Every company, but especially startups, looks for a competitive edge to provide an advantage over other companies. Intellectual property (“IP”) rights and the strategy of how to leverage them may separate a startup from other companies.

Because IP can be an essential part of a business and of significant interest to potential investors, startups often enthusiastically disclose their inventions, technology, and other IP when pitching to potential investors or at public events. However, pitching to potential investors or publicly presenting before protecting the IP can have devastating consequences for companies.

We provide below a few of the reasons why companies should consider protecting their IP before disclosing it to the public.


Continue Reading Think Twice Before You Speak – Intellectual Property and Public Disclosure

globe charts graphsCongratulations! You have developed or launched an innovative new product or service, and your business dreams are becoming a reality. It’s all very exciting.  One thing you may not have considered much, however, is whether your innovations or brand are susceptible to infringement in the international context. Will competitors try to make a knock-off product or steal your trade secrets? Are foreign companies going to ship infringing articles to the U.S. market? Protecting your intellectual property (IP) is key. Here are some fundamental suggestions to thwart such threats to your growing business.
Continue Reading International IP Issues for Startups

footballFootball season is upon us again and, with it, the excitement, the thrill of moving the ball forward for a touchdown, and the agony of defeat.  Ups and downs like this are what most start-ups experience. In football, it is important to protect the ball, to play good defense, and to avoid penalties.  Similarly, start-ups need to protect their assets, defend their intellectual property, and avoid incurring unnecessary costs in the future.  Following a few simple “rules” can help your start-up do all of these things.

RULE NO. 1: Stop the rushing game and avoid “illegal formation” penalties. Avoid quick-fix company formation tools you find on the internet.  I know, start-ups hate paying lawyers. (This isn’t unique to start-ups.) You may like your lawyer, enjoy talking to her, appreciate the insights and ideas but, in the end, I know you’d rather not pay me for all of that (why can’t we just be friends, you ask). Why do smart clients nonetheless retain lawyers (like me) knowing full well we have to be paid? Because smart clients, like a good coach, recognize that starting a business is a process and that investment on the front end can lead to considerable savings on the back end.


Continue Reading End Zone Decisions For Startups—Avoid Penalties And Maximize Asset Value

toysRecently, I was at a technology fair with my young son and there were multiple desktop 3D printers that were on display and for sale. One display that caught my eye showed 16 printers stacked together with each one in a different stage of printing. Several of the printers were printing figures of dragons and dinosaurs. My son thought they looked like fun and asked for one for his birthday. I asked him what he would use it for and he said that he would want to print out dinosaur figures, action figures, ships from Star Wars® or missing Lego® pieces. He said that he could make his toys exactly how he wanted his toys to look.

This got me thinking and I wondered if he could actually do it, print toys and figures that are protected by copyrights. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just print that missing Monopoly® piece?


Continue Reading Toys On Demand? A Child’s Best Friend

Court stepsThe Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases with substantial repercussions for certain areas of copyright and patent practice.  Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. may have a significant impact on how companies protect products with ornamental designs that are integrated with useful articles.  In the patent arena, SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC promises to influence patent litigation practices as it concerns whether prejudicial delay (“laches”) may be a defense to legal remedies in patent cases brought within the statute of limitations period.  Amicus briefs on these cases will be due starting in July.
Continue Reading Amicus Briefs Due Soon in Supreme Court Copyright and Patent Cases

Chalkboard-Sports plays-iStock_000009602435SmallThe global eSports market generated US $325 million of revenue in 2015 and is expected to make $463 million in 2016; the global eSports audience in 2015 was 226 million people.

The emergence of eSports from modest online competitions among game enthusiasts to large scale spectator events involving professional competitors has transformed the gaming industry over the course of the last decade.  Understanding and leveraging the myriad of intellectual property (IP) rights and potential issues unique to eSports can be fundamental to developing and sustaining success in this immerging industry.


Continue Reading Leveraging Intellectual Property Rights in eSports can be Critical to Success

spring sunriseIn Part 1 of this blog, I discussed the question of data ownership and data protection obligations in precision agriculture.  More specifically, I noted that all parties along the field to fork chain should give careful consideration to whether farm data likely will be generated at some point in the process and, if so, who is entitled to own or control the data and what data protection obligations exist as a result.  In Part 2, I look at the various types of disputes that can arise if parties fail to reach agreement on key issues before starting work.  Once agreement is reached, these points then need to be documented in a well-drafted contract.  The range of potential disputes that could break out if good contracting is not employed should convince anyone in business in this area to have well-prepared, thorough written agreements in place to govern precision ag-related business dealings.

Continue Reading Agree to Agree: Data Ownership, Protection and Precision Ag (Part 2)

music - nightlife- 78052785Taylor Swift recently filed over 100 U.S. federal trademark applications for song lyrics and other phrases, including THIS SICK BEAT, NICE TO MEET YOU. WHERE YOU BEEN? and COULD SHOW YOU INCREDIBLE THINGS, all filed to cover a range of items from ornaments to dinner ware. Other recent trademark filings of note include filings for LEFT SHARK (filed by a company associated with Katy Perry after her Super Bowl performance) and FAMOUS JAMEIS (apparently filed by an agent for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston).

A self-identified musician/journalist protested Swift’s filings by plastering his own site with the wording “THIS SICK BEAT TM” and calling the filings an “attack on freedom of speech”. The New Yorker magazine even published a spoof with its own list of possible Swift trademarks (our favorites: “I Enjoy Fun” and “Breakups Stink”).

As IP attorneys, we welcome the opportunity to consider what it means to own and register a trademark that is born out of popular culture or a social media trend.


Continue Reading THIS SICK BEAT™, FAMOUS JAMEIS™ and LEFT SHARK™

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we discussed copyright issues for 3D printers. Not all companies have made the decision to jump into the world of 3D printing. Parts 1 and 2 may not have applied to you at all. However, no matter your business, your company may have to deal with a third party printing your company’s product, in violation of your rights.

If a direct competitor has begun printing a product which is clearly in violation of your copyright, enforcement is relatively straight forward. However, the scary (and revolutionary) thing about 3D printers is that anyone can print your product from the comfort of their easy chair. Infringers are no longer restricted to the few businesses that can afford to ramp up large-scale production. How do you handle enforcement if the infringer is a relatively small time start-up? What if the infringer is a fan of your product?


Continue Reading 3D Printing Part 3 – Enforcement of Copyrights Against 3D Printers