Saturday, January 05, 2019

Personal branding online -- yes, the Patreon Purge is a bad sign

I wanted to make a note here about personal branding, as 2019 starts.

We’re used to the idea of informal personal branding in the workplace and the world of resumes, and Linked-In profiles.

Online, many “pundits” – whether through books, blogs, video podcasts, or some combination thereof (even their own daily “newspapers”) guard their brand – the ideas that their names stand for – jealousy.  The goes hand in hand with how trademark law works, at least for any one who sells items or ad space or even has patrons so he/she can make a living.

And, as other blogs here have covered recently, a number of “conservative” pundits have had platforms taken down.  Sometimes this may seem to be justified by incendiary or hateful conduct, but in some other cases it seems to have more to do with who they are associated with.  It is far too easy for the far Left to smear anyone as “alt-right” or “white supremacist” with practically no factual basis in what a party has actually written.  And payment processors, in particular, seem to be intimidated by these activist tactics.

One way to test a public pundit’s “brand” is to challenge him with requests or demands to demonstrate public support for some other charity or party with real needs.  That is, make the pundit admit he or she can become needy because of the dangerous world, too.  But this sort of compelled speech can undermine the speaker’s message and even defeat the point of remaining online.  Yet, given recent political climate since Charlottesville, continuing to speak out while refusing to support others in need publicly could be viewed indirectly as hate speech, or at least gratuitous speech adding to risk.
Many of my domains are up for renewal this year, and I could face challenges or questions in this area.  I could also face questions as to whether I am sufficiently “commercial” and can get serious about really selling things (books), as with the “”, which has been stable for years (since 1999).  Times are changing rapidly, and systemic inequality is behind the changes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Patreon's gratuituos purge of Sargon of Akkad raises curious question about branding and social media companies -- it really does!

Sargon of Akkad (Carl Richard) explains how Patreon’s correspondence with him constitutes a bizarre but curiously rationalizable interpretation of the concept of “brand” or “trademark”.
Patreon doesn’t “like” Carl Benjamin’s “brand”.  OK, probably a lot of people don’t. But is that how platforms, nearly becoming public accommodations, should decide who is an acceptable participant on their site? 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Can mathematical proofs (or the idea of using them) be patented?

This is a good one from my days (1966-1968) as a graduate student earning an MA in Mathematics at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. That is, a patent on using mathematical proofs, as a “stupid patent of the month”, by Joe Mullin and Daniel Nazer.  The context is trying to prove mathematically (maybe by induction) that a particular piece of software is error-free.

You wonder if a troll will try to patent the quaternion (the basis of the behavior of sub-atomic particles and nuclear forces), or octonion.  I even tweeted that.

When I went to grad school, the curriculum tended to be divided between “algebra” and “analysis”, the latter of which subsumed topology, but they all intermix – with physics and a theory of everything.  
In the meantime, just remember your “given” and “to prove” problems in high school plane geometry.  Do you remember how to prove the Pythagorean Theorem?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

EFF publishes its trademark, patent and copyright "Takedown Hall of Shame"

I’ll share Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Takedown Hall of Shame”, well illustrated, here

A couple of the worst events:  In 2013, the Church of Scientology International (CSI) claimed trademark (and copyright) infringement against “” and complained to Godaddy (which may have been the domain name registrar).  Godaddy, misunderstanding trademark law and not bothering to look at it carefully, took it down.

Romance author Falenna Hopkins tried to trademark the word “cocky”.  No, you can’t trademark common words, although you might be able to trademark a string of them as a book series.  I’ve never really tried with my “Do Ask Do Tell”.
Even the suggestion that I could patent the “plot template charts” on one of my Wordpress blogs would make the Hall of Shame if I pursued it.  OK, all you manga comic writers, use it to build your storyboards.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Girl Scouts sue Boy Scouts over trademark infringement when BSA wants to remove "Boys" from its name

Tim Pool has a funny video on Timcast reporting that the Girl Scouts of America have sued the Boy Scouts for trademark infringement in Manhattan federal court.   The suit opposes the BSA from taking "Boys" out of its wordmark, which is ironic. 

This case runs in delicious circles.  Pool gets around to reducing this to miscast idea of feminism, and the radical Left wants its way all the time.

“The power of the single gender environment”???

Remember the case in 2000 where SCOTUS allowed the NSA to exclude gays if they didn’t use public funds (as a private group). Libertarians supported that decision.

My own mother had belonged to “Camp Fire Girls”.

Pool says “we can’t base equity off of identity.”

Friday, November 02, 2018

A patent troll's portfolio on bankruptcy: $1; more on monetizing common phrases

Daniel Nazer’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” series for Electronic Frontier Foundation discusses a troll whose portfolio of 34+ patents was worth $1 when the troll went down, story. The company was called “Shipping and Transit” or Arrivalstar.

I’ve gotten a little snow flurry of robocalls from companies claiming they can republish my books in my “Do Ask Do Tell” series.  I can’t find the companies online.  I wonder if somebody wants to monetize the phrase and I’m in the way of “making money”.
Actually, as we’re find out, the money behind political and even issue speech, even if earned somewhere else, is becoming an issue, and as in the previous post that could conceivably invade the trademark world.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Could activists pressure ICANN, domain registrars and monitors over abusive owners?

Given the vitriolic political climate and the emerging trend, especially from the political Left, to pressure private companies to deplatform “offensive” speakers (especially since Charlottesville in Aug. 2017), I thought it would be good to review ICANN’s own policy documents, here.

There’s nothing there to suggest any specific pressure on them, and the company says it complies with local law enforcement as necessary (about the only TOS issue mentioned specifically is drugs) yet it’s obvious that the blatant misuse of “rogue” or “amateur” domains by dictators in some countries to feed social media must be of concern even at the registration level.

It is significant that there are some restrictions on how some TLD’s may be used. “.com” had been intended for transactional businesses at first, but soon everyone used it and the commercial context got buried.  This might be of some increasing concern today (as respect to political campaign interference with misleading labeling). There were some similar expectations in the early days for “.org” and “.net”.

Some TLD’s have explicit restrictions, like “.name” is only for individuals.  This would raise the question, is any given individual limited to one instance? 

But it also seems that the “.name” TLD could create a way to name a domain to prevent any future trademark dispute.  

I can recall some bizarre disputes in the Web 1.0 pre-2000 period, where domains were sued by companies with similar names when the companies hadn’t even set up websites yet. One of the targets was a stage theater in Portland, OR.
Various TLD’s are managed by separate companies that themselves could come under activist pressure. For example, .com, .tv, and .name are managed by Verisign.  Could individuals be limited to the number of domains (such as maybe only ".name" and only one instance), or have to show transactional business use some day, out of political motives from activist much more concerned about hidden propaganda than anyone imagined even two years ago?  I wonder.  Such a development could seriously hinder the capability of individuals to rebrand themselves if their legacy careers became obsolete and difficult to keep promoting.  People would have to network and cooperate a lot more, and possibly pay heed to the solidarity demands of activists. 

Update: Oct. 28

I misspoke about ".name".  DailyStormer (not an individual) was allowed to have a ".name" domain which works (I tried it on my phone, not on a computer;  it has plausible-looking stories.)  CNN pointed this out Sunday morning.  Will activists pounce on this?