It greatly depends on what "designer inspired" means. If what you mean is that you want to sell direct knock offs, then that will not only lead to civil liability but may also make you criminally liable. But if you just want to sell products that look "kinda" like some name-brand stuff, then you might get away with it.
The fact that you indicated the merchandise is from China leads me to believe that you should stay far, far away from it. It appears that you are in Seattle. You should call us...
Copyright law is an up and coming choice for protecting software as software patents become weaker and weaker. Copyright law is very cheap and easy to acquire, but is more narrow than software patents. Copyright law is perfect to protect the code itself.
As for patents, these days you would need to tie your algorithm fairly closely to some hardware to avoid what's called the Section 101 problem, which is an increasing problem for software developers.
To get the full picture of your...
Mr. Burdick is, of course, right. There is a specific exception to copyright law that authorizes pictures of public buildings or other works of architecture.
That said, make sure you hold on to that written permission. If your novel is successful, it's amazing how fuzzy people's memories get.
This would be a trademark issue and not a copyright issue. The phrase "amazing stories" is far, far too generic to receive copyright protection.
That said, it would appear far, far too generic to receive trademark protection either. I would need to see what "rights" this corporation bought before suggesting that you have a problem.
That said, it is always better to avoid a lawsuit than to just avoid liability.
You've asked a ton of questions. Here's the general idea: You cannot use the Seattle Seahawks logo without a license from the NFL. That's the bottom line. Minor changes to the logo don't do anything. If someone can recognize it as the Seahawks logo, then you are probably infringing.
If you see the use of the Seahawks logo on something else, then they are either paying for a license or they are infringing and just haven't gotten caught yet.
You're right, we have a global economy now. That said, every country still has a right to its own laws. The good news is there are quite a few treaties in the area of intellectual property law that try to reach commonality on most of the big-picture items. That said, every country has a very slightly different take on what is "public domain" and what is not. For instance, in the U.S. we have First Amendment considerations to deal with that most other countries don't have.
So the direct...
A lot of people share your confusion. The (TM) means that the mark is being used as a trademark. You are free to use the TM on anything you want and in any way you want. The (R) means that a trademark is federally registered. You can't use the (R) unless your mark is federally registered. But you don't have to federally register a trademark in order to protect it. Ever. You can use a trademark forever and even sue people for violating it in federal court without ever getting the (R). What...
You must file a Federal registration to gain constructive notice throughout the rest of the country. State trademark registrations are only good in that state.
You should go file the Federal registration here http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/teas/index.jsp
So, first, the direct answer to your question is no, they don't have to prove that the file is on your computer to sue the company. They have to believe that the file is on your computer to sue the company. The lawsuit is a formal opportunity for them to try and prove that the file is (or was) on your computer. If they *believe* the file is on your computer, then can sue the company. If they *prove* the file is on your computer, they can win the suit. If they *can't prove* the file is (or was)...