The daughter of Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee has filed a lawsuit against his business associates in a California federal court. As Lee's sole heir and estate trustee, she accuses business people running POW! Entertainment of misleading her father into reassigning rights to his valuable comic book characters and stories.
When an individual creates something in California or any other state, it is possible that it will be covered by copyright. According to copyright law, anything that is an original creation recorded on a fixed medium can be eligible for such protection. Examples of items that can be copyrighted include movies, recorded songs or stories that are written on paper or saved on a computer. Computer programs themselves may be copyrighted as a literary work.
Intellectual property rights are critical to many California businesses, especially those that are involved in some kind of creative or technical enterprise. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, industries where intellectual property is critical contribute 40% of the country's gross domestic product, a number that is only likely to rise given the importance of idea protection to technological development. However, attitude surveys continue to show that while consumers understand that IP is important in theory, they remain willing to engage in some violations of IP on a regular basis for a number of reasons. In addition, even businesses that could benefit from IP rights may not fully understand why.
Ferrari owners in California and around the country often post photographs of their cars on social media, but they may be wise to think carefully before doing so if the images involved could be construed as portraying the brand in a negative light. The iconic Italian sports car company takes its intellectual property rights extremely seriously, and it recently sent several sharply worded cease-and-desist letters to Ferrari owners who posted potentially embarrassing photographs of their vehicles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
California residents who are interested in intellectual property matters should be aware of a ruling of the United States Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court rejected in part and affirmed in part the dismissal of a district court regarding the allegations of copyright infringement, breach of contract and the violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The court determined that there were aspects of the claims that were disqualifying based on the patent infringement suit that was previously filed.
The Supreme Court decided in June 2019, that trademarks with foul language would be legally permitted, striking down a long-time ban on the practice. The ban on immoral or offensive language in trademarks affected companies in California and many other states, but the court decided that this ban violated the constitutional free speech rights of Americans. The restriction on trademark language had been in place since 1905.
The past decade has seen a growing trend of companies in California and elsewhere buying up patents that were sitting on the shelf because they were not worth commercializing. In some cases, companies purchased such patents en masse for the sole purpose of litigating patent infringement cases against businesses that produced goods or services resembling a feature in one of the patents. In many cases, the lawsuits were directed at tech companies who began to buy up such patents themselves as defense mechanisms.
A lawsuit brought by Free Stream Media Corp. accusing Alphonso Inc. of infringing upon its patent ended with a summary judgment in favor of Alphonso in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The court determined that the facts did not support all of the claim elements in the lawsuit and therefore granted Alphonso's motion for summary judgment.
California residents may be interested in a brand name trademark case that is headed to the United States Supreme Court for review. The case involves a fashion designer whose trademark application was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the grounds that the name of his clothing line is vulgar.
One of the concerns entrepreneurs in California may have is how to prevent their company's intellectual property from being stolen or copied. The use of patents is one aspect of intellectual property management business owners may use to protect their company's assets.