Friday, April 9, 2010

Shhh! This Blog is Pupating.

(Photo credit: Lynda W1)

Actually, the term to pupate means forming the pupa, but "The Blog is Metamorphing" sounded weird, as did "Metamorphosing" or "Metamorphosizing." Plus, there was the added downside that it brought to mind images of the Blog waking up from uneasy dreams... well, you know the rest.

I suppose I could have used "Transmorgrifying," but even though the word is apparently more than 300 years old, all the really good links raised copyright issues.

In any event, a notice:




Monday, January 4, 2010

1280 by 800

I have been asked about my resolutions over the past few days.

My admittedly snarky answer is 1280 by 800 on my laptop, and by 1024 on my second screen. It's a very geeky joke, but I think it's funny, anyway.

Which is to say... this ain't that. I hope to continue to provide quality content here, and to build an excellent law practice, and to do all of those things in my personal life that need doing (and that I'm not going into here). But those resolutions have little to do with January 1; they are every day commitments, tying them to a "new year" isn't particularly meaningful or useful.

All of which is to say... watch this space. And thanks for reading.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ted Alvin Klaudt - Rapist and IP Moron (updated)

Just a real quick one, because it's a busy day.

This is probably already out there, but I just got wind of this news tidbit, where convicted rapist former South Dakota Rep. Ted Alvin Klaudt (Rapist and IP Moron) has informed various new agencies that... and the only way to do this justice is to quote the article directly:
...Klaudt is reserving a common-law copyright of a trade name or trademark for his name. It said no one can use his name without his consent, and anyone who does would owe him $500,000.
Okay, so how many ways does this make my eyes bleed?

First of all - Yes, there's such a thing as common-law copyright (sort of). And there's even common-law trademark. But you don't copyright a trademark (*). You certainly don't reserve a copyright on a trademark. It just... it hurts my head to see this kind of usage.

Second, and more importantly - Um.... NO. That's really not how it works. Let's pretend for a minute that the name could even serve as a trademark. I mean, after all, names can be trademarks. You have to be the source of a good or service, though. And the only connection being made in my mind is that Ted Alvin Klaudt is a unique source identifier for the service of inappropriately touching little girls. Or at least that was the service. Now there's a new one: Moronic IP claims. It's sad that he's not a unique provider of that particular service, but as of today he's at the top of the list with a bullet.

Third (really 2a) - Using your name to reference you - even if your name is trademarked (**) for some good or service - is pretty much where the phrase "nominal use" came from. You know, use as a name. So... seriously. Shut up.

So, I'm feeling puckish, and here's my idea. This is the perfect opportunity for a Google Bomb, and an interestingly meta one at that.

Right now, if you do a Google search on the phrase "Rapist and IP Moron" there are zero results:

I'd like to propose a Google Bomb connecting Ted Alvin Klaudt with the phrase Rapist and IP Moron.

Now, normally a Google Bomb of this sort would point to the official homepage of the Bomb-ee or something like that. But Klaudt doesn't have one of those that I could find. So here's the cool, post-modern, self-referential bit. Point the bomb at Google itself. That is, point the bomb at the results page for a search on the phrase "Ted Alvin Klaudt."

If you'll note, I've done the link a few times in this post already. If you click Rapist and IP Moron, it takes you to the Google results page for a search on the phrase "Ted Alvin Klaudt."

[UPDATE - Duh. It's been pointed out to me that Google probably doesn't index its own search result pages. So this won't work as originally planned. I'll figure out a new target soon. I'm thinking something along the lines of this link.]

I don't have a lot of readers, and I don't have a lot of Twitter followers, and I know that probably the worst way to get something to go viral is to say, "hey, I hope this goes viral." I also realize that I'm getting pretty worked up over this and it might not really be worthy of all this agita. But this guy hurts my brain, and I wanna swat him like a bug. So please join in.

A few last points need to be made. The first should be obvious, but this is the internet and there are no guarantees. I am in no way setting up a moral equivalency between the two offenses. Rapist is a big bad; being an IP Moron is just annoying, and possibly works against your self-interest. I recognize the moral gulf between the two and condemn Klaudt for the rapist part much more strongly than the IP Moron part. But he's been a rapist for a long time; it's only today that he came to my attention as both a Rapist and IP Moron. (See how I worked that in there? Clever me.)

The second point is a direct message to Klaudt. If you think you can enforce your "reserv[ation of] a common-law copyright of a trade name," please feel free to sue me. Please note, however, that I have reserved a common-law copyright of a trade name or trademark in my own name, "Ben Manevitz" and any use of my name without my consent - including in court filings, press releases, or even letters telling me to cut it out - will carry with it a penalty of $750,000 per violation. (I figure since I'm not a rapist, my name is worth more than yours out of the box.) Good luck with that suit, Mr. Klaudt, and say hello to your prison husband for me.


