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It’s the Constitution, Genius

Copyrights and Trademarks are two of the legal “allies” of today’s intelligent, futuristic businesses.

Think about it – These intellectual property options help you to implement strategies that have been specifically created by law to reserve anything you create to belong exclusively, uniquely to you.

They are two of the principal gateways that have built an entrepreneurial society where people are not afraid to come up with new ideas and rise to new worlds of art, of technology, of genius.

However…..We all know that quarrels happen within that world of capitalistic “entrepreneurialism,” when you are trying to deploy your strategies to become a force in the marketplace. Alright, I am using the word “quarrels” lightly. What I meant to say was: Lawsuits.

For instance – Assume that you came up with an idea for creating Widget A, a brand new, technologically advanced gadget that you have been working on for over ten years.

Or maybe you are more artistic-oriented, and you have taken some unique photographs or written some unique content online or in a book, to express your ideas and demonstrate your uniqueness.

Unfortunately, one day, you are walking down the street and you see your Widget idea, splashed all over a billboard, and Company B, maybe a major corporation, with headquarters about 300 miles away in another state, is announcing on the billboard that they have created a brand new gadget called Widget B, and the public should start coming to buy from them!

Or you are at a museum and you see the very picture that you had taken such pains to create, hanging on one of the walls, and attributed to some unknown name that does not sound remotely like your name.

And so on.

You just got an intellectual property violation of your idea.

Or at least – That is what you think.

Someone else is marketing the thing you created – All your years of hard work, is being attributed to someone else! How did this happen? After all – You submitted a patent application to the Patent Office to register your beautiful Widget A!

You filed a copyright with the Copyright Office to ensure that you had exclusive rights to the picture-photograph you had created.

What are you to do now that someone is using your idea, your creation?

The federal law of Intellectual Property (IP) has remedies for situations when it seems that your original work has been…..stolen.

However, there are times when you may need to go beyond IP Law to find a solution. For instance, there may be questions arising about the geographic location where the other person using the creation comes from, in comparison to the place where you are located. What if the other folks argue that they have a registration pending on the IP creation, just like you, and besides, they are using the work in a geographic location that is different from yours?

While I will not go deep into that particular scenario and what it means, the point I make is that sometimes, you need the backing of not just one type of federal law, but others as well, in order to support your case, especially when dealing with geography and commerce between states, among other things.

In this instance, the Constitutional Law of Interstate Commerce (which every law student or lawyer should be aware of as part of Con Law 101 in school) would be a law to look to as a supplement to your Intellectual Property issue against those other folks that are using your creation.

Therefore – Don’t be stuck on just one kind of remedy. The law has different protections. When you are in business, or seeking to find protections as a private citizen, it is a good thing to remember.

That was my rant on this blog. Don’t you just love the law?

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5 Steps to Becoming Digitally Legal On the Internet

Is this a bad time to talk about making your business stand out – and legally protected on the web?

If not, I’ll wait. You can always come back. I’m always here.

However, if this is a good time to know how to find a brand for your business, register your brand, use it to position yourself in your market – And start standing out and growing naturally…Then, let’s go.

How do you create a brand for your business? You want to start from the beginning with your business name by registering it.

When you register a business entity like a corporation, an LLC or a partnership, you are required to choose a name for it with the Secretary of State in the state you have chosen for business. For instance – Let’s say you want to call your business: Smythe and Smythe Beauty Shop.

Unfortunately, registering a business name with the Secretary of State is not good enough to build your brand. Your name may be registered as a business – But there is the potential for other businesses to use that name, especially unregistered businesses. If, for instance, any one of those businesses had been operating before you registered your business name, it is possible that they will have priority over you to keep the business name, if you ever ended up exchanging words in court over it.

Therefore, your best bet – Trademark your business name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Next! You want to build your brand with your new name. How do you do this? Advertising, marketing strategies, social media visibility, growing your network…Everyone and their pet will get to know you as Smythe and Smythe Beauty Shop – Where beauty meets talented artists….Or something like that.

The end result? You have just created a brand. Beauty, working with talent.

Imagine if your kids, or anyone of your grandkids, or even someone unrelated to you, had the privilege of being passed on that business. Imagine the fact that it could live on, many years after you, the original operator and founder, are no longer working it. And yet – You will be remembered.

That is immortality. That is what we do in this particular digital shop. That is how you become branded.

Therefore – Do you have the courage to start?

