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There have been many posts about trademarks, patents, and copyright lately, so I think it would be helpful to share with you the basic concepts I teach to my media classes. Please know I am not a lawyer, and this post should not be considered legal advice. There are many exceptions and gray areas which I have omitted for brevity. Also this post covers U.S. laws, and while the basic principles are similar elsewhere, there are differences I am not covering here. Edit: Thank you everyone for posting your insight and additions below. Here are a few online resources that have the information I cited: Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center U.S. Trademark laws and regulations Trademark legal information U.S. Patent guidance Cryptocurrency Defense Foundation Copyright What can be copyrighted? Creative, artistic, and intellectual works can be copyrighted, and they must be "fixed," meaning you can't copyright an idea. Examples are music, photography, and literature. Anyone who authors a work immediately owns the copyright; registration is optional. Derivative works using licensed material also receive copyright protection for the part that is original. How long does a copyright last? Copyright grants the creator of a work the right to exclusive use and distribution (copying) for a limited time - the life of the author + 70 years in the US and many countries, shorter in others. A copyright owner in many cases can dedicate the work to the public domain. Then anyone can then use the work, even for commercial reasons. What are the exceptions? Fair use allows some copying, based on four factors including the nature of the copyrighted work, the purpose of the use, amount and significance of the portion used, and effect on the market. Fair use exceptions include some educational uses, parodies, thumbnails on websites, and news commentaries. What does this mean for Dogecoin?
The Shiba inu photographer owns the copyright of the dog image on the coin and logo. My understanding is permission was received from the photographer, and others such as clothing retailers have "licensed" the image by also receiving permission. That doesn't mean the photo is in the public domain, however, without a statement dedicating the work to the public domain. Anyone using the image for a t-shirt or website business should make sure they have permission first.
Someone who has received a license to make a t-shirt can then create an original design, which would be a derivative work, which would also receive copyright protection. Nobody else could sell an identical design without permission.
Software is also copyrighted. Dogecoin's source code is based on Bitcoin's code. Since Bitcoin was released with one of the open source licenses that allows the code to be modified and shared, Dogecoin can use it without violating Bitcoin's copyright.
Trademark What can be trademarked? A sign, design, or name that specifies a product or service can be registered as a trademark. They protect consumers and businesses by preventing other from using similar marks that could create confusion in the marketplace. There are 45 classifications of goods and services; a mark can be used by only one business in each category. Surprisingly, a public domain work can be used as a trademark. However, that trademark does not grant copyright, so others would still be free to use the pubic domain work for other purposes and for businesses in other categories. How long does a trademark last? A trademark lasts as long as it is renewed, and protected. The act of using the trademark, more than the registration, is the source of the rights. If others start using the mark, and is not challenged by the trademark owner, then trademark protection is lost. What are the exceptions? Trademark is based on "first use" so if another business has used the mark, they can challenge someone who tries to trademark it. Trademarks can also not be based on generic terms. The word apple could be trademarked for a computer business, but not for a fruit business. What does this mean for Dogecoin?
A clothing company's application to trademark doge in the context of creating meme based items should be denied or successfully challenged, since other companies have previously been selling lines of doge clothing. Considering that the USPTO already rejected 9 applications this year for "Boston Strong," because consumers have seen it used in everyday speech by many different sources, one would expect the now widespread doge meme could also not receive trademark protection for a business trying to profit off the meme, especially in business categories where it has already been used.
An unrelated word or mark could be trademarked for a dogecoin shirt company. You could create a company called Pyroelectric Platypus to sell doge t-shirts, and could trademark Pyroelectric Platypus.
The word doge could be used in an unrelated business, not associated with the meme. For example, someone could create a Doge Furniture business with a logo of a sofa instead of a dog. Since it wouldn't create confusion with the meme, coin, or any other of our current uses, it would be allowed.
Patents What can be patented? Inventions which are new and non obvious can be patented. Patents in the U.S. are now mostly granted based on first inventor to file, instead of first to use, bringing the law closer to other countries. There are several types of patents including utility patents and design patents. Typically, overly broad inventions or ones that are not novel can receive patents, and are left for the courts to sort out later. How long does a patent last? Usually 20 years. What are the exceptions? Prior art. A defensive publication, where an invention is described in a dated publication but not patented, can prevent a company from receiving a patent on the same invention. A Linux organization examines every new patent application and identifies the ones that could threaten their open source project. They have filed about 200 defensive publications, a process which has become easier due to the America Invents Act. What does this mean for Dogecoin?
Be afraid. The FUD that can be unleashed by a patent trolling company dwarfs what we have seen here so far. The following could theoretically be covered by patents: any core functionality of cryptocurrencies and the icons and layout of wallet software interfaces. If a company does receive a patent for an overly broad or non-novel patent, or if they can identify an existing patent in their portfolio broad enough to cover a feature of dogecoin, it would be difficult to challenge. It could threaten the existence of all open source coins.
There is a Cryptocurrency Defense Foundation starting work to protect bitcoin, like the one actively involved in protecting Linux.
An ongoing phishing attack has been reported against users of popular bitcoin wallet, Electrum. This has been confirmed in a tweet by the Electrum group where they remind users to be vigilant and not download wallets from unofficial sources. and analysis of backdoored wallet software. #cryptosec #cryptodefense #phishing #electrum . Cryptodefense aka Cryptowall. Cryptodefense was the next version of Cryptolocker appeared in Feb 2014 any string that looks like a Bitcoin wallet monetize malware via Bitcoin, Monero, Zcash 2. Every platform is vulnerable to ransomware 3. The administrators of the Electrum Bitcoin wallet app have released a security update that fixes a vulnerability that existed in the software for almost two years. CryptoDefense and How Check out my blog post on @ElectrumWallet phishing campaigns, details on attackers' infrastructure, and analysis of backdoored wallet software. #cryptosec #cryptodefense #phishing #electrum Reply on Twitter 1097224479099432960 Retweet on Twitter 1097224479099432960 Like on Twitter 1097224479099432960 3 Twitter 1097224479099432960 While Bitcoin can support strong privacy, many ways of using it are usually not very private.With proper understanding of the technology, bitcoin can indeed be used in a very private and anonymous way. As of 2019 most casual enthusiasts of bitcoin believe it is perfectly traceable; this is completely false.
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