Oral arguments on Jan. 8 in the Supreme Court focused on resolving a difference in how circuit courts interpret one aspect of copyright law, and this could affect some California businesses. The disagreement hinges on what qualifies as "registration". Some courts have used what is called the "application approach". In this approach, a work would be considered registered once the owner of the copyright submitted all necessary materials to the U.S. Copyright Office. Courts using the "registration approach" argued that registration had not taken place until a decision was made by the USCO.
Many California drinkers enjoy craft beers, and the breweries that produce them place great value on their brand names and trademarks. Saint Louis Brewery LLC had to go to court to defend its intention to trademark the surname Schlafly. The legal dispute progressed to a federal appeals court, where a 3-0 decision affirmed the company's right to the trademark. One of the judges said that the name had developed a secondary meaning as a beer brand beyond its origin as a surname.
Before the signing of the Defend Trade Secrets Act in 2016, state courts in California handled litigation for violations of trade secrets. Defenders of intellectual property can now bring these cases before federal courts when they want to charge another party with misappropriation of trade secrets.
Two major companies with California operations are engaged in a legal dispute following the failure of their planned corporate merger. Fujifilm filed suit on June 18 seeking more than $1 billion plus punitive damages from Xerox. Fujifilm alleges that Xerox abandoned the companies' planned $6.1 billion merger due to pressure from activist investors Darwin Deason and Carl Icahn.
California consumers may be interested to learn that Adidas and Skechers USA Inc. have ended a trademark dispute that dates back to September 2015. The companies announced a settlement on May 30.
Construction disputes in California and around the country can be ruinously expensive and damage reputations that contractors have spent decades building, but they are often settled quickly and inexpensively when the parties involved are open to alternative forms of dispute resolution. Even those who genuinely believe that talks are at loggerheads and further negotiations would be pointless may find that they have little choice in the matter; judges may refuse to allow construction disputes to proceed to court until all possible avenues to a settlement have been explored.
Nike didn't hold back harsh wording in its recent patent infringement suit against Puma. In the court filing, Nike claimed that Puma's business model forgoes researching its own designs and instead relies on designs stolen from Nike. This lawsuit could be of interest to entrepreneurs in California.
The technology sector in California holds intellectual property assets with values that reach billions of dollars. Companies of all sizes should take a proactive approach to protecting and managing their copyrights, patents and trade secrets. During a merger or acquisition, the stakeholders' understanding of their rights could keep the process on track and avoid delays or disputes.
Entrepreneurs in California must engage in careful planning when developing their business names, trademarks, marketing content and web domains. They face the challenge of selecting names that are sufficiently different from existing entities to avoid disputes and claims of infringement. They must also obtain government registration to lay the legal groundwork for ownership.
After six years of investigations, federal prosecutors have launched a trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California based on accusations of fraud against the chief financial officer of Autonomy Corp. Hewlett-Packard Co. purchased Autonomy, a U.K.-based software company, in 2011 for $10.3 billion. A year later, HP had to write down the value of the company by $8.8 billion. It attributed the loss to false financials that convinced HP to buy the company in the first place.