It takes 5 steps to get on the road to becoming digitally legal through this shop:

  1. Drop your email here. We never, never spam. That’s such an unclassy brand
  2. We will meet one-on-one. Find out about our Meet-Me-Online space.
  3. We create your business goals and help you generate a business name (if you don’t already have one, with legal support for trademarking or copyright, whichever that will suit your particular business).
  4. I get to work by research, by application to the USPTO or Copyright Office, by keeping in contact one on one with developments on your case.
  5. Finally – Your business name is registered, your trademark or copyright application is submitted, you are riding off into the sunset as a new, branded business, taking on the digital frontier and discovering spaces where no human has been before…

I’m ready to get started. Let’s go.

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How to become a digital freelance writer

2-minute read

Everyone is doing it.

So, why shouldn’t you?

By ‘it’, I refer to freelance writing: Blogs. E-books. Articles. These types of content appear to be the king in today’s business world. As the space of e-commerce continues to grow and expand, more and more businesses are finding that producing their content in e-space gives them more leverage and a bigger audience than when they use traditional mediums like TV, or hard copy books, as was the case in the ‘good old days.’

TV is good. So is digital space. Image by Виктория Бородинова from Pixabay

If you haven’t thought about it, now is a good time to start. In a world that is constantly changing (into favoring digital space more and more), you will have one thing that is constant for you: Your content in digital space, and potentially making a career out of it.

How do you start a career as a digital freelance writer, creating blogs, e-books, articles, copy, and all of the content that businesses need to take their message out there, grow their audience, and succeed?

Writers make it happen. They are the content creators, the marketers, the force behind the scene that is driving the business to achieve its goals through content. You can be that superhero in the new world of business by jumpstarting your digital career in 5 easy ways. I recommend following each of these steps in order from 1 to 5, as this is how I got my digital start. I love to share real experience with my readers, afterall:

Jump start your digital career. Image by alan9187 from Pixabay

Join freelance sites: There are several sites out there that allow freelancers to join up and compete for work with businesses that need to create written content. Most writers do not like this step in the process, but as with the beginning of any journey, you can’t always choose what you ‘like.’ You just need to do what needs to get done. These ‘freelancer sites’ are especially good for beginning writers who want to get their names out there, or achieve some experience or gain client testimonials. When I was starting out, I actually did to get paid for the work that I did. I was providing free samples to get my writing signature out there. Mind you, there are folks who are crushing it as freelance writers.

Another drawback of the freelance space: You become a jack of all trades and master of none, as you will be writing for different businesses, in different industries, and therefore would not have a chance to hone a specialization area or a niche for your writing. If you are not concerned about niche building, then freelancing would be perfect for you, and you may even hang your hat there. However, as having a career means being known as an authority is something (think, Arianna Huffington, the media mogul with a niche in, well, media), then you probably want to move away from writing in different industries as soon as you are comfortable with your writing style and experience gained, and move up to the next level.

The next level:

  • Start a blog: This should actually be happening at the same time that you are freelancing. You are gaining experience from your clients’ work, and it is hopefully helping you to discover the specific type of writings that you want to eventually focus on – Maybe travel, or health or food, or technology. Try out different topics on your blog. I know, it will look like something that was crapped on, with all these different subjects splashed all over it. However, remember, you are discovering your niche. You are building a portfolio in one of those generic subjects that you could eventually discover to be your focus area for writer building authority.
Start a blog. Image by Pexels from Pixabay
  • Pick a focus area: You have a blog started, you have written content in different areas, you have started to get your name out there as a writer – You should now be more intense in determining which subject area ‘floats your boat,’ from all the writings you have done. Now, it is time to clean up your blog. Sanitize it by removing any posts that do not pertain to the area you want to focus upon. Clean up or re-purpose the posts that you have written pertaining to your newly discovered area of interest, and start adding more posts that are similar to it.
  • Create social media assets: Now that you know the area where you want to build authority in digital writing space, you want social media to know you for that niche. Start a Youtube video, or a podcast. If more comfortable with other channels like Pinterest or LinkedIn or Twitter, begin with those channels. The key is to push your authority out through those media as you will not be spamming them with content that is random at this point – You have discovered your niche.
Create assets with social media. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  • Do not forget to watch those in your niche who are successful: The point of having a niche is that you can now focus all your energy on it, and you can now recognize the individuals who are in that same niche and are succeeding very well. Join their channels or groups, learn from them, and begin to grow.

