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San Francisco Civil Litigation Blog

Is graffiti art protected under the Visual Artists Rights Act?

By its very nature, graffiti art is often public, immovable and temporary. And the artists that specialize in this medium frequently believe that these characteristics make graffiti art exempt from copyright protection. However, a recent ruling issued by a U.S. District Court judge could signal a major shift in the way that graffiti art and the artists that create it are protected under federal law.

In the ground-breaking case decided on February 12th, 21 graffiti artists in New York were awarded $6.7 million in statutory damages  when the owner of the building that the graffiti art adorned painted over the artworks. U.S. District Judge Frederic Block held that the 45 pieces of graffiti on Queens' 5Pointz warehouses were subject to the protections offered by the Visual Artists Rights Act thanks to their "recognized stature."

Emojis, emoticons and intellectual property law

From t-shirts to movie posters to print advertisements, emojis and emoticons have made their way into a wide variety of commercial applications. The creative and marketing potential offered by these eye-catching and youthful images and text strings may be vast, but their newness also means that intellectual property lawyers are facing unique copyright and trademark issues regarding their use.

What exactly are emojis and emoticons?

Will Congress once again extend the copyright term?

Want to protect your intellectual property or make use of someone else's IP for artistic purposes? If you're planning on doing so in California or another U.S. state, Congress could end up making things harder than you anticipate. Here's a quick look at the term (or length) of a copyright, the evolution of the copyright term and how another change in the copyright term could impact you.

The copyright term in simple terms

Nondisclosure Agreements In Light Of The Weinstein Scandal

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal-as well as other recent sexual harassment accusations against a wide range of public figures-non-disclosure agreements have come under scrutiny. While NDAs can be used for good-protecting company secrets, for instance-they can also have a chilling effect on an employee's willingness to report instances of harassment and abuse at the hands of senior executives.

After avoiding such allegations for years, companies are now facing closer scrutiny for allowing these practices to continue in secret under the guise of enforceable NDAs. Indeed, there is now movement to place clearer restrictions on the use of NDAs in California workplaces. 

3 Questions To Ask When Licensing Your Intellectual Property

Companies interested in leveraging market trends rely on intellectual property licenses to protect their rights and interests. These IP licenses constitute the very backbone of entrepreneurial and corporate profitability. Unfortunately, far too many IP firms base their client's needs on lazily constructed templates that may not fully articulate the nuances of the specific intellectual property.

This cookie-cutter approach cannot appreciate the full breadth of the rights, exclusivity, length of agreement or how to realize the client's goals. Creating a formidable IP license agreement requires individualized and strategic planning by legal counsel. Consider these three critical questions when crafting an IP license. 

Are Ideas Getting More Expensive?

In terms of U.S. productivity growth, optimists and pessimists may disagree on a whether renewed resources and innovation are just around the corner. But the one thing they should agree on is that new ideas are getting more expensive.

Consider that during the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. and Europe enjoyed productivity prosperity to the tune of 4 percent annual growth. Those numbers took a nosedive in the 2010s, spiraling down to the 2 percentiles. Every time a pessimist declares that the finite amount of oil or another resource has been tapped, deep offshore and shale discoveries prove them wrong. But the glass half empty side of those discoveries is that these ideas and innovations seem to be coming at a higher cost.

Things You Need To Know About California Trade Secret Law​

One of the greatest threats to a company's prosperity stems from the trade secrets that separate it from industry competitors. Whether that involves grandma's pie recipe, a key software innovation or the formula to Coca Cola, trade secrets provide businesses an edge that directly relates to profitability. Protecting trade secrets has proven to be difficult in the information age and San Francisco area companies may consider a recent lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in New York as an example.

The Chicago-based Opternative company recently filed suit against Warby Parker for allegedly usurping a trade secret while the pair were in negotiations. Opternative, which developed an Internet-based test for eyeglass prescriptions, claims that Warby violated a nondisclosure agreement and gained access to an app under false pretenses. The suit also states that Warby filed for a patent regarding the technology after learning the trade secret from Opternative. This case highlights just how delicate and easily company secrets can be pilfered and Californians should take heed. 

Staying informed: California's right of publicity law

When someone uses your likeness for profit, shouldn't you have some control over how your image or voice gets used? In states like California, specific laws exist to ensure that you stay in charge of your unique identity and control how you're portrayed. As with many laws, however, you may need to take action to uphold your rights.

What is the right of publicity law?

Dealing with the theft of your copyrighted work

They say that true art requires suffering, and you've certainly invested blood, sweat and tears into your masterpiece. The only problem is that someone else wants to profit from your labor without putting in their own effort.

Although you copyrighted your creative output, this kind of intellectual property protection is just a part of achieving the justice and recognition you deserve. Read on to find out what steps you should take if someone uses your copyrighted work without permission.

You can sue your 401(k) provider for charging excessive fees

If you are like many people, your 401(k) is a big part of your retirement plan. You diligently allocate money towards it each month and look forward to the day when your hard work and dedication pay off.

Of course, you recognize that there are risks involved with a 401(k) - but these are calculated risks that you trust your plan administrator to manage. Unfortunately, sometimes the risks are more than what any investor should endure, especially when the loss of money is due to poor plan management or excessive fees.

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