Beware of Copyright Trolls

Have you ever copied a photograph from a website thinking that the photograph was free to use?  You may have thought this because the photograph did not contain a watermark or copyright notice. Maybe the photograph claimed that it was “royalty free,” and you assumed that meant it was free to use for no charge.  Or, perhaps you were aware that using the photograph was not authorized, but you figured it would never be discovered. These are common mistakes that can prove to be costly.

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New Rule Requires U.S. Counsel to Represent Foreign Trademark Applicants and Registrants

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a new rule that requires foreign trademark applicants and owners to be represented by an attorney licensed in the United States. Under the U.S. counsel rule, codified at 37 C.F.R. § 2.11(a), any trademark applicant or registrant domiciled outside of the United States must retain U.S. counsel to file any document before the USPTO.  This rule change is an effort to combat the unauthorized practice of law as well as the use of fake or suspicious specimens. The rule change was prompted by the USPTO’s examination of foreign trademark applications. In some cases, foreign applicants filed hundreds of trademark applications in their own names.  After reviewing those applications, the USPTO discovered that those applications were, in fact, filed by foreign practitioners.

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Avoid Copyright Infringement

How to Properly Use Music and Images During Worship Service

Churches today use a variety of intellectual property during worship services, such as music, photographs, quotes, and video clips.  These materials can be important to a worship service by increasing engagement, illustrating a point, or adding extra meaning to the service.  However, most materials are protected by copyright laws.

Using intellectual property without the permission of the copyright owner or other legal authority is copyright infringement and can result in significant monetary damages.  Churches need to know the legal issues that apply to using intellectual property so they can take steps to get permission when needed and avoid copyright infringement.    Continue reading “Avoid Copyright Infringement”

Pilot Program Updates Trademark Registrations with New Technology

What do phonograph records, cassette tapes, CDs, and downloadable mp3 files have in common?  They are all products whose trademarks are registered in class 9 (class 9 covers scientific and electronic goods).  They also embody sound recordings on media that are in varying stages of obsolescence.  Forty years ago, a record company may have sold music on phonograph records but today sells them as downloadable mp3 files.  The product, music, is the same – only the format has changed. Continue reading “Pilot Program Updates Trademark Registrations with New Technology”

Copyright Office Announces Requirements for DMCA Protections

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides valuable liability protections for service providers and website operators.  The DMCA protects service providers and website operators from liability for copyright infringement due to content posted by third parties.  To take advantage of the DMCA’s safe harbor protections, website operators must designate an agent to receive notices of claimed copyright infringement (DMCA Agent).  The name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the DMCA Agent must be posted on the website and also submitted to the Copyright Office. Continue reading “Copyright Office Announces Requirements for DMCA Protections”

Understanding Trademarks

Trademarks are valuable assets of businesses and non-profit organizations. A carefully-selected trademark can help a business distinguish itself in the marketplace and create a lasting impression with consumers. Through continual use, trademarks enable businesses and organizations to generate goodwill with the public. This goodwill can become the most valuable asset of the business or organization. Because trademarks are so important, businesses and non-profit organizations should carefully consider which trademarks to use and adequately protect those marks. Continue reading “Understanding Trademarks”

Estate Loses Exclusive Rights to Sherlock Holmes Series

Young and old have been captivated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and stories detailing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his companion, Dr. Watson.[1]After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s death in 1930, dozens of authors added to his work, elaborating on previously established stories, creating entirely new ones, or refashioning them into television shows and movies—but not without entering into a licensing agreement with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate (“Conan Doyle”).[2] Conan Doyle held exclusive rights to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works (collectively called “the Canon”), and any party hoping to use his characters or story elements had to enter into an agreement or risk litigation. Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts eagerly awaited the day when they could use Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and story elements without involving Conan Doyle. However, Conan Doyle continued to guard its copyrights even after many believed they had entered the public domain.[3] One author believed Conan Doyle was overstepping its bounds and sought a declaratory judgment to resolve the uncertainty. Continue reading “Estate Loses Exclusive Rights to Sherlock Holmes Series”

New Top-Level Domains: Opportunity or Headache?

A recent explosion of new domain names could profoundly change the digital marketing strategies of businesses and organizations. The regulatory body that coordinates domain names is known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN). ICANN has approved hundreds of new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) that are starting to become available to the public. Some of the more well-known gTLDs that have been used for many years include .com, .org, or .edu. Examples of new gTLDs that have been approved for release are .blog, .business, .charity, .church, .shop, and .software. Continue reading “New Top-Level Domains: Opportunity or Headache?”

Trademark “Junk Mail” Can Deceive Applicants

Federal trademark applicants should exercise care to protect themselves from purchasing unnecessary or useless trademark-related services.  The addresses of all U.S. trademark applicants are a matter of public record.  Shortly after applying for federal trademark registration most applicants receive unsolicited junk mail, which usually offers “trademark protection” services, domain name registration services, or international trademark registration.  Some of these solicitations offer legitimate services that could be useful to trademark owners.  However, other solicitations are deceptive and are designed to look like they are from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  These solicitations may include logos and terminology that resemble those of the USPTO or other governmental agencies.  In one of the worst examples we have encountered, a piece of junk mail contained the heading “Patent Trademark Register” and claimed to be the “Register of International Patents and Trademarks.”  The junk mail appeared to be an invoice and requested the recipient to pay thousands of dollars in fees within 8 days.  Fortunately, our client sent this piece of junk mail to us and did not pay the amount requested. Continue reading “Trademark “Junk Mail” Can Deceive Applicants”

Protecting Trademark Rights in Foreign Countries

Businesses and non-profit organizations that provide their products or services in at least one foreign country should consider protecting their trademarks in the countries in which they operate.  A U.S. trademark registration will not likely deter others in foreign countries from infringing a trademark if the trademark is not protected in the foreign country.  International law provides several mechanisms to protect trademarks in foreign countries.  Under the Madrid Protocol, a trademark that is registered in a member country may be registered in other member countries by filing one application.  The primary advantage of the Madrid Protocol is that it eliminates the need to retain counsel in the foreign countries, which can save time and costs.  A disadvantage is the limited geographic scope of the Madrid Protocol.  For example, other than the United States, only one other country in North and South America is a member of the Madrid Protocol. Continue reading “Protecting Trademark Rights in Foreign Countries”