Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Honeywell files lawsuit against Nest over programmable thermostat, making silly patent claims

Vox is reporting on what seems to be an abusive patent infringement lawsuit by Honeywell against Nest Labs for the Nest New Learning Thermostat, for features that even include “including grammatically complete sentences” in programming the device.  The link for the story by Matt Macari here.
Nest’s own site is here
One aspect of the action is that it was taken also against retailers, including Best Buy, who, according to the way patent law works now, are potential defendants, at least with regard to possible injunctions.

The patents listed in the article would be legitimate (morally) if an actual invention was behind the capacity claimed (possibly including the software or firmware code).  But there should be nothing wrong with another company coming up with accomplishing the same capability or functionality a different way.

Programmability would be important for homeowners away for a long time, who need to make the heating and air conditioning respond to sudden weather extremes.

My own thermostat is about 25 years old.  The heating company says it is still OK (and we are in a record cold wave now, so it isn’t funny).  But the action could affect what kind of replacement thermostats it can install,  or what a homeowner could order (from Amazon, Ebay, etc).  Remember that “bimetallic strip” in Chemistry 101? 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Time Magazine notes that many simple phrases have gotten trademarked

The February 16, 2015 issue of Time Magazine, on p. 59, has a “Roundup” of “Proprietary Phrases” used as trademarks, or at least proposed.

Rahcie; Zoe filed an application for “I Die” in 2008.  Paris Hilton trademarked “That’s Hot” (from “Simple Life”) in 2004 and sued Hallmark in 2007 for using it on a card.  Donald Trumped trademarked “You’re Fired”.  The star of “Jersey Shore” got the right to use “Snook!” on shoes and handbags.  Ryan Lochte (the Olympic Swimmer) is still pending with “Jeah!”  But remember that phrase had been used in “Amos ‘n Andy” by the Kingfish. And we have Taylor Swift with "This Sick Beat". 

I think this is an abuse of the trademark concept.  Maybe if the phrase isn't monopolized it is OK.  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Does vigorous enforcement of patent, trademark and copyright protect jobs? Libertarian university think tank says, not really

Mercatus Research at the George Mason University in Fairfax VA has a paper by Eli Dourado and Ian Robinson, “How Many Jobs Does Intellectual Property Create?”, link here. The paper takes up the legal protections of copyright, trademark and patent. 
While noting that the automatic copyright of a blog posting doesn’t generally function as a strong economic incentive to create and self-publish content, and acknowledging the letigimacy of concerns about piracy, trademark and patent may in practice be more critical.  But trademark, it says, doesn’t have a lot of value beyond the very obvious one of branding a product or service with the reputation of a provider for the benefit of consumers.  That would seem to downplay the importance of a connection between Internet domain names and trademark. And patent law opens the concept of patent up for easy abuse by trolls. 
The paper notes that the generation or protection of jobs in the traditional sense does not protect or promote economic prosperity in the long run.