Trade Secrets and IP: What you should know

Intellectual property may be protected in a variety of ways. New inventions may be covered by a patent while your company’s name and logo may be protected with a trademark registration. If your company publishes brochures, then these are covered with a copyright.

However, what if your company has something that they would like to protect, but keep secret? Several famous examples of “trade secrets” exist. These include Kentucky Fried Chicken’s 11 herbs and spices, the secret formula for making Coca-Cola and the search algorithm that Google uses.

Why didn’t these companies decide to patent or otherwise protect their IP via the various mechanisms that are available under U.S. law?

It’s because they wanted to keep their “secret ingredient” a secret. When you file a patent application, for example, it is essential that you disclose everything about the invention so that the United States Patent and Trademark Office can establish that it is non-obvious, novel and eligible for patent protection.

This means that any proprietary information that goes into your invention will eventually become public knowledge. When your patent expires, your technology becomes available for others to use.

However, when you protect something as a trade secret, then you have the potential to keep it a secret in perpetuity.

What Can You Protect with a Trade Secret?

Trade secrets can protect an array of things, from an ingenious idea that gives your firm a competitive edge to the marketing plans for your newest product. Similarly, customer lists can be protected as trade secrets as well as information regarding prices and costs.

Some companies even protect negative know-how as a trade secret. This basically refers to anything that they have learned to not do through extensive research and development. Sometimes, this information is just as valuable as the ingredients that successfully make up your secret.

Essentially, a trade secret can be almost any information that is valuable to your company and generally isn’t known to the rest of the world, especially your competition.

What Rights Does a Trade Secret Grant?

If a company chooses to keep some information as a trade secret, then they have the right to prevent certain people from using or benefiting from that trade secret.

Some of these people are automatically bound by a strict duty of confidentiality. This applies to any employees who work with or are knowledgeable about the trade secret.

Trade secrets also give you legal protections in the event that your proprietary information is illegally obtained via bribery or theft. A company with a trade secret further can prevent people who accidentally discover the secret information from profiting from it as well as those who are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before the confidential information is shared with them.

However, a trade secret does not grant a company any rights if another party independently discovers the trade secret. As an example, there is no law that prevents someone from reverse engineering a product that is only protected as a trade secret. This means that theoretically someone could analyze the formula used to make Coca-Cola, discover its precise ingredients and then start making and selling their own version of Coca-Cola. Because Coca-Cola’s formula is only protected as a trade secret, they would have a lot of difficulty stopping the inventor from profiting from his knowledge.

How Does a Company Protect a Trade Secret?

Businesses have to do more than just call a certain piece of information a trade secret. Instead, it is necessary to take affirmative actions that will protect this information and keep it confidential. Many companies will take extreme measures to keep their information strictly private.

This is the case with the makers of Coca-Cola, as the formula is locked in a bank vault that is only able to be opened after a resolution is passed by the board of directors. Only two company employees are ever allowed to know the formula at the same time. These employees are forbidden from flying on the same airplane, and their identities are never made known to the public.

Most companies do not have to go to such extreme lengths to protect their trade secrets. A few reasonable precautions generally are all that is required.

For instance, it is wise to mark any documents with “Confidential” if they contain any trade secret information. All trade secret materials probably should be locked away in a safe or other secure area after hours. Another sensible measure is to beef up any computer security protocols to ensure that hackers and other bad actors can’t gain access to sensitive information.

If you do have trade secrets, then you’ll probably want to limit how many people actually have access to that information. Ensure that your employees are bound by a duty of confidentiality, preferably with a written document, and do the same with anyone who is not an employee but who must be told about the trade secret for any reason. A proper non-disclosure agreement is a simple document that can help to protect proprietary information under just about any circumstances.

Talk to a Lawyer About Protecting Trade Secrets

If you have proprietary information that you believe would be best protected by keeping it as a trade secret, then contact the Law Offices of Jeff Williams. Mr. Williams is an experienced intellectual property attorney who can help you to understand your rights and devise a strategy for protecting proprietary information.

Patent Trolls Exist

If you have a patent or are considering securing patent protection for a new invention, then one of the things that you need to be aware of is patent trolls.

What is a patent troll? How can they affect you and your patent rights? Inventors with these and other questions are encouraged to schedule a consultation with a Texas patent attorney to discuss pursuing a patent and protecting their rights.

What Are Patent Trolls?