With these 5 simple tips, which helped me, I am hoping that you will be able to grow your digital writing career and become an authority in the space that you choose.

Have you followed any of these steps before, and would like to comment on it? Drop a note below! If you have other ideas on how you think a niche should be grown, drop a line as well!

Here’s a toast to growing in the digital world of writing.

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How to create a brand for your writing with trademarks

I read a story recently that made me cringe.

I wonder what your thoughts might be if you read it too. The story is about a writer that tried to trademark the word ‘cocky.’

Cocky: “conceited or arrogant, especially in a bold or impudent way,” says the Oxford Dictionary definition.

This blog is not to bash at this particular author who tried to obtain a trademark on the word “cocky”, because, goodness knows, she received quite enough attention from prestigious groups like the Author’s Guild, The Guardian, The NY Daily News and The National Post. However, I do not blame these groups for noticing that someone tried to register a trademark on a word that was so commonly used in books in the romance novel industry.

For those who are familiar with the romantic novel industry, many romance writers tend to use the word ‘cocky’ to describe characters or demeanor, or something in their book to lend it some air of steaminess. That is, after all, the nature of a romance novel: The Heat and The Steam is a necessity in the book’s scenes.

There are certain words in romance writing that are commonly used – May be not ‘trademarkable.’ Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

Therefore – If one single writer is able to trademark a word that is so commonly used in the romance writing industry, like the word ‘cocky’, and no one else can use that word in their book-writing careers for as long as that trademark exists, what, pray tell, would happen to the world of steamy romance writing as we know it? The word “cocky” would become exclusive to one writer only!

To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, let us revisit the reason why anyone would want to obtain a trademark. Trademark means: a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. (Oxford Dictionary: Again, I say, thank you for always coming to my rescue).

When a person or business is able to successfully register a trademark, it means that it becomes a symbol, word or words that represents that person or business, and nobody else can use it.

Therefore, if I am a romance writer, and I register a trademark on the word ‘cocky’, it means I can sue any other romance writer – or any other writer in similar writing ‘industry’ – that uses the word in their content.

Trademark registered logo – Isn’t it a beautiful thing to have for your business? Image by OpenIcons from Pixabay

Indeed, it’s a cool thing to have a trademark for your business: It will give you a monopoly on the use of a word or phrase which can, in turn, grant you a competitive edge over others in your industry – But in this particular case where someone made a move on the word “cocky” and it became a trademark candidate, as a lawyer in matters of trademark, I would unequivocally say: It is not a good move.

Why?: The word is too common. True, the author who tried this out was trying to create a brand for herself, to stand out as unique, as readers would be able to recognize any book out there in commercial space with the word ‘cocky’ as belonging to her alone. It was a brave attempt, it was a good business strategy – But it failed because a good trademark strategy was not applied for this trademark registration.

It is an excellent idea to register trademarks for your business – However, there are tactical, planned ways to achieve it so as to be successful.

How do you register a trademark for your writing business so that you can create a brand that readers – and the rest of the industry – would recognize as belonging to you? You need to have a trademark branding strategy that uses either unique words or common words that have developed secondary meaning.

Below, I will describe how you can choose a brand or trademark strategy that will help your writing stand out in 4 easy steps.

There are 4 ways through which you can use words or symbols to create a trademark that will help your business to stand out as unique: You can create a trademark for words or phrases by making those words or phrases arbitrary, fanciful, suggestive or descriptive.

Arbitrary branding: This is when you use a name or symbol that has no logical relationship to the product you are calling by that name. For instance, a brand of cigarettes is called “Camel” cigarettes. There is no logical relationship between camels and cigarettes. Therefore, if you trademark the name ‘camel’ for your cigarette business (as someone has already done), there is very likely no other business that will think of naming their cigarette business after camels because it is such an arbitrary, unrelated word to the business. If you are a writer and you need a trademark that is arbitrary so that your readers will know you by that arbitrary name, and so that other writers would likely not even consider using such a name for themselves because it is so ‘out there’, you now know what to do. If you need help coming up with outrageously arbitrary romance novel names…I know a few. Write to me below.

