iphone photoUnbeknownst to most software users, many of the world’s largest software companies have relatively complicated software license terms in the event of a user’s death. This can present an emotional and unnecessary complication at a loved one’s passing.

An illustrative and all too commonplace example of this can be found in the terms and conditions of Apple’s iCloud platform. One section of the terms of service of Apple’s iCloud software (as of the publication date) entitled “No Right of Survivorship” which provides that:

Unless otherwise required by law, You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted. Contact iCloud Support at https://support.apple.com/icloud for further assistance.”

In other words, Apple has a right to terminate an iCloud account and delete all the data stored in that account upon a user’s death. Many companies structure software licenses in this manner in order to avoid potential contractual liability in the event of a dispute over access to a deceased user’s account.

Legal Rights to Access Digital Content


Continue Reading Digital Intellectual Property: What rights does Apple have over digital photos upon death of a user?

As we age, memories of family and friends become all the more treasured. Indeed, for many of us, our most valued possessions are those things which “captured” such memories – home videos of our children’s first steps, photo albums of family members, and so on.

Traditionally, making estate planning provisions for these items was relatively simple – memories were all “captured” in tangible “containers,” i.e., recording media, such as photograph paper, VHS tapes, CD’s and DVD’s.

More recently however, digitization has changed the way memories are stored. Gone are the days of physical “containers.” Photographs, videos and other media are now almost exclusively stored in digital format: whether on a physical device such as a laptop computer or “in the cloud” on platforms such as Gmail, Facebook, DropBox and iCloud.

This continuing digital revolution has changed the way we store intangible, electronic assets – or “digital intellectual property.” Ownership of a “container” is different than ownership of the underlying rights in the content stored in such a “container”: an important distinction to keep in mind when estate planning.

Digital Executor

First, select an executor. This person will carry out the will’s instructions and is a critical part of any estate planning. Often, executors are tasked with collecting, liquidating and distributing the assets of an estate to various named beneficiaries. Unfortunately, many executors are ill-prepared for the various challenges associated with the collection and distribution of digital assets.

Accordingly, estate planners may wish to consider appointing an additional, “digital executor” – a person who is technologically savvy and can help the primary executor with the various computer-related functions of managing digital intellectual property. This could be an independent professional (Henderson Franklin offers such service) or a computer-literate family member who can help secure and distribute digital IP in accordance with the terms of the will (e.g., ensuring that all the testator’s family and friends receive access to digital photographs, videos, etc.).

There are three primary guiding principles which estate planners should follow, namely:

  • maintaining physical access to hardware;
  • maintaining electronic access to hardware and digital access to software; and
  • proactively establishing a legal right for loved ones to access digital content.

Physical Access to Hardware


Continue Reading Protecting Your Digital Intellectual Property Through Estate Planning

Business relationships often lead to the exchange of sensitive information or access to highly confidential matter. When faced with this situation, is it enough to merely tell your business partner that something is confidential? Absolutely not.

Businesses should always protect their confidential information using a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). NDAs are commonly used when businesses are contemplating or negotiating some sort of contractual relationship or deal. The NDA allows one party to share confidential and trade secret information with another and places restrictions on how the other party can use that information and obligates the other party keep such information confidential.

Under both the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and Florida’s Uniform Trade Secrets Act, trade secret owners must make reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of their confidential information. Using an NDA when disclosing confidential information demonstrates making reasonable efforts to protect that information.

However, some businesses do not have a standard form NDAs they can readily use. Also, many other businesses develop a general and broad NDA that they use over and over in all situations. Because it is good practice to have an NDA ready for situations where disclosure of confidential information is required, business should keep in mind the following issues to ensure they are adequately protected.

No Expiration Dates


Continue Reading 5 Simple Things to Keep in Mind with Non-Disclosure Agreements

Product packaging is a critical part of every manufacturer’s operations (and even that of many wholesalers and retailers). A product’s packaging is often the first thing customers see: and first impressions count. That is why, for example, an entirely new discipline – packaging engineering – has grown over the last several decades and why companies like Starbucks® and Apple® work so hard to have every napkin, cup, box and bag uniformly branded.

Yet despite the obvious commercial and marketing importance of product packaging, many companies fail to protect the intellectual property rights embodied in such packaging – rights which can often be secured under patent, copyright and/or trademark law.

Product packaging is one of those often overlooked areas of intellectual property. Manufacturing clients rightly focus on protecting their products but sometimes forget that consumers usually see their packaging first. Failing to protect such packaging can be a major misstep since competitors often infringe upon both packaging as well as products.

Design Patent

A design patent protects the ornamental design (i.e., the “look and feel”) of an invention. In other words, design patents protect the way an invention (including, potentially, product packaging) looks. When most people think about patents, they think about a “utility patent” – something which protects utilitarian or functional aspects of an invention. But a “design patent” is different – it protects the appearance of an invention. That’s often perfect for packaging. In general, that means that new, useful and non-obvious packaging designs can potentially be protected.

Major companies have been using design patents to protect product packaging for over a century. For example, U.S. D48160 is a design patent issued in 1915 over what we now know as the Coca-Cola® bottle. More recent examples include everything from Chobani’s design patent covering product packaging for yogurt boxes (U.S. D828766S1) and Kraft’s design patent covering a salad dressing bottle (U.S. D659000S1) to Starbucks’ design patents for a coffee cup (U.S. D529762S1) and a coffee cup lid (U.S. D516424).

How should companies decide whether or not to consider seeking design patent rights?


