bloglovinBloglovin iconCombined ShapeCreated with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. rssRSS iconsoundcloudSoundCloud iconFill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. close searchCreated with Lunacy

2 Ways to Protect a Recipe

2 ways to protect a recipe

There are really two ways to protect a recipe. How to protect a recipe depends on how you’re using it and what exactly you want to protect. Are you a food or lifestyle blogger wanting to protect your creative content? Are you an essential oils guru, wanting to protect recipes you’ve developed? Or are you more of a chef that wants to protect a secret recipe? This post will guide you through a quick and easy explanation.


Ways to Protect a Recipe as a Blogger

So the first example, you know, maybe you have a lifestyle blog or a food blog, and you’re publishing recipes, and maybe some mouthwatering photos to go with those recipes online.

Copyright doesn’t extend to lists of ingredients. Lists of ingredients don’t really qualify as a creative work. Recipes are kind of instructional and instructions are functional.

So is anything protectable? Yes. What’s protectable is a photo, an anecdote or a story of maybe how you came up with the recipe, the prose and the text around the recipe, all of those things that make your blog unique and beautiful. The things that make it more than just a list of instructions.

If you are a blogger maybe that falls into this category, you might think about establishing some kind of copyright regimen, and registering those blog posts with the photographs, so long as you own all of that content.

Ways to Protect a Secret Recipe

If you have a secret recipe, then you’re probably thinking more along the lines of trade secret. Now, what is a trade secret? It is a valuable secret that gets its value because it gives you some kind of competitive advantage.

So how do you protect a trade secret? Well, make sure it stays secret. Make sure that it only falls into the hands of those who need to know and make sure those people sign an NDA — Non-Disclosure Agreement. And one kind of famous example of trade secret protection is KFC, their herbs and spices, right. So, allegedly half of the blend is mixed at one facility, half of the blend is mixed at another facility, and neither facility knows what’s in the other’s recipe.

You don’t have to register a trade secret anywhere in order for it to qualify for protection, you just kind of have to take those protective measures.

Maybe you’re not mixing things at two different facilities, but maybe you’re password-protecting, you know, any files that contain the recipe.

I hope that helps when it comes to understanding ways to protect a recipe.


FREE AUDIO DOWNLOAD + PDF GUIDE

easy-to-understand legal guide for influencers

an explanation of 4 frequently-googled topics + 4 easy-to-DIY action items

with Maria Spear Ollis

Your information will NEVER be sold or shared with anyone outside of Spear IP, and will always be used according to Spear IP’s Privacy Policy. By signing up, you will receive relevant email updates from Spear IP from time to time (but you’re free to opt out if you wish).

Is a Blog Post Automatically Protected from Copycats?

is your blog post automatically protected from copycats

By the end of this post you will know at what point your blog post is automatically protected from copycats under copyright law. Let’s go!

First, what’s protectable about a blog post or vlog?

So first, what does a blog or vlog consists of? Well, it consists of maybe video content, audio-visual content, you’ve got text, maybe some graphic designs, all of those things are protectable under US copyright law.

They’re creative works and under US copyright law something is protected the minute it is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” That is fancy lawyer talk for no longer just living in your brain, no longer living as an idea. It is fleshed out, it’s written out, it’s recorded somewhere.

When is a blog post automatically protected?

So is a blog post automatically protected?

Yep! Even before you hit publish, you own the copyright to what you’ve created there.

Copyright protection and copyright registration are two different things.

A lot of people confuse copyright protection with copyright registration. When you publish or write out that blog post, it automatically has protection. But, it is not automatically registered. You don’t HAVE to register your blog post or vlog in order to have copyright protection. Registration is not a prerequisite to copyright protection.

However I DO recommend that you check out my post on three big reasons why to register your website with the Copyright Office. There are some good reasons to register your stuff with  the Copyright Office, and I’ll give you a couple little hints. It has to do with boosts in protection and a little cash money in your pocket.

So I hope that this helps you to better understand when a blog is automatically protected from copycats under US copyright law.


