U.S. Copyright Office to Provide New “Single Application”

The U.S. Copyright Office recently announced a new registration option called the “single application.” The option will be offered on an interim basis while the Office accepts public feedback.

The new option is only available for the simplest copyright claims, which must meet the following criteria:

  • Electronic registration only
  • Single author (does not include joint works)
  • Single claimant/owner (does not include works made for hire or works where the claimant/owner is different from the author, i.e., transferred ownership)
  • Single work (e.g., one song, one poem, one photograph. Does not include collective works, unpublished collections, units of publication, group registrations, databases, or Web sites).

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “It is important to the Copyright Office that registration be as simple, equitable, and economical as possible. The Office believes that providing an easier option for registration for those authors who file the simplest kind of application is worthwhile, and may encourage registration and foster the development of a more robust public record.”

The new option became available June 28, 2013 and the Office updated the interm rule again on October 28, 2013 seeking to refine the new application even more. The U.S. Copyright Office is still seeking public comment on the amended regulations for 60 days and will then revisit whether additional changes are needed before the rule becomes final.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Copyright Treaty to Provide Greater Access to Visually Impaired

International negotiators recently agreed to a landmark treaty that will increase access to books for the visually impaired. The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled requires signatories to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats through limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright holders.

The treaty, negotiated through the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), involved 600 negotiators from 186 member states. The final treaty was approved after more than a week of heated debate at a meeting in Monaco, including initial resistance by the Motion Picture Association of America.

“This treaty is a victory for the blind, visually impaired and print disabled, but also for the multilateral system. With this treaty, the international community has demonstrated the capacity to tackle specific problems, and to agree a consensus solution. This is a balanced treaty, and represents a very good arbitration of the diverse interests of the various stakeholders,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.

Currently, national governments determine what limitations and exceptions are permitted. In the United States, accessible format works, including braille, audio, or digital text, can be produced and distributed without permission from the copyright holder, so long as it is for the exclusive use by blind or other persons with disabilities.

However, the U.S. copyright law is not the standard, particularly in less developed countries. A WIPO survey in 2006 found that fewer than only 60 countries have limitations and exceptions clauses in their copyright laws that make special provision for visually impaired persons.

In addition to making it easier to convert books into formats such as Braille, large print text and audio books, the treaty also provides for the exchange of these accessible format works across borders by organizations that serve the people who are blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. According to WIPO, the goal is to harmonize limitations and exceptions so that these organizations can operate across borders, while also providing assurances to authors and publishers that that system will not expose their published works to misuse or distribution to anyone other than the intended beneficiaries.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Ghost Rider Copyright Suit.

Just like its title character, a copyright lawsuit involving the rights to the Ghost Rider comic garnered new life when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that comic book writer Gary Friedrich can move forward with his copyright lawsuit against Marvel Comics.

Friedrich’s lawsuit alleged that Marvel Comics’ copyright lapsed and reverted back to him, as the author of the work. Meanwhile, Marvel Comics maintains that the character was the product of a collaborative process within the comic book company.

Ultimately, the copyright dispute centers on the terms of a 1978 work-for-hire agreement. In 2011, the district court found that Friedrich had surrendered his rights in the Ghost Rider comic under the contract. However, the appeals court concluded that there are issues of fact to consider at trial and reversed the summary judgment order.

“The agreement is ambiguous on its face,” the three-judge panel concluded. “The contract contains no explicit reference to renewal rights.”

The Second Circuit further agreed that Friedrich might be able to show that the parties did not contemplate that the 1978 copyright agreement would cover the Ghost Rider comic, which was first published in 1972. “It is doubtful the parties intended to convey rights in the valuable Ghost Rider copyright without explicitly referencing it,” Judge Denny Chin wrote. “It is more likely that the agreement only covered ongoing or future work. Hence, there is a genuine dispute regarding the parties’ intent for this form contract to cover Ghost Rider.”

As the date for trial came closer Marvel Comics and Friedrich reached a settlement thereby insuring Marvel’s parent company Disney, that there would not be a trial that could place its interest in the “Ghost Rider” franchise at risk.

As this case highlights, the terms of a work-for-hire agreement must be clear and unambiguous. If not, the court may end up deciding who owns the rights to a lucrative motion picture, song, or other work.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

A “Happy Birthday” Copyright Lawsuit

You don’t have to pay a licensing fee to sing “Happy Birthday” at your child’s birthday party. However, playing the song in a television show or film will cost you, unless a new class-action copyright suit is successful in arguing that the song belongs in the public domain.

The argument makes sense considering that the Guinness Book of World Records has called “Happy Birthday” the most recognized song in the English language. However, the copyright analysis is far more complicated, relying on the publication date of the work.


