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April 22, 2011

What Bloggers Need to Know About Trademark Law

There are three major types of intellectual property law: Copyright, Patent and Trademark.

The distinction between the three can often be confusing and gray, but in general copyright protects artistic expressions (literature, movies, photos, music, etc.), patents protect ideas and inventions and trademark protects any “mark” associated with a business.

However, trademark is very different from other areas of intellectual property. You don’t run afoul of the law simply by copying the mark itself but, as a tradeoff, trademarks can protect a much wider variety of things that would not fall under any other area of protection.

Yet, at the same time, trademark often overlaps with copyright, especially when dealing with some logos, and there is a great deal of confusion between copyright and trademark in discussions online.

All in all, trademark is a thorny and often misunderstood area of intellectual property law that demands a closer look, especially if you routinely write about companies or use trademarks in your post.

So what do you need to know about trademarks? The basics are below.

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June 15, 2009

Are You Being Namesquatted?

Over the past week, two very important events in one’s online identity took place.

First, and most memorable, Facebook began offering usernames, creating a landrush, and second, Twitter began verifying user accounts.

But what if the username you wanted is no longer available? What if your name, your business name or some other element of your identity is gone. This happened to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and, most likely thousands of others.
If this happened to you, the good news is that you may have rights you can protect, especially if you are facing an obvious namesquatter, but it may be very difficult enforcing those rights on either site due to the nature of the law and the nature of Facebook and Twitter as companies.

Still, it may be worth a shot. read more

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September 22, 2008

Trademark and Blogs

When Patricia Houser reserved the domain name Palintology in early 2007, Sara Palin, the blog’s subject, was the Governor of Alaska and had not risen to national prominence. Houser, who had worked with Palin on her gubernatorial campaign, had obtained permission from the Governor to both create the blog and use her name in the domain.

However, both Palin and the Palintology blog were thrust into the national spotlight in late August when John McCain selected Palin to be his candidate for Vice President. Though both the site and the candidate were suddenly a global focal point, not all of the attention was desireable.

The worst example came when Newsweek used the Palintology name on the front cover of their magazine. This prompted Houser to not only begin the process of registering her trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but also to contact Newsweek about potential trademark infringement.

But even as Houser and Newsweek seem to be working toward an amicable agreement, the story raises the issue about what bloggers can do when it comes to the names and logos of their blog. After all, if Palintology went from being a locally-focused political blog to having its name on the cover of Newsweek, so could almost any site. read more

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