"Thousands of employees who review patents for the federal government potentially cheated taxpayers out of at least $18.3 million as they billed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for almost 300,000 hours they never worked, according to a new investigation. The investigation scheduled for release Wednesday by the independent watchdog for the Commerce Department, the patent office’s parent agency, determined that the real scale of fraud is probably double those numbers..." The hours not worked could have helped the patent office whittle down a backlog it has struggled for years to shrink, the report said. The backlog stood at about 550,000 applications last spring. Reviews take 16 to 26 months to complete... The patent office, while relatively small, plays a big role in supporting the nation’s economic development by determining whether innovators’ new products should be given sole rights to exclude competitors from making or selling their invention. The government issued 326,000 patents last year."
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Patent office workers bilked the government of millions by playing hooky, watchdog finds; Washington Post, 8/31/16
Lisa Rein, Washington Post; Patent office workers bilked the government of millions by playing hooky, watchdog finds:
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
President Obama to Host White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh; University of Pittsburgh Press Release, 8/30/16
Joe Miksch, University of Pittsburgh Press Release; President Obama to Host White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh:
"President Obama will travel to Pittsburgh Oct. 13 to host the White House Frontiers Conference, a national convening that the White House is cohosting with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University to explore the future of innovation here and around the world. The convening will include topics in the November issue of WIRED, which will be guest-edited by the president on the theme of “Frontiers.” The conference will focus on building U.S. capacity in science, technology, and innovation, and the new technologies, challenges, and goals that will continue to shape the 21st century and beyond. The White House Frontiers Conference will bring together some of the world’s leading innovators in Pittsburgh to discuss how investing in science and technology frontiers will help improve lives, including progress and investments that are keeping America and Americans on the cutting edge of innovation."
Matt Leonard, GCN; Pennsylvania wades into open data:
"The data currently available on OpenDataPA supports Gov. Tom Wolf’s three governing objectives -- education, employment and government services -- includes prison population numbers, school performance profiles and summary information on well inspections. The state also plans to release datasets from other state agencies on the site... The administration’s main goals for releasing this data is three-fold: accountability, modernization and innovation. The portal will allow citizens to keep track of government projects, find this information in one place and use if to “make data-driven decisions.”"
Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed; Feds Target 'Predatory' Publishers:
"The Federal Trade Commission on Friday filed a complaint against the academic journal publisher OMICS Group and two of its subsidiaries, saying the publisher deceives scholars and misrepresents the editorial rigor of its journals. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, marks the first time the FTC has gone after what are often known as “predatory” publishers. Such publishers exploit open-access publishing as a way to charge steep fees to researchers who believe their work will be printed in legitimate journals, when in fact the journals may publish anyone who pays and lack even a basic peer-review process."
Lisa Peet, Library Journal; Sci-Hub Controversy Triggers Publishers’ Critique of Librarian:
"“I was surprised that AAP would take the tactic of trying to say ‘don’t talk about Sci-Hub,’ as if ignoring the problem, or not shining light on it, would make it go away,” Joseph told LJ. “That seems kind of a backwards way to approach this issue to me, because what we’re seeing, frankly, is Sci-Hub really growing in popularity.” Sci-Hub’s various clashes with the world of scholarly publishing, Joseph noted, is helping to raise awareness of the issues surrounding journal access outside the library walls. “It’s not just a library problem…. When researchers are going to the lengths of using an illegal resource to get access, I think it’s really showing institutions that it’s not a departmental problem. It’s an institutional problem.” And the problem doesn’t only lie within academia, Gardner added. As a member of ALA, he said, it would be unethical for him to promote Sci-Hub’s use given the constraints of the legal system. “But I do think that copyright is far too strong, and that the system is in need of reform. The reason why services like Sci-Hub exist is because we have a copyright system which is too draconian.” “This is an area where tempers run high, and I think that reasonable people can disagree,” he said. “There are a lot of people, scholars and librarians, who think that using Sci-Hub is civil disobedience and I’m personally very sympathetic to that argument. But it’s also obvious to me that under the current legal system, this is totally illegal.” Gardner is working on research that he will present at ACRL’s 2017 conference, again using data from the Science survey to examine Sci-Hub’s potential impact on inter-library loan practices."
Darren Heitner, Forbes; Oakland Raiders File Trademark Applications For Las Vegas Raiders:
"The Oakland Raiders have not officially made the move to Las Vegas, but a few trademark filings may serve as a sign for what is to come. On August 20, 2016, the Raiders filed trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the mark “Las Vegas Raiders.” All of the filings, which span a variety of goods and service classifications, were filed with an intent to use the mark in commerce in the future... The Raiders filed for “Las Vegas Raiders” protection in multiple distinct classes. They cover education and entertainment services, clothing, mobile applications, football helmets, trading cards, jewelry and play figures."