Fanciful branding: Another way to find a trademark that will brand your writing business uniquely is by choosing a fanciful word or symbol for your business or product….Or book. Fanciful words or symbols do not mean anything. In other words…When you use them, they have no meaning to most or all ears that hear them or see them. Yet – Anyone who heard the word or phrase will be able to relate it to your writing business because you chose it is fancifully yours alone. A good example of a fanciful product name is: Clorox. To this day, I have no idea where the word “Clorox” came from. Yet, someone used that word to name their bleach laundry product. No one else in the blech industry uses that name at this time because it was so uniquely, fancifully chosen. Therefore, maybe you want to name your romance business or book series something fanciful like: The Blorox Books of Romance? Okay. I am kidding. That is a terrible example. However – You get the picture. Therefore, get out there and be fanciful.

Suggestive branding: You can choose suggestive words or symbols to make your writing business stand out, and to keep it branded from other businesses.  A suggestive trademark is a word or symbol that suggests what your product is about, or in this case, what your story or book is about. I will use the example of a random product: A product called “Sun bum” will probably suggest to you that it has something to do with the sun. Maybe something related to tanning. Therefore, the name of the product suggests what the underlying product is all about. For your book or writing business, what would you like to suggest to your reading audience or other writing colleagues out there with your trademarked name? Something that you want them to know about you, spmething that you stand for in your writing, perhaps? Maybe you want to be known as “The Author that Gets A Girl Betroth” because your books are so full of wisdom about how a girl can get a groom? Okay, my examples today are slightly atrocious. However, does this brand name or trademark “The Authot that Gets A Girl Betroth” not suggest to your reading fans that you are a writer related to something about romance, marriage, ‘betrothin’’?

Alright – Go crazy, think of something suggestive for your writing!

Descriptive branding: Finally – You can use descriptive words to brand your writing trade. I will start by cautioning you about using this descriptive mark option, though. Descriptive words ‘describe’ what your business is about, exactly as the definition implies. For instance, the author that tried to brand the word ‘cocky’ was using a descriptive word (adjective) in the romance writing business. She did not have ‘secondary meaning’ developed for her business with the use of that word. Let me explain.

In order to succeed with a descriptive trademark, the word you are trying to trademark must have developed ‘secondary’ meaning in the eyes of the public. This means that everyone in your community, and in the writing world, in fact, knows you by those words so that if you trademarked them, there would be no dispute that it already belonged to your brand.  Let’s consider an example: Harry Potter. If I looked through the world phone directory (if there was such a thing), I highly suspect that there are several individuals out there with the name “Harry Potter” or a variation of the name like “Henry Porter” or “Harry Portier” or…some real-life Harry Potters may exist. If J.K. Rawling had tried to trademark the name of Harry Potter before the public knew her as the “Hary Potter Writer”, she would likely not have succeeded, especially since the community or consumers did not know her as the creator of a character called “Harry Potter.” However, J.K Rawlings is known worldwide today for writing the Harry Potter series. The name “Harry Potter” now has ‘secondary meaning’ for her business i.e. everyone knows her in association with those words or the name “Harry Potter.” Therefore, if J.K. Rawlings registered a trademark to set her business apart from others e.g. “The Harry Potter Writer”, it would not be disputed. Everyone now associates her with Harry Potter. It is a generic enough name, it describes a person, obviously called Harry Potter, but it now has secondary meaning. Therefore, to use a descriptive trademark, you need to ‘wait’ for the world to recognize you by that word or symbol first. This is risky as someone else could beat you to registering the trademark while you are waiting.

What are you supposed to be doing during the waiting period? Marketing like hell, of course, so that the community now comes to know you with that brand.

Harry Potter and other recognizable characters. Image by Maurygraf from Pixabay

For this reason, a descriptive mark is probably not the best way to go when you are trying to brand your writing business.

I hope you have a good idea of what to do to make your writing business stand out in the sea of so many other writings. Have you considered a brand for your writing business but not sure if it will work? Or have you successfully launched a brand and you are crushing it? Either way – Brilliant move. If you would like to share your success story or journey, comment below!

You can also reach out to me privately on my contact page and tell me what you think of these bending strategies, or if you need any help with your own branding plan.

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How to choose music for your digital content

2-minute read

A disclaimer that I do not get paid for any of the links posted on this blog.

If you are a Youtuber or you create blogs, or you are an up and coming movie producer seeking to make awesome, quality content…Or, maybe you simply need some honest to goodness good music for content you are putting out there, you may have run into some snafus in trying to figure out which music is ‘safe’ to use without getting into trouble the music police, sirens blaring that you have just used someone’s music without permission.

