A newsletter by Clock Tower Law Group founder Erik J. Heels about trends in technology, intellectual property (IP) law (patent law, trademark law), baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll.
My name is Erik Heels, and this is my LawLawLaw newsletter: subscribe at http://www.LawLawLaw.com.
LawLawLaw is about technology, law (mostly patents and trademarks), baseball (mostly Red Sox), and music (mostly rock). Besides being an attorney, I’m good at spotting trends, connecting people on social networks, fixing things, building treehouses, and a handful of other things.
I try to keep LawLawLaw short (fail), relevant (win), and timely (draw). That is all.
Clock Tower Law Group [Patent Law | Trademark Law]
2 Clock Tower Place, Suite 255, Maynard, MA 01754
phone: 978-823-0008 | fax: 978-246-0256
“The person who says ‘it cannot be done’ should not interrupt the person doing it.” – Chinese Proverb
Technology, Law, Baseball, Rock ‘n’ Roll
From late 1995 to early 1996, I was the Director of Internet Product Development for American Lawyer Media (ALM), a leading legal media company including Counsel Connect (an online service for lawyers) and CourtTV. ALM was trying to figure out this whole Internet thing, and I was trying to help them. One project that we tried was called the Internet Concierge, where I would answer questions from Counsel Connect users, via email, about law and the Internet. It occurs to me that, 16 years later, I’m doing pretty much the same thing! Except this time it’s for Clocktower clients. The more things change.
Technology progresses faster than the law. Always has, always will. It makes the in-between times (like now) interesting.
- The Collapse Of The Tacoma Narrows Bridge (1940-11-07)
This video reminds me of the famous quote by Richard Feynman: “You can’t fool physics.”
- Facebook To File For IPO Next Week (2012-01-27)
Perhaps you heard about this.
- HTTPS Everywhere Keeps Your Personal Information Safe On Over 1,400 Sites, Available For Firefox And Chrome (2012-02-28)
Good Firefox security plugin.
- $35 PC Sells Out In Minutes (2012-04-29)
Small technology = more privacy and security challenges.
- After 244 Years, Encyclopedia Britannica Stops The Presses (2012-03-13)
Totally didn’t see this coming.
- James Cameron Reaches Ocean’s Deepest Point (2012-03-25)
This should have been bigger news.
- The Oatmeal: Why Nikola Tesla Was The Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived (2012-05-14)
Nailed it. This is why The Oatmeal rocks.
- 6 Reasons Why The Facebook IPO Fell Flat (2012-05-19)
Perhaps you heard about this.
- Investors Sue Facebook And Banks For Analyst Changes (2012-05-23)
That didn’t take long.
- IPv6: Now There Are More Internet Addresses Than Stars In The Universe (2012-06-08)
So your toaster can have its own IP address.
- How To Measure The Size Of The Universe (2012-06-13)
- Minneapolis Police Filming Their Own Work To Show Critics (2012-06-19)
A good example of how law enforcement should react to changing technology.
- IPv6: FBI & DEA Warn That IPv6 May Be Too Damn Anonymous (2012-06-20)
A bad example of how law enforcement should react to changing technology.
Copyright Law Stuff
Copyright law is for litigators, so Clocktower does not do copyright law. (We try to keep our clients out of litigation.) But of the three areas of IP law (patent, trademark, copyright), it’s the most fun to write about. So here we go.
- Forging Art Like No One Is Buying (2011-11-18)
Is it still ‘art” if it is forged?
- 100 Years Of Copyright And Disruptive Technology (2011-12-05)
As much as I hate the term ‘disruptive’ (and the dreadful 1990s book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ that made the term temporarily hip), this is a pretty good read.
- January 18: Internet-Wide Protests Against the Blacklist Legislation (2012-01-17)
Protests re the silly SOPA and PIPA bills.
- SOPA And PIPA Are the Internet’s Own Damn Fault (2012-01-18)
Follow the money: lobbyists get bills passed, anti-lobbyists do not.
- After Historic Protest, Members Of Congress Abandon PIPA and SOPA In Droves (2012-01-19)
Battle won, war rages on.