Warner/Chappell Music required the plaintiff, Good Morning to You Productions, to pay a $1,500 licensing fee to use the “Happy Birthday” song in its documentary film about the history of the song. However, according to Good morning to You Productions, the copyright term expired many years ago. The complaint states:

“Irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating back to 1893, shows that the copyright to ‘Happy Birthday to You,’ if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song, expired no later than 1921 and that if defendant Warner/Chappell owns any rights to ‘Happy Birthday to You,’ those rights are limited to the extremely narrow right to reproduce and distribute specific piano arrangements for the song published in 1935. Significantly, no court has ever adjudicated the validity or scope of the defendant’s claimed interest in ‘Happy Birthday to You,’ nor in the song’s melody or lyrics, which are themselves independent works.”

As evidence of its claims, the plaintiff alleges, “Even though the lyrics to ‘Happy Birthday to You’ and the song ‘Happy Birthday to You’ had not been fixed in a tangible medium of expression, the public began singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ no later than the early 1900s…. For example, in the January 1901 edition of ‘Inland Educator’ and ‘Indiana School Journal,’ the article entitled ‘First Grade Opening Exercises’ described children singing the words ‘happy birthday to you,’ but did not print the song’s lyrics or melody.”  The complaint further states: “Upon information and belief, the lyrics to ‘Happy Birthday to You’ (without the sheet music for the melody) were first published in 1911 by the Board of Sunday Schools of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”

The complaint goes on to explain the long, and often convoluted, history of the song, as evidence that the copyright does not expire in 2030, as Warner/Chappell Music argues. It concludes by seeking a declaration that “Happy Birthday to You” is in the public domain as well as monetary damages and restitution of all the unlawful licensing fees that defendant Warner/Chappell improperly collected.

As this case highlights, calculating the proper copyright term can be a complicated task, particularly for older works. To determine whether a song has entered into the public domain, it is advisable to consult with an experienced copyright attorney.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Guidance After The Myriad Decision.

USPTO Provides Guidance in Response to Myriad Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., which clarifies what types of DNA claims are patent eligible. Only a few days later, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued preliminary guidance to its patent examining corps.

Earlier this year, tThe Supreme Court held that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.

As noted by the USPTO, “Myriad significantly changes the Office’s examination policy regarding nucleic acid-related technology.”In accordance with the Myriad decision, the USPTO advises it examiners:

As of today, naturally occurring nucleic acids are not patent eligible merely because they have been isolated. Examiners should now reject product claims drawn solely to naturally occurring nucleic acids or fragments thereof, whether isolated or not, as being ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Claims clearly limited to non-naturally-occurring nucleic acids, such as a cDNA or a nucleic acid in which the order of the naturally­occurring nucleotides has been altered (e.g., a man-made variant sequence), remain eligible.

The USPTO further added that it is closely reviewing the decision in Myriad and will issue more comprehensive guidance on patent subject matter eligibility determinations, including the role isolation plays in those determinations.

I will keep you informed of any new examination process and rule changes from the USPTO as they become relevant to you business.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

New Free Online Tool Available to Detect Copyright Infringement

If you use photos or graphics on your website, you should be interested in policing the unauthorized use of your works by your competitors. It is not uncommon for unscrupulous vendors to pilfer and use the photos and artwork of others to sell their own goods.  A free and simple to use online tool is now available to catch such copyright infringements.

As reported by CorpCounsel.com, photographer Jason Wilder has created the Copyright Infringement Finder (CIF), a free add-on for the Firefox browser. The CIF add-on uses Google’s image-searching technology and allows owners of images to right-click on an image in the Firefox browser window to find other sites that are using that same image. As long as you know what sites should be using your images, you can quickly scan the CIF results for potential infringement.

Wilder first released the tool in the summer of 2011, and it has now been downloaded nearly 2,000 times. According to Wilder, many users have contacted him to express their gratitude. As he explains:

“A lot of people are misled and go by, ‘If it’s on the Internet it’s fair game to use for whatever,’ and sadly it will be like that for a long time. But the more photographers go after copyright theft and seek for damages, the more people and corporations get educated from the mistakes they made when they have to pay out thousands instead of, say, paying a $50 fee for a one-time use.”

The CIF add-on is available free for Firefox.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

USPTO and Korean Intellectual Property Office Announce New Pilot

The U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) recently announced the launch of a new patent pilot.

KIPO will classify some of its patent documents using the Cooperative Patent Classification system (CPC). It is the first foreign patent office to engage with the USPTO and EPO in this new system.

The CPC is a new classification system jointly managed by the USPTO and the European Patent Office (EPO). It includes approximately 250,000 classification symbols based on the International Patent Classification (IPC) system, and will allow examiners and patent users worldwide to conduct searches by accessing the same classified patent document collections. The goal is to enable more efficient prior art searches and enhance efficiency through work-sharing initiatives designed to reduce unnecessary duplication of work.