Using music in your Youtube or digital content or story can go a long way for quality. Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

While platforms like Youtube offer royalty-free music, you may have other platforms where you want to create content before uploading to Youtube. Or you may be creating content anywhere else, for that matter. Therefore, you will need more options besides the music offered by Youtube to make your stuff complete with cool sounds.

If you are anything like me, you may probably begin a wild hunt through the internet at this point, searching for websites that offer ‘royalty free’ music. Indeed, there are very good sites out there that could provide some good music for your content.

Sadly, there are several posts and advice available as well that talk about how to ‘avoid copyright’ or ‘make copyright music into non-copyright music’ or ‘how to bypass being caught if you use someone’s music without permission‘…and so on. If you are still reading this blog at this point, read the next letters: AVOID ANY AND ALL ADVICE THAT IS RECOMMENDING THE VIOLATION OF SOMEONE ELSE’S COPYRIGHT OR CONTENT RIGHTS. It is going to cost you in the long run, so what is the point of going through the highway that only leads to you-know-where? It will be hell for your pocket, and potentially, your reputation as well. Keep your reputation clean because you will need it if you are planning to make it to the big leagues of content creating!

Copyright theft could be the death of a good content creation career. Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Therefore: How do you use music for your content and ensure that it is not infringing on anyone’s copyright? I always recommend 2 ways:

  1. Subscribe to a good stock music provider: There are various options of royalty-free music providers, like Epidemic Sound, Shutterstock, or Premium Beat. The benefit of a subscription service is that you know you have paid for the content you are using, and especially, it is usually understood that you are purchasing the music not just for private, home use, but in creating content for public, commercial consumption, like a video to advertise your business.
  2. Use public domain music: This is my personal favorite choice. Thanks to the Oxford dictionary, the definition that I find to be one of the simplest for public domain is: the state of belonging or being available to the public as a whole, and therefore not subject to copyright. In other words, if you stumble across a piece of music that is in the public domain, it means that the music does not,or no longer belongs to anyone.

In order for a piece of music to ‘no longer belong to anyone’ so that anybody can use it freely, one out of four things would have happened to that piece of music:

  • The copyright on the music expired
  • The owner of the copyright did not register it properly
  • The owner of the copyright dedicated the work to the public, and gave up their rights
  • The work could not be protected by copyright in the first place

In many cases, #1 is what happens to the music piece – The copyright expired. This usually occurs 70 years after the work’s creator dies. If it was corporate copyright, it expires 90 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation.

You are probably thinking: If it is public domain music that was made at least 70 years ago before it became ‘free for all to use’, does that not mean it is old music?

The answer: No.

Public domain music is not always old music. Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

Remember the 4 reasons I mentioned earlier about how music gets into the public domain? One of the reasons that a piece of music is in the public domain is that the owner of the music, who may very much still alive, has decided to ‘dedicate’ the song to the public for use. There are artists who decide to do this with their music. You can find some of these dedicated public domain music at Envato Elements. Another reason: The music could not be copyrighted. And yet another reason: the music was not properly copyrighted.

In any of these 4 scenarios, you could potentially have fairly recent music that is floating in the public domain.

Without bugging you down on these details about years or duration or expiration of copyrights (this can be a topic for another blog), the simple message here is that, when copyright expires, or there is no longer a copyright on a piece of work that was created, it has now ‘entered the public domain’ – and guess what? You can use it however you please.

Therefore, if you are looking for some good old blues music to accompany that new video ad you are creating, you may want to check out the public domain record for some beautiful vibes in that genre. To start you off on your search for public domain music, check out sites like PDinfo.com, Free Music Archive (FMA) or Musopen.

Have fun creating vibrant content with the peace of mind that you are not infringing on anyone’s music copyright!

Do you have a good or bad story to tell about a music copyright experience? Drop a line, stories are awesome!

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How world building for your story can pass a lawyer’s test

Story writing is the power to be a creator of anything you want.

Literally.

People, cities, and in fact, whole new worlds have been created through story writing.

Think of movie-stories like Avatar. Star Trek. John Carter. If you have seen any of these movies, you may have been awed by the sheer detail, the believability, the excitement of going on an adventure with the story characters into a whole new world that you could only have imagined before.

