Posted: April 16th, 2013
By: Stephen C. Pritchard *
The advent of digital media, including online music stores, e-books, and the ability to purchase and/or rent movies with one click, has resulted in an increase in individual copies of such media only previously seen with the invention of the printing press, the 8-track, and the VHS. None of those creations can come close to reaching the explosive upturn in media that the Internet has allowed, however. With this start comes the question of where digital media will go next in terms of growth and expansion.
One of the areas most likely to be successful is that of digital media reselling or lending. This raises major intellectual property issues and will also be of great concern to publishers, movies studios, and recording companies. Amazon and Apple, arguably two of the largest digital media providers, both recently began forays into the area by filing patents to essentially create systems or markets for their customers to resell or swap their digital media. Continue reading »
Posted: April 1st, 2013
By: Alan Guffy *
On January 11, 2013, young internet prodigy Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment. Swartz may not have the instant name recognition of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg, but at just twenty-six years old, he had amassed an impressive list of achievements. As a teenager, Swartz worked on RSS, developed new standards to support the semantic web, helped create the news aggregation site Reddit, became a digital activist who founded Watchdog.net and Demand Progress, and actively campaigned against the Stop Online Piracy Act. Many believe, including friends and family, that Aaron’s suicide was caused by an ongoing federal criminal action against him under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for “hacking” MIT’s network and downloading millions of academic articles from the scholastic database JSTOR. Swartz allegedly planned to distribute these articles on peer-to-peer networks for free. If convicted, Swartz faced over thirty-five years in federal prison. JSTOR itself did not support the prosecution.
Aaron Swartz’s tragic death has brought popular attention to a movement to reform the CFAA. Activists like the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Trevor Timm argue that a new generation of tech wunderkinds are being dissuaded from the kinds of fringe activities that allowed industry leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg to get their feet wet before founding companies that changed the world. But what sort of impact could a law that targets hackers really have on the development of technology and new intellectual properties? Continue reading »
Posted: March 31st, 2013
By: Allison McCowan *
It might not come as a shock that you cannot name your computer company “Apple Computers” because, of course, the name is already trademarked by a huge multibillion dollar international company, Apple. However, the same obvious factor doesn’t ring true for all brand and company names. Surprisingly, if you were planning on launching a line of women’s sportswear with the name “Jesus Couture,” you are going to run into some problems because an Italian pants maker beat you to the “Jesus” name years ago.
In 2007, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted ownership of the word “Jesus” to Jesus Jeans, owned by a publicly-traded Italian company, BasicNet, giving the company exclusive rights in America to sell clothing bearing the name “Jesus.” The Jesus Jeans trademark applies to clothing articles including jackets, vests, shirts, pants and belts. With the exception of the U.S. and the European Union, other countries haven’t been so keen to allow “Jesus” to be trademarked. BasicNet’s attempts to trademark “Jesus” have been turned down in Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Switzerland, Australia, Norway, and Cuba. Britain’s patent office rejected Jesus Jean’s application as “morally offensive to the public.” Britain’s patent office feared that the name “Jesus” would be “debased” if it were used to sell articles of clothing or other household products. Continue reading »
Posted: March 27th, 2013
By: Lindsey Chessum *
ECONOMIC PROWESS STILL IS A CONCERN OF NATIONAL SECURITY
Recently, there has been a tirade of executive orders and government announcements concerning cyber attacks. All circling back to issues of economic stability and national security.
The concern is that cyber attacks involve theft of trade secrets. Trade secrets include client lists, business models, or product ingredients like the recipe for Coca-Cola. Theft can cost millions or billions of dollars from a single instance leading to layoffs, lost sales, office or factory closures, and even bankruptcy. Essentially businesses lose their competitive edge. The traditional method of espionage was to recruit former or current employees, but cyber attacks are an increasingly real danger.
