Microsoft was recently awarded U.S. Patent 7,415,666 for a Method and System for navigating paginated content in page-based increments which has some up in arms at the notion that Microsoft could patent ‘Page-Up’ and ‘Page-Down’ keystrokes. (link) However, as you consider the outrage, remember that patents are much more than what is set forth in their titles and abstracts, and a true understanding of what is covered can only result from ‘paging down’ through the text of the patent to the claims. They are the starting point for revealing the true scope of a patent, which in most cases is much more nuanced than what may originally be thought.
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J.K Rowling emerged victorious in a copyright decision that was announced earlier today by the Southern District of New York. The work at issue? A Harry Potter encyclopedia written by a librarian and rabid Harry Potter fan. In permanently blocking publication of the work, the court rejected the defendant’s “fair use” defense, finding that the encyclopedia incorporated “too much of Rowling’s creative work” and would cause J.K Rowling “irreparable harm” as a writer.
Obviously, a guide to a “fictional universe” must necessarily incorporate lengthy references and passages of the underlying fictional work. However, today’s decision highlights the limited applicability of the “fair use” defense to such works (which are not, in a strict sense, academic.) Accordingly, future authors of such literary guides may want to consider seeking a copyright holder’s consent prior to beginning any such endeavor. Otherwise, they too will risk having their book tossed into a ‘goblet of fire’ (or ‘chamber of secrets’) by an adverse copyright ruling.
Find the story here.
Find an explanation of the “fair use” defense here.