Can I Use Ex-Employer's Customer List?

Dear Rich: Simple question: Can my ex-employer stop me from using the customer list I developed when I worked for him? Sorry, but it's not that simple. You should check out this article to determine whether your customer list qualifies as a trade secret.  If it doesn't, it's unlikely that it can be protected by state trade secret law or an NDA you may have signed. On the other hand, state laws vary and most states honor noncompete agreements (not California) which may affect your ability to compete against your ex-employer by soliciting his clients. So, if you signed paperwork with your ex-boss, now's the time time to review it (or have an attorney review it).

Somebody Took My Dot-Org

Dear Rich: A company has copied our domain name but used it with a dot-org, not dot-com like we do. I thought you had to be a nonprofit organization to get a dot-org domain name. Can anybody be a dot-org? The Dear Rich Staff is sorry to hear that you are no longer the master of your domain ... and yes, anybody can be  a dot-org.
The skinny on TLDS. When top level domain names (TLDs) such as .com, .org, .gov, .net, and .edu were created by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the intention was that each TLD would cater to a specific type of domain name holder. For example, .org was intended for nonprofits, and .net for network related entities. But only some TLDs are really restricted--for example, .edu for educational institutions, .gov for government agencies,  and .mil for military agencies. To get one of these you must qualify. But that’s not the case with .org, .net, and .com. all of which can be obtained freely by just about anyone, for any purpose.
What can you do about the interloper? If someone has taken your company’s trademark and is using it in bad faith to compete against your business as a .org, you can either sue for cybersquatting in U.S. federal court (very expensive), or you can request ICANN arbitration (approximately $1500 if you use only one arbitrator). We discussed cybersquatting in a recent post.
P.S. Coming Soon: Custom TLDs. ICANN has announced that companies can – commencing January 12, 2012 -- buy custom TLDS. For example, Nike can buy exclusive rights to .NIKE and Apple can buy .APPLE. Supposedly these custom domains will sell for $185,000, so it's for serious players only.

2012 Mehndi Styles

2012 Mehndi Styles
2012 Mehndi Styles
Best Mehndi designs 2012 for indian and pakistani girls
Arabic Mehndi Designs 2012
Stylsih Mehndi Designs for Legs 2012
Best Mehndi Designs 2012

Can We Use Cars in CD Cover Art or Movie?

Dear Rich: On music CDs and in the movies I see images of different kinds of cars, and I wonder if the artist has had to pay any royalty to the car manufacturer. For example, the Beatle's Abbey Road album has a white Volkswagen Beetle right behind George Harrison. Does this imply endorsement of Beatle's music by Volkswagen Motor Company? And remember Walt Disney's use of a Volkswagen in the movie, The Love Bug. There are many classic old Fords and Chevys seen in movies all the time. Also, there is a musical group called REO Speedwagon. Using a car's image or trademark may (or may not) trigger problems on a CD cover or in a movie ... it depends on a few factors.
The Abbey Road Cover. The image of a VW on the Abbey Road cover (above) is unlikely to trigger any trademark issues because the usage is primarily editorial -- that is, it's an incidental use and no particular attention is drawn to the car. Of course, at the time, fans saw hidden meanings in the presence of the car (Beetle =  Beatle) but it turns out the car was simply a vehicle owned by someone in a nearby flat. (BTW, the license of the car was stolen soon after the album came out). If consumers were likely to be confused into thinking that Volkswagen (or any other car manufacturer whose vehicle appears on the street) endorsed the Beatles (or vice versa), the car company never saw fit to take action. After all, if the world's most popular band at the time is including your product on a popular album, that's not something you're likely to complain about. (In general, it was a less litigious world back in 1970.) BTW, an editorial use of a trademark -- for example, a picture of a Ford truck in a documentary about trucks -- is not infringing.
Herbie and VW Marks. As for Herbie and the Love Bug movies, Disney removed the name and logos (scroll down) from Herbie in the first movie in the series. Apparently the company was concerned about claims of trademark infringement. But several years later when the sequel appeared (Herbie Rides Again) in 1974, VW sales were down and the VW company insisted that Disney put the trademarks and names back. (The names and marks stayed on Herbie for the subsequent four Love Bug sequels.)
REO Speedwagon. The band, REO Speedwagon, was able to get away with using the name and logo of the REO Speed Wagon company probably because the auto company had likely abandoned any claims to the mark when it ceased production in 1936 (or some time in the later 1940s -- we're not sure) or perhaps when the later owners of the REO Motor Company declared bankruptcy in the early 1970s. An abandoned mark is free for anyone to use, although ceasing production of an automobile is not always a clear sign as to the status of the mark.
As a general rule, you want to avoid making people think the car company is affiliated or endorses your product or service -- for example, calling your band Miata -- or diluting a famous mark by tarnishing its reputation in a commercial context. However, we also note that there's plenty of leeway in these standards as the Caterpillar company found out when they tried unsuccessfully to prevent the use of their villainous tractors in a George of the Jungle movie.

Will Disclosure Docs Help Under First-to-File?

Dear Rich: Once the change is made to “First Inventor to File” under the America Invents Act, will the USPTO still accept filings of invention disclosure documents, as these would still be relevant and useful in derivation proceedings? Hey, welcome back everybody. It's 2012 and we're starting our fifth year of helping creative types answer pressing intellectual property questions. Sure, we never get selected for any "Best of" blog lists, and our Google Analytics are embarrassing, but hey, that's what happens when you're down in the trenches answering questions about Disney princess costumes, Miami Heat logos, and the copyrightability of reuben sandwich recipes. We're not sure how many zillions in dollars we've saved our readers in legal fees (or if we've actually saved anybody any money). But the important thing is that we think we're doing something worthwhile and so we continue on, paving a course that's punctuated by moments of unobscured clarity and unsuspected profundity. Did we say, "Welcome Back?"
Right, you had a question. Yes, disclosure documents might be helpful in the soon-to-come "derivation hearings" -- a process whereby the true creator of an invention is determined. However, if you are referring to the government's official Disclosure Document Program, that's been discontinued and so would not be available when first-to-file (and derivation hearings) kicks in on March 16, 2013. Patent it Yourself author David Pressman agrees with you that a record of conception and testing will be vital in a derivation proceeding, but in the absence of disclosure document filings, inventors will have to keep their own records. By the way, we've posted a series of articles on invention ownership issues at our Patents and Business site.

Midwinter Style

Chilly weather can be the fast-track to a fashion rut. Cozy boots, long coats and dark colors galore define winter style, but lately, they seem like external manifestations of severe seasonal affective disorder. That's no fun. I stumbled across two options for spicing up cold weather wear:

1. High-top sneakers: I could probably get away with wearing these to the office. For those who don't work in an environment where things like snakeskin-print trousers are acceptable, they're ideal for running weekend errands. Why? High-top sneakers are surprisingly great at enduring all sorts of precipitation. My Nike Dunks made it through three Chicago winters. Just add luxe touches like fur and leather to keep them from looking too grungy.

2. Khakis: If winter's mild (read: not Chicago, but maybe New York), khakis are such a cute and unexpected alternative to denim and knit tights. Pair them with a short wool jacket and booties. Plus, I feel like so much winter style has a black or navy palette—brown's a little more fresh. To avoid looking like you're confused and think it's still October, make sure everything else is a warmer, darker tone.

Which look do you like best? (I'm all about #1 myself).

[photo cred here and there]