Friday, March 29, 2019

Avengers IP, Assemble: the wild, circuitous path to Marvel getting its own brands back; Polygon, March 23, 2019

Ross Miller, Polygon; Avengers IP, Assemble: the wild, circuitous path to Marvel getting its own brands back

"Since 1998, there have been over 50 films based on Marvel comic characters, from Blade (produced by New Line Cinema) through this month’s Captain Marvel. Only 21 of them have been considered canonical to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with all but six exclusively produced and distributed by Marvel Studios. The others were produced and/or distributed by almost every major film company out there: Paramount, Universal, New Line, Warner Bros., Columbia/Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, and 20th Century Fox — the latter of which produced 16 Marvel IP-based films, with two more due out by the end of this year.

But now, with over $18 billion in worldwide box office grosses for the MCU alone and a long history of contractual negotiations, acquisitions, and at least one sandwich thrown, Marvel has reclaimed the rights to nearly its entire cast of characters. Here’s how it got here, and what’s left to collect."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What Is the Difference Between a State and Federal Trademark?; New York Law Journal,, March 15, 2019

, New York Law Journal,;

What Is the Difference Between a State and Federal Trademark?


"Once a person or business starts using a mark in commerce, they technically have what is called a common law trademark; the protection afforded to this right is extremely limited. Hence, a common law trademark is only enforceable in the geographic area where the mark is used. In most instances, it is hard to enforce common law rights because it is hard to show when use of the mark began. Therefore, it is important for owners of marks to understand the importance of obtaining registered trademark(s) for their brand(s). They must decide whether they need to obtain a state or federal trademark registration. In this article, I will discuss the difference between these two and what can happen if a trademark registration is not obtained."

Open access task force releases draft recommendations; MIT News, March 18, 2019

MIT Libraries, MIT News;

Open access task force releases draft recommendations

The MIT community is invited to comment on ways to increase sharing of research, data, software, and more.

"The Ad Hoc Task Force on Open Access to MIT’s Research has released a set of draft recommendations that aim to support and increase the open sharing of MIT publications, data, software, and educational materials. They are available for public comment until April 17.

The recommendations include ratifying an Institute-wide set of principles for open science; broadening the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy to cover all MIT authors; adopting an open access (OA) policy for monographs; and asking department heads to develop discipline-specific plans to encourage and support open sharing from their faculty, students, and staff.

“Our recommendations are grounded in the view that openness leads to better research,” says Chris Bourg, director of the MIT Libraries and co-chair of the OA task force along with Hal Abelson, Class of 1922 Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “They are intended to reduce barriers and provide incentives to open sharing, while remaining flexible where needed to accommodate differences across disciplines.”"

Miss Vanjie! Miss Vanjie!: What RuPaul’s Drag Race Can Teach Us About Fair Use Under Copyright; Lexology, March 15, 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What does copyright infringement sound like?; The Washington Post, March 4, 2019

Daron Taylor, The Washington Post; What does copyright infringement sound like?

"Most music copyright infringement cases are settled out of court with shared writing credit — and royalties — as it’s extremely rare for these types of cases to make it to a jury. When it gets to that point, determining fault can be tricky.

In the video above, we explore how experts tell the difference between infringement and inspiration, and what that means for the music industry."

Saturday, March 16, 2019

'I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds': can book piracy be stopped?; The Guardian, March 6, 2019

Katy Guest, The Guardian;

'I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds': can book piracy be stopped?

"The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally. Generally, pirates tend to be from better-off socioeconomic groups, and aged between 30 and 60. Many use social media to ask for tips when their regular piracy website is shut down; when I contacted some, those who responded always justified it by claiming they were too poor to buy books – then tell me they read them on their e-readers, smartphones or computer screens - or that their areas lacked libraries, or they found it hard to locate books in the countries where they lived. Some felt embarrassed. Others blamed greedy authors for trying to stop them.

When we asked Guardian readers to tell us about their experiences with piracy, we had more than 130 responses from readers aged between 20 and 70. Most regularly downloaded books illegally and while some felt guilty – more than one said they only pirated “big names” and when “the author isn’t on the breadline, think Lee Child” – the majority saw nothing wrong in the practice. “Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it,” said one, while others claimed it was part of a greater ethos of equality, that “culture should be free to all”."

The Marines don’t want you to see what happens when propaganda stops and combat begins; The Washngton Post, March 15, 2019

Alex Horton, The Washington Post; The Marines don’t want you to see what happens when propaganda stops and combat begins

"Lagoze found himself in a murky gray area of free speech and fair-use government products. U.S. citizens can already go on Pentagon-operated sites and download free military photos and video.Their tax dollars fund it, and federal government creations are not protected by copyright.