If you are interested in learning how to register your blog or website with the Copyright Office, I am for the first time, releasing a live workshop.

It’s going to be limited to about 10 or 15 seats but if you are nterested, click the image below and you will be on the list of the first people to know once the doors open for enrollment for that workshop.


Inspired Versus Infringing: A Look at “Idea Law”

woman looking at artwork wondering where the line is between inspiration versus infringement

There’s always that question about the fine line between being inspired by something and infringing. This post gives you a quick reminder on what copyright infringement is and a brief little explanation on what’s protectable under copyright law and what’s not. By the end, you’ll have a good understanding of “idea law” and how that relates to that line between inspired versus infringing.

A quick reminder on what copyright is

So first you’ve heard me talk about how copyright is a bundle of rights, right? It’s your… copyright owner has the exclusive right to copy, sell, display, publish, all of these things, and each one of those things is like a twig in the bundle of rights of copyright. 

A quick reminder on what copyright infringement is

Infringement is taking one of those things and doing it without the permission of the copyright owner. Notice I did not say “…and make money” or “…and make a profit.” It is simply doing one of those things that constitutes copyright infringement.

What’s NOT protectable under copyright law? Ideas.

These ideas are great and valuable… once you flesh them out. Once you actually create these things and the details around them, they cross the line from idea into IP. But in their form as an idea, they’re not quite protectable yet.

It helps to think about more traditional creative works when trying to explain this concept. Here are a few examples.

The TV show example

Think about a TV show. I have an idea for a TV show about doctors, and we’ll focus on the drama between the doctors at the hospital and we’ll throw in some crazy injuries or illnesses in the patients and weave that into the story. What TV show am I talking about? Who the heck knows! There are a hundred TV shows about doctors, right? Grey’s Anatomy, ER, there are more that I probably don’t even know about. So that pure idea is not original, it’s not unique.

Now what is protectable? Well in those shows that I mentioned: the script, the actual audio-visual works, the trademark… Those things that have been fleshed out and expanded upon make those TV shows unique.

The work-of-art example

Another way to think about it is an idea for a painting. So, if you tell two artists to paint a picture of a girl eating an ice cream cone those artists could create two completely different looking pieces, right? Because two artist can have the same general idea and then express it very differently. That’s probably the perfect example of how an idea is an idea alone, but the expression of the idea – the resulting artwork — is what’s protectable.

The Amy Porterfield vs. Jenna Kutcher example

Did you know that both Amy Porterfield and Jenna Kutcher have online courses on building your email list? Yup. Same general idea, different (protectable) execution. What’s the general idea? A digital course on building your email list. What’s the protectable, unique expression? The branding. The different worksheets. Definitely different video content. They each have their own take and own unique spin on the subject.

Determining when something is inspired by versus infringing

When you find that you’re inspired by someone else’s work, ask yourself: is it the general idea that you’re wanting to make your own, or would you be infringing that person’s unique expression of that idea?

Remember that unique original expression, not the idea itself, is what’s protectable under US copyright law. 


Got an online business? Do you like free info? Click below to learn four things you can do right now to protect your business online. 

How A Supermodel’s Post Could Influence Copyright and Photo Law

a supermodel who could be influencing copyright and photo law

So, you may have missed this lawsuit filed over the summer, Summer 2019, and it was an interesting one in the world of copyright and photo law. Gigi Hadid who, of course, is a famous supermodel, was sued for copyright infringement. And here a couple little details.

Background of the lawsuit

A paparazzi company filed the lawsuit and claimed copyright over a photograph of Hadid.

The photographer took the photo of her as she was exiting a building. Instead of hiding her face or running away, she smiled and posed and of course the cameras clicked away. Well, when she saw the photograph, she liked it, cropped it, posted it to her Instagram account, and, of course, that’s what caused the copyright infringement allegations and lawsuit. She stopped and smiled and posed for this photo — which is her profession. And then was sued for using it.

Well the judge threw out the lawsuit because you have to have a registered copyright in order to file a lawsuit, and the paparazzi company hadn’t registered the photograph in time to file the lawsuit. (Silly mistake.)

