Friday, August 05, 2011

USA vs. Europe: Two Different Financial Crises: Ezra Klein at The Washington Post Assesses the Situation

At the Washington Post with Bloomberg Business, Ezra Klein in Wonkbook: Don't worry about the bond vigilantes. Worry about the growth vigilantes. writes:
"The other day, a smart investor told me that he simply found Europe more interesting than the United States right now. Europe, he said, was dealing with something real. It was testing whether the Eurozone could survive, and whether economic crisis proves the need for more integration, or the impossibility of the monetary alliance. America, he said, was obsessed with problems of its own making. We have the capacity to do what is needed and we have the knowledge to know what is needed but we can't seem to simply muster the political will to do it. He's right."
That may or may not be correct, but it is interesting, in either case.

The actual problem as we view it is that the world's wealth is badly distributed. Very small minorities (individuals, institutions, governments) control immense wealth while the mass of the earth's inhabitants have less than their fair share, even though they create much of that wealth through their work.

Where do the wealth minorities put their money? Well, they invest it. They put it in banks, currencies, in stocks and bonds, and in real estate, to take some of the major options. No matter how much wealth is present, people are constantly trying to increase their wealth -- but where does that increase come from? Who are the losers?

Let us take one of those investment objects -- real estate -- to see why the world has substantial financial problems.

As long as people buy residential houses ("homes") just for living there, prices remain sane and sensible. But when people, individually or as companies or banks begin putting their money into real estate as an investment, the prices of real estate are driven proportionately upwards as more and more money is invested. Residential housing becomes more and more expensive and prices no longer have any real connection to the utility of housing as a domicile. At some point, so much money has been invested in residential houses that people can increasingly no longer afford to buy them, or pay their mortgages on them -- that is the housing bubble -- and "poof", the bubble will burst.

Prices of residential houses in the United States and Europe are still overpriced in terms of their actual utility in the economic system. Frankly, people should not be allowed to speculate with housing. Rather, they should have to invest their money in the process of creating new products and services, as needed.

But as long as people are paying mortgages not only for the utility of having a roof over their head -- i.e. for the true value of their home -- but also to finance somebody's wealth, then things will be askew, as they are.

In America, that process has reached a critical stage. Either the process is reversed sensibly by society's institutions, or there is ultimately upheaval. That is one of the lessons of history.

Patent Reform Doesn't Quite Get It: Brad Plumer Reports at Ezra Klein at The Washington Post

Current Congressional patent reform may miss correcting the main evils of current patent practices. Brad Plumer at Ezra Klein at The Washington Post explains to us When patent reform isn’t really about patent reform.

When Patents Attack! A Podcast by This American Life from WBEZ: Produced by Chicago Public Radio and Distributed by Public Radio International

"The Patent Trolls" might be the next Hollywood blockbuster, who knows? Take a look at When Patents Attack! A Podcast by This American Life from WBEZ: Produced by Chicago Public Radio and Distributed by Public Radio International.

The Patent Wars Revisited: Google and Android Versus the World

At SFGate of the San Francisco Chronicle in Dot.Commentary at Google's patent gripes have merit, but go too far, James Temple looks at the patent wars, writing:
"The central problem here is that the U.S. Patent Office grants protection to so many dubious and unworthy inventions that the entire system is collapsing into a series of lawsuits, countersuits and borderline extortion schemes."
The problem is not new and LawPundit has been writing about it for years. In fact, for years, the LawPundit was one of the few writing about it.

The existing patent system is supported by a lot of hype about the economic benefits of patents, much of that simply untrue.

The economy can not live from patents. It lives, rather, from the creation, manufacture and sale of goods and services -- real products. When patent trolls, greedy investors and overinflated executive compensation and bonuses suck the life out of companies, what is left?

European Union EU Trademark Law: OHIM Board of Appeal Says No to National Geographic Trademark for Traditional Yellow Rectangular Frame on Magazine Cover

Note: OHIM is the European Union agency responsible for registering trade marks and designs that are valid in all 27 countries of the EU.