- How Much Is Enough? We’ve Passed 15 ‘Anti-Piracy’ Laws In The Last 30 Years (2012-02-15)
Yet the sky still hasn’t fallen.
- How To Turn A Legitimate Buyer Into A Pirate In Five Easy Steps (2012-02-21)
Customers will buy stuff if you let them.
- The $8 Billion iPod (2012-03-16)
Truthy math from (old media) music and movie lobby groups.
- How Disruption Works: Job Loss Isn’t Really Job Loss (2012-04-07)
We also lost buggy whip jobs when the automobile was invented.
- Video Game Company Misreads Copyright Law, Infringes Tetris (2012-06-19)
Bonus question: What was actually copied here?
Copyright Law Stuff And The Streisand Effect
There have been a lot of famous Internet-related legal disputes in my lifetime. Starting with 1994’s infamous Green Card Spam controversy, the first massive commercial Usenet spam event. Since then, lawyers, law enforcement, old media, and new media have been trying to figure out whether (and the “whether” thought belongs mostly to the old media crowd) and how to adapt to the Internet. Here is some bonus reading material for those so inclined:
- All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (1994)
- The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual (2000)
- The Streisand Effect (2003)
The case of FunnyJunk vs. TheOatmeal will, I predict, go down in history as one of the more epic Internet-related legal battles. I delayed the publication of this newsletter to try to include the latest info. For publishers and legal scholars alike, the dispute is an object lesson of how – and how not – to act on the Internet. The headlines speak for themselves:
- What Should I Do About FunnyJunk.com? (2011-05-25)
- FunnyJunk Is Threatening To File A Federal Lawsuit Against Me Unless I Pay $20,000 In Damages (2012-06-11)
- The Oatmeal Fights Legal Threat, Raises $20,000 In An Hour (2012-06-11)
- TheOatmeal Fights Back Against Troll Lawyer (2012-06-12)
- The Oatmeal vs. FunnyJunk: An Object Lesson In How To Deal With Litigious Internet Trolls (2012-06-12)
- The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk: How The Court Of Public Opinion Beats The Court Of Baseless Legal Threats (2012-06-12)
- The Oatmeal’s Viral Lawsuit Fundraiser Surpasses $120,000 (2012-06-12)
- FunnyJunk Lawyer Being Mocked Mercilessly, Makes Things Worse By Trying To Shut Down The Oatmeal’s Fundraiser (2012-06-13)
- Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk: A Brief Observation (2012-06-14)
- Copyright Infringement And Your Business: Making The Tough Calls (2012-06-14)
- FunnyJunk’s Lawyer, Charles Carreon, Continues To Lash Out: Accuses Matt Inman Of ‘Instigating Security Attacks’ (2012-06-14)
- The Streisand Effect Wins Again: Scottish Council Reverses Ban On 9-Year Old Blogging About School Lunches (2012-06-17)
- FunnyJunk’s Lawyer Charles Carreon Just Keeps Digging: Promises He’ll Find Some Law To Go After Oatmeal’s Matt Inman (2012-06-17)
- FunnyJunk Lawyer Sues Charities Involved in Oatmeal Lawsuit (2012-06-18)
- Carreon’s Full Filing Reveals He Donated To Oatmeal Campaign Himself, Plus Other Assorted Nuttiness (2012-06-18)
- Charles Carreon Is Officially Suing Me And And The Charities Of My Fundraiser (2012-06-18)
- Not Done Yet: FunnyJunk’s Humorless Lawyer Suing Cancer, Wildlife Charities For Receiving Donations From Oatmeal Supporters (2012-06-18)
- Charles Carreon Sues Matthew Inman… And The Charities He’s Raising Money For (2012-06-18)
- Can I Sue You People? Troll Lawyer Sues The Charities The Oatmeal Supports (2012-06-18)
- Cartoonist’s Lawyer Responds To FunnyJunk: The Oatmeal Will Not Cave (2012-06-18)
- Matthew Inman To Charles Carreon: Take Time Off, Stop Saying Crazy Sh*t To Journalists, Calm Down (2012-06-19)
- The Oatmeal To Charles Carreon: “Come Back When You’ve Calmed Down” (2012-06-20)
Patent Law Stuff
Due to changes in patent law enacted as part of last year’s so-called patent reform, Clocktower is advising clients that, starting in September 2012, the one-year grace period under US patent law no longer exists. In other words, if you want to get a US patent, then you should file your patent application before launching the product (where “launch” is defined as sale, offer for sale, publication, or public use of the product).
- USPTO Says Copies Of Academic Articles Submitted As Prior Art Are Covered By Fair Use (2012-02-07)
That’s a relief.
- Political Candidates Sued for Patent Infringement (2012-02-28)
‘Tis the season.
- Yahoo Sues Facebook For Patent Infringement (2012-03-12)
- Twitter’s Revolutionary Agreement Lets Original Inventors Stop Patent Trolls (2012-04-17)
Don’t be evil.
Patent Law Stuff And A Cause/Effect Reality Check
Patent law exists. Just like tax law exists. And just as you can itemize your personal tax deductions to maximize your tax refund, you can take advantage of patent law to make your business wealthier. Or you can file the short form.
But IP lawyers, IP maximalists, and the USPTO need to tone it down with the rhetoric. There are many valid reasons to get a patent, and I, as a patent law practitioner and adjunct patent law professor, still believe in the ideals of the patent law system. But let’s not fool ourselves. Patents, by themselves, add little value. At best, patent lawyers can justify their existence by saying that they help smart companies produce products and services that add value, stuff that you can actually measure as part of a country’s GDP. Smart companies may have some patents, and those patents may help them win disputes with other companies. But smart companies don’t get patents based on the idea that the patents themselves will cause them to succeed. That’s like buying a BMW to try to get rich. Instead, be a smart company, take advantage of existing laws, and produce cool products. Cool products that actually add value to society.
Here are a bunch of examples of how folks confuse the notions of causation and correlation. I will admit that probably and statistics (including especially conditional probability) was one of my favorite subjects at MIT.
- Dilbert: ‘Backwards Causation’ Describes 90% Of Consulting (2012-05-11)
- Chamber Of Commerce Lies Again: Attributes Millions Of Jobs To IP Laws Based On Flimsy Correlation (2012-05-31)
- From The Correlation-Does-Not-Imply-Causation Files: Regular Exercisers Earn Nine Percent Higher Pay Than Those Who Don’t (2012-06-08)
What’s more likely? That exercise causes higher pay? Or that those who earn more have the time and money to exercise? Or that some other factor causes both high pay and good exercise habits?
- Commerce Dept: Steve Jobs Had Patents, Steve Jobs Made Cool Things; Thus Patents Are Great (2012-06-08)
Trademark Law Stuff
Clocktower is seeing a lot of clients register trademarks in order to secure Twitter usernames and Facebook pages. Still, companies have, on average, four unregistered trademarks.
- Help Protect Your Brand with Domain Typo Finder (2011-04-14)
An oldie but a goodie. And here’s my Tweet about the domain typo tool:
Ask 100 folks to spell your company. Were they “wrong”? Your brand is what they say it is. Now register domain “typos.” http://research.domaintools.com/buy/domain-typo-finder/
— Erik J. Heels (@ErikJHeels) April 14, 2011
- How Many Defensive Domain Name Registrations Is Too Many? (2012-02-24)
You have to apply the 80/20 rule or you’ll go insane. You don’t need to register all possible domain name variations, you need to register enough.
- Louis Vuitton Jumps The Shark (2012-03-05)
Bonus points if you understand the ‘jump the shark’ reference.
So maybe this is a building year for the Red Sox?
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know About New Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine (2011-11-29)
Invented the sandwich wrap?
- Free The Original Green Monster Scoreboard (2012-02-13)
It’s in South Dakota?
- MLB To Expand Playoffs By Two Teams To 10 (2012-03-02)
One year late.
- Fenway Park Wins Historic Places Register Listing (2012-03-07)
So now it’s ‘Historic Fenway’ not just ‘historic Fenway.’
- Fenwway Park: 100 Years Old, Still Ridiculously Hot (2012-03-27)
Why Fenway rocks.
- Jim Rice Talks Fenway, Red Sox At MLB Fan Cave (2012-04-17)
And I was there!