How this situation could influence copyright and photo law

The question is this: Is it infringement for a professional model to post a photo of herself that she did not own where the photograph wasn’t candid and she had actually participated in the creation of this photo?

Before the suit was dismissed, her lawyers alleged fair use and implied license. “Implied license” means that somehow, the photographer granted Hadid permission to use the photo because she participated in creating it. (That’s a toughie.)

We won’t know, of course, whether these arguments would pass muster in a lawsuit since the lawsuit was thrown out. But maybe another celebrity could make this argument. “Because the subject participated in creating this photo, there was some kind of joint-ownership or joint-creation by the celeb/subject. And, thus, no copyright infringement.” Now that could really change copyright and photo law.

I want to be clear that I’m not talking about your ordinary session. (One with a couple or a family or children.) That’s different. What we’re talking about here is the context of photos taken in public, by paparazzi, of a celebrity who just happens to pose and, arguably, aid in the creation of photos.

The judge dismissed the case, so we’ll never know what might’ve been. Still, it’s interesting to think about what might happen in the future for a similar case under similar circumstances.

What’s that? Free info? Yes, please. Click below to learn four things you can do right now to protect your business online. 

Re-Sharing User-Generated Content, Legally

Let’s talk about re-sharing user-generated content, legally, on Instagram. By the end of this post, you’ll understand 1) what user-generated content is, and 2) what it means to share user-generated content while complying with copyright law.

There are a few ways that this can come up.

The first is where a brand has tagged you in a photo where maybe they’re talking about you. This could be in influencercontext, or this could be just any user on Instagram tagging a product that they like or use and talking about it. Technically speaking, even though they’re tagging the brand or they’re talking about a product, you do not have consent to share a photo that you don’t own unless you seek permission. This is because of copyright law, of course. Usually the person that creates the content — like a photograph — owns that content. You may be able to seek a license or permission to use that content, but you don’t own that content. Giving someone credit or linking to her account is nice, but, number one, might not be necessary, and number two, it’s not enough to “absolve” you from copyright infringement. 

The second scenario is summed up in this question: what if it’s already on Instagram? If it’s already out there, isn’t it free to use? Answer: NO. Instagram’s own “Community Guidelines” kind of talk about this. The guidelines say: 

Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share.

Instagram Privacy and Safety Center, Community Guidelines

Instagram also goes through a little spiel on intellectual property rights and copyright and says,

The best way to help make sure that the content you post to Instagram doesn’t violate copyright law is to only post content that you’ve created yourself.

Instagram Help Center, Copyright

… and they’re right.

A lot of people go by the adage of “just give them credit and you can use it” but that’s that’s not legally correct. In other words, to put it simply in one sentence, you should be seeking permission for every photo — whether it’s a story or photo in your feed — before re-sharing it.

If you’re concerned whether you’re re-sharing user-generated content, legally, it’s better to ask permission before posting, just to be safe!

What’s that? Free info? Yes, please. Click below to learn four things you can do right now to protect your business online. 

Why Using Photos from the Internet is Usually a Bad Idea

Using photos from the internet can be such a source of headache. By the end of this post, you’re going to understand why it’s probably not a good idea to use images that you found on Google Image Search or Pinterest in connection with your business, and what you might do instead.

Common misconception: a lot of folks think that images that you find on Google Image Search or on Pinterest are in the public domain, or free of copyright, or free to use, and that could not be further from the truth.

Google catalogs images from everywhere, all kinds of different websites without regard to copyright ownership. So by using an image from Google Image Search or from Pinterest, you don’t know just by looking at the image whether it’s protected under copyright law, and you certainly don’t know whether you have permission from the owner to use it. In fact, I would assume that you don’t.

The issue is copyright, which of course speaks to who owns the photo or who owns the image, but also “right of publicity.” And remember, that right of publicity is an individual’s right to control how their name, image, and likeness is used for a commercial or business purpose. So whoever it is that appears in that image might not want their name, image, or likeness used in connection with your business purpose. 

