Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.
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McAfee lawsuit highlights the use of a name as a copyright

As discussed in previous blog posts, infringing on another person or company’s trademark can result in serious legal repercussions. A trademark is a logo, catchphrase, jingle or other form of intellectual property that sets a business’s brand apart from others. Consumers in Las Vegas and elsewhere should be able to easily recognize a strong trademark as belonging to a particular company or brand. For example, everyone recognizes Disney’s iconic mouse ears.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office points out that a copyright infringement might occur when a person or company’s trademark that is similar to another’s might cause confusion among consumers. Copyright infringement might be accidental or intentional – as in a small business creating a logo that is similar enough to the Disney mouse ears as to make consumers think the product is from Disney.

Can a person’s name be considered a trademark? McAfee software is a well-known brand that was created by John McAfee. In 2010, licensing for McAfee antivirus software was sold to the computer chipmaker Intel, which changed the product’s name to Intel Security. Mr. McAfee is planning to rename his company, MGT Capital Investments Inc., to John McAfee Global Technologies Inc. However, executives from Intel said that using the McAfee name for a venture unrelated to Intel could confuse customers, suggest the company was affiliated with Intel and infringe upon the chipmaker’s copyright. In response, Mr. McAfee says that his name is no longer used with the antivirus software and that Intel has no contractual right to use his name. He has filed a lawsuit against Intel.

It may be feasible that the use of a well-known surname could infringe on a copyright, especially if the name is known on a wide scale. For example, someone with the last name of Disney might think twice about using the name in a business, lest he or she risk legal action. Each situation is different and trademark infringement cases may be complex, so legal counsel may be recommended to avoid potential litigation.

Source: The Tech Portal, “John McAfee sues chipmaker Intel Corp. over trademark infringement threat,” Anmol Sachdeva, Sept. 4, 2016

John P. Aldrich
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