Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Domain owners should pay attention to international trademark issues

I haven’t discussed international trademarks here, but it’s clear that with the domain name system for the Web that is in effect, there is a potential for conflicts.
The Wikipedia article on trademarks does have a discussion of how to obtain trademarks in multiple countries, even though there is no way to get a trademark to be effective everywhere in the world with one registration.
One of the best systems is called the “Madrid System”.  The European Union (including Britain) has a Community Trade Mark System to be active throughout member countries.  It’s easier for a resident  of one of these countries to apply than from outside the EU.
But there are companies on the web that purport to process trademark applications for as many countries as possible.

Visitors will want to look at the work of the International Trademark Association, link

It’s likely that this area will become more contentious. American innovators would probably have eve more difficult getting and enforcing marks in non-western countries. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Patent troll goes after "ordinary" podcasters; Shield Act in Congress could help small businesses defend themselves

Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned about a “patent troll” chasing ordinary podcasters.  The company is Personal Audio (link), and according to EFF.  Some of the targets so far have been “How Stuff Works” and Majority Report’s Steve Seder.
The link for the EFF story is here.  

There was a bill in 2012 which would have forced companies that file unsuccessful patent suits to pay defendants’ legal bills.  This would be the Shield Act, which would need to be reintroduced in 2013. 

The way patent trolls work is to take out a patent on a broad (software) innovation, get USPTO to approve it, and then contact users of similar technology and claim you owe them a licensing fee, or will sue.  It can amount to extortion, because defending a patent claim is expensive.  Patents on software make less sense than they do for, say, pharmaceuticals.  And you can’t patent an abstract idea (like “do ask do tell”).  The “idea” of a “podcast” or “RSS feed” should not be patentable.

A patent offers a “twenty year monopoly” and makes sense where real investment is required to develop an innovation and investment needs to be recouped financially.

Here’s another video (Feb. 4. 2013), by Julie Samuels talking to Common Cause’s  Bob Edgar (and Mark Cuban’s “Majority Report”), link here. She explains the dangers of “broadly worded patents”.   There is also discussion of the “Open WiFi” patent which could have stopped small cafes from offering WiFi.  Samuels talks about the Sheld Act, and the idea of a “defensive patent commons”.
EFF describes patent trolls as levying a “tax on innovation”.  Patent trolls started going after individuals and very small companies only in the past eighteen months or so.  

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

There are no "lost dogs" or "stray cats" these days -- at least when "on the road"

I dropped by the “Lost Dog” coffee store in Shepherdstown, WVa Sunday afternoon, and it seems as though the conflict with an Arlington VA restaurant chain reported here July 28 has been “forgotten”.  So why do I check up on it? 

Suffice it to say, the pink cookies are good, and there is a little museum of art and new-age knickknacks there, too.

I had been in the area to look at a model railroad in nearby Sharpbsurg, MD.
There are lots of businesses everywhere with the same name.  In Minneapolis, from 19987-2003, I lived in a conspicuous downtown highrise called the Churchill Apartments.  It was, I believe, the only major apartment building on the Skyway.  The other day, here in Arlington, I saw a truck for “Churchill Relocation Specialists”.  On the truck there was painted a corporate apartment that looked just like mine in the Churchill.  It brought back memories.  It’s a small world.    
Update: Dec 22. 2014

Last week, I drove by a "Laughing Dog Cafe" on Main Street in Harrisonburg, VA.  It's on the right (pun) in this photo, not sure it shows up well.