You may hear patent trolls referred to as “non-practicing entities,” or NPEs. A patent troll is an individual or entity that uses legal means to enforce patent rights against individuals or entities that they claim are infringing their patent rights. The troll is trying to collect licensing fees on the patents they own, but trolls don’t build, make or sell anything. Their practice is to obtain or buy patents and then demand that any companies using related technology pay them fees. Accordingly, you could see the work of the patent troll as a form of legalized extortion.

Because of patent troll activity, manufacturers and inventors end up wasting all sorts of time and money defending their rights in patent infringement lawsuits. Sometimes, they conclude that it just makes sense to pay licensing fees to the patent troll rather than fight them.

What Do Patent Trolls Do?

An ordinary company that holds one or more patents usually spends their time and resources manufacturing a product or offering a service. They also likely perform research, looking for new applications and new technology.

Things are really different at an NPE. They spend virtually all of their time and resources in protecting their patent portfolio. However, they are not doing so in order to prevent others from profiting from their exclusive technology that they are using on a product or service. They don’t offer products or services at all. They are only monitoring the marketplace for any technology that might infringe one of their patents. Patent applications that are published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are a great place for patent trolls to look for emerging technology.

That’s because patent trolls prefer to exploit new or otherwise vulnerable companies or individuals who don’t have much in the way of resources to defend themselves. The patent troll is hoping for an early, easy victory that will give them a settlement and probably even induce other companies to do the same.

Because patent trolls do not make, sell or import anything, they are not vulnerable to a counter-assertion that they are actually infringing on the other company’s technology. Patent litigation already is costly and complicated. Without the ability to make this counter-assertion, it can be almost impossible for the patent troll’s victim to prevail.

Patent Trolls in Action

Here’s one example of how patent trolls work. A company called Lodsys is an obvious NPE. They don’t make or sell anything. However, they do engage in lawsuit after lawsuit, each one alleging patent infringement by another entity.

Lodsys appears to specialize in exploiting small app developers. They see a new app come on the market, and they quickly move in with a lawsuit, claiming that the in-app purchasing technology used in the app infringes on one or more of Lodsys’ patents. Both Apple and Google are trying to intervene in some of these lawsuits, but these will take years to resolve.

Consider also the many lawsuits that have been filed by Shipping & Transit LLC. In 2016, this company filed more patent lawsuits in the U.S. than any other. They sue 100 or more small companies each year, claiming that the technology that allows these companies to send tracking numbers to customers is exclusively owned by them via patents that they hold. Many overwhelmed small companies don’t even know how to begin protecting themselves or fighting back.

Mistakes to Avoid

Patent trolls usually make themselves known through a demand or cease-and-desist letter. The worst thing that the recipient of that letter can do is to ignore it. The better choice by far is to consult with a patent attorney so that an appropriate response can be made. Choosing not to respond only strengthens the patent troll’s case down the road.

Plus, if the patent troll receives a strongly worded, immediate response from an attorney, they are likely to just drop their demand. That’s because patent trolls prefer an easier route to collect money. If they encounter swift, decisive resistance, they’ll go looking for victims who are not defending themselves as well.

Can You Protect Yourself Against Patent Trolls?

Patent trolls always bet that their victims won’t know how to react to a demand letter. All too often, people simply throw these letters away, figuring that they are junk mail. Consulting with a Texas patent attorney is the smarter option.

If you are considering entering into a licensing agreement with any entity or individual, proceed with caution. Have a trusted intellectual property lawyer review the terms of the licensing agreement to ensure that it is fair, balanced and appropriate.

Contact the Jeff Williams Law Office today to find out more about how to protect yourself from patent trolls.

Why Intellectual Property Should be Protected

Patent Protection

Holding a patent gives you the right to pursue legal remedies if you see that a competitor is using your invention on their products. That’s because a patent gives the owner the right to exclude everyone else from selling, using or making goods or services that contain the claimed invention. It is possible for the patent owner to license the technology that is covered by the patent to anyone that they choose, but sometimes people use protected technology without asking permission.

Patent owners are entitled to stop this use of their invention through a legal injunction obtained in federal court. Under the law, the owner can collect damages for this unlicensed use, and if it can be proven that the infringer used this technology willfully and knowingly, then the owner can recover up to three times the actual amount of damages suffered.

