Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fourth Annual ONLY WATCH Charity Auction: Monaco Hosts One-of-a-Kind Watch Auction | Robb Report

ONLY WATCH Charity Auction
Hotel Hermitage
September 23, 2011

See Monaco Hosts One-of-a-Kind Watch Auction | Robb Report who write:
"The complete Only Watch 2011 collection will be sold by horological auction house Antiquorum Auctioneers, and the watches run the gamut from $8,000 to $600,000. All proceeds will be donated to research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy."

Minimalist Rounded Corner Design is Ubiquitous, So Why Should One Company be able to get ANY Rights to That Design

I was looking at SAMSUNG TOMORROW Global and the image at Galaxy Tab 10.1 – Minimalist Design.

It is clear just by viewing the title of that web page that Samsung has also adopted a minimalist design focus, similar to Apple products, but "minimalist" means just that, there is not a lot of design there to be similar to. It is simply a rectangle with rounded corners and a bezel (frame) around the rectangular LCD or similar display.

This is the Apple iPad shape:

The legal question is really whether any company can obtain exclusive design rights to a rectangle with rounded corners, a rectangle that has been used as a basic figure of geometry for ages.

Here is a website selling a rounded corner wood molding frame:

Here is a website selling a silver photo frame with rounded corners:

Here is a website selling metal card frames (7 x 11 inches).

Here is website selling a Rounded Corner Frame Door Chime  (8 x 5 1/8 inches): 

Why should Apple be able to claim this timeless rectangular design as its own?

The Braun Company Legacy of Design

The video shows the comparison between the iPhone and the Braun ET44 (viz. ET66):

The famous Braun company name in design has nothing to do with Wernher von Braun, famed rocket scientist and aerospace engineer, a confusion I recently saw online on a discussion group. That led me to post here a bit about the Braun company design legacy and evolution.

The famous consumer product and design company Braun is located in Kronberg im Taunus, an affluent village and virtual suburb to Frankfurt am Main, where the company was founded in 1921 by Max Braun, a mechanical engineer.

This is an important historical area of Germany. The LawPundit was born in the neighboring village of Königstein ("King Stone"), which not only served as the summer home for the famed Rothschild banking family, whose German banking headquarters were in Frankfurt, but the Villa Rothschild (today a 5-star hotel) in 1949 also served as the location of a critical political meeting that led to the formation of the post-WWII German Federal Republic. The coincidence is that the post-war Marshall Plan for Europe was administered in Paris from what is now the newly renovated Hotel de Talleyrand, purchased by the United States from the French branch of the Rothschild banking family in 1947.

The Braun company has had a tremendous worldwide impact via its design of consumer products, which began with radios and expanded to all kinds of electrical and electronic devices and gadgets. As written at the Wikipedia:
"From the mid-1950s, the Braun brand was closely linked with the concept of German modern industrial design and its combination of functionality and technology... Dieter Rams soon became the most influential designer at Braun.[12]

Rams[13] was a key figure in the German design renaissance of the late 1950s and 1960s...
Many of his designs - sleek coffee makers, calculators, radios and razors - have found a permanent home at the Museum of Modern Art."
The Gillette Company acquired a controlling interest in Braun in 1967, and it was a wholly owned subsidiary of Gillette from 2004 to 2005.

In 2005, Braun was acquired by Proctor & Gamble, the largest consumer goods products company in the world, and is now a member of the so-called P&G family of brands, awarding the BraunPrize for design:
"Established in 1968, the BraunPrize was Germany's first international competition to promote the work of young designers, highlight the importance of industrial design and promote innovative product ideas across the world."
See The Braun Prize

Gizmodo Highlights More Potential Design Rip-Offs by Apple from Braun and the Designs of Designer Dieter Rams: Exclusive Originality at Apple? No Way.

Where did Apple and its designers get their design ideas for their minimalist design products? What was the source of their prior art? They got them from Braun and Dieter Rams.

Gizmodo writes:
"[T]here's another man whose products are ... an influence that permeates every single product at Apple, from hardware to user-interface design. That man is Dieter Rams, and his old designs for Braun during the '50s and '60s hold all the clues not only for past and present Apple products, but their future as well...
Ive's inspiration on Rams' design principles goes beyond the philosophy and gets straight into a direct homage to real products created decades ago....
The similarities between products from Braun and Apple are sometimes uncanny...."
Gizmodo has the full text and more detailed photo commentary here
The photos below are linked from Gizmodo. On the left is an earlier Braun product, the image on the right shows a later Apple product (make sure you look at the original Gizmodo posting for more).

In view of the black Braun screen left, can Apple claim any exclusive design right to a thin black-bezeled minimalist screen on ANY product?

