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TRADE SECRET BASICS
Proven Ways to Protect Your Competitive Edge
In the race to produce the first self-driving vehicles, Uber enticed Anthony Levandowski, a former employee of its competitor Waymo, to work for them. In the transition between Waymo and Uber, some allege that Mr. Levandowski took circuit board drawings from Waymo that were under development for years. Currently, Uber is facing a $1 billion trade secret suit from Waymo, and this has made many people question the security of their own intellectual property. Here’s what you need to know to better protect your trade secrets from the competition. First, you need to understand what exactly a trade secret is. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines a trade secret as “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that (i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and (ii) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.”
Some companies go to great lengths to protect their trade secrets. Take the Coca-Cola recipe, for example. It’s locked in a bank vault that can only be opened with the agreement of the Coca-Cola company’s board of directors. Only two employees know the recipe, and their identities are kept secret. They’re not even allowed to fly on the same plane.
Take the Coca-Cola recipe, for example. It’s locked in a bank vault that can only be opened
But less-extreme precautions are taken by companies every day. If you regularly use your trade secrets, it’s best to lock them away after business hours. If they aren’t in a physical form but are stored as a Microsoft Word document or in an Excel file, make sure you’re up to date with your IT security. This includes having two-step verification on workplace computers, using a password on the document itself, and restricting access to these passwords to only those who need them. What’s more, ensure your employees are firmly aware of the risks and characteristics of phishing emails. The most effective way to protect your trade secret, though, is by requiring your employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement before full employment. Altogether, these actions will show any court that you intend to maintain secrecy. These types of cases are always challenging if you’re not well-versed in the complexities of trade secrets. If you have any questions or concerns about protecting your trade secret, reach out to us anytime. You can call us at 407-598- 8407 or 407-377-6688.
If the information you’re worried about falls under this definition and you feel it’s being used outside of your company, you can file a claim. You just need to take two simple steps. First, establish that you took reasonable precautions to prevent the release of the information/ trade secret. Second, you have to prove the trade secret was wrongfully taken. This entails showing how your company stores its information, who has access to it, and whether or not it was subject to confidentiality provisions. with the agreement of the Coca-Cola company’s board of directors. The recipe is only known to two employees, and their identities are kept secret. They’re not even allowed to fly on the same plane.”
As we head into 2020, there’s a lot that can keep small-business owners up at night, including the protection of their intellectual property. If you’re a startup conducting business internationally, there are several things you need to understand about the U.K.’s departure from the European Union (the event known as Brexit) to ensure your brand is safe. First, there will be no change in the basics of patent laws in the U.K. So, a company with a European patent from the European Patent Office will have protection in the U.K. However, it does complicate the plans for the European Union’s (EU) Unified Patent Court. The court, if implemented, would enforce patents across Europe regardless of country jurisdiction. Now, without the support of the U.K., the future of internationally accepted patent protections is murky at best. IS YOUR INTELLECTU PROPERTY SAFE? Keeping Your Brand Safe in 2020
As an entrepreneur, starting your own business and chasing your dreams is an exciting prospect. But as you begin your small-business journey, questions involving costs, sales, and distribution will fill your head, and their answers often require time-consuming
research that might feel discouraging. It may seem like you have to build everything on your own, but luckily, there are communities all over the country for aspiring entrepreneurs to come together and help each other achieve success. They’re called makerspaces, and there is probably one located near you!
Makerspaces are community workshops where creative minds and entrepreneurs can build products that may never see the light of day otherwise. They exist in a variety of environments, including stand- alone offices and shared spaces inside libraries and schools. They provide access to a wide range of resources, including power tools, sewing machines, 3D printers, and so much more. In addition to equipment, most makerspaces host classes, like the basics of welding or bookkeeping, for tradespeople and entrepreneurs alike. Makerspaces also act as hubs for collaboration. Do you need an engineer to guide the design of your product? How about a graphic designer to brainstorm with about your logo? You’ll likely find them in makerspaces because these communities support passionate people from a variety of backgrounds. In addition to resources and know-how, members can use the space to build prototypes at a fraction of what their development would typically cost. In an interview with NPR, Mark Hatch, author of “The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers,” said, “When you move the cost of entrepreneurship from $100,000 to $2,000–$4,000, you completely change the operating terrain for entrepreneurs and inventors.”
Furthermore, it’s crucial to note that the U.K. is opting not to incorporate a new copyright law already adopted by the EU. This directive makes sites like YouTube liable for copyright infringement when users upload copyrighted material. Additionally, it forces news aggregators like Google to pay for articles they recommend or share. Now, it’s unclear whether the violators of these laws residing in the U.K. will see repercussions.
While membership costs to makerspaces generally range from $40–$175 per month, the price is well worth the investment. And if you find one in your local public library, membership may even be included with your library membership. If you’re struggling to start your business, know that you’re not alone. With the support and collaboration you can find in a makerspace, you can make your dreams a reality. To find a space near you, visit Makerspaces.Make.co. Did you know that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) introduced a pilot program that expands outreach to inventors who would like to file a patent application without the assistance of a registered patent attorney? This type of filing is called “pro se” filing. The USPTO recognizes that many inventors are unable to afford to hire a registered patent attorney, so the Pro Se Assistance Program is available to help people protect their intellectual property without an attorney. For more information about the program, go to USPTO.gov and click “Learning & Resources,” then “Inventors & Entrepreneurs.” Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Pro Se.”