What to do Instead of Using Photos from the Internet

If using photos from the internet can get you into trouble, what other options do you have? Well, there are plenty of reputable stock photo websites out there, some of which say “here are do-whatever-you-want-with-them photos” sometimes those sites have strings attached, so maybe it’s “do- whatever-you-want-with-them” photos… so long as you give credit or attribution.

Sometimes the photos can be used for personal use, but if you want to use it in connection with a business then you have to pay an extra license fee. 

So make sure and read the fine print, read the Terms of Use for those stock photo sites to make sure that you’re using them and compliance with their rules their license terms.

That is a much better option than using images from Pinterest or from Google Image Search.

What’s that? Free info? Yes, please. Click below to learn four things you can do right now to protect your business online. 

A Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy

Etsy is the first place that pops into mind when I want to find a special gift or something created by a small business owner. Want to open up shop yourself? This month’s blog post introduces Spear IP’s Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy.

Here’s a brief description of the topics you should expect from the Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy.

Business Structure

A lot of folks find themselves weighing the pros and cons of sole proprietorship versus something more structured, like a limited liability company. This list has some factors that could sway you one way or the other.

Tax and Licenses

You know e-commerce and the collection of sales tax was a hot topic with The Supremes last summer. Have you determined when and where you need to charge sales tax, if at all? What about a business license?

Trademark

By now you know a trademark is that brand name that everyone knows you by. The Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy walks you through a few general trademark considerations (and some Etsy-specific considerations).

Copyright

Copyright law governs not only your typical creative works, but some not-so-typical creative works. Registering with the Copyright Office, getting your contracts in place, and using contractors are all topics that are covered in this legal checklist for selling on Etsy.

Photographs and Artwork

Copyright and right of publicity are two different things. (Remember the client query, “A celebrity is wearing my brand“?) This checklist will make you think through using photographs and artwork properly.

Policies and E-Commerce

It’s hard to hold a customer to a return policy if you haven’t posted that return policy. Posting policies and truthful descriptions of products are both things to consider when opening up shop on Etsy.

And there you have it. Get the Essential Legal Checklist for Selling on Etsy here.

Pin this post:

Does Copyright Law Apply to My Business?

does copyright law apply to my business spear ip maria ollis

You’re vaguely familiar with the concept of copyright law. It’s for fine artists — musicians, painters, filmmakers — right? Yes, but copyright law can apply to so much more. This post is a quick review of what copyright law protects and some of the non-traditional content that might fall under the umbrella of copyright protection.

Continue reading “Does Copyright Law Apply to My Business?”

IP and Thinking About Your Exit Strategy

proactive ip protection and exit strategy spear ip

Whether you’re a brand owner or a future brand owner, you start to do a gut check this time of year. The soon-to-be brand owner? She starts her engines and gears up to launch her business. The existing brand owner? He does a review; thinking through how the previous year went. What to both types of entrepreneurs have in common? They must be thinking about an exit strategy. (Spoiler alert: taking proactive steps to protect your IP now will add value to your business, no matter the exit strategy you choose.)

Continue reading “IP and Thinking About Your Exit Strategy”

You Can’t Protect a T-shirt Idea (But You Can Start a Lifestyle Brand)

protect a t-shirt idea lifestyle brands spear ip

“I have a REALLY great t-shirt idea.” “I’ve got an idea for a funny t-shirt slogan.” Many an IP attorney has heard this phrase at least once. Just like protecting an idea can be difficult, it’s challenging to protect a t-shirt idea. But a lifestyle brand? Now you’re talking. But be proactive: know how to safeguard the protectable elements of a t-shirt or lifestyle brand.

Continue reading “You Can’t Protect a T-shirt Idea (But You Can Start a Lifestyle Brand)”

Protecting a Blog (Series): DIY, Recipes, + Copyright for Bloggers

copyright for bloggers

Copyright for bloggers is a funny topic once you consider the special rules that apply to recipes, ingredients, and instructions. In this post, you’ll find an explanation of those special rules and how they affect copyright protection for a blog.

Continue reading “Protecting a Blog (Series): DIY, Recipes, + Copyright for Bloggers”