Richard Stim

Richard Stim

Attorney Richard Stim specializes in small business, copyright, patents, and trademark issues at Nolo. He practices law in San Francisco and has represented photographers, software developers, craftspeople, publishers, musicians, and toy designers. He is the author of many books, including "Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business Patent," "Copyright & Trademark: An Intellectual Property Desk Reference," and "Profit From Your Idea." Stim regularly answers readers' intellectual property questions at www.patentcopyrighttrademarkblog.com. Stim also produces audiobooks, such as Nolo's Crash Course in Small Business Basics, and performs and records with two bands, MX-80 and angel corpus christi.

Protecting Your Mobile App IP: The Mini Missing Manual Protecting Your Mobile App IP: The Mini Missing Manual
by Richard Stim
December 2010
Ebook: $4.99

Richard blogs at:

Post Production Documentary Fair Use

June 11 2014

Dear Rich: We are in post-production on a documentary in which we use two campaign ads and limited news footage. One of the ads is an attack ad on one of our character (subjects) from 1996. We use about :20 of a :30 piece. Our character is in favor of… read more

Can I Post FIFA Soccer Schedules?

June 10 2014

Dear Rich: I run a non-commercial blog about soccer and being that the World Cup is less than a week away I would like to publish the schedule for some of the World Cup matches and use the names "FIFA" and "World Cup" (both are protected terms) on my blog.… read more

How Do I Register Cover Songs With BMI?

June 09 2014

use Limelight when covering a songDear Rich: So, my first question is whether your answer to the question about registering a song with BMI and ASCAP is still the right information. I mean I signed with BMI but my co writer, the singer, he is with ASCAP. My second question… read more

Star Trek Makeup and Emblems

June 06 2014

Dear Rich: I wanted to get your advice on Star Trek costumes and Star Trek character makeup designs: Klingons, Vulcan's etc... I understand movie and television costumes are not protected under copyright law, but are the chevrons or emblems on the costumes protected under copyright or trademark laws? I have… read more

Selling on Teachers Pay Teachers

June 05 2014

Dear Rich: I am a teacher who creates many worksheets/handouts and I am looking to sell my work on a site called teachers pay teachers. When it comes to comprehensions or poems, where one creates a worksheet based on a text or written piece, how does it work in terms… read more

Compilation in Founding Father Letters?

June 04 2014

Dear Rich: Universities and libraries often publish the collected papers of long-dead public figures, such as George Washington or Alexander Hamilton. If I quote one of their letters in a book, I'll want to cite the source of the letter that I took from a volume published by, say, a… read more

What's Needed for EFS-WEB Filing of Design Patent?

June 03 2014

Dear Rich: What documents do I need to file a design patent online? Do I only need drawinsg and specification? Or do I need to  upload the oath/declaration, too? Do I need the Application Data Sheet? Where can I find a template? Templates and detailed instructions on preparing and filing… read more

If Lyrics Are Added Later ...

June 02 2014

Dear Rich: I purchased and enjoyed reading your book "Getting Permission," but I can't find an answer to the following question: I am a lyricist, and a composer has asked me to write lyrics for his songs with the intention that we would each own 50% of the copyright in… read more

Can We Get Out of Video Release?

May 30 2014

photo:  http://www.pawsitivityservicedogs.comDear Rich: My 16 year old son has a service dog and over the years we've been contacted many times to do interviews about their relationship. We always oblige because it supports Canine Companions for Independence, the organization that provided this amazing dog. Recently, I was contacted by an independent… read more

Will "TM" Protect Mark?

May 29 2014

Dear Rich: I was wondering if you could clarify the legal use of "TM."So if a word say "ABCSOMEBRAND" is a registered trademark since 10 years and is active, in use and not abandoned, is it okay for an unrelated third party to use a "ABCSOMEBRAND" TM, with a service… read more

Who Owns Sound Recording Copyright in Cover Version?

May 28 2014

photo: Barry MullingDear Rich: I have a follow up to my original question from December regarding a cover version of a Beck song. I just submitted my mechanical licensing paperwork to Kobalt (Beck's music publisher) for the Beck songs. Does a cover artist normally retain copyright to their recording/performance? The agreement… read more

Hospitals and Fair Use

May 27 2014

Dear Rich: We are part of a team working on an article for nurses who work in professional staff development, trying to clarify when the doctrine of fair use would apply to our jobs. We have been referencing the 5th edition of your book, Getting Permission, and it stated that… read more

Can Content Owners Demand High License Fees?

May 23 2014

Dear Rich: I am working as a researcher for an educational publishing company. We use different materials (text, photos and illustration) in our textbooks. And, as a researcher, I have to secure permission from the owners of those materials. Some copyright holders grant us permission, but for some it would… read more

Can I Use Poems in My Divorce Book?

May 22 2014

Dear Rich: I have been writing book about my divorce experience. Over the last few years my family and friends have sent me inspirational quotes and poems (found on the internet) that have helped me through this difficult crisis. I would like to use/print some of the poems in the… read more

Depositing Copies With Library of Congress

May 21 2014

Dear Rich: On the same day that I sent you a question regarding copyright law, (I self-published a novel in September 2013. Is it too late to register my book with the Library on Congress?) I sent the same question to the Library of Congress website. I never thought that… read more

Can Political Opponent Use Cake Throwing Photo?

May 20 2014

Dear Rich: I have a question related to misuse of a photo from a personal profile on Facebook. I have a friend who is running for a public official seat. Someone took pictures of my friend in a party where someone throws a cake on his face. His opponent used… read more

Can They Make Me Give Up Domain Name?

