Will. Trust. Whitney Houston. Asset Protection.

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Will. Trust. Asset Protection.

Will. Trust. Whitney Houston.

Will. Trust. Whitney Houston.

Just because you’re famous and have money does not mean you make smart decisions. That is especially the case, when it comes to the protection of your business affairs. Making sure your will, trust, and other estate documents are in order should be uppermost on your to-do list.

Whitney Houston. Will.

In 1993, Whitney Houston had her will drafted. That was the last time she looked at it. At the time, her intent was to ensure the protection and long term financial security of her daughter, Bobbi Kristina. She never amended her will, even though her situation changed dramatically over the subsequent 20 years. Perhaps drugs got in the way of her thinking, perhaps she couldn’t make the time, or perhaps Bobby Brown distracted her. Whatever the reason, she did not tend to the business of her multimillion dollar estate. Among other things, Whitney Houston left the bulk of her vast estate to Bobbi Kristina—a minor.

Now, Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, has filed a petition with probate court to modify the terms of Whitney’s will. This move is to protect Bobbi Kristina from vultures and other scammers waiting to collect a big payday from a naive and vulnerable 19-year old. By changing the terms of the will, Cissy believes Whitney’s true intent will be realized.

Takeaways. Significant Life Events.

What’s the takeaway here? DON’T make the same mistake that Whitney and countless others have made—PROTECT YOUR ESTATE NOW! Contact your attorney whenever a major event takes place in your life or 5 years have lapsed, whichever comes first. Here are a few of the significant life events that could trigger your need to change your estate documents, will, trust, power of attorney, living will, assignment of assets:

  1. Get married
  2. Get divorced
  3. Legal separation
  4. Purchase a new home or any big ticket asset
  5. Go into business with someone
  6. Have a child or adopt a child
  7. Relocate to a new state/country
  8. You desire to change your beneficiary
  9. Come into a large sum of money
  10. and, the list goes on

I’m Attorney Francine Ward and I say, PROTECT YOUR ASSETS before it is too late. If you need a lawyer to review existing documents or prepare estate documents, feel free to contact through my website, my Legal Facebook Fan Page, my Legal Twitter Page, or through LinkedIn.

Trademark. Registered Trademark. Trademarks.

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Trademark. Registered Trademark.  

Trademark. Registered Trademark.

Trademark. Registered Trademark.

Today, I looked at 10 different websites, paying special attention to how they handled their trademark. I was surprised to see that all but two did not correctly show their trademark. And, I was even more surprised, when I did a quick search to discover that 5 of the 10 trademarks were cancelled.

Are you one of the tens of thousands of people who have a registered trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office? A distinctive word, name, phrase, design, or logo, which distinguishes your product or service from those of someone else? If so, you probably invested a lot of time and/or money making sure it was done correctly—right? At least I hope so. If not, regardless of what I say here, you may have a different set of problems to deal with later.

Oftentimes people go to trademark mills (e.g., LegalZoom), where they can “arguably” get a correctly filed registration for little to no money. Unfortunately, many folks don’t discover the inaccuracy of that, until it is too late. They go along thinking they have a valid trademark. Then one day, when trying to stop an alleged infringer, they discover things are not as they appear—there is no protection to be had.

Trademark Post Formalities.

Did you know that in order for you to keep and protect your valuable trademark, there are certain things you absolutely must do? In the world of trademarks, we call them post-registration formalities. Among the actions you must take after you receive your trademark registration are:

  1. Use it. Use your trademark the way you said you were using it, when you filed Statement of Use
  2. Use it correctly. Make sure your trademark stands out.
  3. Use the appropriate trademark symbol correctly.
  4. Monitor your trademark. Make sure no one else is using your trademark without your permission.
  5. File Declaration Continued of Use. Between years 5-6, make sure you file this document. If you miss this deadline, your registration will automatically cancel, and no one will tell you.
  6. Renew your trademark. A trademark lasts forever, so long as you File Declaration Continued of Use. Between years 5-6, make sure you file this document. If you miss this deadline, your registration will automatically cancel, and no one will tell you.

“I didn’t know that! No one ever told me,” some of you may be saying. Well maybe that’s true, and maybe not. Sometimes clients don’t pay attention, and sometimes they don’t understand the importance of these steps. I know for myself, every time I register a trademark for a client I discuss how they should use the mark. Not only do I discuss the steps they should take, but give them a cheat sheet with explicit instructions.

Protect your registered trademark today. Use! Monitor it! Renew!

Trademark Attorney. Francine Ward.

I’m Attorney Francine Ward. If you need help, give me a call. Join my conversation on my Law Facebook Fan Page, my Law Twitter Page, in one of my Google+ Circles, or in one of my LinkedIn Group discussions.

Copyright. Trademark.

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 Copyright or Copywrite? Copyright? Trademark?

Copyright. Trademark.

Copyright. Trademark.

I recently received a question that relates to copyright and trademark law.  I thought would make the basis of a good blog post.  So I could make a point, I am inserting the exact words provided by the person  who presented the question.

Question:

“I would like to get info about copywriting my logo. Not sure if it should be copywritten or trademarked. Would you explain the difference. It is not a symbol, but an acronym.”

