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Roseville Intellectual Property Law Blog

If a song uses the same chord as another, is that theft?

Have you ever been listening to a song on the radio and thought that it sounded like a song you'd already heard? This is pretty common. You may think that one artist stole the idea or the music from the other.

This topic gets a bit confusing, though, because the reality is that the same four chords are used in a lot of songs. You can even move them around -- by putting a capo on a guitar, for instance -- to change the exact chords that are being used while keeping the same progression. A song that is written a half-step higher may still sound very much like the song that was written a bit lower, as long as that progression is the same.

Name infringement doesn't have to be identical

Before starting your company, you check the local area for other companies with the same name. You want to stand out after all. There aren't any, so you trademark the name and begin doing business.

That name is now yours, and no one else can use it for their company, especially in a similar space. For instance, maybe your company is called "Elite Electricians." There's nothing to stop someone from opening a competing business, but they can't take that name and confuse potential customers -- or benefit from the positive reputation you have built for yourself.

Is a trademark different than a service mark?

Depending on what your company does for consumers, you may need a trademark or a service mark. Most people are familiar with trademarks, which generally include things like:

  • Symbols
  • Designs
  • Words
  • Phrases

These are all part of the company's branding efforts, and they need to be protected to set the company apart from the competition. This makes it clear to the customers from which company they are buying.

What should you know about buying a patent?

A patent holder is someone who maintains the exclusive right to license or manufacture their intervention, business process, chemical formulation or any other type of proprietary intellectual property. If you or your business owns a patent, it can be a valuable commodity. You need to understand the ins and outs of buying intellectual property rights such as a patent to avoid regrets down the road.

Patents often have multiple owners. Each of them has equal rights to manufacture their invention or to sell or license their intellectual property. If you're planning to purchase a patent, then you need to check the records for it to determine if there are any ownership disputes filed against it. You should also prepare yourself to negotiate with all interested parties instead of only one.

3 keys to establishing a trade secret

With a patent, the person or company that holds the patent has to file information that ultimately becomes public knowledge. This is important since people need to know what patented inventions or processes they are not allowed to use without permission.

A trade secret, however, is much different. It is not public knowledge. The whole idea is that only the company knows that secret and they attempt to protect it from theft. They may even go so far as ensuring that almost no one within the company even knows what the secret is.

Photographer sues Volvo over Instagram photos

Not everyone uses their own photos on Instagram. It started as a platform to simply share the pictures you took with your smartphone, but it has evolved into much more than that, especially when considering branding.

Well, that use has caused a lawsuit between a photographer and the car company Volvo. He says that they used some of his pictures without permission.

Know what some of the more common infringement types are

If you create something that others want, you'll always have someone trying to replicate your work. They'll do this in hopes that they too can make some financial proceeds. It's common for someone to infringe upon another person's intellectual property rights by introducing counterfeit products. There are other types of infringements, such as brand abuse, though, as well. It's possible to accuse anyone who may have violated a copyright, patent or trademark of infringement.

Brand abuse may take on many different forms. Someone may attempt to counterfeit or create replicas or knock-offs of items of a product. They may try to list items for sale online under a company's trademark or use an item's design despite not being authorized to do so. An individual or business entity may also engage in piracy or otherwise infringe upon another party's copyright. Some companies may even try to impersonate other brands by setting up websites in their trademarked name or participate in trademark squatting.

Is your character's name copyrighted?

Have you ever met someone with exactly the same name that you have? For those of us with unique names, it's uncommon, but for those with more prevalent and popular names, it does happen. We usually laugh it off.

When it happens to a writer, though, they may feel a bit differently. If they create a character and then someone else writes a book about a character with the same name, they can feel like it dilutes their brand. They may feel like the person simply stole the name. Won't a copyright prevent that?

Can food producers have trade secrets?

When it comes to food, transparency is important. Consumers need to know what they are putting into their bodies, and all food products sold in stores have lists of ingredients and nutritional content. This doesn't prevent people from buying things that are unhealthy or questionable, of course, but they have a right to know exactly what they're buying. The ingredients cannot be kept a secret, as consumers could then be exposed to risks that they don't understand.

This seems to suggest that trade secrets would be hard or even impossible to keep in this industry. If a company has to disclose its ingredients and the information is literally written on every package, how could they possibly keep that information out of the hands of the competition?

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