Patent Infringement

Unfortunately, patent infringement litigation can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. This is why it is always sensible to consult with a patent attorney to explore the options for proceeding. Typically, an infringement lawsuit is a final step after all other efforts have failed. Even then, litigation is not always warranted if the economic harm is relatively small compared to the cost of a court battle.

All that may be required is a stern but friendly letter attaching a copy of the patent, explaining that the competitor is unlawfully using technology that’s protected by a patent. When the letter comes from an attorney, it usually carries more heft, and with a copy of the patent attached, the infringer is put on notice. Any further use of that technology will be knowing and willful.

If someone is trying to sell a knock-off product with a logo or brand name that is confusingly similar to yours, then a registered trademark affords you a variety of legal protections. Discovering that your trademark is being used by another, unauthorized person can be infuriating. While having a federally registered trademark does give you the right to sue in this situation, it generally is sensible to start with a cease-and-desist letter.

Much like patent infringement, it is always advisable to have such a letter sent by a qualified intellectual property attorney. This demand letter clearly states the issue and how it is having a detrimental effect on the owner of the trademark rights.

It is a possibility that the infringer genuinely did not know about the trademark owner’s rights. In this case, they may quickly respond with a promise to not use the mark any longer.

On the other hand, it’s possible that the infringer absolutely knows about your trademark rights and was seeking to benefit from the goodwill that you have worked hard to build with the public.

Whether the infringement was intentional or not, the letter will establish a short deadline by which the infringer must stop all use of the mark. Typically, the letter also will state consequences that will ensue if the infringement continues. This may be kept vague with language suggesting that the trademark owner will “explore all legal remedies.”

If the infringer does not immediately respond or promise to discontinue use, then it may be possible to enter into a series of letters or negotiations that seek to resolve the situation amicably. Should these efforts fail, then your trademark attorney can file a trademark infringement lawsuit.

Infringement Lawsuits

These lawsuits may be filed on the basis of a likelihood of confusion. Basically, trademark law is aimed at protecting consumers. Trademarks are meant to help members of the public readily and correctly identify the origin of the products they are purchasing. A confusingly similar mark muddies the water, perhaps leading consumers to purchase an item that they believe is the genuine article while it is actually a knock-off.

Trademark infringement lawsuits also may be filed on the basis of tarnishment or dilution of the mark. If you have a famous and well-respected mark, then use by a cut-rate competitor on inferior goods can have a negative effect on your reputation. The result is loss of profits, and this can be extremely harmful to your business. However, when you work with an intellectual property attorney, you can protect your trademark rights.

Copyright Protection

The same is true with copyrights. You can prevent other people from using your protected material when you have obtained an official copyright registration. Much like the remedies available for patent and trademark infringement, you do have the option to sue if your copyright is infringed. Once again, this usually is not the first step to take as litigation is always risky and expensive.

While you are not required to register your creation with the copyright office, doing so does give you the presumption of ownership, which can be powerful in any dispute. Moreover, registration of copyrighted materials entitles the plaintiff to collect statutory copyright damages. This means that if you do prevail in court, you could be awarded significant damages.

However, the smart first step is to engage an intellectual property attorney to send a cease-and-desist letter to the infringer. When they are written on law firm stationery, such letters can be incredibly effective. Accordingly, this is the least stressful and most cost-effective way to deal with the situation.

Contact Williams IP Law to learn more about how you can protect your business by protecting your intellectual property. Obtaining protection via patents, trademarks and copyrights will help you to hold on to your ideas and grow your business.

Fair Use Vs. Intellectual Property

Fair Use

An individual or entity may accordingly use copyrighted material without first obtaining the permission of the owner of the copyright. This means that fair use is an affirmative defense that may be used if an owner makes a claim of infringement.

It also is possible to claim fair use if the new work is somehow transformative. Defining “transformative” in this sense is immensely difficult. In fact, many copyright owners and alleged infringers have gone to court over just what “transformative” use really means.

The answer is that hard-and-fast rules on this topic do not exist. Related court decisions over the years have been varied, and although it seems confusing, this actually demonstrates that the concept of transformative use actually works.

The various lawmakers and judges who took part in drafting the fair use exceptions were deliberately vague on this point because they didn’t want to place unnecessary limits on the definition. Effectively, they wanted it to be open to interpretation and to be defined expansively, much as free speech is.

Fair use doctrine frequently is relied upon to defend commentary and criticism. Whether you are the movie or book reviewer for your local newspaper or have a YouTube channel on which you critique the latest pop album releases, you generally have the right to reproduce some portion of the work that you are reviewing.