Continue Reading Copyright and patent protection apply to product packaging, too

In today’s internet-driven economy, businesses recognize the importance of using digital content to reach consumers. However, this often creates unique intellectual property issues – including potential copyright infringement questions.

Photographs and videos are amongst the most effective digital content – garnering significantly more likes, comments and click-thoughts on social media than text-based posts alone. While the use of photographs and videos presents an enormous marketing advantage, it also raises additional potential for legal exposure where such photographs or videos are not carefully sourced.

Protections under Copyright Law

Copyright law protects the creative expression of an idea – be it words on a page, notes in a song, brushstrokes on a canvas or the various compositional elements in a photograph or video: such as lighting, shadow, camera angle, etc. Such copyright protection can extend to photographs of products, places and people. While you cannot “copyright” a person, for example, copyright protection could extend to a particular photograph of a person.

Copyright protection over photographs has been recognized in the U.S. since the late 1800s – and therein lies the challenge. Often we are left trying to fit 21st century issues into 19th century legal frameworks. Sometimes, this results in illogical outcomes.


Continue Reading Copyright Issues Using Photographs and Videos on Websites and Social Media

With Election Day rapidly approaching, campaigning has become fierce. From President Donald Trump and Joe Biden down to Congressional, State Legislature and local candidates, everyone is blasting out their “message.” One way politicians like to get their messages across is by music. Snippets of songs create earworms that voters begin to associate with certain candidates — so why wouldn’t a candidate use music in their messaging, especially anthemic songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World,” or Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”?

While candidates love the association a song gives voters, often the artists do not. Every election cycle contains at least a few artist/politician disputes over use of music. How is this controlled and who has the right to control when and by whom music is used politically?

Copyright Law

Copyright protects original expressions reduced to tangible form. This includes music, both recorded and written, lyrics, and the song composition or arrangement. For a given piece of music, there may be several different copyright owners — the songwriter may own the lyrics, the composer may own the score, a record label or publisher may own the recorded version of a song. Copyright gives the owner of the expression the right to control copying, distribution and even use of copyrighted material in particular circumstances.

How does this play in to political marketing and who controls the use of songs?


Continue Reading Political Music — Who Controls Use?

Trademark scams, as detailed in our earlier post here, are back with a vengeance. Because of the nature of these scams and the potential cost of falling for them, we felt it was time to address this topic again.

How Trademark Scams Work

Federal trademark applications and trademark registrations are public records. The United States Patent and Trademark Office maintains a searchable database of currently existing and expired trademarks. Among other information in the database is the name and address of the owner of a trademark application or registration, USPTO Serial and Registration Numbers, registration dates and even visual images of trademarks.

Scammers can obtain this information directly off the USPTO website and enter it into documents that look “official” and emanate from such “official” entities as World Trademark Register, United States Trademark Compliance Office, Patent & Trademark Bureau, United States Trademark Registration Office, and WTP Trademark Service.


Continue Reading Don’t Be the Victim of a Trademark Scam

While COVID-19 rightfully dominates news coverage and Henderson, Franklin has been providing our clients with information, updates and links to resources to help get through this, we also recognize that the mundane is sometimes just as important. Thus, in a world without Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL, NASCAR or F1, we offer our own unique sports coverage, with an intellectual property slant.

Tom Brady Leaves Boston, Files Trademarks Applications

After 20 storied years with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady turned his back on the franchise, his fans and six Lombardi Trophies to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is undoubtedly a bitter pill for New England fans to swallow, who will now have to get used to mediocre football. (Patriot fans, please see Chicago Bears for guidance).

On the other hand, with his place in the Hall of Fame secure, Brady was looking for new challenges. Specifically, it appears, the challenge of brand extension. Almost as soon as the ink dried on his new contract with Tampa Bay, Brady’s management, TEB Capital Management, Inc., filed applications to register the trademarks TOMPA BAY and TAMPA BRADY with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The trademark applications identify the goods the mark will appear on, specifically all the clothing, hats and footwear that Tampa Bay fans are rushing out (at least online!) to buy. Time will tell whether Brady can repeat his on-field success with Tampa Bay, but it is certain that his off-field brand strengthening moves will allow him to throw from a deep pocket.

Nature Boy Down for the Count
Continue Reading The Sports Page

COVID-19 has disrupted businesses and has wrought havoc with timelines and deadlines. Likely, it will continue to do so. Many government agencies, such as the IRS as we reported here, are reacting to COVID-19 by extending deadlines. For those with intellectual property-related deadlines in the near term, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has recently made some policy changes in response to COVID-19.

Remote Appearances

While work goes on inside the USPTO, the building is closed to the public and any in-person business.  All previously scheduled meetings or hearings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) or Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) are to take place by video or teleconference.

Deadlines

With regard to deadlines to respond to USPTO actions, inquiries or other deadlines, those are set by statute and rule and the failure to timely respond to a deadline results in an abandonment of the underlying trademark or patent application or registration.


Continue Reading COVID-19 Impact on USPTO Deadlines

Growing companies face all kinds of challenges. From financing to staffing, growth takes effort and attention. Among the many things that both drive growth and need this attention is the company’s intellectual property (“IP”). What follows are a few thoughts about some IP-related issues expanding businesses should keep in mind.

Button Up Protection

As businesses grow they must review their IP assets to ensure they are protected, especially the ones that are driving growth. These assets might include trademarks for new product names or brand extensions, taglines and logos, as well as patents for new technologies. Sometimes growth happens quickly and a business does not want to leave important assets unprotected.


Continue Reading Growing Pains: Intellectual Property Challenges for Expanding Businesses