Monday, September 17, 2018

The "Waffle maker" problem

Here’s a hypothetical trademark question proposed by Tim Lee  (Ars Technica) on Twitter.  If a restaurant (or motel for free breakfast) buys a “licensed” waffle maker with an image of Mickey Mouse, does it need a license from Disney?  Is this trademark or copyright? 

One answer suggests that it could be trademark issue if the public thought Disney had endorsed it, or had a business relationship with the restaurant or motel chain.

Others thought it was copyright.

Think of this as a law school course final exam question. 

Not part of EU’s “copyright directive”.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Laundromats, wifi cafes still targeted by patent trolls; shell company industry still lobbies Congress to overturn "Alice"

Joe Mullin has an instructive “stupid patent of the month” column July 31 that continues to discuss the problem of “abstract patents”.

The latest case involves Upaid, a company in the British Virgin Islands, attacking laundromats for using prepaid cards or accounts. These accounts are associated with “Card Concepts” and “Laundry Card”. Quite mundane and proletarian indeed. 

I can remember that the prepaid card distribution industry was touted as a possible business opportunity for otherwise unemployed people in the post 9/11 job market recession.

EFF also discusses another case involving simply offering WiFi to customers in a hotel lobby or café.
And patent shell companies are trying to lobby Congress to roll back the Alice decision that limits “do it on a computer” patents.  So that’s another reason why small business and individual speech matters, to counter the bureaucracy of the lobbying industry – and partisanship.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Crowdfunding platforms saved from patent trolls by Alice decision precedent

Electronic Frontier Foundation reminds us today of the importance of Alice v. CLS Bank (2014, Supreme Court) in patent law:  implementing an abstract idea on a computer doesn’t make it patenable.  I would think Brett Kavanagh wouldn't have a problem with this decision. 
Today, EFF reports on the success of David Rose of startup-helper Gust, in suing Alpha Corp,. and thereby saving most of the crowdfunding platforms online (like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, probably even GoFundMe) which are especially important in the indie film business, from paying a tariff to a troll. Note that the litigation would have gone on in the Eastern District of Texas.
I’m not a fan of doing crowdfunding for causes (as Facebook constantly tries to push me to do), but the day could come when I need it, for my own movie.  But if stupid patents were really to be allowed, I could claim a patent on my screenplay analysis tables on my own blogs. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Patent trolls, monopolies, housing prices, 2008 crash -- all interrelated?

Matthew Robare has a detailed article in the American Conservative tying intellectual property policy – specifically patents – that supports big monopolistic business and now discourages innovation. This goes way beyond the issue of trolls. The article notes that people aren’t allowed to tinker with their own property. Here is the link
The article links this to zoning policies and lack of enforcement of anti-trust laws, that not only bids up the costs of housing for everyone but also encourage over dependence on cars, fossil fuels, and mega-businesses that don’t property support the communities they move in to.  This is more something you hear from liberals.  But this is a Cato Institute-like essay.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Washington Times criticizes lack of patent rights, but what about the trolls?

The Washington Times has an op-ed, July 24, by Jon Kyl and Joshua Wright, “Preserving American industrial competitiveness” with the byline “It depends on strong and reliable patent rights”, link .

The article suggests that companies are infringing on patents rather than negotiate for “fair licenses” (what is called “efficient infringement”).
But the article doesn’t talk about the issue of patent trolling, which is a terrible issue with “abstract processes” and sometimes software patents.  So what about EFF’s “stupid patent of the month”?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Foreign language teacher and online course author fends of another "stupid patent of the month"

This story sounds like one of the worst abuses of patent of all time.
A language teacher Mihalis Eleftheriou was served notice that his Language Transfer online classes project infringed on a patent that seemed based on only the abstract process of teaching a foreign language through a recorded medium.  That reminds me of the language lab at GW back in 1962 when I was taking freshman German.

Electronic Frontier Foundation displays the letter it sent to the plaintiff in respect July 2 
  and describes the incident in an article by Robert Nazier here

The plaintiff even demanded that he cancel plans to publish a book about his lessons.  Censorship like this is not even covered by patent law.

This is a rather shocking story.  But occasionally big corporate interests are running wild in their attempt to quell any conceivable competition, as we find out from all the other issues right now (ranging from net neutrality to the new fight in Europe over the Copyright Directive).

Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Red Hen" businesses get a quick lesson in "trademark" in the eyes of the people

I don’t have my own pictures of any Red Hen restaurants, and I may get one in DC this weekend.  I understand the one in Lexington VA may be closed for a little while, not sure when to make a visit.

The trashing of other businesses called “Red Hen” along the entire East Coast has pointed out that similarly named restaurants or retail stores that are not parts of trademarked franchises are indeed running into this sort of concern by a somewhat illiterate public, often with extremists on all sides of the political spectra. I’m used to seeing this, as I drive around a lot.  It’s common to see food businesses in West Virginia use the same names as those in Virginia but be totally independent (not franchises).  I’ve blogged about it, and made a couple of them nervous!  The Internet has changed the way the public perceives branding and even local business names.

Trademark, however, is partly based on the notion that an average consumer is not supposed to be responsible for knowing how all these businesses are run.  I learned a little more about this than some people growing up because my father traveled around a lot as a salesman (manufacturer’s representative) so I had some idea what a “brand” really means even from family upbringing.

The other comment about the Red Hen matter is, of course, is this the right wing’s just desserts, or their “own medicine”, for Masterpiece Cakeshop?  Is this Sarah Sanders’s personal karma?   You know the old adage, be careful what you wish for.
I do not personally condone business owners’ refusing to serve anyone for religious or political reasons.

Update: June 30

Here is are photos of the DC Red Hen. Note the book that looks like mine in their library.  Dinner last night before going to Town.