Legal Background

  • Received LL.M. (Master of Laws) in Intellectual Property Law, with Honors, from Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, CA in 2005.
  • Received J.D. (juris doctor) from Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, CA in 2000.
  • Licensed to practice law in California since 2004.
  • Admitted to practice in federal courts of the Northern District of California.
  • Author of “The OSYU v. Bikram Choudhury Copyright Case: Analytical Approaches to Fleshing Out a Paper Tiger,” published in the Fall 2005 USF Intellectual Property Bulletin.
  • Guest lecturer for the Metal Arts Guild on Copyright Protection for Works of Industrial Design & Jewelry, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA March 2006.
  • Worked as a contract attorney at a national law firm for 4+ years on complex multidistrict antitrust litigation, focusing on discovery issues and culminating with participation in an 8-week federal criminal trial.

I graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco, CA., in 2000. During law school I interned with M.J. Bogatin at a respected entertainment and litigation boutique law firm in Oakland, CA., Bogatin, Corman, & Gold. Under Bo’s wonderful tutelage, I was exposed to a great variety of art and entertainment-related issues, from researching, writing, and advising on trademark, copyright, and contract issues for bands, photographers, and artists, to helping litigate a VARA (Visual Artists’ Rights Act) claim on behalf of a controversial client regarding the destruction of a mural in San Francisco.

I wanted to round out my education in the intellectual property field, so in 2004 I enrolled in the LLM program for Intellectual Property at Golden Gate University, which I completed with Honors in 2005 (LLM means “Master of Laws”). The seed for this endeavor was planted in late 2003 when, while waiting to start a Bikram yoga class, I read a Yoga Journal article about a lawsuit filed against Bikram Choudhury to invalidate a copyright he claimed to have in his series of yoga postures. I decided then and there that I would enroll in the LLM program, work with the faculty on an article about the case, and hopefully get it published in a law review journal. I eventually wrote the article under the guidance of program director Marc Greenberg and got it published in the Fall 2005 issue of the University of San Francisco Intellectual Property Law Bulletin.  While writing the article, I was fortunate enough to work as a consulting attorney in the litigation on behalf of the plaintiffs seeking to invalidate the yoga guru’s copyrights. During this time, I also received my license to practice law in the state of California.

Accomplishments on Behalf of Clients

Intellectual Property

Highlights of representations of clients and accomplishments in the IP arena include:

  • Successful enforcement of band’s common law trademark rights in band name against foreign infringer.
  • Negotiating a highly advantageous settlement on behalf of a client against a foreign cybersquatter that avoided UDRP arbitration.
  • Counseling co-authors of famous book series on partnership, joint authorship, and trademark rights, assisting in formation of LLC for new publication efforts, advising on continued LLC operations, and negotiating on their behalf in the formation of a mobile app LLC with a third party.
  • Representing clients in cease and desist letter situations (both enforcement and defense), including one letter received from a prominent video game maker regarding the novel issue of a client studio's use of real-time video game computer graphics engines to create cinematic productions ("machinima").
  • Assisting non-profit with nationwide membership in the acquisition of rare statue molds, advising on copyright and contract issues and drafting sales contract.
  • Assisting in federal copyright declaratory relief litigation involving Bikram yoga, including discovery matters and writing summary judgment motion on publication issue under the 1909 Copyright Act.
  • Trademark registrations in a variety of industries for goods and services, rendering legal opinions to businesses on the availability of trademarks, service marks, and possible common law trademark problems with proposed marks, and counseling businesses on trademark rights, including those related to businesses operating in the marijuana industry.
  • Clearance of rights reviews of independent films and screenplays, and preparation of all licenses needed.
  • Copyright registrations of screenplays, board games, individual songs, full-length releases of sound recordings as collections, business promotional materials, web sites, photographs, and jewelry designs (both individual and series).
  • Drafting many different types of licensing agreements, assignments, contracts, and releases.

Business Formation and Related Matters

Highlights of accomplishments related to business formations and operations on behalf of clients include:

  • Assisting businesses in LLC and corporate formations, including drafting custom operating agreements and bylaws, and preparation and filing of all necessary government documentation.
  • Advising managing member of film production LLC on options for dissociation and assisting in successful transfer of entire membership interest and withdrawal.
  • Advising LLC client on franchise agreement and drafted demand letter that resulted in the return of his entire investment, thus avoiding costly litigation.
  • Assisting band member in dissociation from a RUPA "default" partnership situation;
  • Advising businesses on legal considerations regarding the internet, and drafting privacy policies and terms of use, including one client involved in the marijuana industry.
  • Advising businesses on employment law issues such as independent contractor status, application of Cal. Labor Code sec. 2870, work made for hire situations, and nondisclosure agreements.
  • Assisting bands in forming partnerships by drafting partnership agreements addressing multiple IP issues.
  • Advising clients on operation of all forms of business entities, and counseling on best practices aimed at optimizing limited liability status.

My interest in intellectual property law stems from my musical background. I started playing guitar in 1981 when I was 13 years old, and played in various bands in Tampa, FL and San Francisco until 2001. During my undergraduate college career, I became interested in sound recording and took courses at SYCOM, the University of South Florida School of Music's suite of electronic music studios. After a particularly bad experience recording one of my band’s records at a local Tampa studio, I vowed to never hand the reigns over to another engineer in the future.

I was able to keep that promise because after moving to San Francisco in 1993 I became a partner in my own project recording studio from 1994-1996, and then opened my own commercial recording studio and independent record label in 1997. While in law school, I moonlighted in my studio, honing my engineering chops by recording everything from Indian classical singers to punk rock bands, and my own projects. I eventually folded the studio and record label in 2003, but recently set up the remnants of the studio in my garage to collaborate with and record my budding 7-year old daughter/pop star.

Creative Vision Legal is my attempt to meld my previous legal experience and love of the artistic process and its results with the core values I have identified as missing from much of the current state of online legal services.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at mike@creativevisionlegal.com.

Mike Thomas is on LinkedIn.