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Roseville Intellectual Property Law Blog

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.

You have a right to protect your trade secrets

A trade secret is any confidential information relating to your business that gives your business an edge on competition. For example, if you have a specific process for developing products at a low cost, you wouldn't want your competitors to discover that. If your competitors did, then you would again have to compete with others who could sell similar items at the same price point.

The unauthorized use of a trade secret by an employee or other who is not the holder of the trade secret is a violation of the trade secret. If an employee leaks a secret, he or she may be in breach of contract or of confidence and could even be accused of commercial espionage. There are many things to consider with a trade secret's leak.

Patents, trademarks and copyrights: What are they?

Intellectual property has, in many ways, become the most valuable commodity that anyone can buy or sell. The more our world evolves technologically, the more important information and ideas become -- and the more important it is to understand what legal means are used to protect those things.

Here are some basics everyone today should know:

California approves trademark applications for cannabis

Cannabis is now legal in California, and Jan. 1, the state began issuing cannabis licenses for adult use to business owners. But when it comes to cannabis businesses, lawmakers still have some work to do regarding trademarks and service marks.

Cannabizfile, a website hosted by the Secretary of State, contained information last year when the website was announced on Dec. 17, 2018, about trademark registration for cannabis. In its FAQ section, the information stated that as of January 2018, cannabis-related trademarks or service marks would be eligible for registration as long as the mark was: 1) being lawfully utilized in California, and 2) it fit the "classification of goods and services adopted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office [USPTO]."

Protecting your uniqueness in a new business

When you are starting a new business in California, there is so much to think about. One thing you will probably have to do is advertise -- which means, you need to know how to present your business. That is why creating your brand or trademark is one of the first steps in your business planning.

You need your business to be unique even if you provide the same type of services as another business. You will probably want a logo, which can be creative or plain, depending on your style. Before building your logo or tagline, you should do your research first to be sure you are not infringing on another business' brand or logo. This will prevent any infringement claims from another company down the road.

Copyright laws when it comes to music and entertainment

Music is not free -- even when it is used only for background music in an office or a restaurant. Many people are not aware that they are infringing upon California copyright laws any time they play a musician's or author's music in a public place. That is why so many restaurant and bar owners are surprised when they receive a letter or call informing them that they owe fees for copyright infringement.

Anytime music is played for the public, a liability for the music is acquired under United States copyright law. This is how musicians, composers and publishers protect their music rights. The liability is called a royalty.

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