VRP Law Group, P.C.

A Boutique Business, Employment and Intellectual Property Law Firm

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Increasing Value of Copyrights in a Increasingly CyberWorld!

June 24th, 2014

Copyrights are great method of developing an Intellectual Property acquisition strategy that allows for a significant amount of flexibility and ensures that the Copyright Holder still has a method of creating a barrier to entry. One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs or startups make is ignoring or failing to understand the true value of Copyrights, which can be acquired for any type of content, including the following:

a) their websites and derivatives thereof;

b) their blogs and derivatives thereof;

c) commercials or advertising videos;

d) links to downloadable content of any type that is original and fixed in a tangible medium of expression;

e) advertising and marketing brochures that are final, polished, published or about to be published;

f) comparative advertising content based on the larger players in the market to help establish fair use, nominal use or a potential parody defense;

g) their operations manuals and employment handbooks that are substantially completed and required to be distributed to a larger number of employees;

h) the use of photographs or images of individuals that are employees after acquiring the proper consent and assignment of copyrights;

i) creating a corporate strategy that allows incorporation of copyrights to permit the use of licenses, assignments, royalties, and potential tax savings for the Copyright Holder, the Licensor, and the Licensees.

If you would like to learn more, then go to: www.bipeblawg.com, www.iptrialattorney.com, www.chicagoentrepreneursattorney.com

Courtney Love’s Social Media Snafu: Defaming, Opinion, Fact, or Subjective Beliefs About the Truth?

April 11th, 2014

Defamation is not a new claim or novel in anyway, but a recent ruling on defaming content on social media sites is pushing the boundaries between defaming content, and what has traditionally been a reasonableness or good faith based standard for a Truth Defense. The libel case was brought by a Law Firm against Courtney Love
“Love” from comments made by Love on the social media site Twitter.

Love, originally, hired the law firm of Gordon & Holmes to investigate claims that attorneys and accountants were stealing money and personal property from her late husband, Kurt Cobain’s, estate. When the firm refused to pursue the claims, Love, alleged that the firm had been “bought off” by the offending parties. A slightly, paranoid and unusual comment, however, most clients do not disseminate such crazy thoughts in response to a fan and Twitter follower. Love statement, “I was (expletive) devastated when Rhonda J Holmes, Esq. of San Diego was bought off…”

The Firm and Holmes brought charges for libel asking the jury to award eight (8) million dollars in damages–really? The Firm and Holmes assert that the Jury needed to send a message that comments on social media sites were not immune from defamation or libel claims. Love, for her part, claimed at trial that she intended the Tweet to be a direct response to her follower, and not disseminated publically.

After a mere three hours of deliberations, the jury, returned a verdict finding that Love’s statement was defamatory. However, because Love had no belief that the statements were false that she could not be held liable for damages.
The case is one of the first of its kind and an eye opening notion for every social media user. Will the elements of defamation change to subjective beliefs to properly assert the truth defense?

What happened to freedom of speech and expressions of our opinions? Do we need to subjectively believe in our opinions to be able to express them? Isn’t the fact that we are expressing our opinion, already telling others that this is our subjective belief? So, a wacky and convoluted ruling, but probably, the right result.

Hopefully, this will not change the boarders and scope of defamation or libel claims and defenses. However, the more important concern is should defamation claims be broader or narrower in the context of social media in lieu of its greater distribution capabilities and correlated potential for harm? Or, should Love be viewed, as a Publisher, similar to a Newspaper with a wide circulation and distribution capabbilitied and be provided broader protection for providing news, opinions, free speech, commentary or criticism?

Not really sure, what the right approach is, but maybe, Courts or Juries, will help clarify and adapt to Social Media as time progresses. For more go to: www.bipeblawg.com or www.iptrialattorney.com

Startup and Business Planning for acquiring capital from Investors, Angels, VCs or Private Equity Groups!

March 26th, 2014

This process is more involved and complex for Startups than their owners realize. However, try to keep thins simple and avoid some of the most common mistakes Entrepreneurs or Starups make. For examples the following is a simple list of Dos‘s that all Entrepreneurs and Startups should keep in mind.

Do the following:

1. First, ask friends and family or use personal resources first-within reason the first 10 to 50K should come from friends and family;

2. Identify competitive advantages, intellectual property, knowledge gaps and weaknesses, study your competitors, potential competitors, industry and market;

3. Pay your investors before paying yourself a salary or keep it small to avoid a loss of workung capital, unless you are an S-corp, then pay yourself a reasonable salary;

4. Track key metrics, such as, key customers, costs of customer acquisition, key products or services, reorders by customers, Google analytics-number of new and returning visitors, level of ngagemnt of visitors, costs of acquiring visitor, conversion rate from visitor to customer, limit overhead and fixed costs, profit margin, distributions to owners or losses shared by owners, and costs of scaling;

5. Invest time and effort in finding good people to flll knowledge gaps, to address weaknesses, acquire industry contacts or relationships, to innovate and enage customer and increase new orders or reorders, to monetize intellectual property, to develop revenues from visitors and customers, and to assist with manaiging growth;

6. Develop a detailed and realistic budget for growth and the expected revenues from growth or scaling your startup (do not undestimate costs or your time);

7. Create a task list for growing or scaling your startup (Identify which tasks you or your organization can perfom or learn to perform with education, training and time), which, tasks will require others or people other than you or your organization, which tasks can you get an outsider or third party for little to no cash outlay from you or your organization, which tasks will require a cash outlay and how much?, prioritize the tasks and need to have tasks performed on schedule.

