For businesses and those in the innovative and creative fields, intellectual property is a concern in Denver and across the nation. Prominent disputes regarding these rights are often fought in public. This is especially true if it involves a creative force like the late comic book icon Stan Lee.
Copyright infringement disputes in Colorado and around the country often hinge on the concept of fair use. The doctrine of fair use allows material to be used without the copyright holder's consent when it is used for purposes including criticism, research, parody or commentary, and it is at the center of a lawsuit between the audio book seller and producer Audible and a group of book publishers including Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan Publishing.
A trademark is one way in which companies in Colorado and throughout the country can protect their intellectual property. Generally speaking, words, logos and graphics can be eligible for a trademark, which means that only a specific company is allowed to use it. A trademark holder can allow other entities to use it. Ideally, organizations will first ensure that a logo, word or graphic is not being used by another party before seeking a trademark.
Cannabis developers and companies might be able to protect their intellectual property by pursuing plant patents, according to one Colorado registered patent agent. The strategy is largely overlooked, at least in part because the cannabis is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government, making it considerably more difficult to secure patent protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A plant patent lasts for a period of 20 years, like a utility patent, and protects every part of the relevant plant, including the seeds.
Many people in Colorado use online payment systems like PayPal and Venmo to transfer money or make purchases. Now PayPal is accusing a loan company of infringing its trademarks with its brand, Lenmo. Lenmo, described as a peer-to-peer lending startup, is far less well-known than PayPal or its Venmo brand. PayPal says that Lenmo obviously intended to benefit from the popularity and fame of Venmo without any connection to the company. In addition, it argues that consumers may even believe that Lenmo is a part of Venmo or PayPal due to the similarities in their names.
Amazon Prime trucks deliver products throughout Colorado and the rest of the country. The service may be so popular that it's having a negative impact on the similarly named trucking company Prime Inc. On July 2, Prime Inc. filed a lawsuit against Amazon in a Missouri federal court for trademark infringement.
Colorado fans of Yosemite National Park may be pleased to know that historic sites at the national park are reclaiming their names after a lawsuit was settled. A former concession operator at the park sued the National Park Service in September 2015. The operator claimed that the park service was infringing its trade names and trademarks. As a result, the Ahwahnee Hotel was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Other sites also received new names: Curry Village was called Half Dome Village, and the Wawona Hotel was rechristened Big Trees Lodge. Even some of the park's ski areas took on new names during the pending litigation.
Intellectual property can be particularly important for Colorado companies in the tech field. Unique developments in software and other technology can be patented or copyrighted in order to prevent them from being freely exploited by competitors in the market. If these protections are not obtained, companies may find themselves quickly eclipsed by larger firms, even if their technology is new and innovative. Lawsuits can be an important way of protecting these rights if a company discovers that another developer is misusing their work in a way contrary to law.
The Supreme Court has handed down a decision that could affect business owners and individuals in Colorado when it comes to copyright protection. Specifically, the Court ruled that claims of copyright infringement can be brought only after the work in question is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. These claims can only be filed in U.S. federal trial courts. Prior to the ruling by the Supreme Court, litigants, courts and legal scholars differed over when a copyright claim has been registered.
Businesses in Colorado and throughout the country spend an average of $2.8 million on patent infringement lawsuits. Therefore, it is important to have IP insurance or some other way to resolve such suits in a timely and affordable way. To defend against a patent lawsuit, it is important to identify and protect an asset as quickly as possible. In the cannabis industry, this may mean that a company identifies and protects a plant it has created.