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VOL. 125 | NO. 158 | Monday, August 16, 2010

MBA Increases Awareness of Intellectual Property Law

RICHARD J. ALLEY | Special to The Daily News

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A new section of the Memphis Bar Association will focus exclusively on intellectual property and entertainment law.

In an effort to boost membership in the legal community and promote its services within the business community, the bar association will host a seminar Thursday, Aug. 19, at the Hilton Hotel in East Memphis.

“Intellectual property is everywhere; it pervades every section of business imaginable,” said Bill Parks, an attorney with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP, and president of the newest Memphis Bar section. “You wouldn’t have the things you have today without intellectual property in place.”

Trademarks and copyrights are no longer the concern of only the largest corporations, said Doug Halijan, an attorney with Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC and board member of the new MBA section, and those smaller companies should “be aware of what sort of patent or trademark or copyright rights they may have in work that they develop.”

The implications for infringement with the Internet and such social media portals as Facebook and YouTube are immense, and anyone using them for business, large or small, should be aware of whether the photo, logo or video being uploaded – their own or another’s – is protected.

“The way your website looks is a potentially copyrightable issue, as well as a trademark to the domain name,” Parks said. “You could have a trademark to the logo that you’re trying to use. … If you write software that is then used for a program on your site, the software could be potentially protectable, patent-wise or copyright-wise. There are so many issues along those lines.”

The attorneys’ goal with the seminar is to give some guidance and touch on the Top 10 intellectual property and entertainment law issues every attorney and every business professional should know today.

“There has been a general surge in interest in the whole area of the law in the past five or 10 years with the Internet and spread of all sorts of new digital technology has been responsible for that,” said Halijan, who also is an adjunct professor of intellectual property law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.

The importance of intellectual property to the market is that it can only further competition as it encourages competitors to try to outdo each other rather than try to copy one another.

Forcing entrepreneurs and industries to innovate and improve is what leads to better cell phones, safer cars, faster computers and a higher standard of living.

Patents are needed to safeguard the rights to these inventions, yet a patent application is one of the most complicated legal documents to get drafted today. It’s a difficult process to take a concept from an individual’s mind, an idea, and put it on paper in a way that is clear and understandable and, at the same time, defendable.

“There is so much out there which has already been patented or already been disclosed to the public that it’s imperative that the patent attorney has to be given the opportunity to go through and figure out what is actually patentable in somebody’s invention,” Parks said.

With Memphis’s music birthright and persistent flirtation with Hollywood, entertainment law is becoming an increasingly important field for local lawyers and aspiring artists.

“Memphis is so full of great musicians that there are all sorts of contracts that people are looking at to try to get into the business, and in order to have a way to do that, a good, effective entertainment attorney can help immeasurably, not only to get into the business, but to help you negotiate through those mine fields because you’re up against a pretty powerful, deep-pocketed recording company,” Parks said.

The seminar to let the legal and business communities know of the resources available from the new intellectual property/entertainment law section of the Memphis Bar Association will begin at 4 p.m. Cost is free to members of the business community.

The seminar counts an hour and a half toward continuing legal education credits, if needed, and is $50 for MBA members and $60 for non-members if using those credits. It is $25 to join the section. There will be a two-hour mixer with live entertainment following the seminar.

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