So could Lagoze take the moments he filmed with government resources and make something new?

He worked with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University to push back against the military’s claims of impropriety. The Marine Corps relented this month."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: 'The Inventor' is a coolly appalling portrait of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal; The Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2019

Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times;

Review: 'The Inventor' is a coolly appalling portrait of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal

"As a quick glance at this week’s headlines will remind you — a staggering college admissions scandal, a wave of indictments in the cases of Paul Manafort and Jussie Smollett — we are living in deeply fraudulent times. But if there are few people or institutions worthy of our trust anymore, perhaps we can still trust that, eventually, Alex Gibney will get around to making sense of it all. Over the course of his unflagging, indispensable career he has churned out documentaries on Scientology and Enron, Lance Armstrong and Casino Jack — individual case studies in a rich and fascinating investigation of the American hustler at work.
Gibney approaches his subjects with the air of an appalled moralist and, increasingly, a grudging connoisseur. His clean, straightforward style, which usually combines smart talking heads, slick graphics and reams of meticulous data, is clearly galvanized by these charismatic individuals, who are pathological in their dishonesty and riveting in their chutzpah. And he is equally fascinated by the reactions, ranging from unquestioning belief to conflicted loyalty, that they foster among their followers and associates, who in many cases shielded them, at least for a while, from public discovery and censure.
“The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” Gibney’s latest exercise in coolly measured outrage, is an engrossing companion piece to his other works in this vein. The subject of this HBO documentary is Elizabeth Holmes, the self-styled biotech visionary who dropped out of Stanford at age 19 and founded a company called Theranos, which promised to bring about a revolution in preventive medicine and personal healthcare. Its top-secret weapon was a compact machine called the Edison, which could purportedly run more than 200 individual tests from just a few drops of blood, obtained with just a prick of the finger.
Holmes’ vision of a brave new world — one in which anyone could stop by Walgreens and obtain a comprehensive, potentially life-saving snapshot of their health — proved tantalizing enough to raise more than $400 million and earned her a reputation as possibly the greatest inventor since, well, Thomas Edison. Her investors included Betsy DeVos, Rupert Murdoch and the Waltons; Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and James Mattis sat on her board of directors. But that was all before the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou and other investigative journalists exposed glaring faults in the Edison’s design and sent the company’s $10-billion valuation spiraling down to nothing. Theranos dissolved in 2018, and Holmes and former company president Sunny Balwani were charged with conspiracy and fraud.

Full disclosure: As the son of a retired medical technologist who spent more than 30 years testing blood the traditional way, I approached “The Inventor” with great fascination and more than a little schadenfreude. The movie, for its part, seems both magnetized and repelled by its subject, a reaction that it will likely share with its audience. Gibney is perhaps overly fond of deploying intense, lingering close-ups of Holmes’ face and peering deep into her unnerving blue eyes (“She didn’t blink,” a former employee recalls). If the eyes are the windows to the soul, “The Inventor” just keeps looking and looking, as though uncertain whether or not its subject has one."

We Are! Not happy! U.S. Patent office frowns on Penn State trademark request; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 14, 2019

Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; We Are! Not happy! U.S. Patent office frowns on Penn State trademark request 

"Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney in Washington, D.C., offered an analysis via twitter of the geographic issue raised by the Patent Office and another reason the agency refused the application: the trademark as submitted was deemed "ornamental.''

He said both issues are correctable...

Of the ornamental issue, he said, "I believe this is trademarks 101 and it shocks me every time a large institution or organization gets it wrong.""

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A price to be paid for open-access academic publishing; The Guardian, March 13, 2019

Letters, The Guardian; A price to be paid for open-access academic publishing

"The headlong rush towards further adoption of open-access models demands careful thought, says Prof Sarah Kember. Elsevier is a strong supporter of open access, says its vice-president of global policy, Gemma Hersh. The UK has moved further and faster than any other major research funding country, says Stephen Lotinga. It is difficult to find good (unpaid) reviewers for every article in scientific journals, says John Boardman"

The Guardian view on academic publishing: disastrous capitalism Editorial; March 4, 2019

The Guardian; The Guardian view on academic publishing: disastrous capitalism

In California the state university system has been paying $11m (£8.3m) a year for access to Elsevier journals, but it has just announced that it won’t be renewing these subscriptions. In Britain and Europe the move towards open access publishing has been driven by funding bodies. In some ways it has been very successful. More than half of all British scientific research is now published under open access terms: either freely available from the moment of publication, or paywalled for a year or more so that the publishers can make a profit before being placed on general release.

