Chances are that you have heard the terms "patent," "copyright" and "trademark" thrown around, but you might not understand what each one means and how they are different. Each one can offer protection to small businesses but they are used for different reasons.
For some Colorado companies, intellectual property and copyrights are their superpower that allows them to succeed and grow and that holds true for Warner Bros. as well. Recently a judge ruled that the company will retain the copyrights to the Superman character originally created by Joe Shuster. Heirs to Joe Shuster's estate attempted to reassert their rights to the Superman character despite a U.S. District Court judge's 1992 ruling which granted those rights to DC Comics shortly after the artist's death. The Superman character first appeared in 1938 and has remained a powerful image and even a brand some might say for almost 75 years.
Whether or not you work in real estate or have bought or sold a home recently, you are no doubt familiar with the logo of the red, white and blue hot air balloon belonging to the national real estate company RE/MAX. The Denver, Colorado-based company has used this horizontal color scheme since 1974 and trademarked that scheme 15 years later. And it works hard to protect its trademark. If the company receives a tip from one of its local branch offices, it will send a letter to the offending party.
In 2007, Denver-based Icon Burger began using the trade name "Smashburger" knowing the name belonged to a Kentucky company called Dairy Cheer. Since Dairy Cheer was only using the trademark name locally, there had been no issues with both companies using it. Until that is, Icon Burger wanted to expand operations into the Lexington, Kentucky market.
Urban Outfitters, an international clothing and accessories retailer is accused of trademark infringement in a recent lawsuit filed by the Navajo Nation. The suit claims that the retailer is using the Navajo name in their products without permission. The tribe alleges the retailer's use of their name confuses and deceives consumers into thinking there is an association between the Navajo Nation and the retailer's products and brand. And that use of the name and trademark unfairly trades off the fame, reputation and goodwill of the Navajo Nation.