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Cannabis-infused business used Girl Scout cookie names in email

Many in California and across the United States eagerly stock up on their favorite Girl Scout cookies each Spring. A cannabis-edibles company based in California was noticed for utilizing the names of the popular treats to their advantage. The edibles company compared the taste of their cannabis-infused cookies with the ones made by the Girl Scouts.

Kaneh Co., a company based in San Diego, emailed out a pitch that described Kaneh's cookies as tasting similar to some of the popular Girl Scout cookies, but with an elevated flavor profile. Although a publicist for Kaneh Co. claims that the comparison between their cookies and the ones made by the Girl Scouts would not be used in print or online advertising, the company may still face some legal backlash. The Girl Scouts' legal team has noted that components of their cookie program is their intellectual property and cannot be used by other organizations.

Basketball star faces lawsuit in trademark dispute over slogan

Entrepreneurs who have ideas or products they want to protect from illegal use should understand the complexity of trademark laws. Because many concepts are vulnerable to theft, trademark misappropriation concerns that pop up should be addressed. One notable recent trademark case involves a basketball star/business owner who is accused of utilizing and profiting from a phrase that was trademarked by another company.

World famous NBA player LeBron James is facing accusations that his company, Uninterrupted, unfairly profited from a trademarked phrase. The phrase in contention, 'I am more than an athlete" had been trademarked by a nonprofit called Game Plan. The lawsuit claims that Mr. James has been generating revenue by utilizing the phrase. In addition to Mr. James' company, Nike, ESPN, and video game maker of the NBA 2K series Take-Two Interactive, are also named as defendants.

Design patents may provide options for cannabis businesses

Once cannabis became legalized in Colorado, many entrepreneurs jumped into the industry and developed innovative products that appeal to a wide customer base. Intellectual property is arguably one of the most important assets held by any business, especially within an industry where products are commonly distinguished by creative ideas and applications. Cannabis businesses specifically will face obstacles when seeking protections through patents, trademarks and copyrights because marijuana is still illegal federally.

However, cannabis companies can still access intellectual property protections through alternative methods. For example, cannabis entrepreneurs may be granted protections for related products, merchandise and branding. Furthermore, cannabis companies can seek trademarks and copyrights for branded items and accessories that accompany their cannabis products such as clothing. Utility patents can be sought to protect certain types of innovative technologies. Design patents are another possibility that cannabis companies may explore to protect unique types of bongs, vapes, pipes, containers and other products that accompany direct cannabis sales.

DoorDash in disputes over arbitration clauses, contractor status

DoorDash, a company based in California, was recently mandated to comply with their own arbitration clause. DoorDash hires thousands of delivery workers as independent contractors to deliver food from an array of restaurants, and requires their contractors to sign a mandatory arbitration clause before working. DoorDash was compelled to comply after the company attempted to avoid multiple claims by its independent contractors. Mandatory arbitration clauses have increasingly become controversial due to numerous reports of tech companies utilizing arbitration clauses to silence sexual harassment and discrimination cases. Among other issues, DoorDash's clause requires that disputes over whether workers are properly classified as contractors or as employees to be handled through arbitration.

Employees, unlike independent contractors, have access to a greater variety of benefits and protections. Over 6,000 DoorDash workers have filed claims that they had been improperly classified as contractors. However, because of DoorDash's mandatory arbitration clause, the workers were prevented from launching a class-action lawsuit or other court challenges to their classification. Instead, each of the delivery workers contesting their status had to pay the $300 filing fee to seek an individual arbitration. Ironically, DoorDash failed to meet deadlines or pay its own required $1,900 fee for each arbitration case that were set forth by their own clause.

Soccer clubs in international trademark dispute

California soccer fans may be surprised to learn that intellectual property issues can even impact their favorite teams. Presently, two soccer clubs are involved in an international dispute over the names of their clubs. Inter Milan, based in an Italian city, and Inter Miami, based in a Florida city, are locked into an ongoing trademark dispute over the use of Inter. Miami, a team owned by former soccer star David Beckham, recently lost an initial decision regarding the trademark dispute.

