Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Apple v. Samsung patent case has real implications for venture funding of future innovation

The recent jury-driven judgment against Samsung in a lawsuit by Apple is certainly going to raise questions about whether a “monopolistic” approach to patents will lead to reduction in innovation, as Electronic Frontier Foundation has often warned.

The center of the controversy seems to be the “push to zoom” finger-driven technology, very popular with users (and it amazes me how good young adults are with dexterity in texting while dancing in bars, as if companies could have predicted this – not good when driving, though). 

Craig Timberg and Hayley Tsukayama summarize all of this pretty well in a detailed story on the Aug. 28 Washington Post, “Post-pinch: what’s next for digital age?”, link here

The point is well taken. There are hundreds of hardware patents registered for smartphone technology.  But should an invention that changes a basic paradigm of use monopolize the field?  It would seem that if another company came up with another chip that could emulate the push-zoom experience, then it could get a separate patent.

The writers for Post note that Apple was the first company use encourage users to interact with a computer operating system graphically.  Microsoft more or less emulated the idea with Windows (the 3.1 version in the early 90s, followed by Windows 95), but did not run into insurmountable patent problems.
USA Today has reported that a South Korean court found that Samsung did not “copy” the iPhone (Thunderfeed here).

Apple is reported to be seeking to enjoin the sale of eight Samsung phones in the United States (Times of India story )

Consumers owning Sansungs now should not be affected (nor should warranties), but future orders might be, as could contracts for future purchase discounts.

A Business Day story by Claire Cain Miller and Brian X. Chen Aug. 28 in the New York Times discusses the possible affect on Google, and whether it could become a “target” of Apple litigation. Maybe not, because Google uses arrangements with  other companies for the hardware, and as a business strategy, litigation could backfire for Apple (link).

Litigiousness about patents could certainly affect the ability of future start-ups to attract venture capital (see movies blog today).  Let the politicians debate this at their conventions.   

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sharing a trademark can cost you state funds (in Texas, at least)

Well, it can work to “your” disadvantage to have or use a particular trademark.

According to a New York Times editorial published today, Texas administrative law now bars state funds funneled through its Women’s Health Program to go to any entity that shares a “trademark” or business name with any organization that performs abortions.  This prevented funds from going to certain legally separate affiliates of Planned Parenthood.  The NYT says that “just talking about abortion counts as promoting it”.

The fight is in federal courts, and the Fifth Circuit unfortunately undid a lower court injunction to inhibit the Texas rule.

The idea that “talking about abortion” could be illegal has occurred before, in the part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that got struck down by the Supreme Court.

The New York Times editorial is here.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trademarks is about branding for consumers, not business name itself

There’s a simple file on trademark basics on “answers” on Yahoo!.  It appears from this blurb that you can register a name before you actually have used it in commerce, if you establish a notice of intent to do so. But that possibility could complicate life for other businesses, or other domains that are active but don’t actually do transactions with the public.

The best link that I could find on business categories is here.

Normally, the same name, from different parties, can be used in different areas. 

It’s important to notice that what gets trademarked is a “brand” known to the consumer, not the name of a holding company or business “behind the scenes”.  For a franchise ownership, the brand that has the mark is the brand being franchised (like McDonalds), not the name of the property owner of the individual franchise.

A domain name for an entity that doe not do commercial transactions in its implied area (or at least intend to do them in the future) cannot be trademarked. 

Here is the Yahoo! link

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Upcoming domain name renewal for "doaskdotell"

I got a mailing for the renewal of my domain name “doaskdotell.com” from a company called “Domain Registry of America”, in late July.

The domain is registered with Network Solutions (it was done so in 1999) and runs through Dec. 2, 2012.  I just verified that on WHOIS.  The actual domain is hosted on Verio.  The domain was registered in an era when fewer companies could register names.

The mail offer included deals for more years.

I would expect the same deals from Network Solutions and will call them soon. Renewal is still more than 90 days away.
It is true that it is not a good idea to let domain name renewal slip until the last minute, because domain names have been “stolen” before.   

Update: Aug. 16

I did renew "doaskdotell.com" for nine years (until 2021, when I would be 78) with Network Solutions tonight, for a little over $300.

Network Solutions has various account numbers for one customer in a complicated system.  One of the accounts was linked to "Highproductivitypublishing.com" which has been allowed to expire.  That was the long name of "hppub.com", under which I published my 1997 book "Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back". I stopped using hppub.com om August 2005 and moved everything to doaskdotell.com, which I believe is stronger.

By the way, I have randomly seen Amazon.com use my "doaskdotell" mark and my last name (both) in delivering to me contextual ads.  So this idea of a domain name as a brand name and even a person's name as a brand is real in a business sense.