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When to Sue Counterfeiters

If you come up with a great new product, you want to be the only one selling it. Like if you had to clear all the testing and regulatory hurdles associated with vaporizers and e-cigarettes and adhere to strict age requirements when selling them, and then you see dozens of Chinese entities selling untested counterfeit e-cigs on eBay without a care to underage buyers, you'd probably sue those entities for trademark infringement.

Litigation may not always be the first choice for small businesses that discover someone selling counterfeits of their products, but it may be your last resort. Here's when you might want to think about suing counterfeiters.

Chances are, you started your small business either because you had something (an idea, a product, or a service) that no one else had, or because you could make or do something better than it was being done already. Either way, you're bringing something unique to the table, something that will set you and your company apart, and something you don't want anyone else to get their hands on.

Protecting your trade secrets is essential to maintaining your competitive advantage as a small business, so here are five things you should be thinking about when it comes to your trade secrets:

Every small business needs to know how to protect its intellectual property. From product patents to trademarking logos to copywritten written materials, making sure other businesses don't steal your ideas is essential setting your products and services apart and ensuring your value.

These efforts can be especially important, and complicated, when it comes to online businesses, where everything you make, sell, and say is immediately available worldwide. So if you're running an online business, here are five tips to protecting your intellectual property.

Fitbit Settles Lawsuit Over Haptic Feedback Patents

Fitbit is active in the legal arena again. It has been embroiled in numerous patent infringement and trade secret cases over the last few years with companies such as Jawbone and Valencell.

Most recently, Fitbit was sued last year by Immersion in both the US and China for using what Immersion claims are three of its patented technologies related to Haptic Feedback. (For those keeping track, that would be patents 8,351,299, 8,059,105, and 8,638,301.) What is Haptic Feedback? More on that later.

Between patent trolls, corporate and espionage, and employees taking your ideas with them as they walk out the door, there are myriad reasons to protect your intellectual property as a small business owner. But you entrepreneurs are a curious breed, so confident in your ability to do anything and everything. And, to be fair, a law degree is not a prerequisite to filing for a patent.

Still, there comes a time when your intellectual property needs will require an expert in the field. So how do you know when you need to hire an IP lawyer to protect your business' ideas?

Everybody and their mom has a podcast these days -- how hard can it be? You record yourself (and maybe some friends), throw it up on the internet, and wait for that sweet, sweet ad revenue to come flowing in. But like anything that sounds too good to be true, there's always a hitch, legally speaking.

Although it may seem like it, podcasting is not the Wild, Wild West, and there are a few legal considerations any prospective podcaster should take to heart before hitting record.

You get patents, trademarks, and copyrights so that someone doesn't steal your ideas. But those intellectual property protections can also make some money if someone wants to use your ideas. Licensing your intellectual property can be lucrative, but it can also be a legal headache.

So here are some things to think about before licensing your intellectual property, depending on the type of property involved and to whom you'll be licensing:

Startups Face Increasing Threat From Patent Trolls

You know that bully? The one who, rather than bring his own lunch to school, sits around, waiting to take other kids' lunch money? And he uses the unoriginal, yet effective, "pay up or else" threat? The patent troll is kind of like the bully of the intellectual property world. And while today's startups may not have the most lunch money on the playground, they are facing an increasing threat from these patent trolls.

What to Do If Patent Trolls Threaten Your Business With a Lawsuit

Patents, and other forms of intellectual property, are meant to encourage creativity and innovation. That's why if you suspect that someone has infringed on your patent, you have the option of filing a lawsuit against that person. However, there are entities -- referred to as patent trolls -- that make money by suing or threatening to sue businesses for patent infringement.

CA Brewery Faces Legal Claims by Thelonious Monk Jr.

Intellectual property rights can seem like invisible property rights. They're out there, but that never seems to stop businesses and enterprising individuals from running afoul of them. That's apparently true for the North Coast Brewing Company, out of Mendocino, California.

A federal judge refused to dismiss a trademark infringement suit brought against the company on Wednesday, alleging that the company improperly used the likeness of jazz legend Thelonious Monk to sell beer-related merchandise without permission.