Monday, August 29, 2016
Colin Holtz, Guardian; Who is to blame for the EpiPen hike? Drug monopolies – not evil CEOs:
"Instead of playing whack-a-mole, we need to break the monopolies themselves. Many companies have effectively outsourced their R&D to federally funded academic research. Under existing law, federal funding of R&D requires companies to offer the medicine on “reasonable terms”. If they do not, we can demand generic versions for federal programs like VA hospitals, and pay a royalty in return. Or, we can simply break the patent for everyone. In fact, we may not be limited to publicly funded pharmaceuticals. The federal government technically has the power to suspend a patent altogether. In 2003, the Bush administration threatened the maker of anthrax medicine Cipro with exactly that power. Moving forward, all new patents could include far-stricter cost protections that link prices to median income. Or, if you prefer a more flexible system, you could incentivize innovation with hefty cash prizes, but place the resulting drugs in the public domain."
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Col. Sanders’ Secret KFC Recipe For Fried Chicken May Have Just Been Revealed Online; Huffington Post, 8/26/16
Ed Mazza, Huffington Post; Col. Sanders’ Secret KFC Recipe For Fried Chicken May Have Just Been Revealed Online:
"Call it ChikiLeaks. One of the most famous “secret recipes” in the world may have just been revealed online. A relative of Col. Harland Sanders, the late founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, appears to have shown off a copy of his blend of 11 herbs and spices to the Chicago Tribune."
Friday, August 26, 2016
Ian Kar, Quartz; Now anyone can access NASA-funded research:
"The US space agency has announced that it will be archiving research data at a web portal open to the public. Beginning this year, all NASA-funded authors of peer-reviewed papers will be required to provide copies of their science journal articles and the accompanying data. The research will be made available on the public portal, for free, within a year of publication... While the portal, called PubSpace, doesn’t have the most gorgeous interface, it’s a step toward meeting a 2013 request from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, seeking increased public access to the results of federally funded research."
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Whitney Blair Wyckoff, FedScoop; Patent office launches Cancer Moonshot challenge:
"The Patent and Trademark Office launched a contest Monday that encourages the public to glean new insights about cancer research from the agency’s intellectual property data. As part of the USPTO Cancer Moonshot Challenge, participants will be tasked with finding ways to link data from the agency’s new Developer Hub portal to other data sets related to research grants and the economy. Organizers hope participants will illuminate trends that will help the federal government make better funding and policy decisions to develop more effective cancer treatments... The contest is part of a sweeping White House initiative to find new, innovative ways to treat cancer. The USPTO blog post notes the agency “is playing an important role” in the program: Last month, it launched its Patent 4 Patients program to halve the time it takes to evaluate patent applications for cancer therapies. For the new contest, the patent office will offer an information session on Thursday for those interested in participating."
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
U.S. lawmakers demand investigation of $100 price hike of lifesaving EpiPens; Washington Post, 8/23/16
Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post; U.S. lawmakers demand investigation of $100 price hike of lifesaving EpiPens:
"The medication itself isn’t expensive. Analysts calculate that the dosage contained in a single pen is worth about $1. It’s the company’s proprietary pen injector that makes up the bulk of the cost... A profile in Fortune in 2015 described her rise in colorful terms: Bresch, a 46-year-old who’s spent more than half her life at Mylan, has steered the company’s transformation from a quirky outfit run out of a West Virginia trailer to a global operator with 30,000 employees in 145 countries. Born into politics—her father, Joe Manchin, is a longtime West Virginia Democratic stalwart who’s now a U.S. senator—Bresch has mastered the regulatory world. Since becoming CEO in 2012, she’s overseen a major revenue increase; Mylan projects sales of up to $10.1 billion this year, up from $6.1 billion in 2011… Under Bresch’s leadership, Mylan has also stumbled through a series of ethically messy mishaps and public relations gaffes. Mylan’s inversion took place just as uproar over the tactic reached a fever pitch on Capitol Hill. (Among the politicians who denounced the move was Bresch’s own father, though he later changed his mind.) Critics have called out the company for unusually high executive pay packages, questionable use of company jets, and murky relationships with board members. Then there’s “the Heather Bresch situation,” as she herself calls it, a scandal surrounding her executive MBA credentials—when you Google her name, the episode still ranks even higher than her official Mylan bio."