Yet, somehow, the new system has not yet worked out any cheaper for the universities. Publishers have responded to the demand that they make their product free to readers by charging their writers fees to cover the costs of preparing an article. These range from around £500 to $5,000, and apparently the work gets more expensive the more that publishers do it. A report last year from Professor Adam Tickell pointed out that the costs both of subscriptions and of these “article preparation costs” has been steadily rising at a rate above inflation ever since the UK’s open access policy was adopted in 2012. In some ways the scientific publishing model resembles the economy of the social internet: labour is provided free in exchange for the hope of status, while huge profits are made by a few big firms who run the market places. In both cases, we need a rebalancing of power."

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

UC open access fight exposes publishing rip-off: Charging exorbitant fees for journal articles isn’t in the best interests of scientific research, Mercury News, March 6, 2019

Editorial: UC open access fight exposes publishing rip-off

Charging exorbitant fees for journal articles isn’t in the best interests of scientific research

"The scholarly research publishing industry is a rip-off that hinders scientific advances and piles unnecessary costs onto taxpayers who already fund much of the academic work.

It’s ridiculous that, in this age of the internet, researchers are paying huge fees for access to academic papers and for publication of their own work. That made sense in the days when scholarly works were printed in bound volumes. Today, academic work, especially public- and foundation-funded research, should be open for all. It shouldn’t cost $35 to $40 for each article, effectively freezing out those without the means to pay...

The University of California’s mission statement reads: “The distinctive mission of the university is to serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge.”
UC’s commitment to open access helps fulfill that goal and advances scientific enterprise for the benefit of all."

Theranos: How a broken patent system sustained its decade-long deception Op-ed: The patent bargain is seriously busted.; Ars Technica, March 4, 2019

Daniel Nazer, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Theranos: How a broken patent system sustained its decade-long deception

Op-ed: The patent bargain is seriously busted.

"Early Theranos skeptics tended to be scientists who had heard the company’s extravagant claims and had asked the obvious question: does the tech really work? In 2014, a pathologist wrote that he was skeptical Theranos was using proprietary technology for many of its tests. Other scientists expressed frustration that Theranos had not shared its methods with the scientific community nor offered any evidence that the methods worked.
In April 2015, while Theranos was still enjoying mostly fawning press coverage, Business Insider published an article quoting some skeptical scientists. The article noted that “technical details about Theranos’ seemingly revolutionary tests are hard to come by.” Notably, Theranos had hundreds of patents by that point. Yet a scientist looking to understand how Theranos actually conducted its test wouldn’t learn anything useful from a typical Theranos patent. This is because companies can submit rough outlines of their processes, leaving out the key details, and still get patents. Recent legal reforms have only made this easier.
Business Insider wrote that if Theranos had come up with a “killer application” for microfluidics, “that may explain its reluctance to show the patented details that make its technology unique.” This sentence shouldn’t make sense, because patents are public by nature. So “patented details” should be public.
The sentence only makes sense when you realize that the patent bargain is utterly broken. The people who work within the patent system realize it. That’s why no one raised red flags when Theranos received hundreds of patents without telling the scientific community how its machines actually worked."

How the patent office's lax standards gave Elizabeth Holmes the BS patents she needed to defraud investors and patients; Boing Boing, March 4, 2019

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing; How the patent office's lax standards gave Elizabeth Holmes the BS patents she needed to defraud investors and patients

"Patents are only supposed to be issued for devices with "utility" -- that is, they have to actually work before you can get a patent for them. But it's been decades since the USPTO has paid meningful [sic] attention to this criterion when evaluating applications, handing out patents for imaginary "inventions" to con artists, delusional hucksters, and other "inventors" who are willing to pay the filing fees that keep the lights on at the Patent Office. And since most people only have a vague idea of the rigor used in patent examination, these patents for design fiction can be used as impressive "proof" when crooks set out to deceive their marks.

(Another real problem with these fake patents: allowing con-artists to patent "inventions" that they have no idea how to make means that when someone really does invent that gadget, the con-man can use their bogus patent to threaten and extort real inventors)."

IP 101: Intellectual Property Management In The Digital Age; Forbes, March 4, 2019

Danae Vara Borrell, Forbes; IP 101: Intellectual Property Management In The Digital Age

"So, how do brands facing a high number of counterfeits leverage classic IP rights and technology to implement an effective online IP strategy and prevent brand erosion?

Many brands are streamlining processes by enforcing their IP rights, using technology-based solutions that rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and detect potential incidents on behalf of right owners. However, to be effective, the best AI-driven systems should take a holistic approach to brand protection by consolidating tools and actions on a single platform, providing full visibility on all the different types of infringements negatively impacting a company’s reputation such as black, grey and white market goods."