How to world build for your book or movie
How to build a world for your book or movie. Image by Angela Yuriko Smith from Pixabay

This is the key point in this blog: A whole new world that you imagined – Creating a world that you want to bring it to life in complete technicolor. Therefore, the question is: How do you build a world for your story or book in a legal way? In other words, how do you create that fantasy or believable existence for the characters of the book you are creating, and how do you do it in a way that you do not get into intellectual property trouble? The answer is pretty straightforward. Then again, not really: You want to build a world for your story or book by ensuring that you have cross-checked on world names, city names, phenomenon, and other indicators within your created world, that have not been used by someone else for their own world or story. In addition to this legal check, you also want to make your new world…well…as believable a world that is out there as can be managed.

For instance – You cannot create a story based on the Star Wars world. George Lucas already did that. You could, however, make a derivative of George Lucas’ work of the “Jedi” but it must, in its own rights, be able to stand alone as a “new” literary work or device. We will not talk about derivative works in this blog. It would be the subject of another blog, as I always like to say, in an attempt to break up these ideas in simple (hopefully), digestible content.

Again, the main of point in this blog is – You don’t want to use a world for your story that someone else is already using.

A man viewing a world. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Therefore, what are the things you can do, to ensure that you are creating a world that is uniquely yours, and not infringing on someone else’s so as to stay legal? Let us go through a few things that can be done:

1. Mix and Match: Remember that I just mentioned that we cannot use George Lucas’ world of the Jedi as our own story because…Well, that world is already taken. While you can’t use his world, you can mix and match it with other elements to make something uniquely your own. This is perfectly legal. It would be known as a derivative work. As I love to refer to the United States Copyright Office and their view of how things should be defined in the world of copyright, let us use the United States Copyright Office’s definition of ‘derivative works.’ The Office calls derivative work: a work based on or derived from one or more already existing works. Therefore, if you took a world that already existed – And you added a new city. And maybe splashed on some new, never before heard characters. And even included a new language that, hey, no one ever spoke in the old world because, maybe, a new minstrel came to town, and he was the long lost priest who is the only surviving person that speaks that language…Presto. You’ve got yourself some world-building, my friend!

2. Research:  Worldbuilding is not for the faint of heart – Or the lazy. That is, the world built that would actually be worth a damn (Consider Harry Potter). You want to research history, politics, geography, maybe even other planets and what little we know about them. You may even, highly recommended, want to cite the sources where you got the ideas from for your new world. Why is this a legal way to generate a world for your story? You are paying tribute to all those shining stars that came before you who made the world you are building possible. For instance, do you want to build a world similar to Nazi Germany with phenomenon that resembles the fighting, the spying, the holocaust? Then, in building your parallel universe, research the Nazi story, the politics, the culture, and any elements in it that you want to adopt for your new world.

Now, isn’t that clever?

Research your new world. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

3. Be illogical: This is the last thing you would expect a lawyer to tell you, no? But there you go, I just did. You will be in the safest zone of constructing the most legal, uncopied, original world, if you are as illogical as you can be with the world you are creating. Therefore, everything you know about Planet Earth, religion, the school system, geography? Throw it out the window. Make a world that has illogical elements when compared to Earth. A good example of such an illogical story that was a massive hit, in my opinion, is the movie with Kirsten Dunst, Upside Down.  Out of a high degree of respect for not creating spoilers, I will not say a word about what the movie was about, in case you have not seen it. It may not be your cup of tea, but you may get a sense of ‘illogical’ worlds creation from it.

Create a new world without the boundaries of logic. Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I will leave you with these 3 small ideas on how to make your new world ‘legal’ from a lawyer’s perspective.

Have you come up with an idea of building a world? Well – Don’t tell anyone, get a copyright on the book first! Then come and share the juicy details here. I am looking forward to reading your bestseller – Or watching your video, which, who knows, could become a blockbuster.

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How to commit e-book copyright infringement

I don’t want anyone to commit e-book copyright infringement.

However, there may be acts that you are probably doing that qualify as infringement and could get you into trouble. I am most delighted to talk about these problematic acts because…Well, I’m a lawyer and it’s my job.

Let’s talk about e-books: They are those publications that you may see available on Kindle or E-Pub…Or any other digital channel.

Copyright logo
Copyright logo to recognize a registered work. Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

First and foremost, are e-books recognized as material that can be copyrighted ?

Heck, yes.

In quoting the U.S. Copyright Office verbatim, copyright law is “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.”

In other words, I recite this to myself by saying: Copyright law protects anything you write or create that has not been written or created by anyone else.

A piece of work that is a copy
Is the work a copy of something else that already exists? Image by Martin Pysko from Pixabay

How are e-books protected by copyright, you may ask?