First, as with everything I post, this is NOT legal advice. It is meant to provide useful general copyright information, only.

Copyright.

Second, when speaking about intellectual property and the topic of copyright, the correct spelling is “copyright”, not “copywrite”. Copywrite refers to the writing of copy or text. A copywriter is a person who writes copy for a website, an advertisement, etc. When you register your content, such as a book, article, photograph, website content, or image, you copyright it.

Trademark? Copyright?

Next, there is a distinction between a copyright and a trademark. And although both are forms of intellectual property, they each are distinctly different types of protection.

Copyright – is a legal form of protection afforded to any original work of art or authorship that has been reduced to a tangible form. Examples again are books, articles, eBooks, photos, videos, poems, jewelry, and choreographed works. For more information on copyright, take a look at this page and check out the U.S. Copyright Office website.

Trademark – a name, word, phrase, logo, or a combination of those things that identifies the source of a product or a service. Examples are Nike, Microsoft, Apple, the golden arches, the Nike swoosh symbol. For more information on trademark, take a look at this page and check out the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office website.

If your logo is important to you, and if it is at the core of your business, you should speak with a lawyer on a one to one basis and get some specific legal advice regarding your situation. Any information provided here is purely general informational and not legal advice.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward providing you with useful information to help you protect what’s yours. If you have a question you want me to answer in general terms, feel free to post the question. If you want specific legal advice, feel free to contact me for a scheduled appointment. You can also reach me through my Legal Facebook Page, my Legal Twitter Page, one of my Google+ Circles, or through one of my LinkedIn Group discussion.

Prince. Lawsuit. Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

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Prince. Copyright Music.

Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

Copyright Infringement. Copyright Music.

Some call him crazy. Some call him sly as a fox. Some just say he is protecting what’s his. Whatever you call him, by any other name he is still Prince.  He is one artist who believes in copyright music and is notorious for protecting his valuable creative content. Further, he is known for not being about  about filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement against those who steal his work.

Copyright Infringement. Lawsuit.

On Monday, January 27, 2014, Prince filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California against 22 defendants. His claim—that they illegally posted his live shows online, making them available for download.  US Copyright Law provides a copyright owner with many rights. Included in that bundle of rights is the right to display, duplicate, distribute, and perform their creative copyright protected content. A copyright owner also has the right to grant permission to others to do the same things.

“The Defendants in this case engage in massive infringement and bootlegging of Prince’s material,” so says court documents. In addition, the lawsuit claims that certain individuals have upward of 363 unauthorized and illegal links to file-sharing providers, which host Prince’s copyright protected content. It has also been alleged that most of the links were hosted on a variety of Facebook Fan Pages and through the Google Blogger network.

Times have changed. Where taking what does not belong to you used to be considered a crime by most people, today, it has become commonplace and acceptable. Moreover, fear of retaliation, by copyright infringement professionals (thieves), has scared many content providers into permitting the hijacking of their content.

Sadly, Prince seems to have become one of those too afraid to stand up for his rights. That is disappoint, since I have always seen Prince as an artist who stands alone. An artist who lives life on his own terms. If an artist such as one, successful and famous, as Prince won’t stand up for the rights of creative content creators, how can we expect less successful creative people to fight for what’s theirs.

Two weeks after filing the $22-million dollar lawsuit, Prince dropped the suit.

What do you think…should he have stayed the course with the lawsuit, or given in to the pressure implemented by content thieves? I’m Attorney Francine Ward, and would love if you’d join the conversation on the Law Facebook Fan Page, Twitter Page, Google+ Circle, or in one of my LinkedIn Groups.

Rise Above. Inspirational Stories. Amazing.

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Rise Above. Success. Self Esteem.

Rise Above. Success. Self Esteem.

Inspirational Stories. Self Esteem.

I love inspirational stories about people doing amazing things. These stores are especially heartwarming when the accomplisher has to overcome great odds to succeed. This is not to say that privileged folk—those born with a platinum spoon—cannot do amazing things, because they can.  Just to name a few, take a look at Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kim Kardashian. They are all among the “Haves” who started with money, and look at what they have done.  But it is easy to accomplish great things, amazing things, when you’ve been given wealth, access, contacts, and every opportunity to attend the best schools—at no cost to you.  With that as part of your war chest, it’s easy to be amazing.

Rise Above. Amazing.

Becoming successful and accomplishing amazing things is a little harder when you truly must earn those things. Carlene Ervin in one such amazing example of someone who—against all odds—has accomplished an amazing feat.

Born into a family where she had little chance of surviving, she was placed in foster care. Adopted by a foster parent who encouraged her to rise above her beginnings and impressed upon Carlene the importance of education.  Her foster mom placed Carlene in a charter school program in Berkeley, CA called, Aspire CAL Prep.  From there, Carlene excelled. What makes Carlene so special is that she was willing to try.  What I know is just because you take a horse to water does not mean it will drink it. So it is with people. Just because you give someone opportunities, does not mean they will take advantage of them.  Carlene did.  And now, she’s on her way to Yale.

Do you have an inspirational story to share? Join the conversation on my Esteemable Acts Facebook Fan Page, my Esteemable Acts Twitter page, and in one of my Google+ Circles, or LinkedIn Groups.