Showing posts with label intellectual property. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intellectual property. Show all posts

PRODUCTION TIPS: 5 Questions Every Filmmaker Should Ask About Their Business

Film is an artform. But it is also a business.
If you want to keep making your art, you have to treat it like a business (I am talking about the logistics of making film, I am NOT talking about the cinematic parts; please don't substitute artistic elements and creativity with financial ratios and marketing buzzwords).

Running a business well means asking the right questions. Here's an article meant for small to midsized business (which is what most film production companies are) about 5 questions they should ask regarding their intellectual property. Substitute "IP" or "intellectual property" or "copyright" with "film" or "pilot" or "media project" and it will make sense and be relevant to you. 

So enjoy:

Five IP Lessons for Small to Medium–sized Businesses
Originally published on 6/29/2016 by Joseph Walsh, Jr. | Harness, Dickey & Pierce, PLC

Intellectual property plays an increasingly significant role in the successful management of American and international businesses alike.  I’ve set out below a few of the most important questions that you as a small to medium-sized business owner or manager should be asking as you map the intellectual property strategy for your company:
  • How do we choose an IP Lawyer?  This is the first and most important question you should be asking yourself.  Consult friends and colleagues.  Often, they will have valuable information about leads or personal experiences with specific IP attorneys.  Find an IP lawyer who thinks like a business person and who is willing to take the time necessary to understand the specific goals of your business.  In my opinion, this is more important than trying to match the technical background of a prospective IP lawyer to the subject matter of your business.
  • What do we protect?  Like most businesses, you no doubt have a limited budget for intellectual property.  The key here is to figure out how and where, e.g., geographically or even at some stage in your manufacturing process your business makes it money.  Draw a schematic or flow-chart if necessary.  Keep in mind that you may need to protect certain intellectual properties and assets for competitive reasons – even though they don’t directly relate to revenue generation or profit.
  • How do we protect our IP?  The obvious possibilities are: 1) patents (design patents to protect unique and purely ornamental features of your products and utility patents to protect the way your new products or technology actually functions or works); 2) trademarks and service marks – if your business uses a logo, slogan or one or more words to identify (and distinguish from your competition) the products or services offered by your company, you may want to consider the relatively inexpensive measure of registering the logo, slogan or word(s) as a trademark; 3) copyrights – you should consider protecting by way of federal copyright registration any of your company’s valuable original works of authorship.  Advertising and promotional materials are good examples of such materials. The advantages of registration are considerable and the cost is minimal; and 4) trade secrets – information that is not public, that gives your business a competitive advantage and which is the subject of efforts by you to maintain its secrecy is possible trade secret information that you may wish to protect.  Often this information can be protected by limiting access to the information and by having solid contracts in place with those who know or have access to the information.  Don’t wait until a key employee leaves you to join a competitor to test how well you’ve protected your company secrets.
  • How can we ensure our IP stays protected?  In short, add IP as a line item to your annual operating budget. If you save over time to replace a leaky roof the expense is more digestible than it is if you are caught off guard suddenly with a large charge to replace the roof.  Given the highly competitive environment in which we now live, and the other factors we discussed above, you should consider formulating a protection strategy and then investing in your company’s intellectual property on a regular basis.
  • How do we keep our IP competitive?  It comes as no surprise that information is now available online about virtually anything you care to investigate.  Pending patent applications can now even be retrieved once the application has been pending at least 18 months in the Patent Office.  If your company competes heavily with a certain group of regular competitors, you may want to consider having your IP lawyer arrange to regularly search for information about the inventive activity of your competitors. Also, he or she can arrange to have the US Patent and Trademark Office send direct reports to you via email concerning developments in your competitors’ pending IP.  The cost of setting up and conducting such ongoing surveillance is relatively low.
For help with formulating a strategy that protects your film and makes it marketable for distribution, contact me at or 929.322.3546.

Matter included here or in linked websites may not be current. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional (hint, hint, me) before relying on any written commentary. No attorney client relationship is established by the viewing, use, or communication in any manner through this web site. 
Nothing on this blog or blog posting is official legal advice; it is just information and opinion. But if you want to, you can visit my professional website and hire me.

