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We are looking to create an app that contains someones last name in the title, as well as some data created by him.

The data is public for anyone to use in the form of spreadsheets, the goal of the app is simply to make it easier to use. The reason the last name is in the title is because the data is named after him.

We're wondering if we could be sued for this? They have their own app, but we feel it's missing a lot of features. They are on another continent, though I doubt that matters.

I have searched copyright and trademark databases and they come back with no results, but again not sure if that matters.

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You can be sued for this (or anything). The question is does he have a reasonable claim - and that would depend on a number of things, including how you use his name (ie if your use implies a relationship with him when it doesn't).

Also, just because data is public, does not mean its not copyrighted - depending on the copyright there is every possibility that your using this data could be a breach of copyright - again, it depends on the data source.

In many (most?) places just because something is not in a trademark database does not mean its not trademarked, it just means it has fewer trademark protections. Similarly for copyright.

If you are confident you are not stepping on his toes, why not tell him what you want to do and ask him if he is OK with it ?

  • Technically an unregistered trade mark has the same protections as a registered one: the plaintiff just has to go through the additional step of proving the trade mark's existence. – Dale M Sep 8 '16 at 5:40
  • @DaleM this is not universally/entirely correct. In New Zealand at least you can get additional damages if you have a registered trademark. From the little I've read in USA a registered Trademark allows you to get Customs to prevent importing of infringing foreign goods and access to Federal court. – davidgo Sep 14 '16 at 21:44

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