• IP BLAWG

    Personal Data Needs a New Safe Harbor Port in the Storm

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/3/15

    Before:Anyone who transferred data containing personal information from Europe to the U.S. was protected from liability for data breaches as long as they complied with Safe Harbor standards created by the European Commission. Thousands of companies "self-certified" themselves as having complied with the Safe Harbor standards. The Event: This month, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued its ruling in Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner that the Safe Harbor is no longer available. The Court cited Edward Snowdon’s surveillance practices as proof that the Safe Harbor standards don’t protect European citizens. After: Anyone who transfers data containing personal information from Europe to the U.S. has to find new ways to protect themselves from liability for data breaches.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Why You Misappropriate a Trade Secret Doesn't Matter

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/27/15

    Utah State Supreme Court’s decision in InnoSys v. Mercer gave a boost to plaintiffs in trade secret misappropriation cases by laying out a presumption of harm. But what’s interesting about this case is that Mercer didn’t use InnoSys’ trade secrets to compete with it. Mercer had been employed by InnoSys. She had signed a non-disclosure agreement. At some point, she e-mailed and downloaded confidential trade secrets to a thumb drive. Mercer disclosed the trade secrets in an administrative unemployment hearing after she was dismissed by InnoSys. She eventually deleted the trade secrets from her storage devices. But according to the Utah State Supreme Court, her misappropriation of the trade secrets had already caused harm to her employer. Bottom line is that Mercer was liable for trade secret misappropriation even though she didn’t use the trade secrets for competitive purposes.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Happy Birthday to All of Us

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/20/15

    We can now sing the Happy Birthday song without paying a royalty. For decades, Warner/Chappell Music Inc. claimed to own, and demanded royalties to use, the lyrics to Happy Birthday song. The royalties ran between $1,500 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The plaintiffs in Good Morning to You Productions Corp. v. Warner/Chappell Music, sued claiming that Warner/Chappell’s copyright in the lyrics was invalid (the melody was already in the public domain). A judge recently ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. The reason for the ruling? It isn’t clear cut. The judge only ruled that Warner/Chappell didn’t have the copyright. Some commentators are saying that the ruling means that the lyrics are in the public domain. Not exactly. There was evidence that the lyrics were written in 1893 which means the copyright had long expired. That means that the 1934 copyright registration could be invalid or forfeited because the lyrics weren’t an original work of authorship. And, there was no evidence that Warner/Chappell’s assignor ever got an assignment from the two sisters who wrote the lyrics. Does that mean that someone else could step up and claim ownership of the copyright? It’s a possibility but they’d have to explain why they’ve been sitting on their rights for decades.

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  • IP BLAWG

    How is Barclay's Brokerage Services Like Edward Scissorhands?

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/13/15

    Barclays Capital Inc. wants to register the trademark “Lehman Brothers” for brokerage services. You may recall that Barclays bought the brokerage services section of the disgraced Lehman Brothers. But Tiger Lily Ventures wants to register Lehman Brokers for wine and spirits. The two companies are now locked in opposition proceedings seeking to cancel each other’s intent to use applications for the same trademark. Most notable are the quotes coming from the Tiger Lily side. Barclay’s bought the name with the brokerage services. But Tiger Lily says that Barclay’s has done everything possible to distance itself from the Lehman Brothers brand; so how can it have an intent to use the trademark? Quoting Tiger Lily’s counsel: “Is Barclays really going to use 'Lehman Brothers' again for banking?” Garson asked. “For us that would make as much sense as using 'Edward Scissorhands' for intimate massage products. The name is just toxic, from a banking perspective.”

