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Maurice N Ross

Maurice Ross’s Answers

5,885 total

  • Is it legal to photograph minors?

    I run a foot modeling company. Some of my models are minors aging from 14-17. Their parents DO know and are okay with it and have even signed release forms.The photos are not sexually gratifying or explicit in any way.No sexual poses or revealing ...

    Maurice’s Answer

    I don't think this will be a problem if you work with intellectual property counsel to draft appropriate release forms and make sure the projects are not overtly sexual. But avoid anything even closely sexual. And use a lawyer to paper this properly

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  • Can I trademark the name of a common scientific term for the name of a scientific journal?

    If there is a commonly used scientific term (e.g. DNA), is it possible for me to trademark the term for the title of a journal so that no one else can use that term as the title of a journal? Thanks.

    Maurice’s Answer

    Maybe. There is no bar to using a common scientific term as a trademark. But before doing so, you need to retain IP counsel to conduct a full-blown trademark search. For a scientific journal that is probably published or made available through the internet worldwide, you probably need a global trademark search. This is not cheap, but it is critical. Don't be misled by on-line services that promise a trademark search for a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars. Something like this requires a significant investment in legal time and resources--but such investment is necessary in order to assure that you develop a brand name your journal which will withstand the test of time.

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  • What happens if a foreign country steals my idea?

    If I hire a company overseas and they steal my company's trade secrets or something, what can I do about it? Would having a patent help (I don't think my business customer lists etc will apply for patent protection, but just asking generally). Wha...

    Maurice’s Answer

    Ideas are a dime a dozen. They are worthless unless you take precautions to protect them before dealing with third parties. This is particularly true when dealing with foreign companies. Before dealing with a foreign company, you should have written agreements with that company, negotiated by legal counsel, that protect your interests. Further, sometimes foreign companies are required to post bonds, obtain insurance, or take other steps to assure that your interests re protected. If you did not proactively engage in such steps before dealing with a foreign company, it may prove very difficult to protect your rights.

    One of the ways to protect yourself is to obtain patents. However, patents are territorial in nature. A U.S. patent won't protect you against a foreign company that infringes in a foreign country. You have to obtain patents in each country in which you will do business if you want protection---obviously, that can become prohibitively expensive. That is why big companies have patent budgets of millions of dollars.

    If you don't have million dollar patent budget, then you hire IP counsel in advance of dealing with foreign countries to draft contracts and take other steps to protect your interests. Your best protection is to retain experienced IP counsel who will prepare contracts and insist on other terms and conditions that will protect you to the extent possible. In truth, however, piracy in foreign countries such as China, India and even Australia is a very difficult problem for which there is no effective silver bullet. Ultimately, what matters most is that you work with foreign companies with a demonstrated reputation for honor and integrity, and who back it up by providing bonds or insurance policies that protect you if something goes wrong. Your IP lawyer helps you assess the integrity and reliability of the companies you choose to work with, and then draft documents and take other steps to protect you to the extent possible and economically realistic.

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  • I have a shared royalty question. I published a book, I own the copyright. we have 4 partners, the author and two other guys.

    we shared equally, 1/4 each. now to other two want to drop out and give their share to the author. I say the author and me should split 5//50. I think I'm getting screwed. Nothing in writing, all verbal. thanks, Douglas

    Maurice’s Answer

    You are not being "screwed". Your co-authors are free to give their shares to anyone they want. You are not entitled to anything more than your 1/4 share.

    A co author is free to dispose of his sale to a anyone. He could give it to his wife, kids, friends, or donate it to charity. Or he could give it to the other co-authors. You are entitled to 1./4 share and that does not change of your co-authors decide to give their shares to the other co-author.

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  • ATTN Entertainment Lawyers: Seeking Legal Forms for Documentary Filmmakers In Exchange For Free Marketing Services

    Hi there, I publish a highly-ranked website for documentary filmmakers (500,00+ visitors/year). I would like to offer my readers a packet of legal forms such as location/talent releases. Seeking an entertainment attorney willing to offer these fo...

    Maurice’s Answer

    With respect, you are not performing a service for your readers by providing a packet of legal forms. Using forms for such matter as talent releases, model releases, or work for hire agreements is almost always disastrous. There is no one-size-fits-all form that can be competently and professionally prepared and used. Indeed, it is often malpractice for a lawyer to give a client a form and then tell the client that it is ok for the client to adjust it without further legal input. Entertainment law is one of the most complex areas of law imaginable. Agreements and licenses used in the context of creating documentary films are often very complex, and they need to be tailored to the specific project.

    I won't cooperate with a project like this---which does not serve the interests of documentary filmmakers. It sends them exactly the wrong message---that it is ok to use "Legal Zoom" like forms rather than engage IP counsel. Filmmakers who make documentaries, no less than Hollywood movie studios, must include an appropriate budget for the legal services they need. It is an important component of any film project. It is irresponsible, to say the least, for your organization to suggest to documentary filmmakers that it is ok to rely on pre-packaged forms to solve their legal issues.

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  • How to handle threats and libel by business partner whom I'm in litigation with?

    Hello and thanks in advance for any help. I am 50/50 partners with another member in a US LLC. After his breach of his duty of loyalty on many fronts, I decided to file a lawsuit to have him removed from the company, wh...

