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Court rules in favor of Lego in lawsuit

Original ideas and designs often rank amongst a company's most prized assets. It is for this very reason that businesses in Paramus are so protective of their intellectual property. Should a competitor be allowed to use a company's designs, there may be nothing stopping them from effectively putting said company out of business using their own products by offering them to consumers at a lower price. Thus, companies will often fight to defend their ideas and designs in order to maintain their advantages in their respective markets. 

A recent lawsuit filed by the Lego company confirms this. The toy brick manufacturer recently sued a British-based company for selling products it claimed to be very indistinguishable from its own. The dispute began after the rival company claimed in its advertisements that its parts (specifically, its figurine body parts) where interchangeable with those of Lego's. The company argued that Lego's copyright registrations were invalid due to the design elements in question being functionable (which seemingly flies in the face of the assumption that the function of a product cannot be protected). Yet the court hearing the case disagreed, saying that while some elements were indeed functional, the presence of those elements did not make the entire design uncopyrightable. 

Music industry challenges for artists' ownership

People in New Jersey who create artistic works understandably want to be able to protect their work. Copyrights are one form of intellectual property that may be used by artists, writers, musicians and others. However, owning the lyrics to a song, for example, does not mean that an artist will be able to own every form of their work. The music industry can be very complex and these complexities have been highlighted recently by Taylor Swift's public outcry at the sale of her work to someone she does not trust or respect. 

As reported by Time magazine, multiple musicians over the years have struggled to gain ownership of their body of work. These musicians include Prince and Paul McCartney for starters. When Taylor Swift was just 15 years old, she signed a contract with a record label that gave them the ownership rights to the original masters of her work. She remained with that label until just last year, leaving the label to own 11 years of work spanning six albums.

What are deceptive trade practices?

You likely understand that competition within your company's service space can be strong (even to the point of being considered "harsh" or "cutthroat"). Yet while that may be expected to a certain degree, there is a limit to the extent that a competitor can attempt to negatively influence your business. Some might hear the term "deceptive trade practices" and think that any practice that pulls their customers away is deceptive. Fortunately, New Jersey state law has eliminated the potential for any misinterpretation by clearly defining what it considers deceptive trade practices to be. 

When addressing this issue, the state identifies two distinct forms of deceptive practices. The first is false and/or misleading advertising. Section 56.8-2 of New Jersey's state statutes forbids the following to be made in connection with either the sale of merchandise or real estate, or the performance of services: 

  • Unconscionable commercial practices
  • Deception
  • Fraud
  • False pretenses or promises
  • Misrepresentation 
  • The knowing suppression, concealment or omission or material facts

Insurance company and alleged breach of contract

People in New Jersey know that medical billing and insurance can be very complex. Every health insurance company makes agreements with select health care facilities and providers regarding what services they will provide coverage for and how much money they will pay on behalf of the patient for a given service. These negotiations can be complex and can have direct impact on the patients themselves as well as the medical providers or facilities. 

According to a report in, roughly five years ago the insurance company Amerigroup New Jersey entered into a contract with a hospital that was then called Paramus hospital to provide coverage for specific nursing services and also for detox services. Paramus hospital, now renamed the Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, is said to have provided the appropriate nursing services and the detox services to patients and then submitted reimbursement billing claims to the insurance company.

Protecting your trade secrets from unscrupulous employees

It takes extreme levels of dedication to take an idea and turn it into a successful business. Many times, it is your own unique approach to a business concept that results and success. Whether you have your own recipe for barbecue sauce or a client list that helps your company achieve financial stability, the work you did and the information you've acquired for your business is critical to its ongoing success.

When you hire staff, you trust them with the future and reputation of your business. You expect them to work in your company's best interests and help you grow the business. Unfortunately, some people are more interested in what they can get from their business than what they can do for it.

Proposed law may ensure health care funding during labor disputes

A labor dispute is not good for anyone, neither workers nor employers. Therefore, it is better to avoid such disputes whenever possible. Nevertheless, a proposed law that New Jersey's State Assembly recently approved would charge all employers five cents per worker per year to create a special fund allowing workers in the private sector access to coverage in the event that a labor dispute keeps them out of work for a prolonged period of time. 

The fund would provide a safety net of sorts for workers who see health benefits for themselves and their families canceled due to a work stoppage resulting from a labor dispute. Workers so affected to could apply for funds to defray the cost of COBRA coverage. However, the law would impose some limitations. For example, if a strike preceded the work stoppage, employees would not be eligible for benefits.

Top 5 Tips for Conducting Effective Risk Assessments

Risk assessments are an essential component of corporate compliance and ethics programs that organizations cannot afford to overlook. When conducted properly, risk assessments are an effective way for companies to monitor and evaluate potential compliance risk within an organization. Here are the top 5 tips, based on our experience, for creating and conducting effective risk assessments:

What is an implied business contract?

Most of the time, employment in New Jersey is at-will. This means that you or the employee may terminate the relationship at any time for any reason. Generally, you do not create an employment contract for most employees. However, there is something called an implied contract that you could put in place without even realizing it.

According to The Business Journals, you may create an implied employment contract by accident because it does not need to be in writing or even formally created. Generally, it occurs when you make some type of guarantee or promise. For example, if you tell a person during the hiring process that he or she will get pay raises each year, then this is a potential contract. You are making a promise and you must keep it.

Three steps to develop an intellectual property strategy

Creating a dedicated intellectual property (IP) strategy can help a company protect one of its most valuable assets. Without an IP strategy, a company may misallocate resources to inefficient protection measures. Even worse, they may have lapses in their protection, and fail to account for important pieces of their IP entirely

Despite this, many companies neglect to create an IP strategy for their business. Here are three steps to take to form an IP strategy that is tailored to your business:

Why you need to register your copyright

At Nicoll Davis & Spinella, LLP, in New Jersey, we represent many entrepreneurs who have created works of art such as books, paintings, photographs, musical compositions, computer programs, etc. Such intellectual property becomes a valuable asset for these artists, one that needs protection.

It may surprise you to learn that at the moment your creation reaches final tangible form, it automatically gains a copyright. But it likely will also surprise you to learn that if you fail to register your copyright, you have little or no proof that your creation actually belongs to you should someone else seek to claim it as their own.

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