8. Identify methods of reducing costs, improving operational efficiencies, and create manuals. Use the manuals as a starting point to train new employees , contractors or executives. Make sure key customers are satsfied, confirm receipt of products abd services and ask for feedback or input on additional features, improvements or problems the customers are experiencing;

9. Develop an executive summary, 3-5 pages, develop a power point presentation on for investors, angels, vcs, or private equity groups, identify return on investment, idetify amount of funds you are seeking, identify equity you are willing to give, make sure you maintain operational and ownership control, get a good Non-disclosure Agreement (protect right to improvements, derivatives, new versions of existing products or services, hire a good lawyer, accountant, industry expert, or team of professionals, get assistance where needed to finalize executive summary, power point presentation and pitch to investors;

10. Get a ppm and qualify for Reg D exemption, identify alternative sources of funding, grants, subsidies, strategic alliances, kickstarter, crowdfunding, personal loans to company that can be written off or converted to equity, get to market with quality products and services, protect intellectual property, get sales maintain or increase profit marging, develop exit or succession plan.

Ask for, accept criticism and feedback, incorporate critcism and feedback, address weaknesses do not hide them, be candid and upfront about challenges and problems and your plan for overcoming them, do a reality check, reward and pat yourself on the back for wins along the way, learn from failures, losses and mistakes along the way, do it at your own pace taking into consideration market and industry conditions, lead by example and be respectful and value other peoples ideas, money, passions and time; accept responsibility for your or the organizations failures, mistakes and success.

Finally, Refine on all of the above and Continue to Learn, Refine on all of the above and Contniue to Learn, Refine on all of the above and Continue to Learn—-Anyone see a pattern or theme.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the entire process. When you stop having fun retire and advise others!

“Dumb” Starbucks a brilliant parody or a blatant case of trademark dilution and infringement? Monitoring your brand vital to trademarks owner’s success!

March 3rd, 2014

Do you drink Starbucks coffee? Do you pay attention to the news? If so, you’ve probably heard about “Dumb Starbucks,” the coffee shop that opened in Los Angeles, California. Within hours, the store had lines out the door and plenty of social media exposure. While at first it was unclear who was behind the “Dumb” idea, it soon came out that it was Comedy Central’s Nathan Fielder.

This might sound like blatant trademark infringement to you; after all, “Dumb Starbucks” has the same name, logo, design, and drinks as Starbucks, just with the word “Dumb” added. However, Comedy Central is claiming that the use is a parody, which counts as protected free speech and does not infringe on trademark rights. Starbucks disagrees; the company has already stated that their logo is trademarked, and that this use constitutes infringement. The company’s lawyers have questioned whether this use could even count as a parody, as they aren’t making fun of Starbucks, but instead using the mark for commercial purposes.

Although the stunt may have been intended to be comedic in nature, there really is no effort to indicate that “Dumb” Starbucks is a Starbucks store, but not a Starbucks store. Moreover, it remains unclear why the use of the logo in the manner that Starbucks uses it was necessary to create comedic value or create a parody of the Starbucks brand or logo. Moreover, it may be that the stunt dilutes or tarnishes the Starbucks brand and creates a brand dilution problem for a famous brand.

Starbucks has made it known that they will likely be filing suit, and we will find out whether the use is, in fact, a parody, or if it is infringement. Either way, this stunt made huge waves on social media, and it has definitely gotten the exposure the comedian was looking for.

Joint Cross Licensing of Patents and other IP, does it make sense for you?

February 2nd, 2014

In a world where patents can protect against litigation, the big names in technology are competing against each other to secure them instead of working together to create new products. This week, however, Samsung and Google announced that they signed a global patent licensing agreement. This agreement is beneficial to both parties, as Samsung currently uses Google’s Android operating system on its smart phones. This deal covers all existing patents and any that will be filed within the next ten years.

Thus, anything Google and Samsung develop in the next decade can be used by the other. This may make sense for companies with interdependent products, but it is not right for everyone. Otherwise, you may lose a large customer and create a competitor that is able to leverage your patents with its R&D and outpace you to the market.

However, representatives from Google and Samsung discussed how this agreement has the potential to be influential – it shows others that innovation can flourish when companies work together and cooperate rather than enter into litigation. This is particularly important today, as the number of patent lawsuits that have been filed has increased substantially. In fact, Samsung is currently involved in another lawsuit with Apple. Apple wants Samsung to stop selling some of its smart phones and tablets, as they are in direct competition with Apple’s iPhones and iPads. Google, too, has been involved in suits with Apple.

While Samsung cannot claim ownership of Google’s patents to help in its dispute with Apple, it has definitely secured an ally. Further, Samsung and Google now have access to each other’s patent portfolios, which will help them to collaborate and develop new ideas. Other companies in the industry may look to this agreement as an example, and consider making similar ones, as everyone benefits from these relationships. However, this may not be the right approach for your company.

Of Course, if you are working jointly on projects, then it may make sense for you.