CPC definitions containing a thorough description of the technical subject matter covered will be provided for every CPC subclass and regularly updated. Downloadable CPC schemes, CPC definitions and concordances (e.g. ECLA to CPC and CPC to IPC) are now available on the official CPC website.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

BMI Takes Gossip Website to Task Over Music Copyright Story

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) has asked celebrity gossip website TMZ.com to issue a retraction after it published a story about the music licensing company’s efforts to file copyright infringement lawsuits against twelve bars and restaurants located across the country.

The story, entitled “BMI Music Company Suit – Triggers 19 Nervous Breakdowns,” stated:

Here’s the deal.  BMI — the famous music licensing company — has filed lawsuits against 12 bars and restaurants around the country, claiming the establishments have been playing their songs without paying a licensing fee.  And it gets a lot worse.  For every BMI song that gets played on a bar jukebox or by a DJ without the proper fee being paid, BMI is entitled to $150,000 in damages.  So “Love Child” could literally put a bar out of biz.

BMI has now fired back, claiming that the TMZ story “misrepresents” its values and mission while including a “number of inaccuracies.”  As a BMI spokesperson explained to Billboard Magazine, “BMI did not request $150,000 for an infringed work in any of these cases. The $150,000 penalty referred to by TMZ is actually the maximum statutory amount that the copyright owner can recover per infringement as permitted within the U.S. Copyright Act.”

This is an accurate assessment. In reality, most copyright infringement lawsuits brought by BMI or its competitor ASCAP result in a settlement that is much closer to the cost of licensing the music.

BMI also argues that the article “misrepresents what BMI stands for along with the collaboration between performers and songwriters.” As it further notes, “Not all performers are songwriters and many songwriters that BMI represents make their living from their BMI royalties.”

This is also true given how the copyright system protects music and the many different rights holders that may be involved. For instance, the composer or songwriter holds a copyright to the musical composition, which includes the exclusive right to perform or play a song in public. When the song is converted into a sound recording, another set of rights is created on behalf of the performer. BMI’s role is to license the music on behalf of the copyright holders it represents.

The system is complicated, but BMI is well within its rights. Given the steady stream of revenue that music licensing provides, the company is motivated to aggressively police businesses playing copyrighted music without permission.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Samsung Facing Patent Infringement Suit From Taiwan University

Samsung Electronics Co.’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, offers an innovative feature — users can erase people from photos taken with the device. A commercial for the phone shows a mother fixing a photo of her son receiving his diploma after another graduate jumps in the frame.  While the technology is a strong selling point, Samsung may have to fight to keep it.

The company is facing a patent infringement lawsuit from National Cheng Kung University. The school, based in Taiwan, alleges that the devices infringe its patent for “Image-Capturing Device and Method For Removing Strangers From An Image.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the patent in 2008.

National Cheng Kung University filed the patent lawsuit in Texas Eastern District Court. It seeks a permanent injunction to stop Samsung from infringing on the patent, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

apple_logo_rainbow_6_color

Both parties have been active participants in the so-called “Smartphone Wars.” National Cheng Kung University has filed several lawsuits against Apple Inc. in the same Texas court. In a suit filed last year, the school alleged that Apple’s “voice activated assistant capabilities otherwise known as Siri” infringed upon patents held by a university research team. Last month, it filed another infringement suit involving Apple’s Face Time product.

Samsung, of course, is also no stranger to patent litigation with Apple. The two companies have been battling across the globe for the past several years, with each claiming a measure of success. Samsung recently won a victory before the U.S. International Trade Commission, which ruled that several older Apple devices infringe Samsung patents. 

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

GDP Going Gaga: Recalculation to Capture Input From Entertainment Industry

The U.S. federal government is changing how it calculates the company’s gross domestic product or GDP. For the first time, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will include expenditures for “R&D and for entertainment, literary and artistic originals as fixed investment.” The new expenditures will be added to the list of intellectual-property investments.

As explained in a recent Wall Street Journal article, including the money Lady Gaga spent writing and recording an album in the GDP represents a significant change. The same goes for adding the time and money it takes to develop the latest smart phone device.

It not only reveals that the U.S. economy is approximately 3 percent larger, but it also “reflects the economy’s quiet transformation from one based principally on industry to one decidedly based on knowledge and information.” The new GDP measure further solidifies the role of innovation and intellectual property (IP) in driving the economy.

As previously discussed here, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office estimates that IP-intensive industries directly accounted for 27.1 million American jobs, or 18.8 percent of all employment in the economy, in 2010. The industries also accounted for about $5.06 trillion in value added, or 34.8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), in 2010.

It makes sense that the Bureau of Economic Analysis would want to fully capture the contributions of IP.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman