Quotulatiousness

March 9, 2013

Good news and bad news about border searches of your electronic devices

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:32

Declan McCullagh on the mixed news from a recent court ruling:

U.S. customs officials must have a reasonable justification before snatching your laptop at the border and scanning through all your files for incriminating data, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Homeland Security’s border agents must have “reasonable suspicion” before they can legally conduct a forensics examination of laptops, mobile phones, camera memory cards, and so on.

Today’s opinion is a limited — but hardly complete — rejection of the Obama administration’s claim that any American entering the country may have his or her electronic files minutely examined for evidence of criminal activity. Homeland Security has said the electronic border searches could detect terrorists, drug smugglers, and people violating “copyright or trademark laws.”

February 24, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the case of public domain

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:36

Following up on an earlier post (“The case of the over-extended copyright“), The Economist explains why there is still legal wrangling going on over the copyright claims on Sherlock Holmes:

The situation is muddled by differing copyright regimes in America and elsewhere. No one disputes that the copyright has expired on Conan Doyle’s work anywhere where protection ceases 70 years after an author’s death (he died in 1930). Yet when America reformed its copyright rules in 1978 to introduce a “life plus” model in harmony with the rest of the world for works created starting in 1978, it retained its older term-limited system for property created between 1923 and 1977. Works produced within that range have had their expiration extended to a fixed 95-year term from first publication; anything produced earlier is in the public domain. This umbrella of protection covers ten Holmes stories published in America for the first time as part of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes in 1927. These stories are still under copyright until January 1st 2023.

[. . .]

The estate also asserts some trademark rights on the Holmes characters, but Mr Klinger confirms to your correspondent that this was not part of the license claim. Jennifer Jenkins, the director of Duke University’s Centre for the Study of the Public Domain, says trademark protection would be inapplicable, in any case. “Trademark law doesn’t fit what they’re claiming to own or what they’re trying to stop,” she says. Ms Jenkins also dismisses any copyright claim the estate might have to any pre-1923 elements of Holmes’s biography. “The problem is that Sherlock Holmes and Watson are quite clearly in the public domain.” The estate did not respond to a request for details about its intellectual property.

[. . .]

An expert in the duration of copyright terms in America, Peter Hirtle of Cornell University finds no basis for the Conan Doyle estate to claim general ownership over aspects of Holmes from stories that are in the public domain. “Let’s imagine that the fact that Holmes plays the violin was included for the first time in one of the copyrighted stories,” he says via e-mail, “then it can’t be included in any new story that draws on the public domain versions.” But if the “Company” stories rely entirely on public-domain elements, then the estate has no ground to stand on, he adds.

February 6, 2013

You can say “Space” and you can say “Marines”, but you can’t say “Space Marines”

Filed under: Gaming, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:40

Apparently Games Workshop owns the trademarked term “Space Marines”, so nobody else is supposed to use it:

For years, there have been stories about Games Workshop being trademark bullies and sending threats to people who use the term “space marine” in connection with games. But now that they’ve started publishing ebooks, Games Workshop has begun to assert a trademark on the generic, widely used, very old term “space marine” in connection with science fiction literature.

[. . .]

A few important notes:

* Amazon didn’t have to honor the takedown notice. Takedown notices are a copyright thing, a creature of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They don’t apply to trademark claims. This is Amazon taking voluntary steps that are in no way required in law.

* Games Workshop’s strategy is to make “space marine” less generic by launching high profile, bullying attacks on everyone who uses it, so that there will come a day when people hearing the phrase immediately conclude that it must be related to Games Workshop, because everyone know what colossal dicks they are whenever anyone else uses the phrase

* Trademarks only apply to commercial works. You can and should use “space marine” in your everyday speech, fanfic, tweets and so on. For one thing, it will undermine Games Workshop’s attempts to homestead our common language.

Update: John Scalzi clearly feels the claim lacks merit:

I am not a lawyer, so factor that in here. That said: Games Workshop, really? You know, a simple search on the term “space marines” over at Google Books shows a crapload of prior art for “space marines” in science fiction literature, from the 1936 Amazing Tales novelette “The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen, to Robert Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet, to the very recent use of the term in The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Reubens and So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch. There is no lack of evidence that the phrase “space marines” has been used rather promiscuously in science fiction literature up to this point.

To argue, as Games Workshop must, that the phrase “space marines” has a distinctive character in science fiction literature relating only to their product involves, shall we say, a certain studied ignorance of the field. Table top games? Possibly; I’m not an expert. Science fiction literature? You have got to be kidding. It’s pretty damn generic in this field, and was long before 1987, when Warhammer 40,000 was created in game form . Nor does it seem, as far as I know, that Games Workshop attempted to claim trademark on the phrase “space marine” before, despite a veritable plethora of Warhammer 40K tie-in literature using the phrase.

February 1, 2013

Nicely played, Samsung

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:05

At Techdirt, Timothy Geigner tries to talk about something to do with football or advertising:

It’s almost that time of year again, when many of us lesser beings will gather together to watch super-human men on all manner of PEDs and deer antler urine sprays smack each other around while an oblong leather ball sits somewhere in the background. We’ll leap for the pizza and chili like salmon during mating season while, between whistles, obligatory commercials with Avatar-like production budgets glow at us. That’s right sports fans, it’s [editor redacted] time!

Wait, hey! What the hell? I said it’s [editor redacted] time! Oh, come on. I can’t say [editor redacted]? Fine, what about a euphemism, like [editor redacted]? No, can’t say that either? Maybe [editor redacted]? Damn it, this is stupid. I’m talking about something that rhymes with “Pooper Hole” (heh, got you, editor!).

Fortunately for our entertainment sensibilities, Samsung decided this year to combine a distaste for trademark stupidity and our concept of advertising being content in this gem of a spot.

EFF joins effort to quash “Gaymer” trademark

Filed under: Gaming, Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:27

Chris Vizzini registered the trademark “Gaymer” in March of 2008. More recently he’s started trying to enforce his trademark by sending a cease-and-desist letter to Reddit, which has a large, active, vocal gay gamer community in the r/gaymers subreddit. If you know anything about Reddit communities, you’ll not be surprised that they’ve rallied to fight against Vizzini’s efforts to shut them down:

The response was immediate. The first option presented was to change the subreddit’s name. Others looked to see if the trademark could even be considered valid, tracking down examples of prior use, one of them dating all the way back to 1991. Also discussed was the possibility of licensing the term for a nominal fee, the downside being that even if Vizzini did accept, it would do nothing to prevent him from pursuing others who used the word “gaymer.”

While the trademark’s description seemed to cover a large portion of Reddit’s “goods and services” (with a few notable differences), the discussion focused on whether or not Vizzini should have been able to trademark what many viewed as a descriptive or generic term.

The stakes were raised again when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) became an active participant:

And, as if facing the wrath of united redditors wasn’t enough, the EFF has now joined the push to have this trademark cancelled.

    [I]n a petition filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, the group asks the USPTO to cancel the “gaymer” trademark registration so that people around the world can continue to use the word without interference.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firm Perkins Coie represent the Reddit gaymers — members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community who have an active interest in video games…

    “This registration should never have been granted,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “Gaymer is a common term that refers to members of this vibrant gaming community, and we are happy to help them fight back and make sure the term goes back to the public domain where it belongs.”

    “Trademarks have one primary purpose: to protect consumers from confusion about the source of goods or services,” said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. “This registration isn’t being used to protect consumers — it’s being used to threaten free speech.”

EFF’s petition cites the same complaints the redditors discussed: that the word “gaymer” is both generic and descriptive and that it predates Vizzini’s application for exclusive use of the term (in relation to the services listed above — there’s also an unrelated Gaymer line of ciders). Whether or not the USPTO will find this argument convincing remains to be seen. Many dubious claims have made their way unscathed through the registration office in years past. The main benefit of this action is it puts the pressure on Vizzini to defend his claim to the term, something he may have no interest in doing.

January 29, 2013

Next year’s calendars will be for the year “2013+1″ to avoid paying the IOC a licensing fee

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Media, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Just when you think the depths of idiocy have been fully plumbed, there’s the International Olympic Committee to prove you wrong:

Via the IPKat we learn that the IOC has already locked down next year in preparation for the Winter Olympics. No, seriously. A trademark on the number “2014,” which non-coincidentally happens to be a (lesser) Olympic year, has been granted by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.

    The IPKat’s attention has been drawn to Community Trade Mark E3307444. The mark in question consists of the number “2014″, which no-one would ever imagine to be the appellation by which next year might just be known. Applied for in 2003 and registered in 2005, this mark is owned by none other than the Comité International Olympique of Château de Vidy, Lausanne.

So, with the kind of efficiency you only find in the most brutal of trademark bullies, the IOC has trademarked a number many people were planning to use starting next January, nine years in advance. And the IOC isn’t leaving anything to chance. It has staked a claim on all 45 of the possible registration classes, including (but good god, certainly not limited to) chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals/alloys, machines, tools, scientific equipment, surgical instruments, lighting, heating, vehicles, firearms, musical instruments, furniture, ropes, tarps, string, textiles, toys, coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables, beer, other alcoholic beverages, tobacco, insurance, conferences and seminars, design and development of computer programs, restaurant services, asbestos and security.

Anything and everything possibly covered by a registered trademark has been nailed down by the Committee, making it very possible that anyone using the number “2014″ in the year 2014 might find themselves dealing with the IOC’s trademark cops.

July 20, 2011

Another aspect of China’s amazing economic growth

Filed under: China, Economics, Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:28

Steve Jobs might want to look at the Chinese market a bit more carefully . . . something’s happening that he may need to pay closer attention to:

The Western news media is replete with pithy descriptions of the rapid changes taking place in China: China has the world’s fastest growing economy. China is undergoing remarkable and rapid change. This represents a unique moment for a society changing as quickly as China.

You probably read such things in the paper every day — but if you have never been to China, I’m not sure you know quite what this means on a mundane level. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, in the 2+ years that RP and I have been in our apartment, much of the area around us has been torn down, rebuilt, or gutted and renovated – in some cases, several times over. I had the thought, only half-jokingly, that when we returned from a couple months abroad, we might not be able to recognize our apartment building. Or that it might not be there at all.

