Know Your Rights Competitors have copied Robert Krawczyk's mosaic designs and have even claimed the copies were his work. The designs are copyrighted. What should his next step be (Patent Defending, No. 02921152, February 1992)?
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First, speak with a patent lawyer. A polite and well-drafted letter to your competitor, informing it that it is committing copyright infringement and is probably violating the trademark-infringement and unfair-competition provisions of the federal Lanham Act, should quickly clear up the problem. Also, many states have a deceptive-trade law, and if your competitor has been palming off its work as yours, it may face liability under that as well.
Your work is copyrighted from the moment you create it. You no longer have to place a copyright notice on it to gain protection. But to sue for damages, you must register the copyright. Applications cost only $20 to file. You would use Form VA, available from the Copyright Information Service (202-479-0700) or your local library. Your patent lawyer will also have the correct form, and it is well worth the cost to get his or her assistance in completing and filing the applications. File quickly: you can collect statutory damages only from the time the copyright has been registered.
Finally, it is probably enough that you stop your competitors and prevent further dilution of your company's goodwill. However, you may want to discuss whether it would be appropriate to seek some compensation from them.
Philip G. Alden
Moore & Hansen
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Copyrightable work includes original artwork, music, manuscripts, and software. You may ask for a court order preventing your competitor from making unauthorized copies of your design, and you may recover damages caused by the infringement. To prove infringement, you have only to demonstrate that you own the copyright and that your competitor copied the design without permission. It may be enough to show that the competitor had access to the original work and has produced a substantially similar work.
Ira M. Schwartz
Rosenbaum & Schwartz P.A.
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All in the Family The owner of a three-employee distribution company feels pressured to hire his father-in-law but can't afford to pay him much. Anticipating friction, he asked for advice (Relative Risk, No. 03921112, March 1992). Some prompt answers arrived this month, one resigned, the other alarmed.
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For God's sake, don't do it. You're out of your cotton-pickin' mind if you do. Unless you're in an extreme minority among in-laws, you're headed for big trouble.
Sandy Hook, Conn.
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It sounds as though hiring your father-in-law is a foregone conclusion. To minimize friction, define the requirements of his position. List performance expectations in quantitative and qualitative terms. Review those expectations with him before you offer him the position. Different expectations can cause anxiety between supervisor and employee. No company, and certainly not one with only three employees, can afford that. A poor hiring decision could bring your company to its knees.
Richard J. Pinsker
Author, Hiring Winners
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Equal Access Bobby Frost wants to do the right thing regarding facilities for handicapped employees but must consider the cost, too. He asked for guidelines (Doing Good, Doing Well, No. 10911782, October 1991).
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I use several books in my work, which involves hiring, training, and employing people with disabilities. Publications from the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (800-872-2253 or 202-653-7848) can help with architectural accessibility and job modification. Also check out these resources: Achieving Physical and Communications Accessibility and Readily Achievable Checklist (from the National Center for Access Unlimited, 312-368-0380); The Americans with Disabilities Act: Access and Accommodations, B.T. McMahon and N. Hablutzel, editors (Paul M. Deutsch Press/Training Systems, 815-469-1162); The Americans with Disabilities Act: From Policy to Practice (Milbank Memorial Fund, 212-570-4800); and Ergo File: The Ergonomics Masterfile (National Safety Council, 800-621-7619, ext. 1300).
Also contact the nonprofit, government-affiliated Job Ac-commodation Network (800-JAN-7234) and the National Easter Seal Society (312-726-6200).
CBT Training Systems
Eleven-Year Itch Eager for more responsibility and more equity than he has at the family-run business where he's been for 11 years, a reader asked how to look for a new position while he stays at his old one (Search for Tomorrow, No. 02921152, February 1992).
Put an advertisement outlining your abilities in the business opportunities section of a large newspaper near you. I once put an ad in the New York Times, targeted to companies that wanted to expand into Canada, and 10 responded.