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Roseville Intellectual Property Law Blog

Protecting your artwork: Copyright laws and your rights

As an artist, you know it's going to be hard to protect your work. It doesn't take more than a few minutes for someone to grab a screenshot of your art, enhance it and sell it on their own T-shirts or products.

As a result, you know that putting your work online puts it at risk, but you need to sell your work. How can you protect your art and prevent others from stealing from you? Is it even possible?

Protecting your patent: Knowing how to fight

You went through the long process of obtaining a patent, and you're glad you did. Not more than a few months later, you found someone trying to use something you made; they reproduced your work to try to obtain a profit. The only problem is that you had no idea about the products. They're not of good quality, and it's beginning to affect your business.

Now that you know about the violation, you can begin to take steps to protect yourself. You have an opportunity to file a claim against the business violating your rights.

Understanding trade secret laws

A trade secret includes things such as programs, devices, methods, processes, formulas, patterns and techniques. To meet the definition, you need to use the secret in business and have an economic advantage over your competition because of it.

Courts protect trade secrets in a few ways. If you file a lawsuit for the misuse of your trade secret, then the court can order parties to maintain the secrecy of the trade secret or to pay royalties to the owner of the trade secret. The court may award you reasonable attorney fees, damages and court costs.

Infringement matters: Filing a complaint is vital

You were using the internet, browsing to see what kinds of things people had made recently. It was shocking, but you came across identical photographs and information about a product you created and own the rights to. The company claims to be the designer and sells the product for less.

When another party uses, sells or makes a patented item without the permission of the patent holder, the patent holder obtains the right to sue. The patent holder, you, have a right to ask the other party to stop using your patented item. Additionally, you may sue the unauthorized party in federal court.

When can you get a patent?

The day you finished your invention, you knew you had to protect it. You weren't familiar with trade laws or patents, but you knew it was important to do what you could to keep your idea safe.

The good news is that you're on the right track. Patent laws protect new inventions. They generally protect items that are tangible. However, certain items, like algorithms or genetically modified organisms, may also fall under patent law.

What is the importance of a trademark?

Trademarks are words, phrases or symbols used by individuals or businesses to identify their products and to distinguish them from their competitors. You see trademarks all the time; some familiar trademarks are "Just Do It" for Nike and the apple used on Macintosh (now Apple or roughly referred to as Mac) computers.

Sometimes, trademarks can include colors or packaging, if the product warrants it. For instance, the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle is an identifying feature and is protected by law. Specifically, this kind of feature is known as a "trade dress" and will be protected if consumers identify a manufacturer due to the color or shape specifically. The only catch is that the feature may not provide a functional advantage. If it isn't solely a cosmetic look, then it's not protected under trademark or trade dress law.

Dur-A-Flex lawsuit reaches trial phase

An East Hartford manufacturer who previously won a trade-secret judgment seen as one of the largest in the industry is now looking to do so again with its latest case.

Dur-A-Flex, a company that makes polymer components and flooring systems, has been caught up in a lawsuit against a former employee for years. The lawsuit arose after the company alleged that its trade secrets had been stolen, resulting in the loss of its competitive advantages and market share. It allegedly has lost revenue as a result of the former employee's actions.

Why is trademark law important?

There is little worse than realizing that another company has been using your trademark to promote its copycat products. Your customers have been leaving negative feedback stating that you sold them cheap, dangerous items. The trouble is that those aren't your items and they're not your customers. It's driving your business into the ground.

Trademark law is an important kind of law in America because of situations like yours. It protects those who own marks that distinguish their goods from others' goods from other businesses stealing those marks or using similar marks that could cause confusion. A trademark's purpose is to make sure that consumers can accurately know the source of services and goods when they see a mark instead of having to question if the mark is just similar to the service or goods they want.

How did copyrights develop in the U.S.?

The history of copyright is an interesting thing. It started as long ago as the 1700s, with the first copyright law enacted in America in 1790. Before splitting off from Britain, a similar law, the Statute of Anne, was used. The United States based its first copyright law on this statute, determining that it would protect maps, charts and books for 14 years after their registrations and another 14 after that. It was a limited law that worked at the time.

Over time, copyright laws have changed. In 1831, the laws were expanded to protect maps, charts and books for 28 years at a time instead of 14. Then, throughout the 1800s, the items protected under copyright increased to include historical and other prints, photographs, visual art and dramatic works. Even the right to perform or use musical compositions began to fall under the protection of the government's laws.

Should you patent something you can't make yet?

You have an idea for a new product. You think it will revolutionize the market, and you have not found anything else like it.

Unfortunately, you and your company are not at a place where you can financially get started on production -- at least not yet. You have to focus on your existing products and customers, not some new idea that may or may not pan out. Capital is limited.

Contact Us Today

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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