5 Steps to Practice Safe Crowdfunding

August 5, 2014

Money doesn’t grow on trees. Hard work is the key to success. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hadn’t heard these lines growing up. But some of these erstwhile truisms need altering ever since online crowdfunding has taken the world by storm. For a case in point, look at the man who managed to raise more than $50,000 on Indiegogo to make potato salad. Potato salad! He raised $49,990 more than his $10 goal.

This example is to illustrate that people on the Internet have money to spend. But unlike a simplistic campaign that goes viral, designing a legitimate campaign is hard work. If you are looking to raise capital to launch a product, then crowdfunding might be right for you; and with a little patience, and by following the steps below, it will have definitely been worth the effort. You’ll be practicing safe crowdfunding in no time!

Step 1: Identify your intellectual property

First things first: identify your intellectual property (IP). IP is not limited to the tech industry; any and every company has IP, including yours. Launching an idea into the world exposes you to more than just some wise guys leaving disparaging comments. It enables anyone to access your campaign, and with enough capital, that person can recreate your product if you haven’t taken the necessary steps to protect it. If they successfully bring it to market before you, then you can kiss your baby goodbye.  (more…)

IP And the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?!

May 30, 2014

College football bowl week is often referred to as the “most wonderful time of the year!” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I love college football, which includes memories of crisp autumn days, unwavering traditions and college bands. Who would think in the middle of all of this is an Intellectual Property story?

Let me introduce you to John Antonio and Helen Weaver of Henderson Advertising. In 1970, they were hired to create a new logo for the Clemson Tigers. After reviewing several logos from various teams with a tiger mascot, he noticed that all were some form of the tiger. John decided to do something different. He requested the mold of a Bengal Tiger from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The mold was sent to Henderson who then created a picture, tilting the image to the right. So what’s the big deal? We see pitchforks and other assortments of logos on helmets. In 1970, it was unusual to have any logo on a college helmet. However, when Antonio showed the Clemson helmet sporting the paw print, the Bengal Tiger Paw Print became the new logo.

Time moves along and the Clemson Tigers football team starts winning. As with all things successful, several copies of the now famous paw print emerge. However, Clemson hadn’t licensed it for anyone else to use. During the 1970s and 1980s, it wasn’t common for universities to copyright anything. As we know now and as Clemson started realizing at the time, the ability to control usage as well as the ability to recognize profits based off of the sale of Tiger Paw merchandise, became increasingly important. So, in June of 1984, Clemson received their trademark registration from the federal government (USPTO).  (more…)

Trademark Disputes: Now Playing At Your Local Redbox

May 23, 2014

If you’ve ever rented a movie from Redbox, you have likely seen some choices that bear a suspicious resemblance to films currently playing in theaters. For example, last holiday season, many Redbox kiosks offered a movie called “Age of the Hobbits” at the same time Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” was in theaters.

These movies are called “mockbusters.” They’re usually shot very quickly on a shoestring budget and titled in a way that calls to mind other movies, for example “Abraham Lincoln vs. Vampires” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” The studios behind them allege they’re legitimate and original works of cinema, but critics complain they’re meant to trick customers into thinking they’re renting a mainstream movie.

Until recently, major movie studios did not take much legal action against mockbusters because it simply wasn’t worth the time and expense. That all might be changing, though.

Recently, Disney filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a movie studio called Phase 4 films. Phase 4 had released a movie called “Frozen Land” and Disney felt like its title and marketing were too close to the title and marketing for its holiday hit “Frozen.” Disney alleged that Phase 4’s film was originally called “The Legend of Sarila,” and that months before it was released (at the same time as “Frozen,”) Phase 4 re-titled it and re-did the marketing to mimic that of “Frozen.”  (more…)

Intellectual Property Issues with 3D Printing

May 16, 2014

Intellectual Property and 3D printing don’t get talked about often, mainly because 3D printing is still growing into a mainstream activity. But with 3D printing starting to become more accessible to businesses and homes, what kind of Intellectual Property issues might develop that your business will need to protect or analyze?

Protecting Original 3D Creations

Any blueprint of a 3D design can be protected through copyright. And if your business is a creative one where people are creating original 3D files, this is going to be a necessary step as an interesting direction in creating new media works. However, many existing blueprints already exist for specific 3D objects. If your business happens to print one of those designs that you didn’t create yourself, you could face copyright infringement if you plan to profit off the objects.

Just as you would with any other creative work of art, you have to check if it’s available in the public domain before you can make money off of it. When using an existing blueprint for a 3D object, check online to see if it’s copyrighted and who the creator was. You can contact them for permission once you confirm their existence.  (more…)

3 Common Copyright Mistakes Creatives & Freelancers Make

May 9, 2014

We all make mistakes.

So let me refer you to number seven of the Dali Lama of Tibet’s “Eighteen Rules of Living,” where he gives us the following advice, “When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it. And do not let your pride get in the way of taking those steps.”

The main idea is that trying to hide a mistake, once you have become aware of it, by pretending it didn’t happen only perpetuates the goof up and inevitably leads to sinking deeper and deep into the quicksand of oops. There has to be a more than a million zillion possible copyright related snags and unintentional misunderstandings that lurk within the professional shadows just waiting to trip up even the most seasoned of freelancers.

This article seeks to aid freelancers in avoiding a nasty stumble by illuminating the wiles of three of the more common snares that imperil the footsteps of the unwary.

