Sunday, July 07, 2019

EFF calls "suggested reading material" in a search box a stupid patent; what about YouTube?

Back in April 2018, EFF had reported one of the stupidest patents yet – suggesting reading material on a website, story

Of course, one wonders if this is inherently similar in some way to YouTube’s following with a next video, which is a trick that some channels depend on for revenue.

But apparently the patent discussed in the article, affecting retailers, is nothing more than a search bar. I tried the Zumiez search bar and couldn’t see what it did that is original.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

SCOTUS allows morally "subversive" trademarks: new controversy between and airline and Walmart

The Supreme Court has struck down a ban on trademarking “immoral” or “scandalous” words or symbols, probably including names like the Washington Redskins for sports teams.

The action had been brought by a clothing designer Erik Brunetti for a proposed name called “FUCT”. The decision went 6-3.   (Story by Nina Totenberg, NPR).

The link to the opinion is here. 
The decision might make it easier to trademark common phrases and words, which might matter in the future for my own “doaskdotell”.  I am aware of controversy, although not related to this case, over the trademark for “Subverse” where I know some of the folks.

There is also a controversy now between “JetBlue” (an airline) and “JetBlack”, a Walmart service (CNBC).

Viva Frei analyzes the Court's opinion and notes that the Lanham act covered the expression of ideas, and that the Court invited Congress to write narrower legislation that protects ideas. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Bicycle supply company hit by trolls defying "Alice"

This is surely one of the most egregious patent trolling cases I have ever heard of. Rock Pepper, owner of Elevengear, which makes products for competitive and recreational cyclists, was pursued by Eclipse IP (now called Electronic Communications Technologies LLC) for infringing on several patents having to do with such a mundane office activity as message delivery.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a detailed story here

The business was saved by “Alice”, a decision that Congress is trying to undo.
In 2008, there was another cyclist in Seattle who was falsely accused of running a “spam blog”. I remember that case.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Congress wants to make trolling easier by not allowing examiners to segregate out common language (Section 101)

Alex Ross from Electronic Frontier Foundation advises that a draft bill to revise Section 101 of the Patent Act would not allow examiners to segregate portions of a claim that are generic functions and already pre-existing technology.

This would encourage more trolling and silly patents (like my database SQL methods for identifying backstories embedded in a novel outline or screenplay – theoretically something that a company like Final Draft could perfect).

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Patent details should not be kept secret (the Uniloc and Apple case)

Here is another problem: some patent details are kept secret from the public and small businesses, and trolls then suddenly ambush businesses with litigation and demands for settlement.

Alex Moss (of Electronic Frontier Foundation) discusses the history of Uniloc, which has tried to collect fees from Apple (a large company, for a change), but Apple convinced a federal judge (Alsup) that sealing documents related to a patent or how an invention works, was improper.

As for my other “innovation”, I’ll start mapping my novel plot this summer with a database key system (on Microsoft Access) to keep track of the backstories and which character knows which fact about which backstory at any given point.  Maybe that could become a “stupid patent of the month” if I wanted it to. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tim Pool describes an international issue with his Subverse channel

Tim Pool is running into an international trademark issue with his Subverse channel, because of a company in the UK associated with porn, it sounds like.

The best way to understand this is just to watch his video and let him explain what is going on.

I could discuss my own history with my own “brands” if he likes.  People did ask questions of me back in the late 1990s, and there were some bizarre battles then (as over the “Epix” brand and a theater in Oregon).
The use of common words and “made up words” for video channels and domains is controversial and more troubling in international trademarks (or North American including Canada) than has been considered here. 

I personally would not be confused by a brand name with a similar name for something else.  Usually I have no problem with this.  

I'll follow this closely.

Update:  April 15

There are a lot of pundits weighing in on this now.  Generally the scuttlebutt is that the two sides should mediate. Rekieta Law interviews Tim on a livestream. 

Friday, April 05, 2019

More possible futures of my "do ask do tell" wordmark

I just wanted to continue the discussion of my use of the “do ask do tell” wordmark string (from the blog post on March 5).

