How To Establish Your Brand

Trademarks

Trademark. Lawsuit.When you think of great trademarks, the ones known throughout the world, they will likely include the apple with the bite taken out of it and the golden arches. There are also older trademarks that have withstood the test of time, like the classic Pepsi trademark or even the red tongue, which has come to represent the Rolling Stones for several decades now.

Big successful companies strategically use something called trademark placement or product placement, the conspicuous placement of the trademark where a large number of people will see it. Think of the giant television screen in New York’s Time Square. Other trademarks appear in popular movies and television shows.

The website brandsandfilms.com compiled a list of the top 40 product placements of all time. The top five are:

  1. Wilson in Cast Away
  2. Kodak Carousel in Mad Men
  3. Ford Mustang in Bullitt
  4. Manolo Blahnik in Sex and the City
  5. FedEx in Cast Away

To see the complete list, visit here.

Obviously, most businesses don’t have the power and resources to get their brand on television or the movies, but there is much a small business can do to promote its brand. And while your small business may not have its brand recognized around the world, you can become recognized as a top brand locally to the customers you want to specifically target.

According to Inc. Magazine, there are 10 ways to establish your brand.

  1. Publish Plenty of Free Content
  2. Make It Dead Simple to Access
  3. Provide Value on Social Media
  4. Guest Post on the Right Sites
  5. Tell Your Story
  6. Take Advantage of Google Authorship
  7. Write a Book
  8. Be Controversial
  9. Speak at Every Opportunity
  10. Be Constant

To see further details on these steps, read here.

Of course, a big part of establishing your brand involves the trademark of your logo and name. Why let someone else steal your brand and all the hard work you put into it? A solid trademark is a great way to protect not only your brand, but also your reputation with your customers.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Women Allowed To Get Paid Less Then Men

Briefcase in a hand, business illustration9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

For all those women who voted for Trump and by their actions approve of his misogynistic abusive treatment of women, you will be happy to read this decision.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that an employer can pay a woman less than a man for the same exact work if the man was paid more at his previous job.

Judge Lynn S. Adelman stated, “If prior salary alone is responsible for the disparity, requiring an employer to consider factors in addition to prior salary cannot resolve the problem that the EEOC and the plaintiff have identified.”

Rizo v. Yovino

In the case of Rizo v. Yovino, Aileen Rizo was hired by the Fresno County school system as a Consultant back in 2009. Her annual salary was $62,733, which was just about 10K more than the previous job she had.

However, in 2012, Rizo discovered that the school hired a man for the same job and paid him $79K per year, which is $17K more than her. When Rizo went to her employer to complain, she learned that the other male co-workers in her field were all paid more than her based on the salaries of their previous jobs.

When Rizo sued, the unanimous panel said the Equal Pay Act allows for pay differences based on “a factor other than sex,” and this includes past salaries. Rizo’s attorney, Daniel Siegel, informed the Associated Press, “The logic of the decision is hard to accept. You’re OK’ing a system that perpetuates the inequity in compensation for women.”

With the world being in 2017, this is yet another step backward for women in the US.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

 

Trademark Scammers. USPTO SCAM.

Non-USPTO Solicitations

USPTO Scam

USPTO Scam

Here is yet another way scammers are trying to part you from your hard-earned money.

The USPTO recently announced that trademark holders are receiving letters in the mail requesting payment on fees due for the trademarks.

The fraudulent solicitations include offers such as: for legal services; for trademark monitoring services; to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.

Furthermore, these scammers are using letterhead that mimics the look of official government documents and are using names that resemble the USPTO, such as “United States,” “U.S.,” “Trademark,” “Patent,” “Registration,” “Office,” or “Agency.”

Trademark Scam.

The Department of Justice reported that these scams resulted in the loss of approximately $1.66 million from copyright holders, and has only resulted in 5 convictions.

So, if you get a letter in the mail stating that it’s from the USPTO office read the letter carefully before making a decision about whether to respond.  According to the USPTO “All official correspondence will be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “@uspto.gov.”

What do you do if you are a victim?

File an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). See here.

