Copyright Law Could Stunt Hollywood Privacy Breach

Here’s a hypothetical for you: intimate photos of yourself you believed to be private are suddenly made available to Internet users. In the span of an hour, the material is shared among millions of users. This nightmare scenario ultimately proved reality for some earlier this week.

Dozens of high-profile women in entertainment industry became the latest victims of privacy violation. The incident, currently under national investigation, stems from the actions of an anonymous hacker. The hacker raided private cloud storage accounts and leaked their content to a worldwide audience.

Victims of the breach have already vocalized a determinedness to find the anonymous hacker responsible. Some legal experts believe the best weapon at disposal for combating the further spread of the private materials is copyright law.

Domestically, copyrights are appointed to the individual whom originally captured the photo. The vast majority of photos in the recent leak were self-portraits, meaning the women behind the camera should retain copyright privilege.

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) earlier in 1998. The measure was designed to stiffen penalties for violations of copyright that occurred online. This piece of legislation could prevent the explicit material from being hosted altogether.

In accordance with the “Safe Harbor” provision, websites like YouTube and Facebook are not responsible for predetermining copyright violation exists among content submitted by users – instead these domains are responsible for ‘takedowns’, removing reported content that violates copyright.

Individuals who find their copyright has been violated can pursue legal action in the form of lawsuits, pressuring sites that host the material to remove the content or pay millions in damages.

Although the strategy might prove effective in this happenstance, other legal critics suggest it’s the equivalent of legal ‘whack-a-mole’ – there are no shortage of copyright violators online willing to host private images.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , |

Monkey Trouble Spawns Copyright Controversy

Now here is a copyright battle that is downright bananas – a British photographer is squabbling with Wikimedia over who owns the rights to a photo a monkey took of herself. That’s right – a monkey selfie.

The British photog makes a compelling argument – he believes he retains ownership rights because the photo was originally snapped with his equipment. On the other side of the aisle, Wikimedia disputes the photo should be freely distributed as they believe any animal’s self-portrait is not subject to existing copyright law.

The monkey trouble all began with a 2011 wildlife photography field trip to Indonesia. A smiling crested black macaque would curiously nab some unmonitored camera equipment and snap a selfie. The macaque actually appears to be smiling in the photo, perhaps foreshadowing the looming legal battle her mischief would spawn.

Obviously, the situation raises plenty of questions – for instance, how exactly did the monkey grab a hold of the photography equipment? According to the photographer at center, “One of [the monkeys] must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy.” Accidents do happen – even in nature – but the bigger question remains – is it still grounds for property rights?

The curious apes reportedly took hundreds of photographs. Despite their innate technological abilities, their photography skills will need some work – the majority of the photos taken were out of focus.  The monkey ‘selfie’ was far and away the most famous. The photo was immediately licensed for use throughout various media outlets.

Despite the amusing subject, the controversy remains. Wikimedia has since reaffirmed their stance on the issue – the media outlet has refused to reclassify the image as open-copyright. For now, the monkey selfie remains active in the media database of the Wikimedia Commons.

At press time, it remains unclear whether the macaque will represent itself in a subsequent court case.

Original story reported by NPR.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , , |

3D Printing Latest Tech to Threaten Intellectual Property

The advent of 3D printing technology introduced many new exciting possibilities, possibilities that may directly impact intellectual property rights. As the technology matures and inevitably becomes more common, what’s to stop 3D printers from infringing certain property rights?

Some marketing analysts consider this the next stage in the stormy relationship between technology and IP. The main issue of concern is regarding accountability – who is liable when a company’s intellectual property rights are broken? The answer might not be so simple.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: an individual with access to a 3D printer begins selling figures from a popular television series. Who does the parent company target in legal action? Arguments can be made against the individual selling counterfeit merchandise, the printing company, the designer and even the supplier of the material.

Questions about the future of intellectual property might find answers from the past. When the VCR was introduced to the public, concerns relating to copyright infringement took center stage. What would stop individuals from copying and displaying television shows and movies?

