Texas residents may have seen reports about the white air balloons that Google has been launching above remote areas of the world to provide those areas with Internet service. Google's Project Loon launched its first air balloons in 2013 and the company has flown them over Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. Now, a company called Space Data is claiming that Project Loon was created using stolen trade secrets.
Texas business owners interested in protecting their intellectual property may find it helpful to learn more about trade secrets. In general, any business information that is of value, isn't public knowledge and is protected by measures that maintain confidentiality can be considered a trade secret. Trade secrets are partially valuable because the businesses that hold them are the only ones with the knowledge, and nearly all states have enacted some form of protection. Most states derive their trade secret laws from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act of 1970, although some have modified these terms.
Texas sci-fi fans may have heard that CBS and Paramount have filed an amended complaint to their copyright infringement lawsuit against Axanar Productions, which is producing a fanfiction "Star Trek" film. The lawsuit was originally filed in December.
Companies that are seeking investment generally have better odds of receiving funding if they have protected their intellectual property. Intellectual property is either the product idea itself or any proprietary knowledge in creating or marketing the product. Businesses have many options when it comes to protecting IP such as asking for a non-disclosure agreement or assignment of IP to the company.
Entrepreneurs in Texas may be pleased to learn that the United States has been selected as the country with the best environment for intellectual property. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce compares the world's major economies on factors such as the safeguarding of trade secrets and the protection of copyrights and patents, and they produce an International IP Index every year. The 2016 index was published on Feb. 10, and Britain, Germany, France and Sweden joined the United States to round out the top five nations.
Entrepreneurs in Texas will likely associate protecting intellectual property with copyrights, patents and trademarks, but the contracts signed by workers and contractors can also be used to prevent the unauthorized use of formulas, designs, slogans and logos. While business owners frequently place non-compete clauses in their employment contracts to discourage workers from revealing proprietary information and trade secrets, they often fail to take similar precautions when entering into agreements with independent contractors.
Texas residents may be familiar with the classic comedy sketch 'Who's On First?" that was famously performed by comedy duo Abbott and Costello. Decades after the sketch was performed in vaudeville theaters and featured in two Hollywood movies, the heirs of Abbott and Costello filed a copyright infringement lawsuit. According to the heirs, a Broadway play called 'Hand of God" used pieces of the sketch without permission.
While the hit TV show Shark Tank is entertaining, entrepreneurs in Texas can also learn a lot by watching how the 'sharks" talk about potential investments. Often, the issue of intellectual property plays a role in the sharks' decisions about what businesses to invest in. Entrepreneurs who have thought about IP and done things to protect their IP seem to do better in the 'tank."
Texas residents may be surprised to learn that intellectual property law dates back to 1623. That was the year that the British Parliament voted on the Statute of Monopolies, which granted the inventor of new devices and technologies sole control over their design and production. The passing centuries have seen intellectual property rights evolve to become a highly specialized and complex area of the law, and the information age has made protecting intellectual property crucial for modern companies. Infringement of these rights, both domestically and internationally, costs businesses and the economy billions of dollars every year.
If a fashion retailer, manufacturer or designer loses its trade secrets, the results can be devastating. Even with all the security measures companies may have in place to avoid a security breach, it's a potential problem they still face. For example, several Nike designers who quit their jobs were recently suspected of taking the company's trade secrets and revealing them to Adidas, their new employer. The scheme was eventually discovered by Nike and ended in an out-of-court settlement.