The USPTO has offered several examples of just some of the non-USPTO solicitations that have been mailed out, which can be reviewed here.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Zillow Digs. Copyright Infringement.

Copyright Internet Pics.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright Infringement

Taking a picture off of the Internet without permission and adding it to a website or blog seems harmless, right? Well I’m here to tell you that it’s quite harmful. When you use works protected by copyright law without permission, you are indeed infringing on a copyright. The penalties for infringing on a copyright can range anywhere from $200 to more than $150K for each work that was infringed upon. Plus, the infringer must pay all court costs and attorney’s fees.

To this day blogs, small companies as well as giants are not taking copyright infringement quite seriously. Case in point, the home listing giant Zillow was sued for “brazen theft” of interior design images.

The infringement lawsuit was brought by VHT Inc., a photography and image management services company, in United States District Court in Seattle in July of 2015. VHT alleged that the images that were being displayed or saved on Zillow Digs, a home design site, as well as on the main Zillow site, violated their copyrights.

In December of 2016, the courts dismissed the claim of infringement on Zillow.com.  However, the infringement claim with Zillow Digs continued and the trial began on January 23rd, 2017. In mid-February, the jury finally came to a verdict.  The jury ordered Zillow to pay a whopping $8.3 million in statutory damages.

VHT’s CEO Brian Balduf said to the press the jury’s decision “protects the interests of real estate photographers and their clients. We look forward to continuing to work with our team of nationwide photographers, as well as our industry counterparts, to create a rights management organization to ensure that all real estate photographs are managed properly and protected against unlicensed uses.”

In a statement to GeekWire, a Zillow representatives said: “We have persistently maintained our belief that this suit was without merit. While we are pleased that the majority of original claims were dismissed in this case, we regret that the jury did not find for us completely on those that remained, and will vigorously pursue all options to overturn their verdict. We take copyright protection and enforcement seriously and will continue to respect copyright permissions across our platforms.”

Copyright Infringement Steps To Take.

So, what should you do if you notice that someone is infringing on your work? Here are some steps to take:

  • Ensure you have a copyright notice on all of your copyrightable works. A copyright notice is not required for protection, but does help to prove an infringement.
  • Register your Copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, and once completed, the copyright office will send you a certificate.
  • Prepare and mail a warning letter to the infringing party. In the letter identify your work and inform the party that it’s copyrighted.
  • If you do not hear from the infringing party favorably, file a copyright lawsuit in your federal district court.

You have worked too hard not to protect your intellectual property – don’t wait until it’s too late!

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

 

Be In The Moment.

Keep Your Mind Where Your Body Is

In The Moment.

In The Moment.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who wasn’t there? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you weren’t there? Have you ever been in a meeting and no one was there? Most likely, you could unequivocally say yes to all of the above.

From time to time, and more often for some of us, we allow something outside of ourselves to distract us from what’s important in the moment. I often allow myself to become distracted. I allow something to take me on a metal detour, whether I’m diverted by other people’s behavior or drawn into their drama. All of these diversions mean my mind is not where my body is.

When we allow ourselves to be distracted from what’s happening in the moment, those around us suffer. People are affected, including our children, our spouses, our partners, our friends, co-workers, or anyone we might be connected with in the moment. When we go astray mentally or emotionally, we send a message to the person that he or she doesn’t matter. That he or she is not important enough to hold our attention. Our words may say “you matter,” but her actions scream something else.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a meeting with a honking began outside the window. It was loud and continuous. Many of the attendees, including me, became obsessed with the noise for the entire hour and a half. The honking was a condition we could not control, but we could control our reactions to it. We gave each other looks and whispered about the noise. We got so bothered by the outside condition that we ourselves ultimately became the distraction.

You Have A Choice.

Perhaps we were justified in being disturbed. But in truth, each of us had a choice as to whether to give away our power.

We each made a decision, conscious or otherwise, to allow a condition to control our experience. I allowed my attention to be stolen right out from under me. Those of us who choose to be distracted suffered because we missed out on the valuable information offered by the speaker and instead spent the entire time being angry about something we couldn’t control. The presenter suffered because he was never able to recapture the attention of the 15 or 20 people who went along with me for the mental ride. It was a  lose-lose situation for all concerned.