May 16 2014

Dear Rich: I have an LLC (and domain name) and they have been in continual operation/use since 2011. The name of the LLC and domain name are the same. I never applied for a trademark. Recently a company sent me a letter saying they were just issued a trademark for… read more

Can I "Own" Yoga Method?

May 15 2014

Dear Rich: I just read your answer about Bikram Yoga (yes, the one dating back in 2011, I'm a slow reader :) and I have a related question. I understand that Bikram Yoga cannot restrict competing brands from using heat in their studios. But what is the principle behind this… read more

Is It Too Late To Register Copyright?

May 14 2014

Dear Rich: I self-published a novel in September 2013. Is it too late to register my book with the Library on Congress? No, you (or your estate) can register any time that the work is protected (your life plus 70 years). If you register before an infringement occurs you can… read more

Can You Refile a PPA?

May 13 2014

Dear Rich: I would like to refile a provisional patent application (PPA). I originally filed a PPA for my invention in 2011 but never filed a regular patent application. May I now refile a new PPA for the same invention given that the first PPA has expired? Yes, you can… read more

Cut-Out Animations, MOOCs, and Copyright

May 12 2014

Dear Rich: I am a university professor, preparing some Massive Online Open Courses(MOOC). In my courses, I intend to explore different ways of telling a story, to try to engage as many students as possible with the material. Unfortunately I can't draw, so I have to come up with other… read more

Senior Citizen Doesn't Want IP Trouble!

May 09 2014

Dear Rich: I live in a not-for-profit retirement community, and am a member of the chorus. For a performance (audience=community residents), I added a verse to the song "Downtown", referencing our facility's location in the "Uptown" neighborhood of Chicago. Now there is discussion of using a clip, recording, or other… read more

Color Me Copyrightable

May 08 2014

Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway popularized the colorization of archival black and white imagery. Check out her series on Abraham Lincoln, created for TIME Magazine.Dear Rich: I want to start a business colorizing old photos and maybe selling or distributing them. Almost all of the photos were originally attributed to a photo… read more

Do My Patent Drawings Infringe Copyright?

May 07 2014

Dear Rich: I hired a commercial patent artist to prepare drawings for a very simple provisional patent application. However, it is obvious she simply cobbled together a collection of clipart. I am concerned I will have my patent filed and then someone will sue for use of these clipart pieces… read more

Wants to Use Bicycle Race Footage for Trade Show

May 05 2014

Dear Rich: I work in an in-house marketing department, and I’m creating video content for an upcoming trade show. The company I work for specializes in projection technology and information networks. During the show we want to tell a story of “a large city that successfully manages an international sporting… read more

Can You Copyright Iron Works?

May 05 2014

Dear Rich: I want to create greeting, note cards and other stationery products using designs I create that are of iron work in Charleston, S.C. These are iron gates, window grills, stairs rails that are attached to a house or business. Much of the iron work dates to pre-American Revolutionary… read more

She Wants to Curate and Embed Tweets on Her Blog

April 29 2014

Dear Rich: I'm a freelance content marketer who works with corporate entities. Can I embed tweets in my blog that are curated from various Twitter feeds (not associated with my clients)? Can I embed tweets on blog posts that don't direct anyone to buy any products (via blog copy), yet… read more

Cutting Up Art Books and Selling the Prints

April 25 2014

Dear Rich: In one of your articles, you state, "... the first sale doctrine does not permit the owner of a book of copyrighted art prints to separate the prints, mount them in frames and sell them separately.” This was the first time I have seen this interpretation. Where does the… read more

Still Life of Vacuum Cleaner?

April 23 2014

Dear Rich: I'd like to create still-life oil paintings (and prints of them) of objects that have been commercially produced. I intend to blur or render vague logos or other trademarks on the objects in the course of painting them. Is a painting of a functional commercial object inherently transformative,… read more

Can We Use Video of Seal Slaughter?

April 21 2014

Dear Rich: Certain large charities have video footage of government-sanctioned killing of wildlife. It costs a lot of money to be able to get this footage. Thus small charities generally don't try to do so. They allow journalists to use the footage, but when it comes to providing the footage… read more

A Perfect Day for Banana Hockey? Patenting a New Sport

April 16 2014

Dear Rich: Is there anything patentable or copyrightable in the equipment, rules or jargon for a new sport? Say I’ve created “Banana Hockey,” which involves skating on banana peels instead of ice, specifies using fresh bananas as pucks, requires special sticks with banana-shaped scoops. Let's say that Banana Hockey also… read more

Will They Got Mad if We Argue Fair Use?

April 16 2014

Dear Rich: If we buy half a dozen of photos from a photo agency, let’s call it XYZ images, and discover that other photos which we obtained from out-of-business newspaper archives (sold on eBay) are credited to a Now Defunct News Service (NDNS) a company since bought out by XYZ,… read more

Can I Reproduce Article About Myself?

April 14 2014

Dear Rich: I am a realtor and am creating a web page of myself with the listings that I have. I wanted to know if I can use articles that have been published about myself as well as photos of me taken by several newspapers, magazines etc. In other words,… read more

So Many Copyright Questions ... So Little Time

April 11 2014

Dear Rich: (1) What is the length of time the U.S. Copyright Office takes to approve or not approve a copyright application? (2) If I secure a lyrics copyright on a public domain melody for commercial purposes can someone else use that same melody with different lyrics --- say a… read more

Employee Trade Secret Duty

April 10 2014

Dear Rich: I don't see many questions about trade secrets on the blog and I have a particular question. Is an employee (not under an NDA) under any duty to discover what are his/her employer's trade secrets are, and/or protect/not divulge them? Employees always have a duty to protect employer trade secrets regardless… read more