    Maurice’s Answer

    You should consult with the attorney who is already handling your law suit---I would think that these false statements and threats would be a key component of your claim that your partner breached his fiduciary duty. But without reviewing the e-mails and the context in which they are written, I cannot advise you as to whether they give rise to additional claims.

    Keep in mind that harmful threats and comments do not necessarily cause economic damages. You should approach this case based on economic reality---in the end that is what matters. You also need to understand that in order to prove libel, you would have to show that your partner made false statements of fact, If he merely expressed negative opinions about you, they are not actionable as libel. Opinions, however, hurtful, are not libelous. Further, your partner does not necessarily breach his fiduciary duties by expressing negative comments about you to third parties, such as his best man. Indeed, he is entitled to express his opinions about you as long as they do not adversely impact your business. After all, he is not communicating with clients of your business (which would be much more egregious). Further, from a damages perspective, you would have to show that these statements to his best man caused economic harm to you and your business, such as lost sales. However upsetting these messages may be, they probably cannot be proximately linked to lost sales of lost business. Without understanding the full and fair context of these e-mail communications, I hesitate to conclude that they give rise to serious additional claims for damages. Once again---these matters need to be approached based on economic reality---not emotion.

    Most importantly, with great respect, if you already have legal counsel in the litigation, it is not wise for you to be raising this issue on AVVO. Rather, you should be discussing these matters with your litigation counsel---in the final analysis, they are tied into the law suit in which you seek to have him removed from the company. It is very unwise in a situation like this for you to use a publicly available web-site to seek alternative legal advice. You are already in litigation, and confidentiality is critical. You should be discussing this matter with your litigation counsel---he is in the best position to know whether these e-mail communications give rise to additional claims, or support the existing claims.

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  • Copyright, patent, or trademark?

    I'm planning to create a type of planner geared towards a specific market with certain things in it. Would I need a copyright, a patent, or a trademark?

    Maurice’s Answer

    It is impossible to answer this question. You will probably need some combination of all three.

    Developing an intellectual property strategy for your business is neither simple nor easy. It is a complex matter. It is critical that you lay the proper legal foundation and develop a viable strategy. No small business can operate in today's economy without retaining and developing a close working relationship with intellectual property counsel.

    Further, with respect, you are jumping the gun by worrying about obtaining intellectual property protection. Your first priority should be to determine whether your proposed planner product would violate intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, copyrights) owned by others. You are obligated legally to take reasonable steps to avoid third party IP rights. That means you should retain IP counsel to conduct an IP clearance analysis---you need to know whether you can make and market your planner without violating IP rights held by others. This is no simple matter---and it costs real money to obtain the IP clearance that you need. But it is also essential for any small business (or any big business). No one will invest in your business until they are satisfied that you have obtained a clearance analysis from IP counsel showing that your planner product or services will not violate IP rights of third parties. Further, that clearance analysis will also be critical to developing a strategy for protecting an IP rights which you may be entitled to procure and enforce.

    In short---you need to retain IP counsel from the very beginning. Don't wait until you have invested substantial time and resources only to find that you are violating someone's IP rights.

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  • Re: publishing & copyright. You can't publish in a book someone's email message, it is copyright. How about phone text messages?

    Book author needs to know.

    Maurice’s Answer

    Text messages are protected by copyright. You cannot use text messages authored by others without their permission.

    There may be circumstances in a group of text messages, as part of an ongoing conversation, constitute a single work. If you are a party to these text messages, you might be deemed a joint author of the conversation. If you are a joint copyright owner, then you have the right to use the stream of text messages, but you will have to account to your co-author (the other participants in the conversation) for any economic benefits that you gain from using the text messages.

    Text messages are no different from any other type of written document (e-mail, memo, voice message, etc). The same rules apply to text messages as apply to e-mails, voice messages, etc. These matters start to become complex, so before publishing someone else's text messages you should retain and confer with legal counsel.

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  • Do I need permission to use a real place in my book?

    I am writing book that features two real medical facilities: Boston Medical Center and Spaulding Rehabilitation Center. Both the names and the details of the facilities appear in the book. I would like to know if I should contact these places for...

    Maurice’s Answer

    You can use these names if your book is reporting or commenting on events which occurred that involve these names of medical facilities. The doctrine of nominative fair use would protect you from claims of trademark infringement if you are using the names in an accurate manner in a book that fairly reports on past events.

    However, be careful. If your book makes factual assertions concerning events which occurred in these institutions which are untrue or inaccurate, you could be sued for defamation (libel). Further, if your book is a work of fiction and you are using these names and details to set the scene, your use without permission would be problematic. This is because these institutions have trademark and other related IP rights in their names and the details concerning their operations. If your book is a work of fiction, either change the names or get permission.

    In situations like this, the devil is in the details. None of us can give you definitive advice before we review exactly how you use these names and details in your book. Either you or your publisher will have to hire intellectual property counsel to advise you on this. Authors who self-publish often fail to appreciate the critical role the publishers (and their in-house lawyers) often play in helping guide authors through issues like this. If you are working with an established, traditional publisher, you should review these issues with your publisher. If you are self-publishing, however, you should hire your own intellectual property counsel (or your literary agent may handle this for you--either way, you need to hire a lawyer).

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