Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When Is The Best Time To File A Copyright Application?

Recently we were asked whether an author of a book-in-progress should file a copyright application to protect the book now or wait until the book is finished. In this situation it sounded like there isn't a big need to file the copyright application now because it is not a situation where there is a high likelihood of pre-publication piracy as there often is with sound recordings by popular recording artists or major motion pictures. If you are concerned about pre-publication piracy, then the scale tips in favor of registering the copyright in the unpublished version or using the Copyright Office’s “pre-registration” system. (Check the Copyright Office website for more info about the “pre-registration” procedure). On the other hand, given the relatively low filing fee for a copyright application ($35 if filed online), it might make the author “feel” better to know that the unpublished version has been registered for copyright purposes. But…….registering the preliminary unpublished version is no substitute for registering the copyright in the finished version when it is available. Thus doing it twice will increase the costs. But given the relatively low cost of the filing fee, that may not be much of an impediment. Another issue to consider in this kind of situation is whether there is enough original authorship in the work now to support a copyright application. If all you have is a one paragraph summary of what the book is going to be or just an outline, it is not clear that the Copyright Office would accept the copyright application. What is enough original authorship for copyright registration purposes is a difficult question to answer with any precision and is probably worth a blog entry all of its own.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dueling Golf Ball Patents: Who Knew Golf Balls Could Be Worth All the Trouble?

The golf ball wars between the makers of Titleist and Callaway golf balls continue. A federal court judge recently lifted an injunction which had prohibited the manufacturer of the Titlteist Pro V1 from selling the balls. Here is an article that describes the latest in the ongoing battle between the two golf kings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trademarks & The Name Game: Why Change?

Lately we seem to be hearing more about "branding", "maintaining your brand", "creating your own brand", etc. etc. There once was a TV show called "Fame Is the Name of the Game". In business it's really "Fame is the Game of the Name". So why would a company with a famous 90 year old brand like "Radio Shack" change its name to "The Shack"? Does it make sense to do that? Here is an interesting article that summarizes the recent change from "Radio Shack" to "The Shack" along with some other famous name changes such as Galvin Manufacturing Corp. to Motorola Inc. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. to Panasonic Corp. And here is a well-written critique of Radio Shack's decision to change its name.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Value of a Name: Pirate Bay

Logic tells us that a McDonalds franchise location probably wouldn't be worth as much without the ability to use the McDonalds name, the golden arches and the familiar McDonalds color scheme. Those unique identifiers - trademarks - help make each McDonalds location worth a lot more than a restaurant in the same spot that didn't have those familiar icons. The same can be said about many familiar franchises and brands. But how do we place a value on what a name and trademarks are worth? Here is a recent story about the efforts by a Swedish internet cafe operator to buy an online file-sharing website called Pirate Bay for almost $8 million - even though the current operators of the website were criminally convicted in April and were ordered to spend a year in prison and pay almost $4 million in damages and the Motion Picture Association of America has requested that a court in Sweden stop the website from making available unauthorized copies of movies, TV shows, videogames, etc. Why is Pirate Bay worth $8 million plus whatever it will cost to operate it going forward? Apparently because the new buyer believes it can convert about 10% of Pirate Bay's current 20 million subscribers into legit customers who will pay for downloads.

It should be interesting to see how this works out.