Monday, August 22, 2016
The Difference between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism—and Why It Matters; Library Journal, 8/17/16
Rick Anderson, Library Journal; The Difference between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism—and Why It Matters:
"TELLING THE DIFFERENCE If you were to take Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, change the title and the characters’ names, and pass it off as your original work, that would be plagiarism. However, there would be no copyright infringement, because Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is in the public domain and therefore no longer subject to copyright. On the other hand, if you were to take 50 Shades of Grey—a work currently in copyright—change the title and the characters’ names, and pass it off as your original work, that would constitute both plagiarism and copyright infringement. Stealing the author’s work in this way and selling an unauthorized derivative of it would not only be unethical; it would also be illegal. Under U.S. law, it might be an example of stealing that rises to the level of a felony punishable by imprisonment, depending on its demonstrable financial impact on the legitimate rights holder."
Friday, August 19, 2016
Stig Abell, New York Times; Britain’s Paper Tigers:
"The Sun can still call an election correctly, can still elicit outrage and comment. The Mirror, The Sun and The Mail hope to turn their vast online audiences into a profitable business model. And there is a gradual resurgence of a willingness to pay for quality. The Times and The Sunday Times, paywalled and protected, have become profitable perhaps for the first time in history. Paywalls — once seen as an embodiment of Luddism in the giddy world of the free internet — now seem essential to the survival of professional writing. Yet there has never been a more hostile environment to journalism than exists today, and not only in economic terms. The democratizing effect of social media, a potentially healthful development, has also given rise to a cynicism directed toward the mainstream media. This is all part of a new angriness in politics."
Keith Bradsher and Michelle Innis, New York Times; Sydney Morning Herald Faces Uncertain Print Future in Australia:
"Kate McClymont, 58, has been breaking news at The Sydney Morning Herald for decades. One of the newspaper’s marquee journalists, Ms. McClymont appears in the paper’s ads. “We have been holding the powerful in this city to account for a long time,” Ms. McClymont said. Most recently, she pursued a state government minister, Eddie Obeid, uncovering how his private businesses were improperly benefiting from his public role. Mr. Obeid was found guilty in June of misusing his public office. He will soon face a second court case over mining leases he obtained from the state government. “We have shone a light where crooks would prefer places remained dark,” Ms. McClymont said. “I hate the idea of people getting away with anything.” “It is bad for democracy,” she added, “if this voice is diminished in any way.”"
Ana Acosta and Elliot Harmon, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Stand Up for Open Access. Stand Up for Diego. :
"The movement for open access is not new, but it seems to be accelerating. Even since we started following Diego’s case in 2014, many parts of the scientific community have begun to fully embrace open access publishing. Dozens of universities have adopted open access policies requiring that university research be made open, either through publishing in open access journals or by archiving papers in institutional repositories. This year’s groundbreaking discovery on gravitational waves—certainly one of the most important scientific discoveries of the decade—was published in an open access journal under a Creative Commons license. Here in the U.S., it’s becoming more and more clear that an open access mandate for federally funded research will be written into law; it’s just a matter of when. The tide is changing, and open access will win. But for researchers like Diego who face prison time right now, the movement is not accelerating quickly enough. Open access could have saved Diego from the risk of spending years in prison. Many people reading this remember the tragic story of Aaron Swartz. When Aaron died, he was facing severe penalties for accessing millions of articles via MIT’s computer network without "authorization." Diego’s case differs from Aaron’s in a lot of ways, but in one important way, they’re exactly the same: if all academic research were published openly, neither of them would have been in trouble for anything. When laws punish intellectual curiosity and scientific research, everyone suffers; not just researchers, but also the people and species who would benefit from their research. Copyright law is supposed to foster innovation, not squash it."
Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed; The Acceleration of Open Access:
"So much going on. So much positive change in the air. One fascinating aspect of this is trying to figure out how exactly the culture is changing. Librarians found out with their institutional repositories that building it alone doesn’t make them come. Hard work doesn’t necessarily bring on a cultural shift, either; institutional affiliation has less gravitational pull than disciplines and societies. Even within disciplines, it’s hard for projects like bioRxiv and MLA Commons to attract scholars and scientists who feel the systems they are familiar with are good enough, or that making their work open is too risky or too much work. But with so many projects taking off, and with such robust platforms rolling out to challenge whatever the big corporations will have to offer, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about our capacity to align the public value of scholarship with our daily practices – and optimistic about the willingness of rising scholars to change the system."
Nicholas Wells, CNBC; Olympic lawyers go for gold in trademark protection:
"The Olympic games may be coming to a close in Brazil, but Olympic lawyers are still working hard in the U.S. The U.S. Olympic Committee has come under fire this year for sending warning letters to businesses tweeting with "official" Olympic hashtags like "#TeamUSA" and "#Rio2016." But this isn't the first time the USOC has taken steps to protect its trademarked assets. Legal actions involving the USOC have become as routine as the games themselves. Part of it is due to the special permission afforded the USOC in defending its intellectual property, and some is an abundance of intellectual property to be defended."
Anna Almendrala, Huffington Post; EpiPen’s 500 Percent Price Hike Leaves Patients Scrambling:
"The EpiPen, an easy-to-use injectable shot filled with medicine that can stop a life-threatening allergic reaction, has increased in price from about $100 for a pack of two pens in 2009 to over $600 this year. Pharmaceutical company Mylan purchased the rights to the pen back in 2007, and it appears that they’ve taken a page from “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli and re-priced their newly acquired product. That is, they’ve spiked prices for no apparent research and development reason related to the product, except perhaps to make up for the tens of millions of dollars they’ve spent on TV commercials to promote it, reports CBS news. The price spike also coincides with the recall of one of EpiPen’s competitors, the Auvi-Q from the pharmaceutical company Sanofi US. The company recalled their pen in October because of inaccurate dosage issues... Pharmaceutical watchdogs and politicians have weighed in on the price hike, pushing back on Mylan’s pricing scheme and calling for competitors to enter the market."
Tahir Amin, Huffington Post; The Downfall Of Invention: A Broken Patent System:
"The cost of dozens of brand-name drugs have nearly doubled in just the past five years. Public outrage over drug prices extends from Capitol Hill to the presidential candidates to patients. In response, pharmaceutical executives are spending more on lobbying and marketing. Yet for all this attention, most of the proposed solutions for reducing prescription drug costs—tougher negotiations, appeals for transparent R&D costs or investigations into insurers—miss one of the primary sources of the problem: the way we award patents. Today, too many drug makers receive patents for unmerited and unjust reasons... Not surprisingly, the pharma industry employs a variety of stall tactics that make it virtually impossible for affordable, generic drugs to enter the U.S. market. In what’s called “pay-for-delay,” for example, patent owners pay off generic manufacturers to wait before entering the market, a practice that could violate antitrust laws... It’s time to restore the U.S. patent system to its original purpose – to protect and incentivize invention, not innovation."
Monday, August 15, 2016
Marykate Jasper, Comic Book Resources; WATCH: X-MEN BATTLE THE AVENGERS IN EPIC SUPERCUT TRAILER: [Some graphic language; NSFW]
"While comics readers got to see these teams fight in 2012's "Avengers Vs. X-Men" event and a number of other series, the cinematic universes have been kept separate due to Disney and Fox's competing rights. Thanks to this supercut, fans can experience a glimpse at the super-powered showdown they may never get to see on the big screen, featuring Storm taking on Iron Man, Wolverine challenging the Hulk, Jean Grey facing Scarlet Witch, and more!"
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Atiya Irvin-Mitchell, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Fan-fiction writers can't help wondering what if? :
"What if Harry Potter’s parents lived? What if Spock and Captain Kirk were in love? What if Joan of Arc was a woman of color hearing the voice of God in 21st-century New York instead of 15th-century France? For readers and writers, there is a place made up of such what ifs — fan fiction. Although fan fiction today is filled with tales of vampires and wizards, the practice of writing new stories featuring familiar characters predates them as well as copyright laws. The term was coined in 1939 but is believed to have existed centuries before... The fan-fiction world is a space uniquely dominated by women, LGBTQ people, people of color and individuals for whom those identities overlap. They say that the publishing world is dominated by white, heterosexual, able-bodied and cisgendered people. “There’s next to no good queer representation in media,” Ms. Schmitt, 20, complained. “The reason why fan fic is used to talk about queer representation is because writers start so young and they’re disappointed in not seeing themselves. ... It’s a way of taking control.”"
Friday, August 12, 2016
Josh Gerstein, Politico; Alleged video pirate Kim Dotcom loses in U.S. appeals court:
"A panel of the Richmond-based 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, that Dotcom—the swashbuckling founder of the once-highly-popular file-sharing website Megaupload—could not recover his assets because he remains a fugitive from criminal charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme that allegedly caused $500 million in damages to the motion picture industry. "The refusal to face criminal charges that would determine whether or not the claimants came by the property at issue illegally supports a presumption that the property was, indeed, so obtained," Judge Roger Gregory wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Allyson Duncan."