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled the VCR was capable of significant non-infringing purposes and allowed the technology to flourish. However, years later, the file sharing service Napster was shut down as copyright infringement was deemed a regular occurrence throughout service usage.

Contrasting the two previous examples proves there is a line when it comes to IP. New technologies like 3D printing require lawmakers to reexamine the traditional rules, to constantly evolve. The process certainly amounts to more than a few growing pains along the way.

As legislators debate where the line should be moved regarding 3D printers, some printing servicers are already cashing in. Popular public opinion maintains it’s only a matter of time before lawsuits relating to 3D printing begin to dominate the headlines.

Posted in Intellectual Property | Tagged , , |

Tesla Releases Patents to Open Market

Tesla Motors recently surprised the business world by releasing their patents to the open market, meaning their engineered technology can now be utilized by direct competitors. Perhaps even more surprising is business analysts are already hailing CEO Elon Musk’s bold decision as a savvy business plan.

Many observers viewed Tesla’s patents as a major competitive advantage – so why release it to their competitors? Analysts mark that Tesla’s situation is unique as electric cars are considered an emerging technology. Recent figures from 2013 indicate these cars are responsible for less than 1% of all traffic, a number that closely relates to total sales. Tesla is banking on increased competition similarly increasing the demand for electric cars overall – what better choice than the company that opened the door?

It’s a stark contrast to intellectual property wars constantly dominating American headlines in recent months. Companies like Apple have even been accused as being ‘patent trolls’, entities that impede the regular advancement of technology. The key differences in patent philosophy between companies like Apple and Tesla certainly suggest the issue of intellectual property is a complex issue.

Tesla’s strategy is considered non-translatable across many industries. Biotech startups could easily sink their operation by making their drug patents available to the open market. Large pharmaceutical agencies and generic drug manufacturers would be able to copy the drug and utilize their existing systems to force the startup out of business. Examples like this suggest intellectual property rights will always have their place in the market on some level.

The traditional argument for legal patents is they provide startups with the ability to protect their technology against larger incumbents, parties which could potentially box them out of the market. The decision to release Tesla’s patents almost certainly would prove disastrous had they lacked the means to produce their cars on a major scale.

For now Tesla Motors is comfortable enough with their hand to invite more players to the table. While time will ultimately decide whether the gamble pays off, it certainly bodes well for consumers in the near future.

Original story reported by Entrepreneur

Posted in Intellectual Property | Tagged , , , |

Trade Secrets: Hacked and Unaware

We are not an IT Security company.  We are a law firm that focuses on protecting your intellectual property.  But in today’s world, everything is on the computer, and therefore, computers are where, and how, trade secrets are stolen.

Bloomberg recently reported on a study that happened to be conducted in the United Arab Emirates, but which has sobering lessons for us all.  You might expect the UAE, with all their money and sunshine to be able to afford the best and brightest computer security people from all over the world.  (Actually, the story of wealth in the UAE is more complex than that).  But the study claims that fully 90% of companies there, that have been attacked by cybercriminals are unaware of the fact.

Protect your trade secrets, by all means possible. 

You can watch a world map of hacking attempts, in near real-time, here.  It is animated in a “War Games” style to make a point.  Once the shock of what you are looking at wears off, you need to make some calls and start improving your IT setup.  Don’t make it easy for them.

Posted in Trade Secrets |

Beautiful Risk-Takers Plan 2,250-foot Tower in Yuma

We are an Arizona Intellectual Property law firm.  We deal with inventors, entrepreneurs and risk-takers.  What they do is risky and beautiful – awe-inspiring, at times.  This article (link below) updates us on the story of a technology that works on paper, but can’t be demonstrated at less than full scale.  That makes the project more of a leap of (faith?  science?) than usual.

The prize, if they are successful?  Clean energy creation, night and day, at rates 60% lower than other green technologies (like solar), for an estimated one-million people.  That is a high goal to shoot for.  The perfect location:  Yuma, Arizona.

Full Disclosure:  Solar Wind Energy (Maryland) is not a client of ours.  This is not a puff-piece for their project.  It’s pure admiration.  Follow the link and look at the artist’s rendition.  Who wouldn’t want to build that thing?

