Small Business Intellectual Property - Free Enterprise
Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Recently in Intellectual Property Category

YouTube star Michelle Phan has been slapped with a copyright-infringement lawsuit over her use of background music in her makeup tutorials.

The do-it-yourself online makeup sensation is accused of rising to commercial success by illegally using copyrighted music by artists like Deadmau5 and Kaskade in her videos. While Phan insists she didn't infringe on any copyrights, business owners may be wondering: Isn't there a way for entrepreneurs like Phan to use music without being sued?

Learn from Phan's copyright suit with these three business lessons:

It's 2014. Do you know what your business' intellectual property is doing?

If you didn't answer with an emphatic "Yes!" (or worse yet, had to stop and think about what exactly intellectual property is), then you may be a prime candidate for an IP audit.

What exactly is an IP audit, and what can it potentially do for your business? Here's what business owners need to know:

World Cup fever has many Americans in its grip, and your business' social media strategy may be able to capitalize on it.

But can you use the phrase "World Cup" in your ads and social media posts without FIFA, the organization behind the tournament, crying foul?

Here are a few tips on how to market to football (soccer) fans without worrying about legality:

Electric car company Tesla has made the bold (or perhaps foolhardy?) move of giving away all of its patents.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced Thursday that Tesla would not engage in patent litigation against anyone who "in good faith, wants to use our technology," reports Wired. The goal of this move is to accelerate the adoption of electric cars.

But will opening up Tesla's patents to the free market be the company's downfall?

Noncompete clauses are a great tool for keeping your former employees from becoming your new competition, but do you really need them?

According to The New York Times, noncompete agreements are on the rise even in industries which have been traditionally light on paperwork. Case in point: a Massachusetts man whose job involves spraying pesticide on laws "had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement," the Times reports.

Should your business be including noncompete clauses in work contracts by default?

A Louisiana brewery has settled with the legal owners of "Godzilla" over a beer dubbed "Mechahopzilla."

New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co. (NOLA) had released Mechahopzilla and attempted to call it a "parody" of the Godzilla trademark before eventually settling. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Toho Co. Ltd, the owner of the Godzilla trademark, "wasn't laughing."

Is this yet another case of trademark being used to squelch a small business?

Crowdsourcing your invention sounds like a good idea to many entrepreneurs, but there are some worrisome legal tripping points.

In February, the White House announced it would even consider "crowdsourcing" the review of patents, in an attempt to deal with the increasing issue of patent trolls.

So before you decide to let your invention enter the fray, here are three legal tips to consider when crowdsourcing your invention:

Electronic cigarettes are getting some serious attention, and not just from smokers.

The holders of trademarks for iconic brands like Tootsie Rolls and Girl Scout cookies are pressuring the makers of e-cig liquid to stop using their names on flavored nicotine labels.

Why aren't these candy and cookie makers sweet on the smoking-hot e-cig market?

Trademarking your business' slogan may be easier than you'd think -- unless it could be interpreted as disparaging an entire group of people.

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the denial of a trademark to blogger Pamela Geller, who sought to trademark the phrase "Stop the Islamization of America" for her group of the same name and her almost-but-not-quite-the-same-name website, "Stop! Islamization of America."

Why can't Geller trademark her slogan?

Business Lessons From Katherine Heigl's Lawsuit

One of the worst things that can happen to a business is to get caught up in a high-profile lawsuit with a celebrity.

Just ask lawyers and PR managers for Duane Reade, the drug-store chain that's being sued by actress Katherine Heigl for allegedly misappropriating her image on Twitter and Facebook, The Associated Press reports.

While business owners may be eager to boast that celebs use their products or shop in their stores, what legal lessons can you learn from Heigl's lawsuit?