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Life is Good, Inc., successfully defends copyright infringement claim

Texans may be interested in Life Is Good, Inc., a clothing and accessories company, which recently fought off a copyright challenge from an artist. The intellectual property dispute could have cost the company a substantial amount of money since it concerned the designs used on its t-shirts.

The artist claimed that the t-shirts infringed on his "Penmen" designs. The "Penmen" are a series of stylized stick figures. The artist claimed he created the designs in 1977 and has been making a living off them since 1995. The artists claimed that the stick figure, known as Jake, designs used on the Life is Good t-shirts were directly derived from his work.

However, the courts did not agree with the artist. The court found that the poses, activities and design of the Jake stick figure were common, natural and every day and belonged to the public domain. The court decided that elements of the work the artist claimed were infringed were not protectable by U.S. copyright law. The court found that no reasonable person could find that the Jake figure was substantially similar to the protected aspects of the Penman series by the artist.

Most companies will have intellectual property that needs to be properly protected. This could include copyrights, patents, trademarks or trade secrets. There are different and often complicated laws governing each type of intellectual property. Because intellectual properties can be such a valuable part of a company it is important to protect them from infringement.

Source: Bloomberg, "Google, KFC, Macy's, Groupon: Intellectual Property," Victoria Slind-Flor, Jan. 4, 2012

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