Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monsanto has position paper defending its seed patent enforcement (brought up in recent film "Food")

The new documentary film “Food, Inc.” presented the problem of Monsanto’s litigation against framers for seed patent infringement, both in planting and saving seed.

Monsanto does have a position paper where it states its own position on the problem, here. The webpage has an amusing graphic that looks like “weed”, and it lists its “Ten Points”. Interesting is its position that it’s not OK to save seed even for “personal use.”

The controversy came about originally in the 1980s when the Supreme Court ruled that one can patent genes.

However, there are various other stories about the problem, such as a dropped lawsuit against a North Dakota rancher in 2001, here (in a publication called “Herbicide Tolerance”).

There is a 2008 case about “Roundup Ready” soybean seed in a publication called “Curremt” here. The article suggests that the Supreme Court might some day recognize a concept called “patent exhaustion”.

Picture: Flint Hills, Kansas, 2006 (taken by me).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

EFF "Patent Busting" goes after subdomain assignment "invention"

Electronic Frontier Foundation has countered what appears to be an abuse of the patent concept, with U.S. Patent No. 6,687,746, now held by Hoshiko, LLC, which invented a method for automatically assigning subdomain names, like “billboushkatd” as a subdomain of blogspot. The technique had become particularly important on some social networking sites, such as LiveJournal. But the technique had been long known in early days of the Usenet. EFF (in what it calls its Patent Busting Project) maintains that the holder Ideaflood tries to use open source material from the public domain to monopolize a certain market of innovation. EFF says that the Internet Archive (sometimes a “reputation” buster these days) was useful in researching the case.

The story title is “EFF Busts Bogus Internet Subdomain Patent: Patent Busting Project Wins Another Victory for Developers and Innovators”; link is here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Is personal "branding" the salvation of the Web as we know it?

This may sound like a strange post for my trademark blog, but not really. We’re rapidly learning that “self-branding” is as important as corporate branding, particularly when it comes to online reputation. Cameron Johnson promoted the idea of “self brand” in his book “You Call the Shots” and so does Donald Trump.

As I look back over the history of the open Internet, since it was turned loose in 1992, it seems as though we’ve allow people ("amateurs", even “the kids”) the capability to promote themselves and become “famous” without having the capital (or accountability to others) to cover their share of the systemic risk risk (especially to those who have elected more “responsibility” – often than means parents). We’re seeing this show up now in all kinds of areas, including the online reputation problem, viruses, scams, cyberbullying, as well as the more superficial issue of “protecting minors” from pornography (my COPA blog). Even individuals who use the Net “responsibly” benefit from a system that probably allows unequal application of risk. If we were starting over, I wonder whether "we" would go to such lengths to shield providers and self-publishers from indirect liability – but then we would have nothing like the Internet that we know today. I still think we will see political calls to roll back some of these protections (like Section 230) and demand that web users become insurable.

But the web is here, and especially since the advent of social networking sites (following the inexpensive self-publishing by almost a decade) it has become a major vehicle by which people interact and “compete”. It has made people into “company-lettes”. And more and more we hear that people need to build integrated, sensible, expressive and professional (all of these) presence on the Web. That’s what Trump says a “brand” or a “good name” means.

If you had looked at my resume in the early or mid 1990s, you would have branded me as a “mainframe programmer” and “insurance person” or something like that. My personal life was still relatively private. The logical followup after “retirement” could have been sales – branding as an insurance agent or financial planner. Another outcome could have transformed me into a math teacher (maybe calculus). But, for reasons of temperament and personal history well documented in my blogs and books, some aspects of these careers would have compelled me to do some things counter to my beliefs, as I had already made myself “famous” with self-publishing and “knowledge management.”

My entry into the area had started with my involvement in the “politics” of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and the way it related in a curious way to events earlier in my life. But the policy and debate paid forward, too, subsuming practically every issue that can affect “individual sovereignty.” So my websites and blogs started covering “almost everything.” One observation that seems crucial is that what makes the military gay ban (and other gay issues like gay marriage and adoption) so critical is the idea that we all have to share the dirty work, sacrifices and uncertainties (and some unwelcome intimacies, sometimes) inherent in freedom; total individualism is never possible.

So my “brand” – my name – became associated with developing the knowledge base about these issues, to be sure, but also developing the technology and delivery systems to help others understand it and participate. Actually, when I was substitute teaching, I overheard students in an honors class say that I was the “gays in the military guy” – back in 2005 my online reputation was that well known, I guess --- but it really is much more than that. It invokes the processes by which we look into the nature and limits of our own individuality and face the possibility of new social contracts. Personal responsibility is more than just accounting for direct choices. I am the documentarian of how our culture goes through the process of redefining personal autonomy and personal responsibility, against a backdrop of history, of our "American Experience". It sounds pretentious. But that’s how I set myself up.

But the idea of personal “branding”, borrowed from the trademark law concept, might turn out to be the salvation of the “democratic Web” as we have come to count on it today. The number of “brands” on the planet increases by a few orders of magnitude, but that has to be made all right.