See my article in the Bangor Daily News

The latest “Ask a Lawyer” column in the Bangor Daily news is about if and when you can copyright or trademark your own name.

Copyright and trademark law protect names in commercial uses. Copyright law protects “creative works,” including literary, music and visual works. Your given name — even one you give yourself — is not going to be considered a creative work that can be copyrighted. Names in a book, such as “Harry Potter” are protected by copyright as part of the literary work in which it is used.

Trademark law protects a name if it is associated with a product or service. An example of this is “Ralph Lauren,” which is a real person’s name, but also the name of the company that produces clothing. So the use of the name Ralph Lauren is protected by trademark law, because it represents the clothing and goods made by the Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

If you are concerned about the unauthorized use of your name, Maine law prohibits the unauthorized use of your name or image for commercial purposes. The unauthorized appropriation of your name or likeness is considered a violation of your right to privacy. This comes up in advertisements, with lawsuits that typically involve famous people or celebrities.

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Small Claims Limit Raised to $6000

The maximum amount of a claim that can be brought to the Small Claims court is now $6000, up from $4500.

Title 14, §7482: Definition of a small claim:

Notwithstanding the total amount of a debt or contract, a “small claim” means a right of action cognizable by a court if the debt or damage does not exceed $6,000 exclusive of interest and costs. It does not include an action involving the title to real estate.

See here for more on Small Claims in Maine.

Flat Rate Legal Fees

I have posted a list of the legal services I offer at a flat rate instead of the usual hourly billing. This allows clients to take as much time as they need to ask questions and to discuss important issues without worrying about the clock. It also allows for the budgeting of these services which some people may skip if they think it will cost them too much.

Go to my rates page.

The list is not exhaustive of the work I will do at a flat rate, but can give a sense for what other services may cost. Feel free to contact me at ertlaw@gmail.com to discuss help you may need.