We are great fans of National Geographic Magazine,
but in trying to get a blanket European trademark
for their traditional yellow magazine border,
the National Geographic Society has gone a bit too far,
and so the OHIM Board of Appeal recently decided,
finding the magazine border in the image below
not subject to a blanket trademark for all 27 EU Member States.




As written at TaylorWessing Brands Update:

"Not only does this case confirm the general trend in CTM case-law that it has become increasingly difficult to register relatively basic geometric shapes as marks at OHIM, but that proving acquired distinctiveness of non-word marks is a very tall order given the need to show this for all 27 Member States."
By the way, ponder for a moment how you would trademark a particular color code for a border like that in terms of online color coding? or could you trademark a "range" of online colors so as to exclude potential similarities? How much would a color on a border have to diverge in order NOT to infringe such a color-based trademark? what about the dimensions of the border? how about book borders? or picture frames?

Design Patents and Copyrights: A Good Example Showing Two Distinct Women's Bags in Quality AND Design: Let the MARKET Decide


First of all, as a man, what do I know about women's handbags?
Really, not a lot. So I think I look at this neutrally.
At best, I grumble at the dearth of decent men's wallets in passport size here in Germany. An average wallet is simply too small.
But I can distinguish QUALITY.

At the New York Times On the Runway, Cathy Horyn in Proenza Schouler Doesn’t Care for Target’s Messenger discusses the problem of copied designs in fashion.

Based on this particular example, such designs should surely not be protected by copyrights OR design patents.

At Addressing Fashion’s Intellectual Property Conundrum, The Business of Fashion (BoF) reproduces the following photograph from purseblog.com which shows the "high fashion" Proenza Schouler PS1 at the left and the everyday "imitation fashion" Target Mossimo Messenger at the right.





L: Proenza Schouler PS1. R: Target Mossimo® Messenger | Source: purseblog.com

I trust the females of this world to be able to distinguish a high quality and very high-priced Proenza-Schouler leather bag (from ca. $895 to $4250) from the somewhat "similar-looking" (I think it is a stretch to say they "are" similar) and clearly much lower quality low-priced $35 mass market Target imitation leather bag with cheaper strap design etc.

The odds that a legitimate potential buyer of the high quality Proenza-Schouler bag would switch to the much lower quality bag are zero, nor will a buyer of an exquisitely designed Proenza-Schouler bag shirk away from that brand because of such cheap mass market non-identical copies in the same Target store.

The buyers of these bags come from two different financial worlds. It is like comparing a Mercedes with a low-priced compact car. All cars bear a lot of similarity to each other because they exercise a similar function, under the motto that FORM follows FUNCTION. But DETAILS are at the root of QUALITY. Both of these bags are easily distinguishable.

It is this kind of problem in other fields that is treated exactly opposite by the patent laws and patent court decisions, that would surely award a monopoly patent on this design if they could and then prohibit ANYTHING SIMILAR from ever coming onto the market, at any price. Indeed, any bag with two straps would probably be suspect as a patent infringement!

Surely the law has better things to do than getting involved in design quagmires -- and that applies to entire field of patents, where nearly everything designed is found in one form or another in prior art. EVERYTHING.

The MARKET should decide, NOT ill-considered monopolies granted by the law.

That is the basis of capitalism.

Copyrights and Patents in UK Ready for Government Overhaul of Laws Pursuant to Ian Hargreave Review of Intellectual Property (IP) Law Reform Needs


According to ZDNet UK, the copyright and patent system in the United Kingdom is ready for an overhaul based on its response to Ian Hargreave's intellectual property review, a report which says UK must modernise its IP laws:
""IP law must adapt to change," Hargreaves wrote. "Digital communications technology involves routine copying of text, images and data, meaning that copyright law has started to act as a regulatory barrier to the creation of certain kinds of new, internet-based businesses... Throughout the review, we have sought to base our judgments on economic evidence and we advise [the] government to frame its policy decisions on that basis." ...
In addition, Hargreaves urged the government to resist introducing patents for software and business processes, and to work more closely with other EU countries to introduce a pan-European patent system."
See:

Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth

The Government Response to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth

Turntable.fm as Social Networking Meshed With Music by Radio: But Is it Legal under the Copyright Laws?

Turntable.fm has been picking up a lot of users as website that meshes social networking with music "discovery" by radio. At the online site, users cannot select individual songs but can select from various listening "rooms" manned by DJs who play a panoply of songs that one can listen to, much as a radio station.... In addition, there is gaming and online chatting.

But what about music copyrights?

At Billboard.com Glenn Peoples in Inside Turntable.fm: Social Networking Meets Internet Radio (see page 2 there) writes:
"Under the DMCA, noninteractive webcasts and online simulcasts of terrestrial radio -- which don't enable listeners to listen to a song on-demand -- can play music without negotiating licenses with labels and music publishers. Instead, they can play music under a statutory license that requires them to pay rights-holders a per-stream royalty through SoundExchange. Some label executives say privately that they suspect Turntable.fm doesn't fit the definition of a truly noninteractive webcaster...."
Does it or does it not ... fit the definition? Is there a difference between choosing between individual radio stations as opposed to individual DJs in online rooms?

Terry Hart at Copyhype asks: Is Turntable.fm Legal?

It would seem to us that if the online Djs pick the songs, then the listerner does not select the music directly, and hence it is a form of radio. Note that use of Turntable.fm is by invitation only and is thus far restricted to the United States only, otherwise you are out of luck and will get a "US only" message".

Eon-Net LP v. Flagstar Bancorp (Fed. Cir. 2011: Patents as Extortion: Federal Circuit Issues Sanctions Against Patent Troll for Bad Faith Litigation in Filing a Frivolous Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Eon-Net LP v. Flagstar Bancorp (Fed. Cir. 2011

Robert Wagner, intellectual property attorney at Picadio Sneath Miller & Norton, P.C. in Federal Circuit Sanctions Non-Practicing Entity [NPE] for Baseless Lawsuit — Eon-Net LP v. Flagstar Bancorp summarizes the case at hand -- Eon-Net LP v. Flagstar Bancorp (Fed. Cir. 2011 -- as follows:
"On Friday, the Federal Circuit issued a decision in Eon-Net LP v. Flagstar Bancorp, (No. 09-1308) reminding defendants that there are other options for defendants facing frivolous lawsuits. The Court in a unanimous decision affirmed a district court’s decision to award over $600,000 in attorney fees and sanctions under 35 U.S.C. § 285 and Rule 11 against an NPE for filing a frivolous patent infringement lawsuit. The Federal Circuit panel consisted of Judges Lourie, Mayer, and O’Malley."
Gene Quinn at IPWatchdog.com in Indicia of Extortion writes:
"[T]his type of harassing troll litigation is proliferating and needs to be stopped....

This type of egregious behavior by nefarious actors (i.e., patent trolls) needs to be characterized as patent misuse, which would taint the patents and render them incapable of being enforced. Defendants also need to unite and bring a RICO action [against] these bad acting non-practicing entities. Extortion can be captured by RICO and that is exactly what these bad actors engage in. It would do the federal government well to investigate as well. The Federal Trade Commission should go after these nefarious actors for engaging in unfair business practices."
At Patently-O, Jason Rantanen in Eon-Net v. Flagstar Bancorp: Exceptional Case after Remand prefaces his summary of the case by writing:
"This decision is an important opinion in the area of litigation sanctions entered against a patentee, and should be read in conjunction with two cases issued earlier this year, iLor v. Google, 631 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2011), and Old Reliable v. Cornell, 635 F.3d 539 (Fed. Cir. 2011). Patently-O commentary on those cases can be found here and here."

Fair Use Myths in Copyright Law Analyzed at Inside Higher Ed (Education) by Professor Patricia Aufderheide of American University

Fair use is a troublesome doctrine in copyright law for many observers because it carves out an important and necessary exception to the copyright protection given to authors by intellectual property laws.

As they say, "you can quote me", but the question always is, how much, where and when?

At Inside Higher Ed

Patricia Aufderheide presents Views: Myths About Fair Use.

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