E-books can be protected by copyright by registering them as ‘literary devices’ with the U.S. Copyright Office because they qualify as “other digital contents’. The Office allows copyrighting of ‘other digital content.’

There are extremely large numbers of e-books out in cyber-space today. You may be a writer who has written an e-novel, or an e-education book, or some other type of writing in digital format. You want to be aware of the things not to do that would keep you from receiving a letter like this in the mail:

“It has been determined that you are currently using XYZ work without prior authorization. If you do not cease using the work, a lawsuit will be commenced against you.”

Cease and Desist to Stop Copyright Infringement. Image by TPHeinz from Pixabay

It is not fun to receive cease and desist letters – Especially when you are just about to sit down to a quiet breakfast with your newspaper, and originally planning to enjoy a most uneventful day – Then the letter came.

Let’s see what we can do to prevent such events from happening, shall we?

Copyright infringement can occur in a number of ways where you may not have been aware that you were infringing on someone else’s copyright. You thought you had all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted to be legit.

3 of the hidden ways that one could commit infringement are:

  • Using images in your electronic e-book and did not verify if they are royalty free:

There are several sites that offer royalty-free photos for use, even for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, one could fall into the unintended hole of using a photo that is copyrighted in an e-book.

I would encourage you to do a diligent search for sites that explicitly offer free photos and indicate that no recognition or mention of the author is needed if you use the photo. I would recommend that you mention/acknowledge the creator of the photo, though, if their information is provided.

  • You implemented a “Common Man’s Copyright” for your book:

This is what is known as the “poor man’s” copyright. An individual mails, or in this case, perhaps emails, a copy of the electronic book to themselves, maybe in PDF format, to show the date stamp on the email as proof to the world that the book had existed since that day of mail. As the U.S. Copyright office unequivocally puts it: “The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

Enough said.

  • You used a word or term that has been registered by another author:

It has become more common that authors take out intellectual property protection on terms or phrases, or even on words. (In this case, the protection would be a trademark). It is clearly difficult to find out in advance whether someone has IP protection on a word or phrase. The good news is that to have IP protection on words or phrases, that word or phrase has to meet certain criteria before intellectual property law can protect it. This is a different topic for a different blog.

The best bet when trying to ‘own’ a word or phrase as your own, is to engage the services of an intellectual property lawyer to support you.

Have you experienced any “oops” scenarios mentioned above with your digital content? If so, share how you made out and what you are doing to prevent such issues from arising again!

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How digitization helps with expanding your business

3-minute read

I have heard people complain that lawyers use too much ‘legal-lingo’ that they don’t understand during conversations with said lawyers.

I agree.

I don’t know all the legal-lingo in law-space as there is so much out there to know in fields and worlds where I have not threaded before as a lawyer. This is why I have an area of practice or niche. Therefore, I love to write legal articles as if I am explaining something to my elementary school self – As direct and straightforward as I can get. After all, everyone should have a chance to understand concepts that are outside their expertise, and I hope this will be the experience of my readers.

In this blog, I am going to be writing about how to protect your business assets and I will attempt to make it direct and straightforward.

Digital businesses are taking over the world. Period.

I have one word to prove it: Amazon

I don’t want to state the obvious or capitalize off the obvious…However, this is probably what I am going to sound like when you read my next sentence.

Therefore, as it is unavoidable that I will have to state the obvious, let me state the obvious: In the present global environment, particularly due to the current health situation that is causing stay-at-home requirements, digital businesses will be king.

As rent, office equipment and other costs are leading to several businesses shutting down, even if temporarily as of April 2020, I want to recommend a long term strategy that may help you, not only after the Covid-19 issue is over, but long after it is gone and everyone is back in normal business.

Brick and Mortar Businesses may not be as competitive as Digital Businesses in today’s world

Consider digitizing your business assets now.

What does ‘digitizing my business assets’ mean? It means that for every piece of hard copy or non-digital product or service that you have available in your business…You want to create a digital form for all of them.

Let me provide an example: Do you have a service that you only provide in-person, like a training or seminar?

It is time to make a digital version of that training. The same goes for books – Hard copy books have digital versions in today’s world. If yours does not have one yet (and I have come across a few books that do not), this is a good time to start going digital.

Gone are the days when a mailbox could only be found in a building where an actual ‘mailbox’ had to be located. Nowadays, entrepreneurs are able to register for digital mailboxes or manage virtual mailbox businesses.

