Domain Names

When Paying for It Doesn’t Mean You Own It

The Conundrum of Works for Hire.

You are a small business.  You’ve hired a web developer to create your website, a marketing expert to author critical passages about your products and services, and you’ve hired a graphics person to design your business cards and signage.  You paid everyone, took delivery of and launched your beautiful new website.  The problem is, you don’t have any paper that confirms your developer, marketing guru, and graphic designer transferred the rights to the work to you.  “But wait,” you protest, “they cashed my checks and I have possession of the files.  Doesn’t that mean I own it?”

It’s natural to assume that if you engaged a service provider to create something for you, and you paid for it, it’s yours.  But that’s not what the law says, at least with respect to works that are eligible for copyright protection.  In fact, even if you have a writing that says the work shall be considered a “work made for hire,” that might not be sufficient to ensure that the work belongs to you.

What Does Copyright Protect?

Copyright protects original, creative works that are set out in a “tangible medium,” meaning they are written … Keep reading

Domain Name Offer: Helpful Service, or Marketing Scam?

In 2013, I blogged about a common deceptive technique used by some publishers around the world that send apparently official invoices to trademark applicants in the hopes that people will reflexively pay outrageous sums for a listing of their brand in a catalog few will read. I wanted to follow up on that post and summarize another common scam that befalls trademark owners and applicants.  I get an inquiry from a client at least 2-3 times per month: “Is This Domain Name Email Legitimate?”The ruse works like this: Trademark owner applies for a trademark in the U.S. or with another office in another country.  Information about the mark and the owner is publicly available to scammers through simple searches. The scammer sends an email to the trademark owner purporting to warn the mark owner of the ill behavior of a potential domain name squatter. Below is an actual email received recently by a client.  I have changed the names in the email to avoid any embarrassment of the recipient, but I otherwise have left the text, including the grammatical errors of the original, intact.Dear CEO/Principal,We are the department of [Domain Name] Service in China. Here I Keep reading
What's In a Name?

Question: What do Sean Combs, J.K. Rowling, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Mark Wahlberg have in common? Two things, actually. First, they are all listed on the Forbes 2017 Celebrity 100 List; second, they all have gone to the trouble of registering their personal names as trademarks with the U.S Trademark Office. Indeed, of the first 20 celebrities on this “A” list, 19 have sought registration of their names as trademarks.

Trademark Protections For Personal Names

Under Federal law, everyone is entitled to seek protection of his or her name as a brand. The Lanham Act expressly provides that:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it … consists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual except by his written consent.

As indicated by the language of the statute, in addition to names, likenesses (portraits) and signatures of individuals are entitled to trademark registration. Several well-known entertainers have taken advantage of this right, including Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, and Anthony Hopkins Keep reading