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William Robert Samuels
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William Samuels’s Answers

17 total


  • Is it illegal to use a local schools name, mascot or logo to make t-shirts?

    trademark/copyright information

    William’s Answer

    One of the central purposes of trademarks–if not the central purpose--is to serve as a source indicator for people. When people see a trademark on a product, the idea is that people will associate that product with a particular source. For example, when one sees the Nike “swoosh” people know the product or service is from Nike.

    If you are using the local school’s name, mascot, or logo on goods it is likely that the school could claim that your use infringes on its trademark rights because there might be a likelihood of confusion regarding the source of those goods–people would likely think the school or its licensee are the source, but you would be the source. Without more facts, it is hard to say for sure, but such use of the name, mascot, or logo would likely expose you to some level of liability.

    If you’re going to go forward with this venture, you may want to discuss with an attorney, determine if your use of the name, mascot, or logo qualify as “trademark use,” and see what steps you can take from there.

    Please note that this information is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. Nothing herein is meant to create an attorney-client relationship.

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  • I am a professional singer and want to know if sites like legalzoom can be trusted to file the copyright of my song?

    the song was written over 20 years ago and I have the original studio recording in cassette form, and various updated versions on CD which I have recently registered these copies with an online copyright registry company called worldwideocr.com....

    William’s Answer

    If by "safe" you’re asking whether LegalZoom is trustworthy, the answer is probably. However, seeking the appropriate copyright protections for what are different works, I would recommend discussing the matter with a qualified copyright attorney. The issue is that you do not want to file for copyright protection that does not appropriately cover your material, or that may in fact be liable to attack by others later on down the road. In that sense, working through LegalZoom could be quite “dangerous.” Copyright ownership can depend on many different factors and discussing with an attorney can be quite helpful, even if you file on your own.

    Please note that this information is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. Nothing herein is meant to create an attorney-client relationship.

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  • How can I protect my nonprofit social organization's name if I do NOT classify as doing business "in trade or commerce?"

    I started my club in Jan. and I heavily market/promote in this city and online. A month ago I discovered on a social site theres a music group using my name. I did my homework before naming my club and there were no signs WHATSOEVER that another g...

    William’s Answer

    I am not sure where you learned that you cannot or could not register a trademark for your group. Without knowing more about the facts, I will refrain from making any other comments on that issue except to note that there are many non-profit organizations that have registered trademarks, including non-profit professional, political, and fraternal groups. An organization can offer goods and services to its members, to non-members, to the community at large, etc.

    As for dealing with the possible infringement, the issue to consider include whether there is a likelihood of confusion as to the source of goods or services associated with the marks—will someone think that other party’s goods/services come from your group and/or vice versa. Factors to consider, among others, are similarity of the marks, similarity of channels of trade or offering of services, and at common law you should consider geographic region, and, of course, who started using the mark first and in what manner.

    I strongly suggest you discuss this matter with an attorney, sharing the facts, the manner in which you have used the mark, and the different communications you have had with the other party.

    Please note that this information is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. Nothing herein is meant to create an attorney-client relationship.

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  • How much total to file a trademark in order to protect my domain name?

    I am an artist with an idea to sell gift cards and touristy stuff online. I am not officially a business, I just want to make some money on the side by selling cards and t-shirts. I want to trademark my "company" name, I've already bought the d...

    William’s Answer

    First, the thoughts already offered here cover well the inquiries you have made. To answer your question about the Intent to Use trademark application, there are some different filing costs associated with that type of application. Basically, the same initial filing fee applies to such an application, and the process for prosecuting the application generally is the same, but you cannot secure an actual registration without using the mark and demonstrating that use to the Trademark Office.

    So, where does that leave you? Well, once the trademark office clears your intended trademark it will issue what is called a Notice of Allowance. You will have six months from the date that Notice of Allowance issues in order to file a Statement of Use. The fee charged by the Trademark Office for filing that Statement of Use is $100.00. You can allege use of your trademark before a Notice of Allowance is issued—the fee for doing so is also $100.00.

    If you do not have use of your mark within six months after the Notice of Allowance issues, you can file for a six-month extension before that initial six months expires. You can get further extensions upon a showing of good cause for a period aggregating not more than 24 months. The fee charged by the Trademark Office for filing for these extensions currently is $150.00 per extension.

    Please note that this information is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice. Nothing herein is meant to create an attorney-client relationship.

    I recommend you discuss your options with an attorney who can help tailor the process in a manner that will work for you and advise you appropriately.

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  • I purchased hat with a toyota symbol on them. i want to put my company's logo on them and give to customers . is that legal .

    i bought the hats from a habitat for humantiy thrift store

    William’s Answer

    You can do it--just be sure not to represent that you are associated with or authorized by the hat maker, Toyota, etc. as a distributor, seller, etc. Also, be sure that there are no symbols or trademarks for Toyota on the hat that you give to customers, as they may take some kind of action, regardless of how good or bad their claim is. It may sound absurd, but as long as you take these types of precautions, you should be good to go.

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  • Can you copyright protect a new online business idea assuming you describe the business plan in detail to the USPTO?

    This is an appendage to a previous prematurely posted question. I meant to include that piece of information before bothering any of you with a vague question?

    William’s Answer

    Not really. Copyright protects against copying of works that represent a certain amount of creative expression. That protection covers the expression of your idea(s), but not necessarily an idea itself. What that means is you can secure copyright protection of the actual wording of your business plan, and maybe even the format and layout of the plan if it is unique enough and has some level of creativity. However, this protects only against copying of the words and original diagrams etc. in the plan as you have laid it out--the ideas that you express in the plan are not, per se, protected. Someone can read it and use the ideas expressed in there.

    To protect against another party stealing your idea(s), you likely will want to use non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. This can be very hard to do if you are trying to raise money etc. and another party has leverage and does not want to enter into such an agreement. On a long shot basis, you may have other options as well, especially if your plan regards a method/process that involves a machine that takes subject matter and changes it into something wholly different—in which case it could be worth discussing the idea with a patent attorney, but likely is not worth the capital outlay patents require. Keeping your plan confidential usually is best.

    Regardless, copyright will not get you’re the protection you seek.

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  • Can you copyright protect a new online business idea assuming you describe the business plan in detail to the USPTO?

    This is an appendage to a previous prematurely posted question. I meant to include that piece of information before bothering any of you with a vague question?

    William’s Answer

    The long and the short of it is, no, not really.

    First, to be clear, the USPTO deals only with patent and trademark protections. If you want to copyright something in the US, you need to correspond with the US Copyright Office. You can find information on the Copyright Office here: http://www.copyright.gov/

    You cannot copyright protect an idea--under intellectual property law, in order to secure protection, whether it be patent, trademark, or copyright, an "idea" generally must be committed to some kind of tangible medium where the idea is embodied in some actual form (e.g., a drawing, a physical object of some sort, written words, etc.).

    That said, you can copyright your business plan--in fact, by writing the business plan down you already have common law copyright rights in that writing. But, you should note that the copyright protects the writing itself from others making unauthorized copies, but NOT the idea underlying the business/writing.

    The best bet for protecting the new business idea, I would think, is to keep it as a trade secret (for now, at least):

    A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers. In some jurisdictions, such secrets are referred to as "confidential information" or "classified information". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_secret

    You likely would want to use Confidentiality Agreements to keep the fundamentals of the new business secure. Otherwise, depending on the business type and other issues, you may be able to seek a patent on the business method--however, that is a complicated issue and without knowing more I cannot comment further other than saying discussing your idea with an attorney and getting such protection would be confidential and you would want to discuss it with an expert in the area.

    I hope this helps.

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