Category Archives: Technology

Watch Your Step With Your New Mark

You have a name, slogan, logo, or other mark for your new business or product.  Look first before spending time and money to identify your brand with that mark.  A search beforehand may warn you of another mark that could hinder your use of the new mark.  It is not fun to get a cease-and-desist letter or a lawsuit you could have avoided.

There are services available to conduct searches for you; the costs and efficacy varies.  There are do-it-yourself searches for little to no cost that you can do first.  Here is a sampling of DIY searches:

  • Google and other search engines:  Self-explanatory.
  • Federal Trademark Registrations:  The US Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) handles the federal registration of trademarks under the Lanham Act.  The USPTO database has registered marks, marks that were registered but lost that status, and applications for registration, is available for free via the Web.  You can search the database here.  Try different variations on the name – spacing, punctuation, and non-letter characters can affect the search results.  There also is a way to search for logos and non-verbal marks using keywords and design codes.
  • State Trademarks and Trade Names:  States often have their own trademark registration and trade name databases.  You can search Georgia trademark registrations here and Colorado trademark registrations here.  The registration of a trademark or a trade name could be at the same place, or, like in Georgia, be in separate databases.  Georgia has trade name registrations take place at the county superior court, for example.
  • Records of incorporations, etc.:  A person forming an entity usually has to submit formation paperwork with the appropriate state agency, such as the state secretary of state.  The databases often are searchable online.  You should search the databases for the states where you want to do business.  Here are links to the sites for the Georgia’s Secretary of State’s website and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Web site.
  • Domain names:  A domain name register should give you the ability to conduct an online WHOIS search on a domain name.  A WHOIS search should tell you whether anyone has registered the domain name or whether it is available.
  • Social Media:  Examples of where to search are Facebook, Houzz, and LinkedIn.  There are many more social media sites; how far you should go will vary on the nature of your business.
  • Online phone book: Put in your intended name and something similar to see what pops up.

Remember GIGO (garbage-in-garbage-out) when searching.  The more varied are your searches, the more reliable are your results.  Examples of variation include spelling the mark correctly and incorrectly, spelling out non-word elements and visa versa (e.g., “plus” and “+”), using different phonics (e.g., “phone” and “fone”), altering the spacing between words, and so on.

Each database has its limitations.  Georgia’s trademark registration database, for example, will not show any pending applications.  It can take a week or so for new federal trademark applications to show on the USPTO database.  Even with that in mind, the search results can guide on whether a more in-depth search makes sense, where you can proceed with peace of mind, whether you should proceed with caution, or whether you should change your mark.

Stay tuned for a discussion of options if you get a “hit” on any of your searches.

This post provides general information only.  This post is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about your situation.  Laws change and your situation may be different.  You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your circumstances.

This article has links to websites owned and operated by third parties.  Use those links at your own risk.  The author including those links is not an endorsement by the author or the author’s firm of those third parties, of the content of those sites, or of the security of those sites.

© 2016 Matthew D. Macy

“Damn the Legalities! Full Speed with the Remote Wiping!”

     Dorothy, the new IT Director for the Golden Brick Road Company, took one look at the computer security protocols and said, “Hackers, spammers, and scammers, oh my!” A hole she saw was Golden Brick’s BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) practice. Golden Brick cut costs by ceasing to provide smartphones to its employees. Golden Brick instead allowed employees to use their personal devices to access company email, cloud storage accounts, etc.

     Dorothy thought it would be a good idea for Golden Brick to wipe those devices when an employee left the company or if the employee’s device was lost or stolen. She went to Golden Brick’s in-house attorney, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the CEO, the Wizard, with her suggestion. The Wicked Witch and the Wizard agreed that it was a good idea. Dorothy had a remote wipe program automatically upload onto the employees’ devices as they accessed the company’s systems.

     The Wizard instructed the Wicked Witch to draft a BYOD policy. It was the end of day and the Wicked Witch had to rush out to get to the Flying Monkeys’ soccer game. She planned to write the policy the next day. Unfortunately, it rained at the soccer game and the Wicked Witch was no more. No one drafted a BYOD policy.

     The Scarecrow, a Golden Brick employee, used his smartphone to access the company systems. A week after the Wicked Witch’s passing, the Scarecrow told Dorothy over lunch that he thought he lost his smartphone. Dorothy remotely wiped the Scarecrow’s smartphone. Fortunately (or not), the Scarecrow found the smartphone between his couch cushions. Everything on it was gone, from personal files to company data. The Scarecrow denied that he gave anyone permission to access his smartphone in that way. He hired a lawyer and sued Golden Brick.

     What is an employer to do? It is becoming more frequent for employers to allow employees to use their personal devices to access the employer’s systems. This may improve efficiency and cut costs while creating a potential security hole and a legal headache. The use of personal devices raises questions of what rights the employer may have to access or wipe the personal device. A BYOD policy may help. A well-written policy in place should outline for both employer and employee the rights and expectations either have when an employee uses a personal device to access the employer’s systems.

      Will the Scarecrow win his lawsuit over the remote wiping of his smartphone? Will Dorothy get her Ruby Slippers Bonus? Will the Wizard hire an attorney who is not water-soluble? A written policy could have helped answer one of those questions.

This post provides general information only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to be legal advice about a specific situation. Laws change and your situation may be different. You should consult with a licensed attorney for legal advice specific to your circumstances.