Design Motifs from Apple: Minimalism as a Design Direction Influenced by Dieter Rams

Minimalist Apple Inc. design motifs since the year 2001, when Apple shifted away from fruity colors like "Bondi blue" for the iMac, are mentioned at the Wikipedia in a discussion relevant to the design injunctions sought by Apple against Samsung:
In 2001, Apple designs shifted away from multicolored translucency and began two new design branches. The professional motif appeared with the Powerbook G4, and featured industrial grade metal: first titanium, then aluminum. The minimalist consumer design debuted with the iBook G3, and featured glossy white coloring and opaque finishes. Both lines did away with soft, bulging shapes and moved toward streamlined, orthogonal, minimalist shapes. The designs appear to have been heavily influenced by German industrial designer Dieter Rams,[2] with a clear example being the iPhone calculator application, which appears to have been directly influenced by Dieter Rams' 1978 Braun Control ET44 calculator.[3]
The iPod continued the look of the consumer line, featuring an opaque, white front. The success and wide embrace of Apple's iPod appeared to have had an effect on Ive and his design team, and some noted the striking similarity of the iPod's design with the subsequent iMac G5 and Mac mini designs. Apple even promoted the release of the iMac G5 as coming "from the creators of iPod," and, in the accompanying promotional photographs, both products were shown next to each other in profile, highlighting the similarities in their design.[4] The more recent Airport Extreme, Apple TV, and iPhone designs have continued this trend toward a simple rounded-rectangle styling across product lines. [emphasis added by LawPundit]
Dark aluminium

The more recent designs move away from white plastics, replacing them with glass and aluminum.
This new design phase showed Apple's strive towards extreme minimalism: aluminum "unibody" products possess cleaner, yet softer and more tapered edges than those of their predecessors, and remove anything that "does not need to be there," creating an extremely clean surface. The first generation iPhone debuted this new style, showing off darker aluminium on its back and a glass front. The design was then carried over to the iMac line, which now consists mostly of aluminium face, except for a black rim around the screen, and a glass covered screen. The iPod Classic brought this motif to the iPod line, and featured a dark, aluminium face. The MacBook Air blends the aluminium styling of the Macbook Pro line with the new style pattern through its keyboard and glossy display. On October 14, 2008 Apple released a redesigned MacBook Pro in line with this style direction. Like the MacBook Air before them, the chassis of the new MacBook Pro is milled from a single piece of aluminium, this 'unibody' construction is aimed to reduce chassis size and the number of chassis parts required, along with increasing chassis rigidity. In early 2010, Apple's new iPad continued this trend, enforcing a minimalist device to give a focus on content, not hardware." [emphasis added by LawPundit]

See also:

Did 1960s Braun products influence Apple product designs?
where the discussion goes like this, by 3 commenters:

"[1] German and Nordic design have been minimalistic for a long time. It's hardly surprising that Apple uses the same kind of minimalism. It's not that Braun even invented it all. Anyone who knows German and Nordic modern design sensibilities would expect this....

[2] Indeed. The minimalist design predates even the Bauhaus, when the Werkbund introduced notions of simplicity....

[3} Having taken a design history class, simplicity and minimalist design is timeless. In addition to what other have mentioned here, our teacher showed us works by the Quakers and Sam Adams as being guided by those same design principles."

Eugene Kan at Hypebeast, The New York Times: How Dieter Rams Made Braun Cool, writes:
"Ahead of the upcoming book, Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible, The New York Times‘ Alice Rawsthorn highlights the rise of Dieter Rams and his efforts to make Braun one of the most respected companies of its time. Having effectively paved the way for minimalist design, a foreword by Apple’s Jonathan Ive makes for a suitable inclusion. While excerpts of the article can be seen below, the full article can be read here." [book link added by LawPundit]

When design is as minimalist as the iPhone and the iPad, which simply copy TIMELESS orthogonal shapes, then the law most certainly can not give profit-greedy corporations exclusive monopoly rights to such shapes!

Law Reporting and Journalistic Legal Coverage: Law Degrees Required for Accredited Print Journalists at Supreme Court of India: Does That Go Too Far?

Journalists may soon need law degree to report on Supreme Court (of India) writes
"The Supreme Court [of India] can bar any correspondent from coverage without offering any reasons under the new rules.
Issued by the court on Saturday, the norms require that permanent and temporary accredited print journalists have a professional law degree and at least seven years of experience. Electronic media reporters need, apart from the law degree, at least three-and-a-half-years of experience. The circular did not set a deadline for the norms to come into force. Court officials didn’t throw light on when the circular would come into effect, when asked on Tuesday.
The new norms follow instances in which faults were found in coverage."
If the Supreme Court of the United States did not have to abide by extremely stiff free speech requirements in the USA, a similar rule in America would be tempting for some observers and judges.

Supreme Court decisions are not amenable to coverage like sports events, where one need not have been an athlete oneself to be a good sports journalist. However, the accurate coverage of "legal events" requires a great deal of fundamental legal knowledge and legal practice. In the United States, there is no question that the best coverage of U.S. Supreme Court decisions comes almost exclusively from writers who have law degrees.