The same two vowels have been plucked from these three related words. Can you put the words back together?
Is Your Branding Properly Protected? COPYRIGHT PITFALLS
By the end of the year, for full copyright protection in Europe, companies will have to apply for both an EU and U.K. copyright. There will be a transition period though for companies that already have an EU copyright. The U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office’s plan is to create a copy of every existing EU trademark and continue to protect them as if they were U.K. registrations. This also includes any EU copyright that is granted between Jan. 1–Dec. 31, 2020. Any claim that gets approved after Dec. 31, 2020, has nine months to opt in for a U.K. copyright claim. There is some good news: In a recent report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the United States tied for second in patent protection. So your patents and copyrights are protected in the U.S. without question. But navigating these legal changes can be difficult for anyone, especially startups hoping to scale their businesses. Such companies can utilize Patent and Trademark
One of the worst things that can happen to a company is seeing their business’ logo design or branding fall into the public domain. If you’re unfamiliar, anything in the public domain is not protected by intellectual property laws including trademark, patent, or copyright laws. No single entity owns these designs; they are public. Now, you may have a current copyright on your logo or slogan, but there are several pitfalls you still need to watch out for. Here are a couple of things to consider in order to avoid hurting your own copyright claim. Expired Copyright If the copyright you’re using was inherited from your family or previous business owners, check when the branding materials were copyrighted. According to Copyright.gov, the protection of a copyright lasts for the life of its owner plus 70 years. Not keeping tabs on a copyright’s age leaves your company at risk having its premier design or logo used by anyone. In 2003, Disney almost ran into this issue with “Steamboat Willie” (the first film featuring Mickey Mouse). Though Disney was granted an extension, it will have to address the problem again in 2024. The Renewal Trapdoor Under the copyright laws in practice in 1964, a copyright holder had to file a renewal 28 years after publication. After 1964, thousands of advertising and artistic works fell into the public domain. So, if you’re using aspects of an original design created before 1964, do your homework and make sure a renewal was filed. Unprotected Phrases, Facts, and Theories Sayings like “Beam me up” or “Show me the money” cannot be protected by copyright law. Certain names, phrases, or small groups of words are considered common aspects of the English language. But specific advertising slogans that don’t relate to common phrases are protected under trademark law. Additionally, scientific discoveries and facts are not protected under copyright law. For example, the fact that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth cannot be protected under copyright law. It’s always good to make sure your slogans and other marketing materials don’t contain any common phrases or facts.
Resource Centers, which provide resources in every state for businesses to protect their intellectual property. If you feel you need this resource, go to USPTO.gov for more information.
Copyright cases are always challenging to navigate. If you have any concerns about your copyright, reach out to us anytime. You can call us at (407) 598-8407 or (407) 377-6688.
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Trade Secret Basics 1 Why Makerspaces Are Great for Entrepreneurs How Brexit Changes Patent Law in the UK 2 Copyright Pitfalls 3 Are Business Trips Bad for Your Health? 4
4 Travel Mistakes You Keep Making BUSINESS TRIPS DON’T HAVE TO BE TERRIBLE
Most people love to travel, but few people enjoy business trips. While that can partially be chalked up to the extra rest and relaxation you might have on a nonwork-related trip, unhealthy habits can make business trips even more draining. If business trips leave you feeling like you need a vacation, you might be making the following mistakes. Skipping Breakfast On hectic mornings with early meetings, it’s tempting to skip breakfast and just grab some coffee. But if you usually eat breakfast at home, skipping your morning meal can cause you to be a lot hungrier later, which can lead to excess snacking or overeating at lunch. When traveling, stick to your regular eating habits. Eating Restaurant Serving Sizes If you’re eating three restaurant-sized meals a day, you’re going to get more calories than if you were cooking at home. Don’t be afraid to order half-portions or stick to the appetizer
menu. You can also ask about ordering meals à la carte — no one needs all those fries with their burger, anyway. These strategies will help you save money and stick to a healthy calorie count. Not Packing Workout Gear Research from the travel risk management company On Call International found that 54% of people say they’re less likely to exercise while on a work trip, but you shouldn’t let fitness take a back seat. Packing workout clothes can serve as a reminder to get some exercise. Get in a good workout by taking advantage of the hotel gym, walking to nearby destinations, or doing some yoga in the hotel room before bed. Not Taking Sleep Seriously Early morning meetings, late-night networking events, and unfamiliar hotel rooms are a recipe for lost sleep. Lack of sleep puts your body on the fast-track to poor health, so you need to make good sleep a priority. Do your best to maintain your sleep schedule and bedtime routine while traveling. Better yet, check the guest reviews before booking your hotel. Heed complaints about thin walls or uncomfortable beds and find accommodations that support a good sleep environment.
You shouldn’t have to dread business trips. Build better travel habits to feel healthier and enjoy every kind of trip you take this year.
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