What Is Trademark Infringement?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

Put simply, trademark infringement is when you use somebody else’s trademark; however, it is really a lot more complex than that. If you use any mark or symbol to identify your goods and that confuses customers as to whether or not you might be associated with someone else’s goods. There are a lot of examples of this in industry, but basically, you cannot take a word and change how it is spelled or use a phonetically similar word to trade on the value of the other mark for your benefit. If you do that, you are infringing that other person’s rights and they have the right to not only stop you, but to potentially take the profits of your business that you gained from using that mark, for their own benefit.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks and Trade Names

Is Federal Trademark Registration Valid Outside the United States?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

If you obtain a federal trademark within the United States with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, it will apply to anybody that wants to do business within the United States. So a foreign company that wants to come to your state or to the U.S. and do business, yes, it applies to them.

What it doesn’t do is it doesn’t stop people in another country from using your trademark. If you do business outside of the United States or if you do business on the internet with people in foreign countries, you really have to consider whether you need to obtain a trademark in those countries, or whether you have to seek what is called Madrid Protocol protection, which is something akin to a treaty between several different countries that will extend your U.S. trademark protection to those countries.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks and Trade Names

Changes to Local Sales and Use Tax Rates in Nebraska

By Joshua A. Diveley.

The Nebraska Department of Revenue has issued a reminder that the following local sales and use rates will change effective October 1, 2014:

  • Fairfield will impose a new 1% local sales and use tax.
  • Atkinson will increase its local tax rate to 1.5%.
  • Hickman will impose a new 1.5% local sales and use tax.
  • La Vista will increase its local rate to 2%.

The release can be viewed on the department’s website by clicking here.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Sales and Use Tax

Should I Spend the Money to Get a Trademark For My Business?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

Whether you should buy a trademark for your business really depends on where you do business at. There are federal trademarks and a federal trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and that gives you rights in all 50 states. You can only get a federal trademark if you actually use your mark in more than one state. So, if you are only doing business in one state, one city, on locality, then you should look at whether you can obtain a state trademark.

The benefits of obtaining trademark protection, either federal or state, is that it makes it easier to stop other people from using your brand, your business name or whatever your mark might be. If you don’t register it, you still do have some level of protection; however, I can honestly say that obtaining a trademark is usually a fairly inexpensive process and the benefits you get from those statutory rights usually far outweigh the cost of obtaining the mark.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks and Trade Names

What Is a Trademark?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Joshua A. Diveley.

A trademark is any kind of name, symbol or sign that is used to identify the source of a good. A common example would be Nike or the Nike swoosh. As soon as somebody sees the Nike symbol or a Nike swoosh in the store or on a pair of shoes, they are going to identify it with the Nike Corporation and that is going to be the way to identify that that is the source of the product.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Intellectual Property, Trademarks and Trade Names

Pregnancy Discrimination: The EEOC Provides Employers With Updated Guidance

By Eric W. Tiritilli.

An employee announces she is pregnant, but after the congratulations and good wishes are shared, the questions becomes what, if anything, must an employer do to comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”)?  Unfortunately, it had been over 30 years since the EEOC last updated its guidance to employers regarding their obligations under the PDA.  Recently, the EEOC issued new enforcement guidance, an employer Q&A and a fact sheet to aid employers.

As the EEOC noted in its press release – the basic law of the PDA hasn’t changed – as an employer may not discriminate against an employee because they are pregnant and a pregnant employee “must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work”; however, the updated guidance for employers provides important information regarding the EEOC’s interpretation of the law including how the PDA interacts with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provides examples of “best practices” to follow to avoid discrimination.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Employment Law, Employment Policies

Must I Register a Copyright With the Government to Receive Protection?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

Copyright protection attaches as soon as you create something. So, if you write a song or a book or even an article, as soon as you write it–you own it and you have the right to exclude other people from reproducing it, copying it, distributing it or really making any money off of it. The benefit of registering your copyright is that it is easier to get damages and you can get attorney fees.

If you find someone infringing your copyright, the first step you usually want to take is to consider registering your copyright, if you haven’t already done so, and then give notice to that offender that you believe they are infringing your rights. That way if you do have to file a lawsuit against them, it is easier for you to obtain damages and stop them from continuing to violate your copyrights.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Intellectual Property

Facebook and the Workplace: Employee Rights and the Law

By Eric W. Tiritilli.

More and more employees use social media, including Facebook, to discuss work – sometimes in fairly unflattering terms.  This has caused stress for employers who want to maintain their good name, but also don’t want to violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by punishing employees who vent their spleen on social media.  Employers’ concerns are well placed. One recent example involves an employer who discharged an employee after he “liked” a negative comment on Facebook concerning an alleged tax withholding issue involving the employer.  The employer was found to have violated the NRLA.

In Three D, LLC, the National Labor Relations Board explained that because the Facebook discussion involved employees “looking toward group action to encourage the employer to address problems in terms or conditions of employment [and] not to disparage its product or services or undermine its reputation, the communications [were] protected.” The employee who “liked” the post was expressing agreement with the post and was protected by the NLRA. The discharge was, therefore, impermissible.

The law in this area is always evolving, but employers should be aware of the requirements and protections of the NLRA when making disciplinary decisions related to employees’ social media activities.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Employment Law, Employment Policies, Social Media Issues

HHS Issues Temporary and Proposed Rules on Contraceptive Coverage

The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has recently issued rules to address the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling. Under a temporary final rule, religious nonprofit organizations can notify the government of their objection to providing contraceptive coverage for employees, rather than having to authorize the coverage themselves. The government will then arrange for contraceptive coverage. HHS also issued a proposed rule that would extend similar accommodations to closely-held, for-profit religious employers.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Benefits, Health and Welfare Benefits

What Is a Copyright?

An Intellectual Property FAQ with Mark A. Williams.

Copyright is a federal right that is granted to the author of a work of art. So, you can think about someone who writes a book, someone who writes music or performs a play. Those people get a copyright, or a legal right, to reproduce and distribute that to the exclusion of all others.

Copyrights can be registered, but the nice thing in the United States is that as soon as you write a book, whether you have sold it to anyone or given it to anyone else to read, you have copyright protection. You do not have to register it. There are some benefits of registering it but a copyright attaches immediately and protects your intellectual property.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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Posted in Intellectual Property
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