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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?

Patent applications can make or break the financial and legal security of your business, so it's important not to make mistakes.

As we mark 224 years since the Patent Act of 1790 was enacted -- setting forth the first patent statute in U.S. law -- try not to make these five common patent application mistakes that may send you back to the drawing board:

Google has unsuccessfully been trying to trademark the word "Glass" for its hip tech toy Google Glass, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied all attempts.

The product's name, "Google Glass," has already been successfully trademarked by Google, but the tech company is struggling with the slightly more succinct "Glass," reports The Huffington Post.

Why is "Glass" difficult for Google to trademark?

A Lexmark competitor can proceed in suing the printer company after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday in a false advertising appeal.

Static Control Components Inc. sued Lexmark in federal court, alleging that Lexmark told customers that Static Controls' products infringed on Lexmark's intellectual property and that using Static Control's products was illegal, reports Reuters. Static Control had been refilling and reselling Lexmark toner cartridges to those with Lexmark printers for more than a decade.

Lexmark, however, asserted that Static Control had no right to sue under the law. How did the High Court respond?

It may be tempting to ride the wave of a commercial craze by offering your business' own imitator, but you may run afoul of trademark law.

That's exactly what happened to a bakery in Maine that decided to sell its own version of the popular "Cronut" (a croissant-donut hybrid) and got slapped with a cease-and-desist order.

How can your business avoid selling trademarked goods?

Naming Your Business: 5 Legal Tips

Naming your business is one of the most important steps new business owners take. But it can also lead to legal troubles.

Some common mistakes include choosing a business name that's already taken and forgetting to register your business' name with the state, if required. Even using a name that pokes fun at a recognized brand -- like the "Dumb Starbucks Coffee" store in Los Angeles last weekend (which turned out to be a comedian's publicity stunt, Reuters reports) -- can potentially lead to lengthy litigation.

So if you're trying to come up with a name for your business, here are five legal tips to get you started:

5 Questions to Ask an Intellectual Property Lawyer

Whether it's about patents, trademarks, or copyrights, an intellectual property lawyer can guide your business through the legal process.

But what types of questions do clients typically ask IP lawyers?

Here are five initial questions you may want to jot down before your consultation:

The appearance of a "Dumb Starbucks" store in Los Angeles has drawn the ire of the real Starbucks corporation, demanding its "dumb" counterpart stop using its name.

On Friday, "Dumb Starbucks Coffee" opened in a strip mall in L.A.'s Los Feliz neighborhood, serving "Dumb Frappuccinos" and "Wuppy Duppy Lattes." The store is a pretty decent parody of the real Starbucks, but according to the Los Angeles Times, Starbucks corporate isn't laughing.

Can "Dumb Starbucks" use the Starbucks name without getting nailed in court?

Is It Legal to Use the Olympic Rings in Ads?

Is it legal to use the Olympic rings in ads? The answer to this question will depend primarily on why you're using the trademarked symbol and whether you got the proper permission to use it.

The International Olympic Committee is notoriously aggressive about protecting its trademarks, as explained in a Wired story from the 2012 Summer Olympics. Same goes for the Sochi Olympics that officially kick off Friday.

Here's what small business owners need to know:

Many businesses that plan to show the Super Bowl this Sunday don't plan on getting sued for doing it. But unless you're very careful about copyright law, the NFL's lawyers could potentially come knocking at your door.

So how can a business get sued for showing the Super Bowl?