California intellectual property battles can span generations

A creation of value by an individual or a company is protected by federal and California laws. Intellectual property can include patents, trademarks and copyrights for a commercial product or service, an original process or formula, artistic expressions and even a name.

Brands are distinctive identities that have worth. Theft of intellectual property waters down value causing personal, professional and financial damage. Encroachment upon another person or business’s valuable possessions is stealing.

Some intellectual property battles are business turf wars, with rival companies trying to best one another in a competitive marketplace. Some disputes are private matters, like a current court battle over the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the 50-year-old “I Have a Dream” speech, the late civil rights leader imagined a time when people of all races would coexist peacefully. Rev. King may never have dreamed legal squabbles within his family could undermine that hope.

Martin Luther King Jr. had four children before his 1968 assassination. A daughter and two sons are alive today. King’s widow established The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change before her 2006 death.

The sons manage the King estate while the daughter heads the nonprofit King Center. The siblings have had legal disputes for years. The brothers recently filed suit to stop the center from using the civil rights leader’s intellectual property, reversing an earlier licensing agreement.

The complaint claims King’s physical possessions are in danger of deterioration due to poor care. The plan is to revoke center’s license unless the sister and two board members are removed from leadership. An attorney for King’s daughter says the brothers’ legal move is a ploy to gain control for personal profit.

Some intellectual property rights expire during an owner’s lifetime. Others are sold, licensed or passed to heirs. A legal plan for property protection is needed at every stage of ownership.

Source:, “Martin Luther King’s Legacy: Children In New Court Battle Over Intellectual Property And Memorabilia” Kate Brumback, Sep. 04, 2013