Mistake No. 1: Making Incorrect Assumptions as to Who Owns a Copyright

There are all sorts of scenarios that will work to blur the lines of copyright ownership. The relative or neighbor that asks a student for a logo design for a business, the group of college classmates that all work on a project which later turns out to be a financial goldmine or the employer that misclassifies a job as an independent contractor situation in order to avoid paying high employee payroll taxes all present situations where copyright ownership rights may become muddled. (more…)

Candy Crush Saga receives trademark on the word “Candy”

May 2, 2014

Candy Crush Saga is a cute game that revolves around mixing and matching candies. A simple enough concept, it also happens to be one of the most downloaded games on both the Apple and Google app stores, making around $900,000 a day for its developers according to Independent.co.uk. Considering the amount of money it generates for its developers, King.com (the studio behind Candy Crush Saga) filed for a trademark on the word “Candy” last year and have recently been approved.

This created quite an uproar in the game developing community. If I was a developer I would be mad too, considering a majority of free to play games with add-on purchases are aimed at children, the word “candy,” at least intuitively, seems like a popular word to use. Though in King’s defense, they provided a statement to Mashable claiming, “We have trademarked the word ‘CANDY’ in the EU, as our IP is constantly being infringed and we have to enforce our rights and to protect our players from confusion. We don’t enforce against all uses of CANDY – some are legitimate and of course, we would not ask App developers who use the term legitimately to stop doing so.”

The main developer they had an issue with was Candy Casino Slots, who allegedly focused heavily on their trademark to enhance downloads of its own game by search ranking. Fair enough, considering Candy Crush is King’s candy cash cow; I cannot really blame them for wanting to protect their IP. But contesting another trademark application filed by game developer Stoic, for “The Banner Saga” is just plain wrong. In their notice of opposition they claim the use of the word “Saga” is apparently confusing and deceptively similar to the use of “Saga” in their own game. The Banner Saga is a role playing game about Vikings! Freaking Vikings! How would anyone in their right mind confuse a dark turn based strategy game with lining up colorful candy? It’s like saying people might confuse “Lord of the Rings” with “Lord of the Flies”. Although possible, it is highly unlikely. (more…)

Why Care About Intellectual Property? IP: The Forgotten First Step

February 19, 2014

When starting a business, many assume intellectual property (IP) is merely an incredibly expensive legal concept that does not apply to them; or worse, too many people believe IP is something that can be put off until later. It should be known that every company has IP and innovation, and the time to identify and decide upon a strategy to protect your IP is at inception.

Every business has IP

IP can be found in 100% of businesses and is not just for tech businesses or inventors.  Simple items like business or product names, customer lists, and blog or presentation content are IP. Innovation (or IP) is often a business’ most valuable asset, particularly during startup, and must be coveted in the same way as your tangible office assets (e.g., computers, cash, products, etc.). You would not leave the company office unlocked with these items out in the open; IP or intangibles need to be treated with the same care as physical assets.  (more…)

Intellectual Property Lessons Learned

February 10, 2014

Standing on stage, Cynthia Schames, Founder & CEO of AbbeyPost, realized she needed a patent before her Women 2.0 pitch that was scheduled the next day. For many, being a pitch competition finalist is stressful enough; filing a provisional patent overnight is an unnecessary distraction. One of our mantras is that you cannot protect your Intellectual Property (IP) unless you know what IP you have. Unfortunately, many postpone identifying their IP and even more wait until disaster strikes.

Luckily, Cynthia’s pitch coach asked if she was prepared to answer questions from judges about how she protected her IP. AbbeyPost licenses a patented 3D body scanning technology called Find Your Fit, which accurately and quickly scans a shopper’s body for specific measurements and shape. The scanning technology didn’t concern Cynthia, but rather her company’s proprietary know-how, process, and use of data to create real-time-manufactured, made-to-measure clothing.

Cynthia needed protection before she pitched (and won) in a public setting. Not protecting your ideas before widely sharing the details may result in loss of international patent rights.  (more…)

5 Online Legal Mistakes You’ve Probably Already Made

February 26, 2013

Eric Spellmann continues to be one of the highest rated speakers at our national ASBDC conferences. His unique view that small business websites should “do” something pushes against the standard “online pamphlet” view of most web design companies. He believes your customer’s websites should be driving qualified leads and sales on a weekly basis. Eric speaks at a number of other national and state conferences nationwide, but enjoys running one of the most successful web design companies in the country. He truly believes in the SBDC mission as it helped him start his own company many years ago. To contact him, visit his website at EricSpellmann.com.

Legal Myths That Can Cost You A Fortune

October 23, 2012

Myths about the law abound. They range from age-old lore, like “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” to mistakes about intellectual property rights. When you fall into the trap of letting these fables guide your decisions, you can get your business into trouble. So let’s dispel some of these legal myths.

Myth 1: Hey, I own that intellectual property. Misunderstandings about intellectual property ownership are rampant. Many businesspeople think if they register a new business with their home state, they automatically obtain trademark registration of their business’ name. No such luck. The trademark registration process is a completely independent process, and you don’t get any trademark registration rights just from setting up a new company.

Similarly, when businesses hire independent contractors to work on new ideas and inventions, companies often assume that they own the intellectual property created by the contractor. Wrong again. Unless you have a special agreement in place assigning the IP rights to your business, that contractor remains the owner of any copyright or patent associated with his or her work. (more…)