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Houston Intellectual Property Law Blog

Can you trademark a sound?

Can you trademark a sound? The answer is yes, although it’s a difficult process.

When trademark law was established, it wasn’t envisioned that sound or colors or smells would be viable trademarks. The law doesn’t say you can trademark these things, but it doesn’t say you can’t.

Screenwriters can use stories in the public domain legally

The entertainment industry can be a difficult place to maneuver. After several decades of storytelling, it may seem as if there is not much more to be explored with completely original content. For this reason, the law allows screenwriters here in Texas and elsewhere to take advantage of stories that exist in the public domain and are no longer guarded by their original owners. The material could come from a variety of sources, including video games, comic books or other literary works, including other screenplays.

Knowing what content may be used without legal ramifications may not be easy to discern, however. Copyright laws do not protect some material. For example, the fact that a particular comet will pass by the earth on a certain date cannot be copyrighted. This type of information and detail may help with a screenplay, but fortunately, this information is not the only type that a screenwriter may use when creating a new work.

Watch for trademark registration and application scams

Many Texas business owners understand and value their intellectual property and take steps to protect it. This may include trademarks, patents and more. At present, a trademark registration or application may not be as protected as one of those business owners hopes due to a scam discovered recently.

On the afternoon of Oct. 19, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sent out an alert regarding an ongoing scheme to take control of trademark registrations and applications. The email notified stakeholders that unauthorized changes are being made by the hackers to active files. The changes are being made through the Trademark Electronic Application System.

New legislation seeks to stop patent trolls

New legislation has been introduced in Congress seeking to reform intellectual property rights. The Restoring American Leadership in Innovation Act of 2018 seeks to restore protections to patent holders by curbing abusive practices used by tech giants and large research and development firms.

These companies evaluate the risk of infringement litigation through a cost benefit analysis lens, weighing the pros of unauthorized use of the patent against the cost of obtaining a license. To the loss of patent holders, big players have decided it is most cost effective to steal the use of technology instead of licensing it. 

What trademarks can do for small businesses

Some small business owners might think that trademarks are only an important issue for large companies. However, it can be critical for business owners, whatever the size of their company, to give careful thought and consideration to the issue of trademarks. This is because effective use of trademarks could help with a variety of key business goals for companies big and small.

Trademarks can include a wide range of things, including slogans, symbols, logos and product names. As a recent Forbes article notes, there are many benefits registering and using trademarks could have for business owners. This includes:

Three Simple Steps To Reduce Cyber Theft

In small and mid-market companies, employees are the greatest source for theft of the confidential information and trade secrets of the company and its vendors. Surprisingly, there are three free or low- cost cyber theft reduction and tracking tools every company should incorporate into its IT infrastructure.

How to take action against trademark infringement

You spent a considerable amount of time working on your business to show it is reputable and respectable. What happens then when you suddenly see that your trademark has been infringed on? A trademark carries the goodwill of your company to your customers that your competitors may want to get in on. If you are wondering if your trademark has been infringed on and what you should do about it, here is some information to know.

Is Your U.S. Trademark Registration Being Audited?

Did you know that a U.S. trademark registration can be audited by the USPTO? Yes, the USPTO conducts random audits of approximately 10% of maintenance and renewal declarations. The audits apply to filings of both regular U.S. trademark registrations and Madrid Protocol International registrations to require additional proof of use of two items of goods or services specifically selected by the USPTO.

European Union Data Privacy Law Requires Urgent Compliance by U.S. Companies

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will become law on May 25, 2018 that is rapidly approaching with multi-billion dollar penalties for violation. It will require significant change to websites of U.S. companies and how they may collect and use personal data derived in Europe. This includes U.S. companies that have operations or vendors in Europe and transmit personal data from employees and vendors to the U.S. for processing and reporting. The penalties for GDPR violations are up to the greater of 4% of the company's global revenue or 20 million Euros are substantial. Now is the time for executives of U.S. companies to take prompt actions to comply before it is too late.

Is Your Photo, Video, Music, Text or Design Copied on a Website or YouTube?

A question I am often asked is how to stop someone from copying original photos, videos, sound recordings, text or designs and posting them on a website or YouTube.

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