The same is true when a news anchor or a reporter provides quotes and a summary of a new medical study. This is considered fair use because the protected material is being used for commentary and criticism purposes.

What makes this type of use acceptable under the law is that the public could reap benefits from reading or listening to the critic’s or reporter’s insights. The review or report is enhanced through the inclusion of some of the copyrighted material.

Fair use also makes it permissible to create parodies. Of course, what actually qualifies as a parody may be up to the discretion of a judge if the creator of the copyrighted material doesn’t agree that the new work is merely a humorous expression of literary criticism or social commentary.

Case Examples

Consider some examples to see how differently things can be viewed by the courts. In one case, Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., famed photographer Annie Leibovitz took exception to a parody of the photograph that she took of a naked, pregnant Demi Moore. Leibovitz’s work appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair and caused a sensation at the time. Later, Paramount Pictures published a send-up of the photo showing the head of actor Leslie Nielsen digitally grafted onto the body of a pregnant, naked woman. The pose and lighting were similar to those in Leibovitz’s photo.

In this case, the court decided that the picture by Paramount was clearly parodic in nature.

That was not the case when a court decided Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. vs. Penguin Books USA, Inc. Penguin had published a Dr. Seuss-style book that they claimed was a parody of the O.J. Simpson murders. It was entitled, “The Cat NOT in the Hat!” and was purportedly authored by Dr. Juice. The judge found that this book was not a parody and made a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Clearly, not everyone agrees on what constitutes fair use.


Intellectual Property

When determining the purpose and character of the use of the copyrighted material, the court will look at whether the use was commercial or non-commercial. Use that is commercial is less likely to be deemed fair use, but if it is non-commercial, then there is a much better chance that the court may see it as fair use.

Courts also look at the nature of the copyrighted work. Specifically, the judge will examine whether the underlying work can be considered as more factual or more creative. When the copyrighted work is more imaginative or creative, then it is less likely that someone else’s use will be considered fair use. Another critical consideration is whether or not the copyrighted work has been published. It would be very difficult to claim fair use that is based on an unpublished work.

The court will look at how much of the copyrighted material is used in the new work as well. Suppose that the new work uses only small amounts of the copyrighted work, like a quote from a novel or a still image from a film. Such relatively limited use of the copyrighted material is unlikely to be considered infringing. On the other hand, if the new work uses a significant amount of the original work, then the court may decide in favor of infringement.

To demonstrate just how subjective this determination is, it is worth noting that the judge additionally considers whether or not the portion of the copyrighted material that was used was the “heart” of the original work. If the judge feels that the borrowed portion was the heart of the original piece, then using even a small amount of it may be considered infringing.

Determining fair use also may depend upon the effect of the new work on the market. Essentially, the court must decide whether or not the activities of the defendant may cause harm to the market as well as whether or not the new use may harm potential markets that the owner of the copyrighted material might exploit. If the court determines that the use may harm the owner’s current and potential markets, then the judge is likely to conclude that the use was infringing.

Most Counterfeit Categories

Products Most Likely to be Counterfeited

  • Have you ever been tempted by a Rolex with a price that seemed too good to be true?
  • What about a Coach handbag with an unbelievable price tag?

With the proliferation of websites that empower third-party sellers, it has become increasingly common to see counterfeit goods flooding the marketplace.

Unfortunately, counterfeit products are more harmful than most people realize. When people choose to purchase a knock-off as opposed to the real thing, then American businesses are hurt through the loss of considerable revenue. Moreover, consumers run the risk of being injured by inferior and faulty electronic parts and other unsafe goods.

If you are an inventor or manufacturer, then you may already be aware of the dangers posed by counterfeit goods. If you are a consumer, then it pays for you to be informed with regard to the product categories in which you are most likely to be enticed by seemingly attractive dupes.

Handbags and Wallets

Upscale handbag and wallet brands such as Hermes and Coach have been plagued by counterfeits for years. Today, these knock-offs are mostly sold online. However, this business used to be conducted by New York City’s Canal Street manufacturers.

For the most part, it’s easy to spot knock-offs when it comes to brands like Fendi, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, but Hermes is different. While most counterfeits are poorly constructed and easy to spot, there was a conspiracy among Hermes employees to sell carefully made handbags that were almost indiscernible from the genuine article. Fortunately, this lucrative scheme has been terminated by authorities.

