen

Another company steals your trade secrets. Maybe it's a domestic company or an international company that has trade relations with the United States. Either way, they use your trade secrets for their own gain. What can the court do to help you?

Your first concern may be the money you have already lost. They used your secrets to make products and sell them to your potential customers. That's not competition; it's theft. The court can order them to pay royalties to you based on the money earned. This should make up for the financial damage already done to you, which you cannot fix any other way. After all, those consumers already have their products, and you've lost the sales forever.

How long could your trademark last?

A trademark is an important to protect your brand and intellectual property. Do you need to worry that it's going to expire at some point? How long will the trademark last?

While some types of IP protections do run out, e.g., copyrights and patents, the same is not true for trademarks. There's no expiration date. You don't have to worry about using it for a set amount of years and then losing it to someone else.

Why is intellectual property theft getting worse?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) refers to intellectual property crimes as a "growing threat." They note that they devote a lot of resources to stopping it, but it's something that is happening more often and impacting more people. Why does the FBI look at it this way?

The main reason they give is file sharing on the internet, which makes it easier than ever to exchange information. Moving physical files and information is much harder than digital files. Those digital files are convenient for a lot of businesses, but they also mean that data can get stolen and transmitted across the world in mere seconds.

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To protect your valuable idea, contact our lawyers at Costello Law Corporation to set up an initial consultation. We are ready to assist you in any intellectual property issue.

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Roseville, CA 95661

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