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Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Blog

Convicted California economic espionage defendant sentenced

A secret loses its mystery once it's told. For businesses, the value of a trade secret depends upon how well confidential information is protected. Trade secret leaks put companies and, ultimately, the nation's economy, at great financial risk and gives competitors an unfair advantage.

California now has the distinction of having the first ever jury trial to convict defendants of economic espionage. In fact, fewer than two dozen people in the U.S. have ever been convicted of the crime since the 1996 passage of the Economic Espionage Act. The defendants, a former California businessman and an ex-DuPont engineer, were found guilty in March.

Music rights claim: Katy Perry song tainted Christian rap tune

Copyright laws protect California authors. Authors include, but are not limited to, the creators of literary works as well as art, television shows, plays, movies and music. Laws cover music rights to a song and recordings of that song.

A work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for an author to exercise the right to file a copyright infringement lawsuit. A songwriter has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, modify and publicly perform a song. People other than an author are allowed to do these things, too, but only with the copyright holder’s permission.

Legislation proposes trade secret civil claims at federal level

The former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office claims some intellectual property legislation is weak. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 is a federal law that criminalizes trade secret violations. The law does not provide for civil actions against parties, like ex-employees who steal former employers' intellectual recipes and use them to compete with theft victims.

Whether businesses can file civil claims over trade secret disputes comes down to a state level. The California Uniform Trade Secrets Act provides civil protections, as long as companies treat trade secrets like true secrets. Clear barriers must be set up to secure business data, whether a secret involves research and development or customer information.

'Redskins' may cost team intellectual property protection

"What's in a name?" has a very different meaning for California fans of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet than it does to U.S. Patent Office officials. However, the question remained the same as the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board considered words identifying a professional football team. This isn't the first time the board stripped the Washington Redskins of its trademarks for using a word increasingly perceived as offensive.

The board's 1999 ruling to cancel the team's federal trademarks was overturned on appeal in 2003 for several reasons, including "insufficient evidence" that the name "Redskins" was disparaging when trademarks were issued. Three years later, a new case with different Native American plaintiffs was filed. This time, the evidence was considerable.

Hershey trademark suit alleges pot shops capitalize on candy

A Los Angeles company does not have to steal a recipe, ingredient for ingredient, to be in legal trouble for selling a product similar to one manufactured by another business. Intellectual property law protections reach far beyond duplicating someone else's product or service. The name of a product and the way it is marketed can violate laws.

A trademark is a product or service identifier and an outward sign that gives a first or lasting impression of the quality of a brand and company. Dilution is a legal term used to describe the "tarnishing" of a business's image in the minds of consumers. The Hershey Company recently filed trademark infringement lawsuits against two companies, one in each of the states where recreational marijuana use is legal.

Infringement litigation leads to $10.7 million power plug award

Los Angeles consumers may not spend a lot time thinking about how everyday products are made as long as they serve their purpose. After all, one light bulb doesn't seem all that different from another. However, for businesses that design and manufacture unglamorous necessities, product differences determine whether or not the company succeeds.

American Power Conversion Corp. has been ordered to pay $10.7 million to a company that makes a certain kind of plugstrips. Plugstrips are those boxy plug-ins used to connect several electrical devices to the same outlet. The California natives who own Server Technology Inc. claimed American Power Conversion copied their work and infringed on two Server patents.

Led Zeppelin's originality disputed in music rights claim

Los Angeles musicians can be caught between a rock and a hard place. An artist wants exposure, especially at a career's inception, but going public with a song also makes the music vulnerable to thieves. Song authors may not realize the music rights they have until someone else capitalizes upon their work.

The rock anthem "Stairway to Heaven" was introduced in 1971. A new copyright infringement lawsuit claims parts of the song were stolen from the work of a band called Spirit, the main attraction on a 1968 tour with a then-little-known opening band called Led Zeppelin. The lawsuit filed by the estate of Spirit's deceased lead guitarist claims Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" sounds a lot like Spirit's song "Taurus."

Midwestern professor sues ex-student for Internet defamation

The quality of a reputation largely depends on an individual's or company's actions.However, a reputation damaged by someone else's comments can come back to bite the author.

Free speech rights give individuals the opportunity to express themselves. False accusations against others, however, can cause unfair reputation damage. A communications professor at a Midwestern university claims a former student crossed the line.

High court: ‘Raging Bull’ copyright infringement suit revived

The people who create the ideas behind movies produced in Los Angeles often don't get the recognition of J.K. Rowling, the author of the wildly-popular Harry Potter fantasy books. Many writers are firmly behind the scenes with other, less-than-affluent artists, while movie production companies and actors are in the forefront. Consequently, big-moneyed studios have a distinct advantage in intellectual property disputes with authors.

The name Frank Petrella probably doesn't ring a bell. It's highly probable you identify with the name Robert DeNiro, the star of the Academy Award winning movie "Raging Bull" and dozens of other movies. The film about boxer Jake LaMotta's life earned DeNiro a best actor Oscar in 1981, the same year Petrella died.

California tech firms attempt to influence defamation ruling

Websites often encourage visitors to post comments, which are sometimes more interesting that the content. The question on the minds of a group of powerful technology companies, including California giants Google and Facebook, is whether website owners can be held liable for posts made by third parties. The technology businesses are so concerned about a federal appellate case underway that they've entered a legal brief to influence the outcome.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin are among the petitioners who want the court to overturn an Internet defamation ruling. The tech group has no direct connection to the case between a former pro-football cheerleader and gossip website, However, since the outcome may impact the companies, the group was permitted to submit a legal brief stating its position.