I do believe that the mark would be effective for a motion picture production company (or distribution company), especially for documentary or issue-oriented film. (Yes, Participant Media already is a good example.  So is Annapurna.)
I could be effective for an indie media company that emphasizes balancing both video and blog or text content, with some books and films, maybe especially short issue-oriented films,  It should help visitors “connect the dots” among different issues and should be fairly centrist politically, and probably stay away from identarianism.  Of course, you could add publishing topical books by other indie authors as a small press into the mix, but it won't be "identarian". 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Odd personal experiences with businesses or entities with "accidentally" the same name

Just a bizarre note.  I guess a YouTube comment of mine provoked the “implicit content” problem.

I commenting on a science fair video made a few years ago, I noted Jack Andraka’s (science fair) book “Breakthrough” and that it had enumerated some similar but simpler science experiments at the end.  (Books, March 18, 2015).  I also noted that the book had the same name as a Canadian school science “challenge” a few years back, that had sponsored this experiment.

No, I wasn’t suggesting there was a trademark problem (just because I happen to have this blog and possibly a future issue myself).  Unrelated businesses or products can use the same names, especially when they are common English words (or words in any major language), all the more in different countries.

Take another example.  The Advocate”  is a “mainstream” newspaper in Louisiana, but the “Advocate” is a national gay magazine.  They peacefully co-exist.
In 2012 I wrote blog posts after visiting restaurants in West Virginia (where I normally have traveled a lot) that had similar names to some in Virginia, separately owned and not franchised.  I may have caused a panic, as a couple of them changed their names (as I would find on subsequent visits to the same towns a year or so later).  
The Internet and blogging did cause businesses that used to feel local to be more concerned about this.

It’s like chemistry class.  You put things together that were kept separate before by nature, you don’t know what happens.  The Internet did this.

P.S.: Later today, MSN and Bing shared a Best Life magazine article by Sarah Crow, "30 Things You Won't Believe Are Trademarked: Using these words, sounds and colors could set you up for a lawsuit" -- except that you hope that courts would now look askance at monopolizing an ordinary word (the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington DC is the technology expert on trademark and patent -- including stupid patents and trolling.) That's not the same as the DC Circuit, in a different building at the same Metro stop, Judiciary Square.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Someone finds my "other" real name (John W vs. Bill)

The other day, someone on Twitter gave the link to my old “professional” IT resume in replying to my tweet about covering Chelsea Manning’s grand jury summons (and her subsequent jailing).

The interchange that followed is interesting.    Part 1 and Part 2

It’s true that my nickname became a “pseudonym” which means I occupy two “slots” in the trademark world.  Fortunately my last name (mostly in the Midwest) is uncommon (it’s Bohemian). I expect to address this again at the end of 2021.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Upcoming (at end of 2021) change in my own "domain name" policy for "doaskdotell"

I wanted to make a comment about my use of “doaskdotell” as a legacy site domain name (since Dec. 2, 1999) and doaskdotellnotes (since Dec. 2013).  I've recently discussed a change that I expect to make at the end of 2021 on other sites. 
The “” registration with Network Solutions would expire on Dec. 2, 2021, about 33 months from now.  

Although there has not been much open discussion about the issue of free political content not supported by obvious commercial transactions, I have reason to believe that this will become more problematic in the coming months given the polarized political climate now.  There are problems with payment processors becoming much more likely to ban users (I won’t get into the contention right now that this is due to left-wing activism;  there are plausible legitimate reasons this could be happening, too). And there are many challenges to platforms and hosts allowing users to self-publish that have gotten much more attention than they had, especially before Donald Trump’s election. In any case, it is harder for many sites, run by individuals or small companies, to make money and self-support than it used to be. On the other hand, there is increasing discomfort that content that is “free” to users without transparent financing carries asymmetric risk, too.  It is even possible that when a site is perceived as supported by an estate there could be novel, so far unexplored, legal problems.

I had used a domain called “” (for “Hugh Productivity Publishing”, which I also used for my first two “do ask do tell” books. I transferred all its content to doaskdotell in July 2005 and closed hppub on August 1, 2005.

My intention is that if “doaskdotell” is renewed after Dec 2, 2021, that it be able to support itself with actual consumer transactions, and become a legitimate candidate for a USPTO trademark. I do have some ideas for how to do this, which might include supporting independent bookstores, commercial indie feature (and short subject) film production for the normal indie cinema market. Another interesting idea could be a startup to support paywall bundles.  But I have to have the way I work left undisturbed until that time.