Adam Liptak, the U.S. Supreme Court correspondent of The New York Times, is a good example, having obtained both an undergraduate degree in English and a professional degree in law (both at Yale University), and also having practiced as a lawyer subsequently, specializing in First Amendment matters. In addition, Liptak also lectures on journalism. He is so good at what he does for a reason: specialized legal and language education AND relevant legal and journalistic experience.

The accreditation of journalists for Supreme Court reporting is not as easy a free speech issue as one might think. After all, the Supreme Court freely determines which lawyers can appear before it and has a lot of clout in its rules about how things are to be done. After all, if you limit accredited Supreme Court reporting to experienced journalists with law degrees, you are not limiting WHAT they report, but you are placing quality qualifications on who may be accredited by the Court to do so. This by the way, would not prohibit anyone else from writing about Supreme Court decisions, but they could not get accreditation.

The trouble with that kind of a solution is that it ignores the fact that modern litigation can impact many specialized areas of human endeavor about which law-trained journalist may not necessarily have any specialized knowledge: Information Technology, Telecommunications, Engineering, Genetics, Bioscience, Chemistry, Physics, etc. What then?

On the other hand, we are the first to criticize the Federal Circuit in the USA, where judges are chosen because of educational backgrounds that combine law with other disciplines such as engineering. We think that this HAS NOT led to better judging. Quite the contrary, such judges appear to us sometimes to be unable to shake their science and technology-oriented backgrounds in making judicial decisions and writing their opinions from the standpoint of THE LAW. We see this especially in the Federal Circuit's historically disastrous decisions and opinions in patent law, where the Federal Circuit seems to side with inventors as fellow engineering and technology travelers.

At the same time, we find too large a percentage of the people who are elected to Congress to be woefully underqualified for their elevated positions, and their legislative work shows it. Could we demand that everyone elected to Congress be required have a law degree? Would that be unconstitutional? Surely yes, without a Consitutional amendment -- the Constitution can and does impose qualification requirements on Senators and Representatives.

Would Congress be a much better place if its members were limited to people with law degrees? We think, yes, but not everyone will agree. Nevertheless, many of extreme proposals circulated in Congress come from people who are not trained in law and who do not seem to understand the federal system that has made America such a great nation. From my point of view as a political centrist, they are disproportionately clogs and not cogs in the legislative process, regardless of political party.

We have a similar problem in corporate industries. It used to be that many corporate heads had law degrees. Hence, CEO's were acutely aware of not only their powers but also their legal limits.

In recent decades, however, there has been a trend to more and more people schooled in business trades taking over the running of corporations, to the severe detriment of sound corporate governance. Part of this of course has to do with the rise in importance of MBAs, but not only. As corporations have become more and more dependent on market capitalization as the measure of company performance -- and as the determinant of corresponding corporate executive compensation -- the trend has been to hire CEOs who "know" the technology of their business, rather than hiring CEOs versed in the legal aspects of that business, which are now "farmed out" increasingly to law firms -- another reason why law firms have become more and more present in the modern economic system.

As written clear back in 2004 at A Compelling Case for Lawyer-CEOs by Bloomberg Businessweek :
"There was a time in the first half of the 20th century, before the proliferation of MBA programs, when law school was a common path for corporate leaders. Since then, attorney-CEOs have been concentrated in heavily regulated industries -- or to put it another way, in businesses in which legal issues have a greater effect on profits than, say, marketing or operations. "
Again, in terms of corporate governance, the result of this development has not always been good when seen on a broad national scale. One can in fact argue that the current Great Recession is one product of hiring the wrong people to run companies in an erroneously totally self-centered manner, focusing on profits and ignoring the rule of law.

When the bottom line is the ONLY consideration, things hit rock bottom. A business society can only flourish long-term if there are shared values and strict rules for business. Historically, for example, the Hanseatic League was a model of success through business cooperation and rulemaking. It imploded after hundreds of years of success because of members started to put self-interest above the community interest of the League. Internal struggles and bickering did the rest, which is one reason to view with great trepidation the extremist polarization in the United States, which does not bide well for the country long-term.

In any case, the fundamental idea of requiring -- formally or informally -- a legal background for many important activities in society is certainly desirable, especially in terms of corporate governance, and, yes, even for law journalism.

In fact, demanding certain educational requirements for certain positions is certainly essential -- just think of medical doctors (physicians). We do not allow lawyers to perform surgical operations in hospitals. People should think about that when electing medical people to legislate law in Congress, which might not be a good idea, objectively seen.

Nevertheless, one has to leave a door open for free access, as in sports, for the "walk-ons", and in science, for the unplanned geniuses. Law must also leave the door open for comment or criticism by outsiders, and that is also the case for the academic world, which is guided by the dogmas of the various professions, not all of which are immune to criticism and most of which are subject to improvement.

Hence, we have to put up with those less qualified than they should be. That is also a part of the system.

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