Small Business Intellectual Property - Free Enterprise

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To be fair, naming a restaurant "The Kitchen" doesn't sound all that original. But that's not Kimbal Musk's argument. Billionaire engineer/entrepreneur Elon Musk's billionaire restaurateur brother is suing Wolfgang Puck over a restaurant concept Musk says he started and shared with Puck in 2012.

So which eatery giant gets to use a generic word for cooking room? Let's take a look at the lawsuit.

Many people have been surprised to hear that the US Patent and Trademark Office has not only been accepting applications to patent various strains of marijuana, but it has actually been granting some patents. With numerous states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use by adults, speculators are predicting that the big business of marijuana is going to continue getting bigger.

There's nothing new about patenting plants. However, researchers had more to be concerned about before states started legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. Now that a handful of states allow recreational use, it is expected that more marijuana patents will be filed.

Top 5 Trademark Questions

Hopefully you already know that protecting your small business's intellectual property is essential to your success. But you might not know the best ways to do it. For example, the differences between trademarks, copyrights, and patents can be difficult to discern, and there are cases where you may not need to actually file a trademark to have the benefits of trademark protection.

You may not even know the questions you need to ask to get started. Lucky for you, we've pulled some of the most important trademark questions from our archives, along with where you need to go for answers.

Being an entrepreneur or running a small business means that you have to wear many hats. One of the most important is the marketing and advertising hat. Making sure your potential customers know that you exist and know what you do is essential for any business that wants to survive.

So after you've done your research on how to reach your target market and you've selected the type of advertisement you want to run (print, internet, radio, etc.), you have to design your advertisement's content. Will you just let people know you exist? Are you going to offer a special promotion? Or, are you going to tell everyone why your competition's product is inferior? Regardless of what you say, you should make sure you know the limitations on what you can and can't say in advertising.

Below are 5 frequently asked questions from small business owners about advertising.

You founded your company around one great idea, and you want to protect it. Or that one great idea has led to a lot more great ideas and you need to protect those. And if your great idea is a new invention, product, or process, you're probably going to need a patent to protect it.

Unfortunately, patent law can be especially confusing, even for the experts. Here are five questions small businesses face when it comes to patents, and where you can find answers:

There's not much upon which nearly all business owners agree, but they are fairly unified in denouncing patent trolls. You know, a shadowy company that's only in the business of litigation, snapping up patents on the cheap and, instead of producing something new or putting them to good use, are content with suing the pants off anyone making a similar product or using a similar technology.

And patent trolls aren't just a minor nuisance -- they can bankrupt startups and small businesses, and stifle innovation before it can get started. While several anti-troll statutes have stalled in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission hopes that new proposals will reduce nuisance infringement litigation. But will it work?

The American people have the right to be free from unreasonable searches. It's a constitutional right that stems from the Fourth Amendment that is meant to protect the people from the government. Microsoft has been fighting since April to stop the government from searching users' cloud storage without providing notice to the searched user. In the most recent filing, Microsoft has found unusual allies in not only Google and Apple, but also Amazon, BP, Fox News, Delta, the EFF, and even the US Chamber of Commerce.

Basically, the issue focuses on the government's ability to obtain not just a search warrant to search through a user's files stored on the cloud, but also a gag order which prevents the company providing the cloud storage from notifying the user that the search will occur or has occurred.

In today's modern era of the internet and energy drinks, small businesses come in all shapes, forms, and types of tangibility. Businesses today can exist solely in the digital sphere, selling digital products that people only use in digital worlds. Businesses that don't have a presence in the digital world want in. But before businesses hire that pricey developer to start developing, an Invention Assignment Agreement should be signed.

Developing code is not just a science, it's an art. Like photographers, developers and coders are the copyright holders and owners of their code. So before your business hires on that coder to build the next revolutionary Thneed, make sure you know who owns what from the outset.

Coaches aren't just for athletes anymore. Many of us are turning to non-professional mentors or "life coaches" for help in finding direction, organization, and drive, and entrepreneurs and small business owners are no different.

Enter the online business coach. While it might seem like your small business could use the same sort of perspective and guidance as you do, there are some risks associated with business coaches, especially online.

Small businesses are always going to try and take advantage of world sporting events to boost their revenue or recognition. And the entities that put on those events will always try and protect their trademarks, allowing only official sponsors to use certain terms and images.

Just like FIFA with the World Cup, and the NFL with the Super Bowl, the United States Olympic Committee is extremely protective over the use of Olympic trademarks and terminology. Too protective? The USOC recently sent a letter warning businesses to "not create social media posts that are Olympic themed, that feature Olympic trademarks, that contain Games imagery or congratulate Olympic performance unless you are an official sponsor as specified in the Social Media Section." So how can your small business tweet and share the Games without breaking the law?