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Are your musical works protected like Taylor Swift's?

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Pop star Taylor Swift recently prevailed in a lawsuit regarding one of her popular songs. Four co-songwriters claimed that she copied a phrase from their 2001 song written for another band and used it in her 2014 hit song "Shake If Off." The lyrics regarding the notions that players play and haters hate was used in both songs.

Fortunately for Swift, the judge decided that the "two truisms" were not creative and original enough for copyright protection, and he dismissed the case. While the songwriters have the right to change the wording of their complaint against Swift, the judge discouraged them from doing so in his ruling.

Trade dress protection for Valentine's Day offerings

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It's that time of year again when stores are awash in red and pink hearts. Valentine's Day is here and with it comes holiday spending. About 54% of American's will be participating in Valentine's Day celebrations and gift exchanges. Estimated at around $18.2 billion or roughly $137 per person, Valentine's Day spending is dwarfed only by Christmas and Halloween.

A small portion of that figure will be spent on candy and chocolates. Candy sales account for $1.7 billion of Valentine's Day sales. Given the amount of money at play, it is no surprise that candy makers want to protect their creations.

Did you suffer losses when a counterfeiter copied your designs?

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Every 90s sitcom, especially Seinfeld and Friends, made jokes about buying fake designer clothes and jewelry on street corners. It was enough to make you think that every corner of every major city had a table on it full of fake Prada handbags and Swiss-esque watches.

Maybe there were bootleggers on every corner, and maybe there weren't, but when you read about 400 fake Air Jordan sneakers being ceased by the government, it really makes you wonder about the size of the counterfeit merchandise industry. If they had been real Nike shoes, their value would have been over $50,000. That's a lot of money for fake sneakers.

A clash of beer and intellectual property rights

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A recent legal step taken by Anheuser-Busch proves that someone in its legal department has a great sense of humor.

Normally, when a small business copies a name from a large corporation, it can expect to be slapped with a nasty cease and desist -- "stop, or else!" -- letter from a corporate lawyer. When a small brewery in Minnesota released a new craft beer, the "Dilly Dilly" Mosaic Double IPA, on December 1, it got a response from Anheuser-Busch that had a lot of people laughing.

Protecting your business with non-disclosure agreements

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Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are taking a hit in the media with the Harvey Weinstein harassment scandal. The movie executive is accused of using NDAs to keep his staff quiet about his personal behavior, which allegedly includes sexual assault and retaliation against women who refused his advances.

However, non-disclosure agreements are essential for businesses, especially high-tech companies and start-ups that need to protect their intellectual property.

Is your start-up safe from cybersecurity breaches?

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Do you intend to start a new business venture in 2018? Are you developing a fantastic product with some business associates that you are keeping secret for the time being? What steps are you taking to get your start-up business off on the right foot?

If you handle your finances, share documents and store files electronically, you are in danger of getting hacked. Every business -- including your start-up -- is a potential target. In fact, sending emails and storing information on the Cloud has already exposed you to the dangers of cyber-attacks.

Copyright issues, like nightmares, can keep you up at night


Did you watch your favorite horror movie this Halloween? "It: Chapter One" is the most recently released horror film. Based on a Stephen King novel, It (as it is commonly known) hit the big screens last month to wide success. Some claim it is one of the scariest movies in recent history. Before It came along, another nightmare began brewing.

Conjuring up a serious lawsuit

Doubling down in the fast food world

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There is a trademark battle sizzling between two hamburger restaurants. On one side is In-N-Out, a long-standing and popular burger joint based in Irvine, California. On the other is the up-and-coming Smashburger company based in Denver, Colorado.

The hamburger lawsuit

HBO series brings patent trolls into the limelight


For those who thought trolls only exist in children's books, think again. In the intellectual property world, patent trolls are a reality.

In the HBO series, Silicon Valley, the viewing audience (and the show's characters) are introduced to Stuart "Stu" Burke, a man who makes his money working as a patent troll. Unfortunately for main character Richard Hendricks, Stu reveals how patent laws can be twisted and abused by threatening Richard with patent infringement.

Monkey's selfie case is a lesson in copyright law

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The story sounds a bit like the beginning of a joke: A photographer goes into the jungle. A monkey grabs his camera and takes a selfie. Who owns the rights to the photo?

The funny -- not funny -- thing is that this is no joke. In 2011, freelance photographer David Slater traveled to Indonesia to photograph macaque monkeys. After coaxing some of the monkeys into taking photos of themselves, Slater copyrighted his favorite photo and published it in a book.