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Santa Fe Intellectual Property Law Blog

What is cybersquatting and how can it hurt businesses?

The Internet is a valuable tool that business owners in New Mexico and across the country can use to help their companies grow. No matter how big or small a company is, consumers want easy access to information about the business, including services offered and product availability. Company websites are created with domain names that generally contain a company trademark, which is something that quickly identifies to consumers that the website belongs to the company for which they are searching. However, others may try to benefit from a company's name or trademark by buying domain names with a similar name or phrase, then selling them for a profit. This is known as cybersquatting, and it can have a negative impact on business growth.

By definition, cybersquatting is the registering, sale or use of domain names that contain a company's trademark, for the sole purpose of making a profit. Basically speaking, cybersquatters buy domain names at little cost with the intent of selling the domain name to the trademark owner or a competing business for a massive profit. If a business owner finds a domain name that is not currently affiliated with his or her company but contains its patented trademark, he or she may be entitled to pursue legal action.

Did former software executive steal trade secrets?

With the speed at which computer technology is growing, software companies in New Mexico and across the country have more reason than ever to protect their ideas and products.  When an executive with one of these companies resigns his or her position, there is a legitimate concern that he or she could reveal the company's trade secrets to another employer.  This is the concern behind a lawsuit filed by an out-of-state software company against a former executive. It is claimed that the executive revealed the company's secrets to her new employer.

After 10 years with the company, the woman decided to take a position with another company.  During her time with the first company, she advanced into positions that gave her increasing access to confidential materials of the company.  It is claimed that when she decided to leave, she was asked where she was going but refused to say.  It was discovered that she took a position with a direct competitor, and the company believes she is sharing its trade secrets and even recruiting other employees. 

Blockbuster copyright infringement case thrown out

Many New Mexico moviegoers have probably seen "Avatar," James Cameron's blockbuster movie released in 2009.  A man claiming that his ideas were stolen and used in the movie sued Cameron, Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox for copyright infringement.  Recently, a judge dismissed the case.

The man claimed that floating landmasses such as the ones depicted in the movie were his idea.  The judge ruled that he could not claim a monopoly on such an idea.  In fact, the U.S. District Court Judge presiding over the case pointed out that such an idea has been used for centuries.  In fact, they were used in Jonathan Swift's classic novel "Gulliver's Travels," which was published in 1726.  He also mentioned that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" used such imagery as well.

Domain name disputes can lead to litigation

Many people living in New Mexico and across the country today would have a difficult time making it to the end of the day without access to the Internet. It provides users with driving directions, social interactions, online sales and much more. Google is one company that many people think of when considering the Internet, which happens to be involved in a recent case regarding domain name disputes. In this dispute, two men claim that the company has become so popular that the word Google is too generic to retain its trademark.

The case began in 2012 when two businessmen purchased several hundred domain names that contained the word Google in it. Google soon filed a complaint. Court documents indicate that domains typically led people to what appeared to be pornographic sites. An arbitrator in that case agreed with Google.

Court rules employee did not violate non-compete agreements

In a ruling that may interest business owners in New Mexico, a court ruled that an employee did not violate the terms of non-compete agreements with his former employer. The case stemmed from a man who joined a competitor 10 days after he left his employer, possibly in violation of non-compete agreements. The man was originally employed by a home healthcare provider as a patient advocate.

Upon being hired by this healthcare company, he signed a non-compete agreement. The terms stated that he was not allowed to work for a similar or competing company for the next two years if he left his employment. Eventually he was fired by the healthcare company for reasons that were unknown. After his termination, he was re-hired by this same business.

Trade secrets stolen from meat processing company

Cargill Inc. has sued a former employee, claiming the executive stole trade secrets and gave them to a new employer. The company claims that the man took the information shortly before he accepted a new position with a rival company. Trade secrets are incredibly valuable to a company, including those in New Mexico, and legal action may be in order when this information is compromised.

According to the lawsuit filed by Cargill, the former executive downloaded a significant amount of confidential information regarding the company's meat processing business. Cargill and JBS, the man's new employer, are business competitors. The largest meat processing companies have proprietary methods by which they process meat in the cheapest and fastest way possible, allowing for more profit.

Judge determines man violated non-compete agreements

According to a judge, one of the owners of the large chain of gyms and workout facilities, Work Out World (WOW), has violated non-compete agreements with the shareholders and other owners. A co-owner and the widow of one of the owners filed the compliant against the man because he opened competing workout facilities in violation of the agreement. Non-compete agreements stated that no partners or owners can open a gym or competing facility within 50 miles of a WOW gym.

The WOW chain of gym includes 14 facilities that span across New England. The non-compete agreement in question was signed in 2004 and one of the owners opened the competing gym in 2011. Business owners in New Mexico will note that the judge ruled that he did actually violate the terms of the agreement and was ordered to pay $3 million for damages incurred.

Improving the economy by protecting trade secrets

Trade secrets are some of the most valuable types of property owned by a company or business in New Mexico. It is especially important to take the proper steps to protect trade secrets because, unlike copyrights and patents, this information is private. In every industry and every type of business, this information can be the key to economic success.

An example of the economic value of trade secrets is Coca-Cola's secret formula for their world-famous drink. This information has been a closely held secret, and no other company has been able to replicate the flavor. Because of their unique product, they are one of the most successful companies on the globe.

Theft of trade secrets leads to criminal charges

A former researcher has pleaded guilty to criminal charges after it was learned that he hid the theft of trade secrets from his employer. A co-worker apparently stole trade secrets, and this man helped him by hiding computers with evidence of the crime. The two men were employed by Citadel LLC, a hedge fund company. Both men faced criminal charges and entered guilty pleas, and now both are awaiting sentencing.

The researcher recently entered a guilty plea for obstruction of justice, and if sentenced, he could face up to 16 months in prison. The employee was in charge of researching and developing investment strategies, giving him the ability to assist his colleague in hiding the crime. New Mexico readers will note that some of the trade secrets stolen included investment strategies developed by the man.

Non-disclosure agreements: when are they necessary?

Asking employees to sign non-disclosure agreements has long been a standard operating procedure for businesses. New Mexico business owners may be considering the necessity of non-disclosure agreements for their own companies, but there are those who feel that these agreements violate employee rights. While there may be some of these legally binding agreements that are questionable, non-disclosure agreements are a legal, viable and beneficial way to protect company interests.

It should be noted that these agreements should not violate employee rights, such as whistleblower laws. These agreements should also not ask employees to remain mute on wrongdoing or any illegal activity. However, workers should recognize that these agreements are a standard practice in many industries.

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Santa Fe, NM 87501
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