It is possible for any business product or service to become digital. This is the point where you may need to engage a business consultant that could discuss options with you for creating a business form that can deliver your goods and services in e-commerce space.

Digitizing your goods and services is a brilliant strategy for safe-proofing your business in any economic environment. The benefits of a digital business are probably well-known in today’s entrepreneurial space: As mentioned earlier, little to no office rent costs, no business equipment (desks, chairs etc), and all other costs that go into taking care of a brick and mortar business such as heating up the building or janitorial services and more.

Since we know the more obvious benefits, let us talk about the other not-so-talked about benefits of a digital business.

  1. Enhanced security: Digital brands can be encoded, encrypted, and protected much more easily than physical ware that could be easily taken or stolen in a brick and mortar building.
  2. Increased sharing opportunities: A product or service on a digital space has the potential to go global much faster than a physical product. If you are looking to expand your business, a potentially faster way to achieve it is to make your presence known in digital space.
  3. Branding: Having an easily identifiable product with your customers is essential to keeping your brand. I have another blog dedicated to brands, and discuss more about branding your business in that blog.
  4. Trademarks registrations: When your brand is more easily identifiable by customers because it is available in the increasingly more accessible digital e-commerce space, you have won the main battle in any trademark registration case where you need to prove that your product has developed ‘secondary meaning’ to the extent that the public can now recognize it as belonging to you. Such recognition enables the trademark office to issue you a trademark registration.
  5. Scalability: When your business is conducted significantly in digital space, imagine the opportunities for expansion at little to no added cost. With the multiple availabilities of electronic platforms for engaging audiences online, delivering a speech is as easy as turning on a laptop camera, as opposed to jumping on a plane to deliver it to an international audience; deploying a new book is as straightforward as a click of a button on an e-book platform…and several other advantages of scalability – Generating more revenue while using same or lesser resources.

With these simple and short insights into what digital products and services can do for your business, take a moment to consider your options.

Of course, do not forget to think about how to protect your business assets with an intellectual property registration.

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How Can I Stop My Neighbor from Using My Business Name?

Dear Victoria,

I am a small business owner, and I run a jewelry store. I have a store at a small shopping outlet close to my home, and have been running my business for the past 4 years. The other day, I was speaking with one of my neighbors and she congratulated me on the new store location that I had opened at a local mall about 2 weeks earlier. I was surprised as I had not opened a new store location. As it so happened, I took a trip down to the mall out of curiosity and found that a jewelry store was indeed, open at the mall, and the store name was exactly the same as mine except that instead of using the word ‘Co.’ at the end of the business name, this jewelry business name thief used the word ‘Ltd.’!

I was livid. I contacted a lawyer at once and asked that a letter be written to this new store owner. I have been operating my own business for 4 years under my business name. Everyone in the neighborhood knows me by that store name. It is a relatively small community, and the individual who just opened a store under the same name as mine should have known that I already had a business with that name! In fact, I discovered that this business owner is an old time acquaintance that I had not spoken to in years.

This new store owner wrote back to my lawyers saying that she had a trademark on her business name, and if I had trademarked my business with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, there is no way that they would have given her the business name to use. I think this is a lie because I looked up trademark registration processes and know that it takes up to a year for a trademark application to be successful! True, I don’t have a trademark for my business name, because all I did was register it with my state’s secretary of state and obtain a business license. However, surely, this is enough to make me the bona-fide owner of my business name!

What should I do? This name issue is confusing my customers, and I am afraid I am losing them to this name thief if they think I am the owner of the new store at the mall!

Please help!

Dear (Name Withheld),

You are experiencing a common dilemma among small business owners. Issues tend to pop up from time to time among neighbors where feuds about ‘who owns it?’ could arise.

Actually, simply having your business registered in your state may not be sufficient to protect your business name, especially if you intend to expand your business beyond your current locale. Having a federally registered trademark would provide greater protection.

I would recommend that you retain a trademark lawyer who will help you perform a search at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If your neighbor’s trademark was registered after you started your business operations, and you have sufficient proof that the community recognizes your business name as belonging to you due to your business promotions, advertising, or any goodwill you have developed in the community with that business name, then you could have an argument of ‘secondary meaning’ in the business name. However, to delve more deeply into this argument, I, again, recommend that you obtain a trademark lawyer to advise you more specifically as to how to go about this issue.

All the best!

Yours Truly,

Victoria