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Kathleen Parker, Washington Post; John Oliver has given us the best defense of newspapers ever:
"My point — shared by Oliver — is that only newspapers are the brick and mortar of the Fourth Estate’s edifice. Only they have the wherewithal to do the kind of reporting that leads to stories such as “Spotlight.” What happens to the “news” when there are no newspapers left? We seem doomed to find out as people increasingly give up their newspaper subscriptions and seek information from free-content sources. And though newspapers have an online presence, it’s hard to get readers to pay for content... And then there’s Sam Zell, erstwhile owner of the Tribune Co., who summed up the sad trajectory of the nation’s interests and, perhaps, our future while speaking to Orlando Sentinel staffers in 2008. When he said he wanted to increase revenues by giving readers what they want, a female voice objected, “What readers want are puppy dogs.” Zell exploded, calling her comment the sort of “journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don’t count. . . . Hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq, okay? [Expletive] you.” Yes, he said that."
John Oliver’s newspaper rant hits a nerve: “We’ve watched it being not-so-slowly destroyed by forces beyond our control”; Salon, 8/10/16
Scott Timberg, Salon; John Oliver’s newspaper rant hits a nerve: “We’ve watched it being not-so-slowly destroyed by forces beyond our control” :
"So part of what’s interesting about Oliver’s bit — which looked at both the causes of the decline as well as the effects, with his usual combination of hyperventilating moralism and comic exaggeration — is that some seem frustrated with it. And not just people who hate the press, but people who value what it does. The most visible of these criticisms so far has come from the president of the Newspaper Association of America, who praised the segment’s opening. “But making fun of experiments,” David Chavern wrote, “and pining away for days when classified ads and near-monopolistic positions in local ad markets funded journalism is pointless and ultimately harmful.” Sullivan, who was once the executive editor of the Buffalo News and the public editor of the New York Times, hit back sharply in a Post piece: Actually, no. What Oliver did was precisely nail everything that’s been happening in the industry that Chavern represents: The shrinking staffs, the abandonment of important beats, the love of click bait over substance, the deadly loss of ad revenue, the truly bad ideas that have come to the surface out of desperation, the persistent failures to serve the reading public."
HBO via YouTube; Journalism: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) :
"The newspaper industry is suffering. That’s bad news for journalists — both real and fictional."
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Travis M. Andrews, Washington Post; Ed Sheeran sued for copyright infringement for second time this year:
"In June, songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard filed a $20 million lawsuit against Sheeran, claiming that the British pop star copied their song “Amazing” almost note-for-note in his 2014 hit “Photograph.” On Tuesday, Sheeran was again sued for copyright infringement, this time for his single “Thinking Out Loud.” Based on their peak positions on the Billboard Top 100, these are two of Sheeran’s three biggest hits. The suit comes from the heirs of Ed Townsend, who wrote the music and co-wrote the lyrics to Marvin Gaye’s famous romantic anthem, “Let’s Get it On.” It claims that Sheeran copied the major aspects of the melody, harmony and composition of “Let’s Get it On” for his hit “Thinking Out Loud.”"
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Elizabeth Weingarten, Slate; There’s No Such Thing as Innocuous Personal Data:
"The way you walk can be as unique as your fingerprint; a couple of studies show that gait can help verify the identity of smartphone users. And gait can also predict whether someone is at risk for dementia. Seemingly useless pieces of data may let experts deduce or predict certain behaviors or conditions now, but the big insights will come in the next few years, when companies and consumers are able to view a tapestry of different individual data points and contrast them with data across the entire population. That’s when, according to a recent report from Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, we’ll be able to “gain deep insight into human emotional experiences.” But it’s the data that you’re creating now that will fuel those insights. Far from meaningless, it’s the foundation of what you (and everyone else) may be able to learn about your future self."
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Ashley Cullins, Hollywood Reporter; Failure to Register LeBron James' Tattoo as Copyright Proves Costly:
"Animators behind the NBA 2K video game series did such a good job bringing to life basketball stars like LeBron James that they were sued for copyright infringement for recreating his tattoos. Solid Oak Sketches sued 2K Games and Take-Two Interactive Software in February, claiming it owns the copyrights to tattoos emblazoned on several NBA stars including James, Kobe Bryant and Eric Bledsoe. The tattoo designers were seeking actual damages in an amount to be determined at trial, or statutory damages and attorneys' fees — but a New York federal judge on Tuesday ruled out the latter. "[I]n order to obtain statutory damages and attorneys' fees, a plaintiff must have registered its copyright prior to the alleged infringement," U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain writes. In this case, Swain finds, defendants' alleged infringement began with NBA 2K14 in 2013 and the tattoo designs weren't registered with the U.S. Copyright Office until 2015."