Monday, February 18, 2019

USPTO said to be undermining "Alice" "do it on a computer" patent decision

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that, under political pressure from the Trump administration, the US Patent and Trademark office is issuing guidance for examiners that weakens the use of the Alice v. CLS Holdings rulings limiting abstract patents. Daniel Nazer has a detailed article and “call to action” Feb. 6 here .  

The supporting examples show how this would work, although the decision points seem very subjective.  My idea of diagramming a movie screenplay on a plot table might actually pass.  I wouldn’t be sinful enough to try it.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Case involving selling questionable patents to a Native American tribe gets discussed again after Covington

Back in April 2018, Mike Masnick produced a disturbing story on Techdirt about an apparent scam to “sell” patents to Native American tribes.  In the course of reporting on the issue, a blogger working for Techdirt received a cease-and-desist letter regarding his publication of a photo, which was claimed to be copyrighted, but whose publication might have been protected by Fair Use.

The case may have gotten some more social media attention recently because of the Covington-Gate scandal involving how a certain encounter on the National Mall with Nathan Phillips was (mis)interpreted by activists on social media.  There is a Twitter stream about it now where a tweet by me, really unrelated, somehow gets brought in. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

IBM doubles down on the Alice patent decision with a texting and driving patent

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a “stupid patent of the month” article now directed at IBM with its claim of a broad patent for a “vehicle electronic receptionist” intended to monopolize all smartphone or vehicular software which can stop cell phone use while driving.  OK, the auto insurance companies like it.

But the patent would violate the holdings in Alice v. CLS Bank.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Gillette short film controversy shows how companies change their public political focus for branding motives

Tim Pool has a video about the Gillette "toxic" masculinity ad that actually reflects on branding.
Gillette urged younger men to be “good” (and even respect intersectionality)  rather than be specifically employed and raising families in marriage.

Pool argues that they were trying to change the look of their brand to attract more young male customers (including non-POC).  They may have also been trying to make their brand seem better in the LGBTQ community, where they have to deal with men whose values range from cis masculinity (like Ubanell’s videos) to fluidity.

Corporate film does employ a lot of video technologists and vlogger. (This was particularly true in Minneapolis, where I lived 1997-2003 and networked with IFPMSP). Companies are willing to change their political message to strengthen their brand for a new demographic.  But is certainly has a practical effect on the speech of people working for them, even contractors.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Washington Post tries to take down parody site for trademark infringement

The Washington Post tried to make a trademark claim against “Democracy Awakes” for this spoof of the paper “Unpresidented” with an Orson Welles-like story that Trump had resigned (fake). 
Electronic Frontier Foundation took the Post to task, with this story by Kit Walsh, here. 

Trademark law protects consumers from being misinformed about the identity of the company or entity it is buying a product or service from.  Non-profits (like Blue Cross plans) can have trademarks. But political parodies cannot.  Although I can imagine arguments regarding possibly misleading potential voters.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Collusion" as a domain name for a political journalism site causes a cease-and-desist from a fashion brand which fears the connection to "Trump" drives consumers away

Daniel Nazer at EFF has an important story of a really abusive trademark claim.

A site had been established with the domain name “” which maps to this url regarding possible evidence of Donald Trump’s purported collusion with Russia, before and after the 2016 election.

Yet the domain owner got a red-lettered cease-and-desist letter from a British clothing company Asos, which apparently uses the word in one of its fashion products.

US trademark law usually does not allow the reservation of common words in a way to keep unrelated businesses from using the word in a completely related business or political or artistic cause.

But it’s interesting that the stormy relationship between trademark law and domains evolved so haphazardly in the late 1990s (as with the “Epix” case).

I looked at the Asos fashion site. So many of the male models were heavily tattooed.  I don’t know what to make of that.   I can remember when Blogtyrant was promoting the idea of fashion blogs in particular.
It sounds plausible that one reason for the dispute in this case is that Asos fears that drawing attention to a current US political crisis will discourage sales to consumers psychologically.  Using "collusion" as a fashion product brand name may have turned out to be unfortunate. 
But there is also a business and site called ASUS, with a “u”, which is also a computer manufacturer from Taiwan.  I have an ASYS laptop.

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.