There are informed critics and naysayers, of course. 

The creativity and spirit of the inventors and backers is something to be proud of.  We are privileged to work with creative people who pursue their bold dreams.  May they never stop inventing.

Original article in the Washington Post

Posted in Uncategorized |

Before You Accuse Trade Secrets Theft: Consider the Source

Theft of trade secrets is something you want to avoid, of course.  When it is first suspected, the evidence is often sketchy, and often pivots on one person’s word.  You may feel grateful to the reporter, who after all, may be saving you millions of dollars by reporting early.  You want to act quickly – but not too quickly.

This article reports on a case in which the person who reported the crime turned out to be unreliable.  After the defendant was acquitted of the theft of trade secrets, he found himself jobless and having spent all his money on a legal defense.  He then turned around and filed defamation libel suits against his accuser, and now the appeals court is allowing the civil suits to move forward.

The article considers the issue of when an employee reports a trade secret violation, but does so not in the company’s best interest, but for personal reasons.  There are repercussions for this, as the case shows.  Investigate reports of trade secrets violations thoroughly, including the source.

Original analysis in Lexology, but Teresa M. Thompson and Kristen M. Barlow Rand.

Posted in Trade Secrets |

Software Can Be Patented – But There Are Exceptions

Today the Supreme Court of the United States tossed out a software patent claim by Australian Alice Corporation, saying that the method claims were “abstract,” required only “generic” implementation, and fell short of a patent-eligible invention.  The media are reporting this decision as a victory for software companies, and a blow to “patent trolls.”  Many comments from around the industry are reported in this Forbes blog post

Software patents have been, and will continue to be, a controversial area.  On one hand, good software does require investment in research and production.  Without protection, the incentive to undertake that work will not exist.  On the other hand, some software patents seem, well, ridiculous

Intellectual Property Law is an especially dizzying area where what appears as plain common sense, at first glance, turns out to be very subtle, and very different, under the law.  If you are a coder who has developed something new, and want to protect and develop it, get good legal advice, and get it early.

Original Article in the Washington Post.

Posted in Patent Law |

IKEA, Ikeahackers, and the “Streisand Effect”

A worldwide community – a subculture, some might say – grew up around the IKEA stores.  They call themselves IKEAhackers, and they love to create and share great ideas for repurposing all kinds of items you find in an IKEA store, into something else.  It’s a good example of how the internet can amplify the solo experience of “Hey, I bet I could take this and make a …” into a movement.  It solidified around the blog ikeahackers.net.

If you haven’t seen these creations, they are wonderful, inspiring, frugal, beautiful – all good things.

But recently, IKEA moved to protect their trademark, and sent a cease-and-desist letter to ikeahackers.net, sending shockwaves through the community.  Shouldn’t they be delighted at the creativity, the energy, the free showcase?  Why?  (See the original article, below, for IKEA’s explanation to the Washington Post.)

IKEA’s response is quite informative, and reveals a side of the matter that the general public may not understand.  Recommended reading.

Of course, this is easily cast as “corporate giant vs. the little guy” and some will only see it in those terms.  Whether you are the Goliath or the David, if you are operating in the public square, you need to understand, or have an advisor who can advise you on, intellectual property rights.

Original article in The Washington Post blog.

Posted in Trademarks |

“I’m Just a Small Business. I Have No Intellectual Property”

This article in Forbes has good advice for any small business:  Take stock of your IP assets now, and prepare for the future.

Few small businesses start with a strategy and a long-term view.  We are all too busy making each day pay for itself.  At some point, in the middle, you stop and ask yourself:  “Am I covered?  Am I exposed?  Can someone else lay claim to what I have created?”

As the author, Mary Juetten, points out, if you only have a company name, you have intellectual property.  Make a list of all the IP you can think of.  Act quickly to protect your brands.  Spend the time and energy needed to create good contracts, so that you don’t inadvertently lose your rights to your creations.  And get lined up with a good IP attorney! 

If you think you have no intellectual property to protect or develop, you may be in for some nasty surprises.  Taking action today is the key to facing future risks without fear. 

Posted in Intellectual Property |