Some trademark attorneys believe that Inter Miami, a Major League Soccer team, may be compelled to change its name after the initial trademark victory for Inter Milan. Inter Milan had submitted a trademark application in 2014 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Milan had registered "Inter" as an exclusive brand in the United States for sports teams, preventing other teams from registering trademarks with the same name or using Inter in their marketing. However, in 2018, Miami's Major League Soccer Team presented its name, Inter Miami, short for Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami. Miami later applied for a trademark on the name, and the application was suspended after Inter Milan objected.

How can nondisclosure agreements protect your tech business?

With new innovations constantly broadening tech offerings, it is becoming harder for tech industry companies to stay ahead of the curve. Further, tech brands need to protect their own business product development and processes. You absolutely wouldn’t want the product you’ve been developing for a year to suddenly and unexpectedly be undercut by a near clone product from a competitor.

So, how do you do that? You may need to do more than seek patent protection for your startup’s intellectual property. Another topic tech entrepreneurs may need to consider is when having a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) might benefit their business interests.

Protecting trade secrets from whistleblower disclosures

California companies can suffer substantial harm when their trade secrets are disclosed. One potential party that can disclose trade secrets are whistleblowers. Currently, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) contains a controversial immunity provision that aims to protect whistleblowers who reveal trade secrets. However, there are still some strategies that companies can utilize to further protect their proprietary information from being revealed by such parties.

The first step that a business should take is to strictly limit who has access to their various trade secrets. Businesses should carefully draft policies about access to trade secrets and rigorously enforce them. Furthermore, the DTSA requires businesses to notify their employees about the immunity provision. Thus, business owners should make certain to do so.

Streetwear company in copyright dispute

Supreme's streetwear clothing is popular in California and all across the country. However, the clothing brand is facing some business challenges. Supreme is engaged in a copyright dispute with another firm, ASAT Outdoors. Essentially, ASAT Outdoor is accusing Supreme of stealing ASAT's proprietary camouflage design. In November 2019, ASAT Outdoors sued Supreme's parent company, Chapter 4 Corporation, accusing them of violating ASAT's copyright ownership over a specific camouflage print.

ASAT Outdoors claims to have exclusive intellectual property ownership to the camouflage design in question and that other companies that want to use it must purchase a license for the pattern. Supreme created jackets and cargo pants featuring the camouflage print, and ASAT filed suit demanding profits from the sale of the merchandise and additional statutory damages for copyright infringement.

Many companies suffer trademark problems in 2019

A growing number of brands in California are facing a wide range of problems regarding trademark infringement. For example, these problems can come from competitor companies using confusingly similar names for their products or through the direct counterfeiting of goods. In 2019, the vast majority of companies dealt with some kind of infringement. In fact, 85% of brands reported some type of trademark problems in 2019. This was greater than previous years with 81% reporting trademark infringement in 2018 and 74% in 2017.

According to a survey report authored by a trademark research company, there were a wide range of problems suffered by companies targeted for trademark infringement. The companies that participated in the survey placed a heavy emphasis on legal response with up to 75% reporting that infringement cases led to some legal actions or even litigation. 45% of companies were most concerned with customer confusion. Consumer confusion can lead to loss of revenue even when traditional competitors infringe, but it can be especially damaging when counterfeiters do so. Over one-third of study participants said that they were concerned by potential damage to their brand reputation, which can be caused by consumers incorrectly believing that cheap counterfeits with poor quality items and dangerous ingredients are the real deal.

Celebs and paparazzi in copyright battle

The battle between celebrities and paparazzi in California continually rage on in the courtroom. Photographers have been serving stars over posting paparazzi photos of themselves on their social media profiles. For example, Ariana Grande was sued by a photographer for posting two photos he had taken of her to her Instagram account without receiving permission or buying a license. The photographer sought tens of thousands of dollars in damages, accusing Grande of copyright infringement. The case was settled a few months later with Grande paying an undisclosed amount to the photographer.

However, the paparazzi photographer and the singer are once again locked in another legal battle. The photographer is suing Grande for the second time, claiming that Grande used a photo of herself leaving her apartment as part of an Instagram story that promoted the star's clothing and merchandise line. In the photograph, Grande is seen wearing a sweatshirt from her Sweetener merchandise collection in the photo. On the Instagram story, she invites her followers to swipe up for a link to purchase the item. The photographer is contesting that this means Grande was using the photo in a commercial context in order to promote the sale of her goods. The potential commercial context of the image in question makes it more difficult for Grande to assert a fair use defense to the infringement allegations.

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