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Memphis Business & Commercial Law Blog

Material that isn't covered by copyright

Copyright is one of the most powerful tools a business or individual can use to protect their creations and intellectual property. When material is copyrighted, those who don't have the copyright holder's permission can't replicate it for use. A copyright isn't difficult to acquire. However, not everything can be copyrighted. There are some types of materials that are actually specifically excluded from copyright law.

Generally, a work needs to be in a tangible form to be documented. For example, a piece of choreography would need to be diagrammed or documented in some way to be copyright eligible. If the choreography only exists when it is performed, then it can't be copyrighted. Also, ambiguous assets like thoughts, ideas, concepts and processes cannot be copyrighted. For those types of materials to be copyrighted, they would have to be documented in the form of a written description or illustration.

Avoiding litigation regarding family leave in Tennessee

Owning a business could come with its own special set of legal problems, especially regarding employees. Most owners focus mainly on filling key positions in their organization. They generally pursue the best people available but may forget to pay attention to honing their own management skills and complying with regulatory requirements involving labor and paid leave.

State and local employee leave laws and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act have moved medical leave issues into a complicated area of employee relations. Temporary and part-time workers now get three paid sick days annually now in California since a law was passed in September. New Jersey is contemplating a similar bill, and Connecticut passed one in 2011. Local laws requiring mandatory time off for employees have been passed in cities like San Francisco, D.C., New York City, Jersey City, Portland, and Seattle.

Well-planned mergers can boost Tennessee businesses

"Two is better than one." The age-old wisdom, applied to Tennessee businesses, explains why so many companies opt for mergers. By combining strengths, two can merge into a more synergistically efficient entity, decreasing competition and lowering costs.

The main types of mergers include conglomerate mergers, market extension mergers, product extension mergers, horizontal mergers, and vertical mergers. Think of conglomerate mergers as a conglomeration of unrelated goods and services merged into one company. This serves to diversify a company's production and marketability, creating new interest in the company as a whole. Another way to increase marketability is through market extension mergers. Unlike conglomerate mergers, these joining companies offer the same products, but usually in a different market. For example, if Bob's Fishing Lures in Beverly Hills merged with Ralph's Fishing Lures in New York City, the combined company would continue to produce fishing lures, but their market space would have doubled.

Limited liability business formats in Tennessee

When forming a new business, the structure to be used is one of the threshold decisions for the owners to make. Among a variety of options, both a limited liability company and a limited liability partnership protect the owners from personal liability of the obligations of the entity. The main difference between the two is that a limited liability company protects all of the owners equally while a limited liability partnership places all liability on the managing partners, protecting silent partners and investors.

The main thing that both formats have in common is the way the IRS views them. They both report like partnerships, passing profits through to the members. This prevents double taxation by avoiding corporate taxes. LLCs do have the option to report as a corporation, but most do not do so.

Geographical indications and goods

Geographical indications for goods are important to many Tennessee businesses. Indications are considered to be an important subset of intellectual property, as the geographical origination can indicate the expected quality of items from a given region. These indicators are often hotly protected by businesses as intellectual property.

There are many geographical indications used, many of which are used for certain agricultural products. Geographic indications are not used for generic or widely available products. For those that are not and for which the business has obtained the right to use a geographical indication, the business may protect the use through the trademark system.

General information regarding trademarks

Those who are doing business in Tennessee may wish to apply for a trademark, which is a sign that differentiates one company from another in the marketplace. The trademark holder is the only entity that is able to use the sign without penalty. Others who wish to use the trademark may pay a licensing fee in exchange for the right to use the trademarked material.

A trademark is generally good for 10 years. However, it is automatically renewed as long as the appropriate fees are paid. Trademarks can be registered on a regional, national and international level. If a trademark is registered, it may be possible to protect that trademark through a court order. Companies that wish to register a trademark internationally may either do so in specific countries or apply through the Madrid System.

Challenges to intellectual property

Business people in Tennessee may be familiar with the basic concept of a patent: By granting a temporary monopoly on the manufacture or use of an invention, society rewards technological innovation and initiative for the benefit of all. Patents are sometimes the focus of intellectual property litigation because advances in technology challenge society to devise clearer definitions of commonly used words and phrases.

Firms that filed patents on altered DNA molecules were challenged in court on whether their product could be considered intellectual property. At issue was whether the patents in question described something that was "naturally occurring" or not. Firms involved in biotechnology may have to weigh whether intellectual property protection is better served by considering a process as a trade secret instead of filing a patent. Those involved in nanotechnology sometimes face a similar analysis. The courts are still struggling with whether an existing device miniaturized to an atomic scale is a new invention or simply a smaller version of an existing invention.

Protecting industrial designs

Business professionals in Tennessee may benefit from learning more about the remedies available for protecting industrial designs, as described by the World Intellectual Property Organization. These designs may be described as the aesthetic or ornamental aspects in an article. The design may contain two-dimensional attributes like color, lines and patterns, or 3-D features like the surface or shape of an object. There is a wide variety of items crafted from industrial designs that may be protected by law.

Some of the commonly-used items that are created from industrial designs include housewares, medical instruments, electrical appliances, leisure goods, architectural structures and vehicles. Many industrial designs warrant protection because they increase marketability and improve the product's commercial value by creating a unique style that makes it more appealing or attractive. Protecting these designs may help ensure that the owner collects a fair return on the investment. In addition, industrial designs help promote honest trade and fair competition and benefit consumers.

The importance of having a partnership agreement

Tennessee entrepreneurs that are planning are entering into a 50/50 business partnership should know that this sort of business structure could face certain difficulties. However, some issues may be avoided by taking a few precautionary measures and investing time into building a partnership agreement that will lay out a roadmap for handling complications.

Conflict may have a negative effect on a business. It is even worse when it is a 50/50 partnership because the conflict means deadlock for the company. If the disagreement escalates to the point of a legal dispute, that could cost the company a lot in time and resources. In order to avoid this situation, partners should have in place a quick and economical conflict resolution process to handle disputes when they surface. For example, a walkaway provision that allows a partner to cleanly severe ties with the company.

Can an owner of intellectual property seize infringing materials?

Having one's intellectual property assets copied and sold illegally can result in significant losses, making it tempting to seize such copies personally when possible. However, it is important to understand that this action can also be deemed illegal, making it important to understand the limits in retrieving such materials. Generally, one's ownership of intellectual material does not authorize the seizure of media containing such content in Tennessee.

The state's law does not authorize a private individual to forcibly take counterfeit, bootleg, or pirated materials. Additionally, making a threat of intent to prosecute in order to coerce someone into turning over such media could result in extortion charges. Such an individual might argue that there was an effort to make a reasonable claim for compensation connected to the use of intellectual property. However, the outcome in such a scenario is not predictable. Evidence supporting the action would be important in making such a defense related to personally seizing suspected materials

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