The explosion of online content has heated up business for South Florida’s intellectual property lawyers.
They’re involved in a range of issues from protecting clients’ online rights to resolving domain name disputes to determining who is responsible for digital copyright infringement. All these new intellectual property law challenges are aside from the traditional trademark and patent registration and litigation matters.
“Do you own what you put on the Internet? That’s the question everyone wants to know,’ says Jorge Espinosa of Espinosa Trueba in Miami, an intellectual property law firm that focuses on the litigation and prosecution of trademarks and patents. “We’re helping our clients navigate the interface of traditional IP law and the digital realm.”
Espinosa says he helps clients protect their copyright works online, particularly as ecommerce continues to evolve. The advice he most often gives clients: “For anything put online or visible to the public that may be copied, the best investment is a copyright application. It is relatively inexpensive and offers enormous protection.”
The boom in digital content has also brought new business for Bill Davis, of Foley & Lardner in Miami, who has been advising clients on copyright and trademark issues concerning Internet advertising. “Our patent and trademark law is over 100 years, and it applied in a time when there was a different method of doing business,” Davis says.
Today when companies advertise on the Internet, the opportunities are greater to infringe on trademark or copyright rights. “That really broadens our base of work,” he says.
At Richman Greer, intellectual property attorney Ethan Wall has created a niche focusing on the impact of social media and the Internet on businesses. In the past, Wall has litigated complex cases involving trademark infringement, unfair competition, Internet jurisdiction, website disputes, and disputes over domain names in state and federal court. Now, Wall increasingly counsels clients on legal issues connected with social media.
“Because it’s a difficult task to protect intellectual property on the Internet, I tell clients they can’t be reactive, they have to be proactive,” Wall says. “Information is easy to share on social media sites and if someone infringes on your intellectual property, it can go viral immediately.”
This development has led to a niche for attorneys — helping clients create policies that protect company trade secrets, trademarks or confidential business information before it becomes public. Wall tells his clients the best way to protect its online intellectual property is a three-step process: First, create and register a policy that addresses infringement. “It must be clear who is authorized to speak on behalf of company.” Next, have a process in place to monitor what’s being put on social media sites. And lastly, be prepared to enforce the policy. Wall says social media sites such as Facebook and Linked In offer take-down procedures. “You can submit violations of your IP policy and they do a good job of responding on an expedited basis,” he says.
The development of apps for smartphones is another hot IP area for lawyers. “We help negotiate contracts between investors and developers and then show them how to get their apps on the online stores to be sold to the consumer,” says Gregory Mayback of Mayback & Hoffman in Fort Lauderdale.