Articles Tagged with Intellectual Property

photo - toy idea theftA stagnant company, one that’s not looking to improve on its products or come up with new ones, may not have a bright future. There may be pressure to come up with the next successful products as well as pressure to cut costs and improve profits. That may result in legal problems if a company illegally uses someone else’s concept without their approval or paying them. A recent Bloomberg article spelled out this problem of intellectual property theft in the toy industry.

Ellie Shapiro came up with a toy in 2012. They were little animal figurines with snow globes in their bellies which she called Wishables. She worked as a freelance toy inventor but prior to that she spent ten years as an executive at Mattel Inc. and Walt Disney Co. Shapiro pitched her toy ideas to toymakers including Hasbro, Inc.

She signed a confidentiality agreement, met with Hasbro executives in Santa Monica in 2013 and showed off her prototypes, sample packaging and feed back from focus group testing. Executives liked the presentation, asked for samples but later told her they were passing on the idea.

In the fall of 2014 she walked into a Target store and saw a new Hasbro toy, an animal figurine that was also a snow globe. “At first, I was in shock and in disbelief,” Shapiro told Bloomberg. “Then I felt completely sick.” She later sued Hasbro for stealing her idea in federal court in the Central District of California. The company responded by saying snow globes have been used in toys for years and a similar design was developed in-house in 2012, prior to her submission.

Shapiro sued an Australian toy maker previously and settled the case in 2014. In the past she felt Hasbro stole a previous idea, threatened to sue them but ultimately did not. Freelancers like Shapiro face the double threats of having their ideas stolen and not making any money or suing (which can be expensive) and getting a litigious reputation risking being avoided by toy companies and not making any money. Some inventors see theft as the cost of doing business, hoping eventually a company may agree to pay for an idea.

Continue reading

Photo - cookie IP casesCookies not only taste good but they can be the subject of intellectual property (IP) lawsuits. While many IP lawsuits in the news concern high tech patents like those between Samsung and Apple over smart phones, IP disputes can arise over virtually over any product that has a patent, trademark or copyright.

A cookie sold by Trader Joe’s is the basis of a trademark infringement case filed in December in federal court in Connecticut by Pepperidge Farm, Inc., a bakery unit of the Campbell Soup Company, according to Reuters. Trader Joes’ estimated total revenues in fiscal year 2013 was $10.5 billion. It’s a privately held grocery store chain based in Monrovia, California, which opened its 400th store in 2013.

Pepperidge Farm claims that Trader Joe’s has infringed its trademark rights by copying the look of its Milano cookies and its packaging. It claims the grocery store chain is damaging its goodwill and confusing shoppers through the sale of its Crispy Cookies.

IP DisputesMark Getty, Chairman of Getty Images and one of the world’s largest Intellectual Proprietors said, “Intellectual property is the oil of the 21st century.”

Well said.

With everyone vying for IP power, though, you must not forget that 21st century IP opportunities also come with 21st century challenges.

Because while copyrights, trademarks and patents may be an entrepreneur or serious investors chance to strike revenue gold, how do you safeguard your precious ‘metal’ in a world where technology makes almost anything accessible to anybody with a computer?

Before we show you how to protect your property, it first helps to have an understanding of why IP protection has become such a challenge in the first place. There are two key contributing factors.

#1 – The Digital Technology Rabbit Hole

This should come as no surprise, but today’s digital technology – while useful – also comes with complications. Computer hackers can reach into your company email stealing secrets that should be for your eyes only. Viruses can attack your finances, scrambling your profits and numbers. And anybody with a modest knowledge of computers can steal your copyrighted or trademarked work right off of your website or blog and pass it off as their own. And you may be none-the-wiser.

In fact, it’s very common for images or bits of content to be scraped off the internet and repurposed on a different platform. In happens every day.

Most of the time, these random acts of copyright or trademark infringement go unknown because the World Wide Web is simply so vast that there’s no way we could track it all down. It’s a digital rabbit hole and stolen pieces of work simply get swallowed and lost in the www abyss.

#2 – The International Component

Continue reading