Intellectual Property & Licensing Law Roundtable: What Businesses Need to Know

As the legal landscape continues to evolve in terms of intellectual property and licensing law, the Los Angeles Business Journal once again turned to some of the leading IP attorneys and experts in the region to get their assessments regarding the current state of IP legislation, the new rules of copyright protection, licensing and technology, and the various trends that they have been observing, and in some cases, driving.

Here are a series of questions the Business Journal posed to these experts and the unique responses they provided – offering a glimpse into the state of intellectual property law in 2017 – from the perspectives of those in the trenches of our region today.

Thanks to our superb panel for their expert insights.

What are some common copyright issues that small businesses face? How can they best be addressed?

SAIVAR: In today’s world, consumer-facing businesses are rightly concerned with consumer engagement and are therefore feeling pressure to consistently generate content for their websites and social media accounts, even if their core business has nothing to do with content. Often, the people in charge of generating that content grew up thinking that if they can find it online, they can use it or share it without needing a license. This is especially problematic now because technology has made it much easier to find unlicensed uses of imagery online; in fact, there’s now a cottage industry of law firms that represent photographers or other owners of copyrighted images that send auto generated demand letters seeking license fees for such uses. It’s important for businesses to train their employees (especially the younger ones) that they should never download, copy and paste or otherwise save and upload images they’ve found in Google image searches or on third party platforms. If they ignore that advice, the business is likely to receive a demand that may have to be heeded.

The Trademark Office has previously denied some trademark applications as disparaging. We understand that some recent cases have potentially changed that position. What changed?

HOLM: “The Slants” changed the law. Many will find the term demeaning, derogatory and just plain offensive. So did the U.S. Trademark office, when Simon Tam, the lead singer of a rock band using that name, filed an application for a Federal Trademark Registration. The Trademark Office denied his application because it would “disparage … or bring … into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons living or dead.” 15 USC § 1052(a). The Supreme Court held that this specific part of the Lanham Act was unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment. Matal v. Tam, 582 U.S. __ (2017).

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