Apple Accessories

Everything from power adaptors to chargers is liable to be counterfeit. Back in 2016, Apple began warning consumers about the hazards represented by power adaptors that appeared to be genuine but were not. These products were spread across eBay and Amazon, and Apple ultimately sued a company known as Mobile Star after determining that they were selling bogus power adaptors. Unfortunately, Mobile Star was not the only bad actor.

Fake chargers also are widely available on the marketplace. The 2018 seizure of a shipment of knock-off Apple chargers in New York revealed that the bogus electronic equipment had a 99-percent failure rate. Additionally, improper insulation and faulty construction meant that these devices were a serious fire risk and put people in danger of electrocution.

Anything Disney

For years now, Disney has been given massive headaches by Chinese manufacturers. The good news for Disney is that they are a powerful and wealthy enterprise. This means that they are better endowed than most companies to fight the fakes being produced in China.

The Chinese government is trying to put the brakes on manufacturers of fakes too. They launched a special initiative in 2016 to help stem the tide of fake Disney merchandise. The effort paid off, but there are so many other traffickers in fake Disney goods that it ultimately did not solve the problem.

Jewelry

From Rolex to Cartier, knock-offs are a huge problem in the jewelry business. In fact, Rolex counterfeiters have gotten so good that TechCrunch began referring to them as superfakes. These knock-offs were so good that it was even difficult for experts to tell the difference between them and the real thing.

Similar problems have occurred with the famous Cartier Love bracelets. Cartier is itself one of the most frequently counterfeited brands, and there is a proliferation of websites on which Cartier dupes are sold.

In particular, the Love bracelet is a favorite among knock-off artists. While the real thing is quite heavy and expertly crafted, fakes are lightweight and the shoddy craftsmanship shows.

Shoes

When it comes to shoes, athletic brands like Nike Air Jordans and super fashionable items like Yeezy’s are the most likely to be counterfeited.

Experts believe that Nike is probably the most faked brand in the world, with the Air Jordan line representing the most lucrative possibilities.

While Amazon is the most likely place to find counterfeit shoes, Instagram’s Checkout feature gave rise to a flood of dupes of Yeezy’s by Kanye West. The popular sneakers are among the favorite counterfeit items on the platform.

What Is Amazon Doing?

Amazon is one of the largest online purveyors of counterfeit goods thanks to its inclusion of third-party sellers. This is forcing the retail giant to enact measures to combat the counterfeiters.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced the establishment of a Counterfeit Crime Unit that was tasked with fighting the millions of counterfeit listings that the website publishes each year.

The Crime Unit is being asked to identify wrongdoers and bring legal action against them. This is done with the hope of preventing further fakes from making it to the site in the future.

In order for the effort to succeed, it’s essential that brands and consumers offer their full cooperation.

Concerned About Counterfeits?

Are you an inventor or manufacturer who is worried about knock-offs? If so, then schedule a consultation with Williams IP Law to explore your options for fighting back.

What is the right of publicity?

Have you ever seen Tony Romo in a Gatorade ad? How about George Clooney in a commercial for Nespresso?

If so, then you can bet that these uses of a celebrity’s face and personality were negotiated, and that the celebrity received a large payday. Many companies in a swath of industries are willing to pay big bucks to get the right celebrity to endorse their product.

However, have you ever wondered what happens when someone uses a photo of a celebrity to sell a product without that individual’s permission? If this happens, then the wronged celebrity may be able to bring legal action against the company. This is when a little-known legal principal called the right of publicity comes into play.

What is the right of publicity? Does it apply only to famous folks or could you have a claim if someone uses your likeness without your permission?

The answers can be complicated. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is the Right of Publicity?

The right of publicity refers to the individual’s right to have control over the commercial exploitation of their persona or name. Most frequently, this principal is associated with famous people because it’s most often their personas that are used to promote products.

The right of publicity only covers commercial exploitation. If a newspaper or magazine wants to print an article and photograph about a celebrity, this doesn’t fall under the right of publicity. This is why gossip magazines and websites can exist. Of course, people who become the subjects of untruthful or misleading articles in these media have the right to sue for defamation.

Essentially, if a person’s likeness is used for public interest, information or news, this is a permissible use and is not a violation of the right of publicity.

While the right of publicity is most often associated with celebrities, it can apply to a private citizen. As an example, imagine that your picture was snapped without your knowledge while you were drinking a bottle of a famous brand of soda. If the soda company used your photo to promote their product without your permission, they could be liable for misappropriation of the right of publicity.