PRODUCTION JOURNAL: New York Workshops for Entrepreneurs and Artists (Spring 2015)

Good news for filmmakers and producers in the NY area.
I'm teaching 2 workshops at Bronx Community College this spring.
The first one is one for entrepreneurs: "Starting a Business in New York" - April 7, 9, 14 and 16 (p.25)
The second one is also for entrepreneurs plus artists, writers and inventors, a primer on "Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents" - May 5, 2015 (p. 24)
Since filmmakers are BOTH entrepreneurs and artists, these workshops will be very fruitful for you to take if you can.
~~ Danny Jiminian
To learn more and register, check out the Spring 2015 catalog HERE.

PRODUCTION TIPS: How to Protect Yourself if You Are a Non-Union Actor

I have recently started a series for HOLA (the Hispanic Organization of Latino Actors) on El Blog de HOLA based on business and legal questions actors have.

“If I choose to work in a nonunion film (one that is not SAG-AFTRA), what key contract terms or clauses should I look out for to protect myself?”

Here’s something that any working actor can tell you: there are many more nonunion roles than there are SAG-AFTRA roles. So, actors, in a quest to build their credits, gain experience, make themselves visible and hone their craft will take on a nonunion role if they find it in their interest to do so. Whether they should or not is another story but assuming they do there are some things an actor should look out for to protect themselves from unscrupulous or sleazy producers.
• Put it in writing. While it is true that oral agreements are enforceable, if it’s not on paper, your job to prove you were promised something for your work in a production becomes that much harder. So make sure that anything you are promised winds up in the document you sign. If it’s not, then don’t sign until it is. 
• If the contract has a clause that your image or work can be used in whatever form for perpetuity understand that that means they can do anything they want with the images they shoot of you. Forever. Ask that it be limited to non-pornographic purposes or to be used ONLY for the production or the marketing of that production. If they use it for some other project, you should be paid for that, in my opinion. 
• In addition, producers tend to add clauses that state that your work or image can be used in “any medium known or unknown throughout the universe” (or something like that), which gives them the right to use your work or image in any medium without having to pay you extra for it (besides any aforementioned compensation or residuals, if any, already stated in the contract). 
• Also beware of any audition release forms that give a producer the right to use your audition footage in whatever way they wish.  It’s one thing to have the acting you did for a movie appear in a trailer (which is to be expected), but your acting for an audition is less polished and more intimate which means you might not want that footage released to the public. 
• Pay attention to clauses that limit what future work you can do because of a conflict. This could come up in cases where you work in a commercial for a particular product/service and the clause is put in there to prevent you from working for a competitor product/service. Even though you might not be able to change this clause, at least understand that it means you can’t work for a competitor’s commercial. However, to be fair, this clause should be limited to a certain time period and geographical area. 
• If the script calls for sex or nudity, check to see if the contract provides for a clause with restrictions on who can be on the set during the shoot, how the footage is to be used and whether or not nudity/semi-nudity is required.

When it comes to contracts, the first thing is awareness; actors need to know what they are signing. The second thing is whether or not the actor can get something changed or removed from a contract. The truth is that an actor’s ability to have clauses modified or removed comes down to how much leverage the actor has. Famous actors, actors desired by producers to play a specific role and actors demanded by certain investors for a role all have leverage and can get their way if they ask for it. However, even if you don’t have that kind of leverage, if you feel strongly about something, don’t be afraid to speak up. You’d be surprised to know how much a director or producer is willing to address your concerns. And if they don’t, then at the end of they day, you don’t have to sign the contract. It all depends on how much you want that role.

Matter included here or in linked websites may not be current. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. No attorney client relationship is established by the viewing, use, or communication in any manner through this web site. Nothing on this blog or blog posting is official legal advice; it's just information and opinion. If you want to, you can visit my website and hire me at

The COVID-19 “Get Back to Filmmaking” Checklist

The COVID-19 “Get Back to Filmmaking” Checklist A 40-point checklist from development to post-production   by Danny Jiminian