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Startup Law A to Z: Intellectual Property – TechCrunch

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Whether protected through copyright, trade secret, trademark, or patents, software technology companies depend on IP more so than perhaps any other business type in history.

It is surprising, then, just how little founders think about protecting their own IP. Sure, “product-market fit” is an all-engrossing search for truth that tolerates no distraction, but that is at best an explanation, not an excuse.

The real pros will find product-market fit while documenting and protecting IP along the way — it’s the only way to ensure you own your work, after all.

This article provides an overview to help you think about where your IP sits, how to protect it, and how to avoid certain pitfalls that plague far too many startups.

This is the second article in the Extra Crunch exclusive “Startup Law A to Z” series, following my article on corporate matters last week. I will avoid full repetition here, but briefly, the purpose of this series, alongside other Extra Crunch resources, is to provide you enough information to analyze your business circumstances and evaluate your legal risk exposure to common legal issues facing startups, such as corporate matters, IP, business transactions, compliance/regulatory, and HR. If you see legal risks in these or related areas, you can consult the Verified Expert list of best startup lawyers and reach out for help — it’s that simple.

The Legal IP checklist:

Assigning IP

  • Founder pre-existing IP
  • Employee Confidential Information & Intellectual Property Assignment agreements
  • Independent Contractor/Consulting Services agreements

Protecting IP ownership

  • Licensed IP and modifications/improvements
  • Current or previous employers (see Cal. Labor Code §§ 2780-2782)

Strategic IP Portfolio

Patents

  • One-year statutory bar
  • Provisional patent application
  • International protection
  • Software patents under Alice v. CLS Bank
  • Offense and defense against patent trolls

Trade Secrets

  • Preserve confidentiality
  • Limit and control access

Trademarks

  • Check USPTO trademark database
  • Secure federal trademark registration for enforcement
  • Not merely descriptive

Copyright

  • Original work of authorship
  • Secure federal copyright registration for enforcement
  • Understand ‘Fair Use’

Read on for our detailed breakdown of each of these items.

IP, legally speaking

From a high level, IP rights provide their owners the ability to legally prevent others from using certain technology or other protected assets. IP is essentially a property right that can be sold and assigned to others in the same way that vehicles, houses or any other form of tangible property can be bought and sold. Startups should think about IP along the lines of a portfolio specifically created to protect their particular business goals and strategy, in light of competitive market forces.

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US Border Patrol seizes thousands of fake vaccine cards and Pfizer stickers

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The US Border Patrol has reported seizing thousands of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and Pfizer inoculation seals, the latest confiscation in what has been at least several thousand counterfeit cards found by customs officers this year. The latest batch arrived at the Port of Cincinnati in multiple shipments.

The latest Customs and Border Patrol seizure of counterfeit COVID-19 cards was reported by the agency on September 16. A total of 1,683 blank COVID-19 vaccination record cards were seized across five shipments that arrived starting on August 16, according to the agency. As well, these shipments contained 2,034 Pfizer inoculation stickers.

The report came only one day after CBP officials in Pittsburgh reported that they’d likewise confiscated fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, though a lesser amount at 70. In the latest case, the agents noted that the cards originated from China and were being imported by people who lived in private residences in multiple states, including Texas and Maryland.

As with previous seizures involving counterfeit cards, the Customs officials noticed that the latest fake cards featured “substandard printing,” as well as misspelled words. Other confiscated counterfeit vaccination cards featuring the CDC logo have also been reported at ports in Anchorage, Chicago, and Memphis.

The FBI has repeatedly warned that making, buying, and selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards is illegal and could result in penalties. Despite this, many anti-vaxers continue to seek ways to fake vaccination records in an effort to get around vaccine mandates.

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HBO Max lures in new subscribers by cutting its premium price in half

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HBO Max, one of the largest streaming services on the market, is luring in new and returning subscribers by slashing the cost of its premium plan for up to half a year. The price decrease makes the premium plan cheaper than the ad-based plan, at least during the promotion, giving subscribers access to new theatrical movies from Warner Bros., HBO originals, and more.

HBO Max is now the destination for streaming HBO content; the platform’s parent company recently made the move to remove its now-defunct HBO app from Amazon’s Prive Video Channels platform, leaving those customers to finally make the transition to the new service.

That change happened earlier this week, with the new discount promotion coming only a couple of days later. The new deal is available only for the Ad-Free plan, which ordinarily costs $14.99/month but is temporarily lower at $7.49/month.

The ad-free plan includes access to 4K UHD resolution content, the ability to download for offline viewing, and the rest of Warner Bros. 2021 movie premieres with same-day streaming access. It appears the new promotional pricing is available for new and returning subscribers, as well as those who are jumping to HBO Max after Amazon Prime Video Channels lost access to HBO.

Overall, this is a great deal for those who want to catch up on their favorite HBO shows or stream the latest Warner Bros. theatrical movies from the comfort of their homes. The same-day theatrical movie releases only apply to 2021, however — it’s unclear whether this holiday season’s COVID-19 cases will fuel another series of lockdowns and whether Warner Bros. will extend its hybrid releases into 2022.

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Watch Apple break down the iPhone 13 differences

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It’s iPhone 13 preorder day, and if you’ve been scratching your head about whether to go iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, or iPhone 13 Pro Max, a new Apple video could help filter through the options. Announced on Tuesday, there’s no shortage of information out there on what changes Apple made in 2021, and what sets its four new smartphones apart.

Now, it probably shouldn’t come as a great surprise to you that Apple is very impressed by Apple’s new smartphones. If you’re hoping for unbiased, impartial commentary on the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, this really isn’t the video for that.

However, with Apple’s virtual event meaning no opportunity for hands-on reports from media, along with the fact that we’re not expecting the first round of reviews until sometime next week, for the moment we’ll have to take what we can get. Given the four-strong line-up again this year, too, it’s also an opportunity to compare and contrast if you’re on the fence about which iPhone model fits your particular needs. As ever, that’s not necessarily an easy decision.

Like was the case in 2020, for most people the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro seem likely to be the sweet spot in 2021. The iPhone 13 mini is most affordable, but the smaller display could leave it too small for some. We also need to see whether Apple’s claims that it has addressed the mini battery life are accurate, too.

At the other end of the scale, the iPhone 13 Pro Max clearly has appeal for those who don’t want to compromise: whether that’s on screen size, cameras, or anything else. With a starting price of $1,099, though, that’s a whole lot to spend on a new smartphone. Meanwhile, unlike with the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, there aren’t any obvious differences in the cameras this year.

Last year, the iPhone 12 Pro Max got sensor-shift image stabilization and a larger lens. This year, though, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have the same camera specs. It means you don’t have to find space in your pocket for the very largest handset if you want the very best camera tech Apple has to offer.

Clearly, you shouldn’t be basing your entire purchasing decision on Apple’s video. All the same, if you’ve been wondering about new features like macro photography support, the new Super Retina XDR display with its 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate, and the new AI-powered Cinematic mode, this video offers a more in-depth look than Apple had time for during its keynote on Tuesday.

Preorders of the iPhone 13 family are open now, with deliveries expected to begin next Friday, September 24.

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