(*) To my graphic artist readers, I bid you peace. You can, of course, copyright the image or graphic design or whatever that becomes a trademark. And so, litereally and technically, it can be said that you are "copyrighting a trademark." Or more accurately, that a copyright exists in the trademark. (And exactly how that plays out is an interesting question for another day.) But copyright and trademark protect two completely different things, and you can't "reserve a copyright in a trademark" in the sense that this Rapist and IP Moron intends the phrase. ALSO, see (**) re my use of [copyright] as a verb.

(**) I intentionally misuse [trademark] as a verb here; it's a little shout-out to the great and mighty RC.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interesting Take on Consumer Protection in Trademark

In Sunday's New York Times - 2009 Year in Ideas, there was this interesting piece titled The Counterfeit Self. (The #name tag should work, but if not, it's the 4th item down.)

It is not a surprise that small dishonesties insinuate themselves into a person's character, paving the way for greater ones; It's essentially the obverse of the Ben Franklin Effect applied to oneself. But (as far as I know) it hadn't been examined closely in terms of the purchase and "use" of counterfeit merchandise.

There's a running debate about the exact purpose of Trademark protection; Does it protect the consumer in terms of search costs? In terms of some sort of incohate warranty function? Or is it a matter of the manufacturer's property and sweat equity? Or some combination thereof.

I tend to understand it as something that started out as a consumer-protection issue (focusing on search cost) and then got morphed into an issue of manufacturer's property simply because of the way the consumer protection was enforced and analyzed.

I haven't wrapped my brain around exactly how it's going to happen, but it will be interesting to see how the idea of the article gets folded into arguments about the rationales for trademark protection and the breadth and strength of the protection necessary to support those rationales...

"Incredibly Overbroad trademark enforcement protects consumers from themselves!" I just threw up a little in my mouth.

On the plus side, I think I actually blogged about this before LoC, Duets, or CounterfeitChic. So go me!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fair Use of Videogame Screens

I'm showing my geek roots, here, but it's not like I've been hiding that.

I came across this article which pointed me to three recent paintings by Brock Davis (a/k/a Laser Bread), all of which are the painter's takes on some classic videogames.

I'll put the game names at the bottom, because it should take about half a second for gamers of a certain age to recognize these.

And for those of you think of gaming systems [obSnydeQuipMaskingJealousy], that's Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, and Missile Command.

The geek in me abso-lurves these, for aesthetic and nostalgic value. The lawyer in me went directly to the fair use analysis.

There's no question that the iconic videogame screens that these paintings are based on are subject to copyright. Actually, there is some question, as it can be argued that the Missile Command and Dig Dug screens were jointly created by the end user, but that's a question for another post. Let's just take that point as read.

The fair use analysis is actually fairly straightforward. You've got a transformative use that will have no impact on the market for the games, or even (taking a more controversial reading of the fourth factor) the potential derivative market for the games. That's factors one and four in favor of fair use. Factor four used to be the "first among equals," more recently the question of "transformative use" is filling that role, but in this case both cut in favor of finding fair use.

Admittedly, the game screen is a creative work, which puts factor 2 in the not-fair-use column. and it could be argued that the amount taken is substantial - it would depend on the determination of what, exactly, constituted the work; is it the game overall or individual screens. But these are relatively weak and would bow in any event to the determination mandated by factors 1 and 4.

Another question would be the trademark implications. These images are, I would posit, fairly iconographic, and each of the screenshots then very likely identify a source (Namco, Nintendo, Atari respectively) The proof is in the pudding, in that (as noted) gamers of a certain age probably recognized the game identities from the paintings without any difficulty.

I don't have a link, but I recall seeing sites where you can submit a digital image and get a painting. Presumably to different levels of abstractness. In which case Atari might be able to argue that a consumer seeing the paintings might be confused as to the source or - in this case the stronger argument - sponsorship of the paintings.

Fair use analysis in trademarks tends to concentrate on the whole "nominative use" question, but that won't do any work for us here. Trademark fair use as a doctrine is mainly concerned with trademarks that are also words in the language and limitations on the extent to which trademark rights can curtail the use of language. Which, sadly, also doesn't do much work for us here.

So on a purely doctrinal level, it seems that the game makers could make at least an objectively reasonable (not Rule 11 sanctionable) trademark infringement case against the artist, claiming that consumers might mistakenly believe that the game maker had sponsored the painting. And his defense would have to be "no they won't," which is a poor defense in that it doesn't do any work pre-trial, or at least pre-survey -- which is to say pre-expensive.

The saving grace for Mr. Davis might be the practical factors militating against the manufacturer's bringing suit, to wit, the negative publicity, the paucity of available damages, the relative age (value) of the marks allegedly infringed, etc.

I think that's the right answer on the law, but it disappoints me on the facts. There should be space in the law for exactly this kind of expression. I touch on this briefly in my post about the Carol Burnett - Family Guy dustup here. And this is another example of where the conversation of our world is being impeded by the very laws that were intended to protect that conversation (albeit a different facet of that conversation.)


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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do you hear something? Is that my own horn? Why, yes it is. Toot!

I became a lawyer for a lot of reasons, which is a good topic for another post on another day.