Avoiding this kind of problem is why actors and models who are used in advertisements are asked to sign releases or consents that allow the use of their image or other likeness.

Related to the Right of Privacy

The right of publicity is related to the right of privacy. In general, the principles of invasion of privacy are designed to prohibit the use of a person’s likeness or name to gain some sort of advantage.

However, an independent claim may be made when an individual’s likeness or name is appropriated for commercial purposes. Although the right of publicity is most frequently associated with famous people, it also is true that any individual possesses the right to prevent the unauthorized use of their image or name to sell a product.

It is worth noting that the right of publicity effectively grants a property right to each individual’s identity, whereas the right of privacy is designed to protect people from the emotional anguish that may arise from the open publication of private matters that may be intimate, embarrassing or portray the individual in falsely offensive manner.

Who Does the Right of Publicity Affect?

While most of these cases are related to “celebrities,” the precise definition of celebrity is purposefully vague. For instance, a person may be well-known in Texas, but does it follow that they are famous across the US? What about a person who was famous for being on a television show in the 1980s? Are they a celebrity after not working in the entertainment field for 30 years?

Currently, there is no federal law with regard to the right of publicity. This means that each state is responsible for related legislation. Some states, like Texas, have right of publicity laws on the books, but other jurisdictions rely on common law and statutory law to protect the individual’s right of publicity.

Similarly, some states only protect the right of publicity for famous individuals while all individuals are protected in other states.

What About the First Amendment?

First Amendment protection is granted in tiers, with the most protection being granted to news. Less protection is offered to uses of a person’s identity for fiction, and even less protection is given to the advertising use of a person’s likeness or name.

Accordingly, people can be mentioned in the news in a factual manner without running afoul of the First Amendment or the right of publicity. It’s even possible to use a real person within a work of fiction, like a novel, as long as it’s made clear that the overall work is fiction.

The Right of Publicity and Distinctive Voices

It’s not just a person’s image or name that may be protected under the right of publicity. Two cases involving sound-alike performers who imitated Bette Midler and Tom Waits both found that the singers had the right to control the use of their distinctive voices – even if it wasn’t them providing the voice work.

Contact Williams IP Law

If you’re hoping to get a celebrity to endorse your product or are curious about what’s involved when you feel that your image has been used for a commercial purpose without your permission, then contact Williams IP Law for efficient, common-sense solutions.

Do I need to copyright my website?

Everyone Has a Website

Whether you build a website for personal or business reasons, chances are good that you pour your heart and soul into it. After all, that website is a reflection of you, and it also may be the first contact that your customers have with your business.

After putting so much time and effort into building your website, it makes sense to protect it. This doesn’t occur to many website owners, with the result that they are unable to recover damages when someone else steals their content.

Copyright Content

All of the content that you add to your website is either originally created by you or was created by someone else, like a contractor or employee, who was working for you. This means that you now own that content, whether it’s pages that describe who you are and what you do, blog posts or something else entirely.

Whatever that content is, you own it, and this means that you have the right to prevent others from using it without your permission. When you do see that someone has used your website content without asking you first, a registered copyright gives you the ability to pursue legal remedies.

Automatic Copyright Laws

You may have heard that copyright protection in the U.S. is automatic. This is true. In fact, anything that you fix in tangible form, like a drawing or a recording, enjoys automatic copyright protection in America.

However, this automatic copyright doesn’t necessarily go far enough when it comes to protecting your website’s content. Plagiarism on the Internet is rampant. Plenty of bad actors are out there who will simply copy your content or photographs and paste them onto their own website.

What can you do if this happens?

In this situation, it is best to have a federally registered copyright for your website and all of its content, which includes text, photos and other images. A formal registration demonstrates the date of creation of the content, enabling you to prove beyond a doubt that you are the originator and/or owner of the content.

What Federal Copyright Registration Provides

When you register your copyright, you are formally demonstrating your authorship of the content. If you hired someone to create some or all of your website content for you, then it makes sense to enter into formal agreements with these individuals in which they legally assign their rights in the created material to you. This usually helps to prevent later disputes should they ever arise.

Additionally, when you have registered your copyright, you have the right to pursue a civil lawsuit against an infringer. When a website is under a federal copyright, then the website’s owner may have the ability to claim statutory damages in addition to attorney’s fees if a lawsuit becomes necessary.