- Leaked Memos: Bobby V Is Losing The Red Sox And His Mind (2012-04-23)
Why I like to call the 2012 Red Sox season the #BobbyVShow.
- MLB Players Who Played In Only One Game (2012-05-31)
One game is better than zero games.
- Unusual Photos Of 19Th Century Baseball Players (2012-06-11)
Because there’s not much baseball news worth reporting this year.
- Clemens Found Not Guilty Of Lying To Congress (2012-06-18)
Note to self: ‘Not guilty’ is not the same as ‘innocent.’
In 2.5 more years, my band, The MCats Band, will have been together as long as The Beatles. And we’re only about a dozen albums behind them!
- Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye: The Monkees’ Davy Jones, 1945-2012 (2012-02-29)
- Video: Drummer Tears Through Pop Music History (2012-06-05)
- Walmart Ad Hints At Vudu Streaming On Roku Players (2012-06-06)
- Video: Mister Rogers Remix Will Make You Cry Tears of Joy (2012-06-07)
- Calm.com Is the Most Relaxing 2 Minutes You’ll Spend Online (2012-06-07)
This headline explains (unintentionally) why Apple dominates the music market.
In-Case-You-Missed-It Stuff: Clocktower And Its Clients
Clocktower is grateful to have great clients doing great things, even as we all collectively struggle to recover from the Great Recession. Here are updates on Clocktower and its clients since the last LawLawLaw newsletter.
- Top 10 Things Smart Companies Should Know About Intellectual Property (2010-10-22)
Smart businesses should use all laws – including IP laws – to their advantage.
- Drawings, Charts, And Videos That Explain The Recession (2011-11-22)
9/11 Wars + Tax Cuts + Bailouts = Recession.
- DO Post The Same Content On All Your Social Profiles http://www.giantpeople.com/3462.html (2012-02-14)
It’s not the seeds that matter, it’s the flowers.
- Behind Every Piece of Data Is a Patient (2012-02-18)
PatientsLikeMe empowers patients to find cures by sharing info that is otherwise unavailable.
- Call-Em-All In The News: New York Times (2012-02-18)
- FirstFuel Raises $10M Series A (2012-02-23)
- PMC Launches Fully Integrated App For Bike Riders (2012-03-06)
- Happy Birthdays To Clocktower And Its Website (2012-03-21)
Clocktower turns 11, Clocktower’s website turns 15.
- Apperian Raises $12.4M (2012-03-13)
- Disruptor Beam Partners With HBO To Develop ‘Game Of Thrones Ascent’ For Facebook (2012-05-21)
- Corporate Volunteerism: BzzAgent And Helping Hands (2012-06-04)
- Saturday Night Live (SNL) 15-Year Special: Len Tukwilla, Driftwood Sculptor (1989-09-24)
- 10 Classic Video Games You Can Play Online for Free (2012-01-10)
- 30 Strangers Walk Into This Man’s Home Every Day (2012-02-24)
- Tips On Starting Your Own Blog (2012-02-26)
From my 14-year-old daughter.
- Bathroom Design & Digital Goods: Right Versus Pragmatic (2012-02-29)
Sometimes pragmatic is better.
- Philosoraptor: Toast Toasts Toast (2012-03-24)
- The 50 Greatest Cartoons (2012-03-27)
- The Oatmeal: The State Of The Web (2012-04-24)
Nailed it. As usual.
- Rick Klau: Success And Luck (2012-06-07)
In 1992, I wrote the first book published simultaneously on the Internet and in print. That book, The Legal List, gave me my 15 minutes of fame and launched my career, first as a marketer of Internet things, then as a lawyer of Internet things. I have always attributed my success to two things: (1) above average writing skills and (2) perfect timing. Another word for #2 is ‘luck.’ This article repeats the point that if you’ve had success, then you’ve probably had a lot of #1, but you’ve also had a lot of #2. So be proud of #1, but also be humble about #2.
The LawLawLaw newsletter, available at http://www.LawLawLaw.com, is a publication of Clock Tower Law Group. The opinions in LawLawLaw do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Clock Tower Law Group, its employees, or the author. Feel free to forward this to anyone who might enjoy it. Send content/subscription questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!