But one of those reasons -- and not a small one -- I really like to win. I know it won't happen every time. But when it does, it feels so nice.

(Remind me to tell you sometime about the on-campus interview when I was a 2L, and the callback interview I got for saying just this.)

So I've got this client -- -- in the business of selling, primarily, kits for use in the lodging industry at the website (three guesses)

A while ago, they were named as Respondents in a UDRP brought by Lodging Kit Co., which operates (No hyperlink - I know it's petty, but I'm a litigator by penchant and training, which means there's a level of emotional investment with my client, which means the bad guys get no link love from me.)

Now, during the pendency of the matter, I felt the best interests of my client were served by my silence. Now that it's pretty much over (barring some sort of trademark enforcement litigation on Complainant's part that would be ridiculously ill-advised ), I'm feeling a little more unrestrained.

I don't want to get all ad hominem on the Complainant's counsel, which will require a fair amount of restraint on my part. I will, however, say that the most distinct impression I got from the complaint was that it was done by someone who had no experience with UDRPs and/or who had no interest in winning the case.

That is to say, I don't have the time to do a redline right now, but the Complaint was a barely modified version of the sample complaint available from the Nat'l Arb Forum. I kept thinking of all those comedy movies where someone's administering an oath, and says, "Repeat after me: I, state your name," and the oath taker dutifully repeats, "I, state your name."

The only assertion of rights on which the Complaint was based was a registration of the mark on the Supplemental Register. Which alone wouldn't necessarily be fatal -- which is to say, I could imagine a fact pattern where it would not -- but is generally so, given what the Supplemental Register is all about.

Certainly on the facts of this case, the registration Complainant was relying on was less than useless to them. They had sought registration, been rejected for descriptiveness, and then amended to the Supplemental Register - essentially conceding a lack of secondary meaning.

I don't need to recap the argument too thoroughly; you can read it yourself in an elegantly structured and eloquently argued (if I do say so myself) Response (on JD Supra, here). I ring the no-secondary-meaning bell a bunch of times, in different contexts.

Complainant came back with something only a tiny bit less inane, including an affidavit (without exhibits) and bald assertions attempting to overcome the gross failures of the original Complaint. I had the job on a flat-fee basis, and could have adequately answered the Additional Submission with relative ease. But it was just so... crushable. It was fat, slow one over the plate, and I just had to spend the extra couple of hours knockin' it all the way out. Which is to say, I returned a(nother) elegant and eloquent Supplemental Response (on JD Supra, here).

In any event, the decision came down squarely for my client, agreeing with my primary contention that Complainant had not established rights in the mark in question. I would have liked it if the Panel had agreed with me in all my contentions, but - as is not atypical - once it determined that Complainant had failed to satisfy the first requirement of the Policy, the Panel didn't pass on the other prongs.

Even so, it's a definitive win for me and the client, and it served the client's interests in the obvious way as well as more subtle ways.

I'm happy, client's happy. All manner o' things are well.

Now that's a good day.


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Friday, November 13, 2009

Wide and Shallow: Fonts and Typography

There are so many other blogs out there doing IP breaking news and current-events; I try to frame my posts here as more narrow but also perhaps deeper.

But it's my blog and I can do what I please (within legal limits and all that.) So, herewith a wider ranging and less deeply probing set of links and ideas.

Somehow or another I found my way to Twenty Tweetable Truths about Magazines, which was elegant and wonderful made me think about magazines and the fact that I still subscribe to one or two and that I use them differently from the way I use the internet and other media sources.

Because I found it (I remember now) through a design e-newsletter I receive, which pointed to the font used, it also made me think of the Pulp Fiction Kinetic Typology videos -- (the one linked is the one I like most, but there's lots out there.) (Be advised, of course, it's not exactly safe-for-work, language wise. Depends on where you work, I guess.)

That got me thinking about the copyright issues in those kinds of presentations. My instinct is that it's a fair use -- transformative use made of a published (but fictional) work, taking only a small-ish portion of only the audio track, with very low likelihood of market substitution. A different, slightly more subtle question might look at the trademark implications. I want this use to be acceptable under that rubric, because the results are so wonderful, but I'm going to have to think about it a bit before I commit (post) either way.

Of course, it never hurts to actually get permission - as is claimed by the makers of the best one I saw when surfing around yesterday - the Who's on First kinetic typography presentation.

One of my pet interests is the protectability of design elements - particularly fonts - which is, rightly, the subject of one of the "deeper" posts I claim above. But my explorations yesterday led me to a font called Liza Pro, which has (claims) over 4000 "contextual ligatures and alternates," and "advanced OpenType programming" (see the slideshow, which is so cool!) that made me think of fonts in a way that I hadn't before - as a computer program or even a straight-up "method" for contextually reimaging letters. So that'll have to go into the hopper when I think about IP protection of fonts.

(Also in that vein, when is a font not a font? When it's clearly just art: Steampunk, Erte. Although I'm vacillating on that point even as I type these words.)


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