As it turns out, my fears were baseless — our scrappy little home remains. The neighborhood, however, has definitely kicked it up a notch or seven. Starbucks has opened not one, but THREE branches (that I encountered) within a 10 minute walk of one another. An H&M has opened across from our apartment building. These are the kinds of major Western brands that were previously only represented in Kunming by fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC. Our neighborhood has quickly become the swanky shopping center of the city.

Update, 21 July: Andrew Orlowski thinks I’ve been taken in by a non-story:

Some stories are so unusual, you immediately wonder if they’re too good to be true. On Tuesday, a Western NGO in China posted a remarkable tale, reporting that ingenious Chinese retailers in a medium-sized provincial city called Kunming had cloned an Apple Retail Store, faithfully reproducing the staff T-shirts, furniture, display material, and name tags.

[. . .]

But another 10 seconds with Google would reveal that in China, as in the UK and many other countries, Apple has a network of authorised resellers. Apple lays down very strict guidelines on how the resellers must present the gear. The sales material is Apple’s, and the specifications are extremely precise. And to be an Apple “Premium Reseller”, you have to look a lot like an Apple Apple Store, but naturally, you can’t call yourself one. There are hundreds of these, with Apple manufacturer Foxconn’s brother Gou Tai-chang planning 100.

[. . .]

Think of it like this: if you had a Jaguar showroom, anywhere in the world, would you operate from a dodgy lock-up and advertise it with a hand-painted sign? I thought not. You’d want it to look as slick and expensive as the real thing. I’m not sure why we expect Chinese Apple resellers not to do so, too.

February 23, 2011

Now you can’t have “Cornish Pasties” unless they’re from Cornwall

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:16

Apparently the poor bakers of Cornwall have been driven to the edge by unfair competition. They’ve been fighting the tide of so called “Cornish Pasties” that have never been within hundreds of miles of Cornwall. Now, thanks to the intrepid bureaucrats of Brussels, the Cornish Pasty now has the same kind of name protection as Champagne:

Aficionados of the Cornish pasty will in future be assured that their pasty is the real deal, following a European Commission ruling that only pasties prepared in Cornwall in the traditonal way can be labelled “Cornish”.

Cornish maiden bearing platter of genuine Cornish pasties. Photo: Cornish Pasty AssociationThe announcement that the pasty has been granted “protected geographical indication” (PGI) marks a great day for the Cornish Pasty Association, which for nine years has battled to protect its product from pretenders pumping out non-traditional imitations “inferior in both quality and taste”.

I’ve always been a big fan of “Cornish Pasties”, but I now discover that I’ve apparently been cheated all these years: I’ve never actually eaten a “real” Cornish Pasty in my entire life! (And given that I’ve never been to Cornwall, I may never try one . . .)

November 11, 2010

Even more reason to believe that ACTA is a bad deal

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:45

From the folks at BoingBoing:

New revelations on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a secretive global copyright being privately negotiated by rich countries away from the UN: ACTA will require ISPs to police trademarks the way they currently police copyright. That means that if someone accuses you of violating a trademark with a web-page, blog-post, video, tweet, etc, your ISP will be required to nuke your material without any further proof, or be found to be responsible for any trademark violations along with you. And of course, trademark violations are much harder to verify than copyright violations, since they often hinge on complex, fact-intensive components like tarnishment, dilution and genericization. Meaning that ISPs are that much more likely to simply take all complaints at face-value, leading to even more easy censorship of the Internet with nothing more than a trumped-up trademark claim.

October 28, 2010

Clothing designers now in rumble with motorcycle gang

Filed under: Law, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:09

Fight! Fight! Trademark case! Trademark case!

The Hells Angels are apparently going to war with British fashion house Alexander McQueen after accusing the couturiers of infringing on their trademarks.

The California-based motorcycle club, whose fearsome reputation includes the sudden and brutal application of trademark lawyers, believes the dressmakers, and its retailers, have overstepped the mark with a series of clothes and accessories featuring a skull and wings death head design.

Alexander McQueen, whose eponymous founder committed suicide earlier this year, allegedly sold items including a $495 Hells Four Finger Ring and a $1595 Hells Angels Jaquard Box Dress, the Hells Angels charge.

October 7, 2009

Maybe they’re using these cases to train their lawyers?

Filed under: Law, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:49

Apple is litigating against another company for claimed infringement on their logo:

Hey, Apple, Inc.: Every apple can’t be yours.

The latest target of your intellectual property monopoly effort is Woolworths Ltd., apparently a shirttail sibling of the five-and-dime stores I remember as a kid, but which is no longer operating in the U.S.

It seems Apple, Inc., maker of iMacs, iPods, iPhones and, historically, Apple IIs and IIIs, thinks Woolworths’ clever stylized logo, wedding its “W” initial into a green image of the fruit, infringes on Apple, Inc.’s trademark.

Comparing_Apple_Logos

There may actually be some merit in this case (although not enough to overturn common sense, I would hope), in that Woolworths is planning on using the brand on electronic devices as well as its more traditional lines of products.

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