In regards to national security, Gen. Keith Alexander, the top officer at U.S. Cyber Command, heads 13 teams with the mission of guarding the U.S. in cyberspace. He does not consider trade secret theft or espionage to be acts of war until the intent becomes to “disrupt or destroy the U.S. infrastructure.” This could involve targeting banking institutions, chemical facilities, or water treatment plants. Then a line has been crossed and national security is at stake. Continue reading »
Posted: March 22nd, 2013
By: Claire Little *
In January, one of the most buzzed about movies at Sundance Film Festival was Escape from Tomorrow, a Disney-themed cinematic thrill ride. The debut film of writer-director Randy Moore, Escape from Tomorrow is a fantasy-horror film that follows a family on vacation at Walt Disney World. But the park is no magical kingdom for the family. Instead, its influence encourages the father’s collapse into insanity. Jim White, the father played by Roy Abramsohn, starts his wild ride after receiving a phone call from his boss announcing that Jim has been laid-off. The call sends him on a downward spiral complete with Jim longing for underage girls, hallucinations involving Disney characters and props, and a feigned suicide attempt at a Disney attraction. The movie culminates with a brainwashing scene underneath Epcot’s Spaceship Earth and Jim’s death at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, a Disney hotel. The movie leaves viewers with the message that perpetual happiness is unattainable, even at Disney World. Continue reading »
Posted: March 18th, 2013
By: Cory Howard *
Vringo, a company known for the video ringtones it makes for mobile phones, has been a somewhat surprising, yet significant player in the patent battle over search engine software. Most of the patent litigation has been undertaken by I/P Engine, a subsidiary of Vringo, that has often been accused of being a patent troll (acquiring patents primarily for litigious, instead of development, purposes). In late 2012, Vringo sold over 9.6 million shares of stock to raise over $31 million to buy 500 patents, including the two at issue from Nokia. Although the patents were only initially worth $20 million, Vringo’s continued patent litigation strategy has increased the potential for their long-term value to increase. After acquiring patent #6,314,420 (Collaborative/Adaptive Search Engine) and patent #6,775,664 (“Information Filter System and Method for Integrated Content-Based and Collaborative/Adaptive Feedback Queries”), Vringo has successfully brought suit against Google, AOL, Gannett, IAC, and Target. The patents at issue permit the search software to match advertisements to queries run by the search engine’s users. These patents are essential to the ranking and placement of ads in search results and thus, they are integral for search engines’ marketing revenue. Continue reading »
Posted: March 8th, 2013
By: Lena Mualla *
Russian Railways (RZD) has sued Apple, alleging that Apple has committed trademark infringement. It is seeking 2 million rubles, which is about $66,000. The state-owned railway reported: “RZD intends to protect its intellectual property, especially since the trademark is well known in the Russian Federation.” Basically, the company alleges that by allowing a third-party app developer to use its logo, Apple has committed trademark infringement. The app allows users to calculate their cargo tariff when traveling. The app picture features the RZD logo with a picture of train tracks below it. Continue reading »
Posted: March 6th, 2013
By: Rebeca Echevarria *
As we envision our future, we like to think that a well-crafted will can ensure that our will is carried out after we die. We rely on the idea that contracts will be upheld after we are gone and plan for the manner in which our estate will be handled after our passing. Like many of us, Ray Charles relied on this idea as well.
Before his passing, Ray Charles entered into a signed agreement with his children that in exchange for half a million dollars each, they would relinquish any future claims on his estate. He then, in his last will and testament, donated the remainder of his estate to the Ray Charles Foundation, including the copyright royalties from approximately sixty of his songs under contract with various labels. Since 1986, the Ray Charles Foundation—then known as the Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders—has provided financial support in the area of hearing disorders and supported institutions and organizations for educational purposes. Continue reading »
Posted: March 4th, 2013
By: Stephen DeGrow *
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store recently launched a new strategy that analysts, quoted by USA Today, say is “a low-risk way to broaden brand awareness, appeal and revenues.” The strategy involves a licensing agreement with Smithfield Foods’ subsidiary John Morrell and entails selling ham, bacon, glazes, and other meats in grocery stores under the Cracker Barrel name.
The agreement follows older attempts by Cracker Barrel to expand beyond its restaurant chain. The company once started an unsuccessful fast food branch and a stand alone retail store. This time around, however, analysts are saying good things about the new strategy. Continue reading »
Posted: February 27th, 2013
By: Lindsey Chessum *
CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT
Cisco Systems, Inc. (“Cisco”), one of the largest producers of computer networking equipment, embarked on a campaign in December spending $100 million in hopes of creating a new image. It launched its campaign with a meeting of analysts in New York, quickly followed by a deluge of print materials, webcasts, and commercials. The tagline, “Tomorrow Starts Here.”
This was meant to be a turning point for Cisco. In summer 2012, Cisco’s stock hit a low of $15.12 (compare with low of $15.17 in November 2008), and negative press revolved about the layoff of 1,300 workers. This was Cisco’s coming out after a period of underperformance. This was to be a milestone turning point. Continue reading »