Supreme Court Clarifies That, Yes, You Have to Register Your Copyright, and No, You Cannot Recover Your Expert Witness Fees in Copyright Cases; Lexology, March 5, 2019

Squire Patton Boggs - Joseph A. Meckes and Theresa Rakocy, Lexology; Supreme Court Clarifies That, Yes, You Have to Register Your Copyright, and No, You Cannot Recover Your Expert Witness Fees in Copyright Cases 

"In a pair of unanimous rulings on March 4, 2019, the Supreme Court clarified (1) that the U.S. Copyright Office must issue a registration certificate before a plaintiff can commence suit and (2) that a prevailing plaintiff cannot recover fees for expert witnesses, jury consultants or other “costs” that are not specifically called for in the relevant statutes."

Saturday, March 2, 2019

‘Mockingbird’ Producer Reconsiders, Letting Local Plays Go Forward; The New York Times, March 1, 2019

Michael Paulson and Alexandra Alter, The New York Times; ‘Mockingbird’ Producer Reconsiders, Letting Local Plays Go Forward

"Mr. Rudin defended his actions in a brief statement, saying, “As stewards of the performance rights of Aaron Sorkin’s play, it is our responsibility to enforce the agreement we made with the Harper Lee estate and to make sure that we protect the extraordinary collaborators who made this production.”

But he also blamed the situation on the Dramatic Publishing Company, which is run by Christopher Sergel III, Mr. Sergel’s grandson, saying it had erred in issuing licenses to present the play to theaters that should not have received them. Mr. Rudin has argued that a 1969 agreement between Ms. Lee, the author of the novel, and Dramatic Publishing bars productions by theaters within 25 miles of a city that in 1960 had a population of more than 150,000 people, as well as productions using professional actors, when a “first-class” production is running on Broadway or on tour.

“We have been hard at work creating what I hope might be a solution for those theater companies that have been affected by this unfortunate set of circumstances, in which rights that were not available to them were licensed to them by a third party who did not have the right to do so,” Mr. Rudin said. “In an effort to ameliorate the hurt caused here, we are offering each of these companies the right to perform our version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Aaron Sorkin’s play currently running on Broadway.”...

“Unfortunately this issue has been the shot heard ’round the fine arts world over recent days,” said Davis Varner, the president of the board of the Theater of Gadsden, a community theater in Alabama that is planning to stage the Sergel version this month. The theater is not near a big city, so its rights appear to be unchallenged, but Mr. Varner issued a statement referring to Mr. Rudin as “the bully from Broadway” and said, “I am saddened and disappointed for those groups who have been forced to cancel their productions through no fault of their own.”

Others took to social media to vent their unhappiness.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Mongols Biker Club Can Keep Its Logo, Judge Rules; The New York Times, February 28, 2019

Louis Keene and Serge F. Kovaleski, The New York Times; Mongols Biker Club Can Keep Its Logo, Judge Rules

"Nearly two months after a federal jury decided that a notorious motorcycle club must forfeit the rights to its trademarked emblem, a judge on Thursday nullified the verdict, finding that seizure of the intellectual property was unconstitutional. 

In a 51-page ruling, Federal District Judge David O. Carter said the government’s strategy of trying to devastate the Mongols motorcycle club by confiscating its treasured Genghis Khan-style logo would violate the group’s First Amendment right to free speech and the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment."

A professor is accused of stealing a student's invention to make millions; CNN, March 1, 2019

, CNN; A professor is accused of stealing a student's invention to make millions

"The University of Missouri-Kansas City has filed a lawsuit against a former professor, alleging that he stole and sold his graduate student's research for $1.5 million."

University of California boycotts publishing giant Elsevier over journal costs and open access; Science, February 28, 2019

Alex Fox, Jeffrey Brainard, Science; University of California boycotts publishing giant Elsevier over journal costs and open access

"The mammoth University of California (UC) system announced today it will stop paying to subscribe to journals published by Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific publisher, headquartered in Amsterdam. Talks to renew a collective contract broke down, the university said, because Elsevier refused to strike a package deal that would provide a break on subscription fees and make all articles published by UC authors immediately free for readers worldwide.

The stand by UC, which followed 8 months of negotiations, could have significant impacts on scientific communication and the direction of the so-called open-access movement, in the United States and beyond. The 10-campus system accounts for nearly 10% of all U.S. publishing output and is among the first U.S. institutions, and by far the largest, to boycott Elsevier over costs. Many administrators and librarians at U.S. universities and elsewhere have complained about what they view as excessively high journal subscription fees charged by commercial publishers."

Community Theaters Kill 'Mockingbird' Productions After Lawsuit Threat; NPR, March 1, 2019

Matthew S. Schwartz, NPR; Community Theaters Kill 'Mockingbird' Productions After Lawsuit Threat

"From Massachusetts to Utah, small community theater productions of "To Kill a Mockingbird" are being shut down under threat of a lawsuit by the producer of the new Broadway production."