So what can we do to be more present? How can we bring our minds more in alignment with our body?

  • For starters, admit your mind it’s not always we are your body is. Denying any problem is a prescription for failure.
  • Become aware of those times when your attention is diverted in another direction. Call it what it is!
  • Be willing to see the damage to yourself, to your relationship, and to your serenity when you are not fully present. Get honest about how it affects you and others. A bold move is to ask someone you’re in a relationship with how your behavior affects him or her.
  • Be a careful and attentive listener. Listen to understand, and not to judge.
  • Practice quieting your busy mind. The noise in the brain is sometimes overwhelming that we simply must shut it off.
  • Practice staying in the moment. Hold your attention. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back.

I invite you to be aware of how often you are distracted. During an important meeting, you were thinking about what you’re having for lunch. Maybe during lunch, you were thinking about work. Maybe when you’re with the kids, your attention was diverted to something else that made you not able to give them your full attention.

Then practice staying in the moment. You may find it challenging at first, but after a while, it’ll become easier. Whenever your mind wants to move away from where your body is, gently bring it back.

FTC Advertising Rules. Testimonials.

Testimonials.

http www browser bar, Internet addressA client recently got upset when I told her she needed to change her marketing tools (e.g., websites, social media profiles, and blogs) in order to comply with the updated FTC advertising rules on testimonials and endorsements.  A die hard information marketer, she insisted that I was wrong.  She said, “My coach—a very successful info marketer—told me those advertising rules don’t apply to me, because I’m not paying anyone to give me an endorsement.” “Plus,” she said, “I have ‘Results Not Typical’ everywhere on my site.” I told her that the information she’d been given was inaccurate, and that the FTC advertising rules, in fact, DO apply to her.  As an information marketer, I said, you are exactly who the FTC is targeting.

She is not alone in having a vested interest in believing inaccurate information about the new FTC Rules on endorsements and testimonials.  Many internet marketers want to believe that the internet rules, more specifically the advertising rules, don’t apply to them, because it means changing their business model.  It means in some cases significantly altering the way they do business, which can dramatically affect their pocketbook.  But like it or not, the FTC is serious about tracking down violators.  Marketers who, through a variety of advertising mediums on the internet, disseminate false and misleading information about their products and services are the focus.

At a minimum, the FTC Rules require that an advertiser disclose any material relationship between it and an endorser, whether or not you paid them to endorse your product or service. A posting on your social media site, wiki, a blog, chat room, discussion board, forum, or any other internet venue may be considered an endorsement. Transparency through disclosure is key.  Failure to comply can subject both the advertiser and the endorser to liability, particularly if the claims were unsubstantiated or in any way, misrepresented the product or service.

So what can you do to protect yourself:

  1. Take the FTC Rule on endorsements & testimonials seriously!
  2. Review all of your marketing materials with a view toward FTC Rule compliance
  3. Ask yourself, “could an endorsement of your product/service, when viewed objectively, be perceived, by consumers, as sponsored by you, therefore an advertisement?
  4. Disclose all “material connections” between the advertiser and endorser.
  5. Make sure you disclose in a conspicuous manner what the average consumer can expect to gain from use of your product/service
  6. Make sure you have reliable evidence of any claim made about your product/service
  7. Don’t rely on “Results Not Typical” to satisfy the FTC requirement, because it won’t (See Footnote 1, pg. 5, http://tinyurl.com/ygcmpfd
  8. Accurately represent customers expectations
  9. Review this FTC Rule pronouncement carefully, especially  §255.2 if you use consumer testimonials (http://tinyurl.com/ygcmpfd)
  10. Consider hiring someone to help you interpret the New FTC rules in light of your product/service

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Social Media Use Policy?

Social Media.

Social media. Social Networking.

Social media. Social Networking.

Social networking is the hottest discovery since email. It’s fun, fast paced, interesting, and allows you to connect with friends, colleagues, and clients in a way that you never could before. And for entrepreneurs and small business owners, it levels the playing field by allowing you to develop a network and marketing plan at a fraction of the cost. BUT don’t be lulled into thinking you can act with impunity. With all the good social networking can accomplish and the ease in which you can use it, there are landmines to be aware of.