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  • IP BLAWG

    Copyright Law Has a Mini-Insurance Policy

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/30/15

    Following up on last week’s Dancing Baby post, it’s worth exploring the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) a little more. Put code here The DMCA can protect websites from claims of copyright infringement. The DMCA protects four categories of Internet service providers: (1) new media services and websites that host servicers; (2) simple conduits that simply pass data; (3) services that cache information temporarily for users; and (4) information location services like search engines. The protection works like this. A website invites users to post content. The user uploads content that violates a third party’s copyright. The third party notifies the website with a “Take Down Notice”. The website has a reasonable time to remove the offending content. If the website removes the offending content, it’s protected from a copyright infringement law suit. In order to get the advantage of DMCA, the website has to register an agent with the Copyright Office.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Dancing Baby Has A Partial Reason To Keep On Groovin'

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/22/15

    Who would have thought that literal and figurative music icon Prince would go after Stephanie Lenz who posted her adorable children dancing to his “Let’s Go Crazy” on YouTube. Well, he did. And litigation ensued. Prince, who is notorious for protecting every facet of his art, sent a takedown notice to YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA"). The DMCA allows a copyright owner to ask that content be removed from a website if he has a "good faith" belief that the use of the work interferes with his copyright. YouTube complied stating that the video infringed. Stephanie sent a counter-notification claiming that the video was not infringing. YouTube reposted the video . Stephanie sued on the basis that YouTube misrepresented in the take down notice that the use was infringing. The case made its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which held that, before sending a takedown notice under the DMCA, the copyright owner’s “good faith” belief requires consideration of fair use. The case now goes back to the trial court. Dance on baby, even though you are probably about 10 years old by now.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Michael Jordan's IP Lessons

    Beverly A. Berneman
    9/8/15

    The great Michael Jordan can teach us all some things about how to exploit our Intellectual Property. Most recently to the tune of $8.9 million. MJ obtained a jury verdict against the now defunct Dominicks food stores for violating his Right to Publicity which is the right to protect one's persona from unauthorized commercial use. Dominicks had placed an ad in a Sports Illustrated magazine that commemorated MJ's career. The ad used MJ's name and image and included a coupon. The court held that the ad went too far into commercial use without MJ's permission. Then the issue of damages was decided by a jury. They didn't give MJ all he asked for. But it's still a lot of money. MJ says he's going to donate any recovery he gets. MJ also has a suit pending against Jewel Food Stores for an ad it placed in the same magazine. We'll see how that goes.

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  • IP BLAWG

    To NDA or Not to NDA

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/3/14

    The New York Times Small Business Blog published an article about the fate of non-disclosure agreements (“NDA”) for emerging and seed companies (Why More Start-Ups Are Sharing Ideas Without Legal Protection, New York Times, July 2, 2014). The article makes it appear that initial stage companies shouldn’t bother with a written NDA. This is dangerous advice. Sharing ideas without some protection could put an entire business model at risk. The article has some good suggestions like (a) make sure you have something to protect and (b) know your audience. But the article also suggests filing a provisional patent. The problem is that not every great idea is patentable. The article also doesn’t cover a critical issue which is how a lack of confidentiality would destroy protection for your trade secret.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Fair Use Doesn’t Mean Every Use

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/2/14

    Two Federal Appellate Courts are duking out whether putting your own spin on someone else’s copyrighted work is enough for a fair use defense. The Copyright Act gives us four factors to look at for fair use: (1) the purpose of the use; (2) the nature of the work; (3) how much of the work is used; and (4) the effect the use has on the market for the original work.

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  • IP BLAWG

    What is the McLikelihood of McConfusion Anyway?

    Beverly A. Berneman
    11/1/14

    McDonalds Corporation won a victory before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) against a food company named McSweet LLC. McSweet wanted to register its name for pickled vegetables. McSweet argued that the mark was a play on the company founder’s name, Leo McIntyre. The TTAB rejected the argument. It held the public is likely to associate “McSweet” with McDonald’s family of “Mc” marks. The TTAB also rejected McSweet’s argument that no one would be confused between fast food and pickles.

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  • IP BLAWG

    Welcome to IP News for Your Business

    Beverly A. Berneman
    10/2/14

    Intellectual Property. Patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, domain name, right of publicity! I know what you’re thinking. What do these things have to do with my business? This blog is going to answer that question. In short bites, I want to let you know what’s going on in the legal world around Intellectual Property. For an Intellectual Property geek like myself, that can be enough. But, I’m going to take it one step further. I’m going to give you a TAKE AWAY that shows how this news helps your protect your business and make it more productive. My posts will be relevant to your business whether your revenues are $500,000 a year or $5 million a year.

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