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Recently in Intellectual Property Category

You're starting a business because you've got some great, new ideas. So how do you protect those ideas once you're in business?

From intellectual property laws to non-disclosure agreements, there are quite a few legal options for protecting trade secrets. Here's how to know which is the right option for a particular product or idea, and which are right for your startup.

If small businesses don't have their intellectual property in order and legally protected, they could be in big trouble. That's why we normally take patents, trademarks, and copyrights so seriously around here.

But every now and then we run across an IP story so weird we have to share it. So here are seven of the strangest stories involving patent and trademark law:

Adidas, the sportswear and athletic shoe company, is on the receiving end of a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by the organizers of the popular annual art show, Art Basel. The lawsuit alleges that the shoe company manufactured a limited edition shoe that had the trademarked phrase "Art Basel" printed directly on the shoe's tongue.

While many Art Basel fans found these limited edition sneakers to be highly desirable, Art Basel contends that Adidas did not have permission to use the trademark. The shoes that were distributed for free by Adidas, however, quickly found their way onto online marketplaces and were selling for hundreds of dollars. Additionally, Adidas mobilized marketers to report on the limited edition shoes at the event.

Lexmark International is a worldwide laser printer and imaging company with over $3.7 billion in annual revenue. Impression Products, on the other hand, has 25 employees and less than $15 million in annual sales. Yet this small business David took a Goliath to the Supreme Court, and won.

In what could be a big win for small businesses nationwide, the Court held that subsequently purchasing an already-sold and patented item does not violate patent law. And just like that, a seemingly esoteric corner of intellectual property law could mean millions for consumers and small businesses.

Trademarks exist in order to allow consumers to differentiate products and services that exist in a marketplace. When a business, other entity, or individual, puts time, money, and effort, into developing a valid trademark, the law provides certain protections for the trademark holder.

For instance, when trademarks look similar, or have the potential to confuse the public or consumers, a trademark infringement action can be brought against the infringing party. If the infringing party has profited off the use of the infringed-upon trademark, or has harmed the goodwill associated with the trademark, the amount of damages claimed can increase drastically. However, not all trademarks that appear to be similar or infringing will be found so under the law. There are several defenses to trademark infringement actions.

As we've said here before, patents can be vital to your small business. Beyond protecting your inventions and ideas, patents can add value to your business for investors or a possible future sale. And yet many entrepreneurs and small business owners fail to file for patents for fear that the process is too complex.

But the United States Patent and Trademark Office is aiming to change that perception and the reality of filing for patent protection. Here's how:

When you're just opening the doors to your small business, you're probably thinking more about dollars and cents rather whether a patent or a trademark makes more sense. But considering your intellectual property may be your business's most valuable asset, protecting those ideas, images, and creations should be at the top of your entrepreneurial to-do list.

So if you're wondering where to get started in securing your intellectual property rights, here is some of our best IP advice for new small business owners, from our archives.

An argument over low-calorie beverage sweeteners might not appear to have an earth-shattering impact on intellectual property law. But when the legal arguments involve getting more patent lawsuits out of the tiny Texas district where almost all suits are brought by patent trolls, that's exactly what a case before the Supreme Court might do.

Last week, the Court heard arguments in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, and a ruling may alter where future patent cases are filed.

Forever 21, the popular clothing retailer, is going on the legal offensive against Adidas, the athletic clothing and shoe goliath, which they have accused of being a trademark bully. Forever 21 recently filed a federal lawsuit, seeking declaratory relief against Adidas, after receiving another letter threatening to sue them over a trademark dispute related to the famous three stripe Adidas pattern.

Last month, Adidas threatened to sue Forever 21 if the chain refused to stop making and selling a few particular garments that had four stripe patterns. Over the past several years, Adidas and Forever 21 have been involved in various disputes over the three stripe pattern, and Forever 21 has yielded to the demands made by Adidas in the past. However, when Forever 21 received that last threat of litigation, rather than acquiesce again, they decided to ask the court to intervene to put a stop to Adidas's pattern and practice of unreasonably attempting to enforce their rather ubiquitous trademark.

Over the last few decades, electronic music has grown at an electrifying rate. Now, all someone needs to qualify as a musician is a computer and some software to mix up songs other people made.

Capitalizing on the changing times, a new startup is hoping to mix up the music world of remixing by bringing order to the current chaos. The company, MetaPop, has created a new platform for not just the fans and creators of remixes, but also for the music labels that spend countless dollars on lawyers trying to enforce their copyrights.