One of the legal issues you should be aware of when playing in the social media sandbox, is the most basic and the easiest for you to comply with–having a social media use policy.

Have a social media use policy.
Do you have a social media policy in your work place? Do you think you need one? The average small business person does NOT have a policy on what’s acceptable behavior in their office, with regards to  social media use. Yet without a policy, which let’s people know what your expectations are, you can’t hold them accountable.  Whether you are a large or  small business, or sole proprietor, you should have a written policy letting people know, what you expect, in terms of their behavior in your workspace.

Communicate your policy.
Having a policy is essential to the effective running of your business.  But a policy alone is useless, unless everyone with a need to know, knows about it. So who needs to know about your social media use policy? At a minimum, the following people need to know about your social media use policy:

  1.  Full time staff
  2. Temporary staff
  3. Part-time workers
  4. Independent contractors
  5. Consultants
  6. Clients who visit and access your computers

Enforce your policy.
Having a policy and communicating that policy are all well and good.  But if you have a policy and don’t enforce it, or you enforce it against only certain people, then it is as if you have no policy at all.

Social Media and the Workplace

Navigating Social Media in the Workplace!

Social Media Workplace

Social Media. Workplace Policy.

Social media has infiltrated our everyday lives, and the workplace is no exception. Because of the rise of social media venues, such as Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, Second Life, and LinkedIn, employers are exposed, as never before, to vast bits of information about employees and potential candidates.  In the not so distant past, much of this information would not be available, but employers now face the challenge of being exposed to this extraneous information and the legality of using it. Employers must consider whether the benefits are worth the risks of viewing an applicant’s social media site and using it in the hiring process, and if they choose to use it—to what extent?

There are several considerations an employer should take into account when entering this technological minefield.  Here are a few:

  1. Develop a social media use policy, communicate to everyone with a need to know about it, and make sure you enforce fairly.
  2. Create a list of the social media that will be used for each and every applicant and what information they will use from the search, forming a consistent process.
  3. Delegate the social media search to a neutral party who can filter out protected class information.
  4. Strictly adhere to a policy of not “friending” the applicants to learn about nonpublic information from a social media profile.
  5. State a valid, business-related reason for the hiring decision and maintain the information to back up that decision.
  6. Consult with counsel before deciding to use social media information in the hiring process.

Outside of hiring, social media can be detrimental to a company’s productivity and employee relations, and can affect all aspects of the employment life cycle, making it important to address the issue in company policies. Companies, at the very least, should add broad statements and prohibitions regarding social media in the workplace to existing code of conduct, harassment, and confidentiality policies, and apply them with consistency.

Until next time, think ASSET PROTECTION!

Misleading Advertising

Misleading Advertising. Online Advertising.

Misleading Advertising. Online Advertising.

The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) is finally taking notice of the plethora of private companies (not affiliated with the USPTO) who solicit trademark applicants, with deceptive and misleading communications that look official.

BEWARE! These companies gather trademark applicant information from the USPTO database (which is public record), and solicit those applicants for money.  The offer a service, (usually one you’ve already paid for if you have a lawyer) in exchange for a fee, e.g., legal services, trademark monitoring services, US Customs and Border Protection recordation services, to name a few.

These companies will use names that look like the USPTO name, and some are so unscrupulous that they even make their communication look like an official government document.  And, if you don’t know any better, it is easy to be defrauded.  Unfortunately we live in an era when we must always be on the alert, because there are many enterprising souls just waiting to take advantage of you.

What can you do?

  1. Do NOT pay them anything;
  2. If you have a lawyer, contact them immediately;
  3. File an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC);
  4. Contact the USPTO by email (TMFeedback@uspto.gov) and include:
    • A copy of the misleading and deceptive communication with the envelope,
    • Let the USPTO know if you thought the communication was an official US government document (or if you had to ask an attorney to clarify it for you),
    • Indicate to the USPTO if you paid a fee in response to the misleading communication and for what purpose.