Copyright Notice

Whether you pursue a federal copyright registration or not, it is always sensible to include a copyright notice on each page of your website. Usually, such notices appear at the bottom of the page, and they may be as simple as “Copyright 2020.” Other possible copyright notices include ” © 2020″ or “All rights reserved.”

Still other appropriate copyright notices for websites include the name of the company or the individual who owns the website. As an example, the notice may read: “Copyright 2020, the ABC Company.”

While adding copyright notices to your website is not a requirement even if you federally register your copyrights, it is wise to do so to inform any visitors with bad intentions that you are aware of your rights and will defend them.

Ask an Intellectual Property Attorney for Assistance

Are you creating your first website or are you already the owner of several websites and just recently became aware that someone has stolen some of your content? In either situation, it’s wise to contact the Williams IP Law Office in Texas.

Jeffrey Williams helps clients with determining whether or not to federally register a copyright for various content on their websites. Moreover, Jeff can provide assistance with drawing up the various formal agreements that may be needed to ensure that the rights to website content are properly assigned from the author to the website’s owner.

Copyrighting website content in the U.S. is neither particularly difficult nor expensive, but it can be instrumental when it comes to protecting your work from infringement. If you’re serious about ensuring that others cannot take advantage of your hard work, then contact Williams IP Law.

Who Actually Invented the Light Bulb: Edison vs Swan vs Tesla

Ask any child, and he will probably tell you that Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb.

It’s a good story; one that relies on a popular myth of American individualistic invention. However, it’s definitely not the whole story.

In reality, the incandescent light bulb was the result of contributions from hundreds of inventors across the decades. Each one made certain improvements and refinements until, at last, there was an incandescent light bulb that made bringing electricity into the homes of billions of people possible.

Here is a brief look at some of the individuals who contributed to this effort.

Swan’s Light Bulb

Joseph Swan was just one inventor who made improvements in light bulb technology. He was working as a chemist in England in the middle of the nineteenth century when he began development of a more affordable light bulb. His invention replaced the previously used platinum filaments with carbonized paper filaments.

Unfortunately, for Swan, it turned out that while his carbonized paper filaments worked fairly well for demonstration purposes, they were not practical for everyday use. They simply burned out too quickly

The good news is that other inventors were waiting to make improvements to the light bulb.

Edison’s Light Bulb

We’ve already established that light bulbs were in existence even before Edison was born. One of his innovations was built directly on Joseph Swan’s incandescent light bulb.

Edison made the filaments thinner, giving them greater electrical resistance and ensuring that only a small amount of current was needed to create a glow. In 1879, Edison publicly demonstrated his refinements, which Swan quickly adopted. Swan then established an electrical lighting company in the U.K.

Edison sued, but the claims in Swan’s U.K. patent were strong. The two joined forces, forming Edison-Swan United and eventually becoming one of the largest light bulb manufacturers in the world.

In effect, Edison is credited with buying the patent for an incandescent light bulb. With these rights acquired, he was able to make improvements to the design that made it possible to provide electric light to the general public. Moreover, Edison was the consummate self-promoter, which enabled him to claim that he was solely responsible for the development of the light bulb.

Nonetheless, Edison was confronted with the massive problem of actually bringing electricity into American homes.

Tesla, the Light Bulb and Electric Current

Nikola Tesla was born in Europe in 1856. He emigrated to the U.S., where Edison sought him out in hopes of working together. Tesla helped bring new innovations to Edison’s inventions, but their working relationship didn’t last for long.

It appears that the two men disagreed on any number of topics. However, their most famous point of disagreement related to electric current. Edison was wholeheartedly behind the idea that direct current, or DC, was the way to bring electricity into homes.

Tesla believed that DC was insufficient and weak. Instead, he advocated for alternating current, or AC. With his invented induction motor, Tesla felt that it was possible sustain and regulate higher voltages using AC.

Edison and Tesla became embroiled in a nasty fight to prove the worthiness of their theories. In the end, it was Tesla who would triumph, and his AC system would be used to electrify America.

Conclusion

So, who actually invented the light bulb? The reality is that today’s light bulb is the result of countless hours of testing, trial and error by hundreds of different inventors over the course of more than 100 years.

Whether your invention is as revolutionary and necessary as the light bulb or has limited application within a particular industry, your innovation is worth protecting. Speak with an attorney from Williams IP Law to learn about all of the options that are available to you.