Protect Yourself, Protect Your Assets, Protect Your Family!

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward looking out for you.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my website.

Treasure Your Friends

Two happy teenage girl friends playing with hair as mustache

Treat Friends Like Treasured Items

Our connection was immediate on our first day of law school. We now have a soulful bond that has spanned over 20 years. Who would have thought the two of us, from such different worlds, 11 years apart in age, could come together as lifelong friends? Yet we have. She loves animals; so do I. I root for the underdog; so does she. She is an old spirit, wise beyond her years. And when I met her, I had lived a life far beyond my years. Her heart is bristling with the love of all things living, and her spirit is quite courageous.

That first day of class when Lorene challenged our contracts Professor, I knew we would be friends. Career changes, relocations, marriages, disagreements, aging, failed Bar exams, two law school reunions, we are still friends.

What is friendship?

It’s a voluntary connection, a bond between two or more people that transcends race, religion, gender, or political persuasion. It’s showing we can count on someone to be there when we need him or her.

It’s unconditionally being loved, no matter what. It’s having someone to laugh with, dance with, and celebrate with. It’s having the courage to tell the truth and having the courage to be told the truth.

Friendship is trusting someone enough to reveal that side of us that we dare not reveal too often. It’s knowing a friend will deliver on the promise. It’s offering of whatever we have to give to make our friends road just a little easier: an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a sofa to crash on, our heart, our attention.

Friends are like a warm, cozy fire on a cold, damp night. True friendship is a gift from God that we are required to take care of.

How do we get friends?

I heard years ago that to have a friend, you must be a friend. For years, my mentor Louise reminded me that if I found it necessary to sleep with other woman’s husband’s I wouldn’t have any girlfriends. What a novel concept. Yet the truth is, that at that time in my life I didn’t think I needed women in my life.  “Women are too competitive,” I’d say. “They can’t be trusted. They back stab you.” Of course, I knew that was true because I helped to perpetuate this by my own behavior. Today I know the value and ultimate unity of same-sex friendships.

Where do we find friends?

Everywhere we are: the hallway in our apartment building, our job, the elevator, the gym, the Opera, and church, and a community meeting, at PTA.

Wherever we show up, there are opportunities to make friends. Some friends pass through our lives on a temporary mission. Other stay for a while, perhaps months or even years. Their charge is to assist us along the journey in a way that only they can do. Their expertise is needed at the moment in time. But then there are those who come in for the long-haul. They share our journey in a special way, and a slice of history is created.

What gets in the way of friendship? Hurt feelings, ego, family, other friends, work, communities, changing values, change and goals, and distance. And some relationships, seemingly through nobody’s fault, just fade away. Yet I believe that no relationship just dies.

Like anything else, where we place our attention is what gets fed and grows. If a relationship has reached its expiration, it’s because we have allowed that to happen for some reason.

I want you to think about the people who you have at some in time or another call friends. We will explore what you appreciate about them and ways you can let them know, and if appropriate, how to reconnect with them. Here is your starting point:

  • In your own words, define friendship. To help you, bring to mind someone you consider – or have ever considered to be a friend. List the characteristics that make him or her a good friend.
  • Today make a list of your closest friends. It doesn’t matter whether they live in your neighborhood, your state, or across the globe. When you think of your real friends, who comes to mind?
  • Now, think of someone you listed and bring to mind an experience you had with your friend that made you know he or she was on your team. Really allow yourself to reflect on that time in your life. What happened? How did you feel?
  • Contact the people on your list. Make a call, send a thank you note, or send a card saying “just thinking of you.” This is your day to appreciate people who have been there as friends. In some cases, it simply might be an opportunity to reconnect.
  • Identify two people who are currently out of your life who at one time were important. What happened? Reflect on times past, when there was love between you. Even though much time may have passed, if appropriate, make a call, send an email, or write a note saying “hi, I’m thinking of you.”

After you have done all of this, take time to rest, recharge, and regroup. What observations can you make about your behavior? What worked? What didn’t work? What seemed extra hard? Why?

Join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts page, Twitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.