If you were concerned about Facebook, wait until you hear about Unvarnished. Getunvarnished.com, which just launched in beta, has been described as a website wherein Yelp meets LinkedIn. 
 
The site with the tag “truth in reputation” allows users to create profiles and rate other users in the hopes of revealing the truth about the individual. However, the social networking site has been severely criticized for having little to no security controls. Specifically, the site only verifies a user’s identity through Facebook to insure that he/she is not a minor and then proves the user with carte blanche to create profiles and rate individuals anonymously. And since the purpose of the “reviews” is to reveal who an individual “really is” the user, who is being rated, is unable to delete and/or vote on negative posts about himself/herself.
 
Supporters of the site have said that the truth will bear out and that users can have their friends post positive comments that will offset any erroneous or negative comments. The co-founder of the site even insists that it will not turn into a burn book but rather an opportunity for people to see what others really think of them. Time will tell if Unvarnished becomes a useful social networking site or the perfect platform for defamation. Either way, the sites very existence continues to expand the private/public distinction and limits the scope of personal privacy.  Not surprisingly, like Facebook, My Space, Twitter and Yelp it is one more site that may require legal monitoring.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is considering a new program which will provide applicants the option to defer payment of a considerable portion of the fees due upon filing certain U.S. patent applications for up to 12-months. The program is intended to allow applicants additional time to evaluate the market potential of their invention, before incurring the full costs of pursuing a U.S. patent.
 
The fee deferral program is proposed for applicants filing non-provisional applications which claim priority to a provisional patent application, within the 12-month provisional period.  Applicants electing to take advantage of the deferred fee option would not be entitled to file a Request for Non-Publication with the non-provisional application. Under the proposal, applicants would only be required to pay the basis filing fee, currently $330 (or $165 for small entities), and would be allowed up to 12-months from filing a qualifying non-provisional patent application to pay the search and examination fees, currently $760 (or $380 for a small entity), along with a surcharge and any additional fees which may have been incurred.  Of course, until the additional fees have been paid, the application will not be placed into the queue for examination by the PTO.
 
Monday, 05 April 2010 19:50

GENE PATENTS INVALID?

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Gene patents are currently a hotly debated topic, having caught the attention of the public and the media, including the news program 60 MinutesTM. The debate essentially pivots around the interpretation of whether a gene patent improperly covers a gene as it occurs within the human (or when isolated is no different from the natural gene), as opponents contend, or whether the patent is merely protecting an isolated version of the gene as produced by the hand of man (and therefore is no different than any other chemical compound), as proponents maintain.
 
The debate has been raging in federal court in New York since last May, concerning several patents owned by Myriad Genetics that involve the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are implicated in breast cancer. Last week, the judge in that case ruled that several claims of the patents were invalid for encompassing non-statutory subject matter. Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al. (S.D.N.Y.). Some interpret this to mean that gene patents are invalid.
 
But before leaping to that conclusion, consider: only some of the claims were found invalid, leaving many other claims valid. Also, the decision concerned particular claims of certain patents; the Court did not address the broader constitutionality aspects of the case, so this decision is narrowed in its scope. Additionally, the Defendants are appealing this judgment to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, who will review the decision and may overturn it. It seems likely, though, that since this is such a significant case, it could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before the public, and patentees, have a final answer on this important question.

A Bradenton, Florida company has sued Cup Solutions, Inc., an online seller of cups used for mixing drinks with shots of hard liquor, alleging that the Defendant's "YAAGBOMB" cups, pictured below, infringe a patent owned by Hurricane Shooters, LLC, the Plaintiff. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 19:48

URBAN DICTIONARY SUED FOR TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT

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A Fort Lauderdale company that claims ownership of trademark rights for the term "MEANAGER" in connection with clothing has sued Urban Dictionary, an online dictionary of slang words and phrases, and another Defendant, for allegedly selling competing goods that use the term "MEANAGER".   The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and is pending before Chief Judge Federico A. Moreno. 

The complaint alleges that Urban Dictionary is infringing the Florida company's trademark by using the term "MEANAGER" on articles that it sells through its website.  According to the complaint, Urban Dictionary sells articles that feature the slang words and phrases that appear on its website, and takes issue with the sale of articles bearing the term "MEANAGER".  The term has three definitions on the web site, one as a slang phrase for a mean boss, i.e. a "MEANAGER" (as a play on words for Manager); and the other two relating to teenagers that exhibit hurtful behavior (a play on words for the terms Mean and Teenager).  According to Wikipedia, another online dictionary, Urban Dictionary currently has 4.79 million definitions on its website. 

The Florida company alleges that it has promoted its mark through websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn.  With the ever increasing amount of business that is done through the internet, it is no surprise that cases such as these are being filed a more rapid rate.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010 19:48

GOOGLE'S EUROPEAN VACATION

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In a decision released earlier today, the European Court of Justice held that Google was not liable for the sale of AdWords to a retailer who, in turn, used the trademarked keywords in connection with the sale of counterfeit goods. The decision stemmed from Google's nearly five-year old appeal of a French decision in favor of Louis Vitton. Pursuant to the Court's holding, Google is not responsible for investigating the authenticity of a retailer's goods prior to selling its keywords. Nevertheless, with an eye toward future litigation, the Court did call for more transparency from companies such as Google with respect to the identity of sellers purchasing and using the trademarked keywords.

Read the decision here.

Saturday, 23 March 2013 19:33

THE POWER OF A DESIGN PATENT

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Everyone has experienced an auto accident of some form, be it a fender-bender or a more severe impact. While more forceful impacts can damage structural and/or functional components of a vehicle, even low-speed impacts can cause cosmetic damage that can be costly to replace.

So the next time you find yourself in a body shop pondering the cost of replacing cosmetic auto parts, consider this: many automobile body parts are patented. Companies in the auto industry have begun procuring design patents on the ornamental design of certain auto parts, including fenders, grilles, and quarter panels. This has led to some recent debate, since these design patents allow the manufacturers control over the original part, as well as replacement parts having the same patented design.  

The Statute of Anne, widely considered the world’s first copyright statute and the precursor to modern copyright law, went into effect on April 10, 1710, thus making this year (2010) the "tricentennial of copyright law."

The Statute of Anne was formally entitled "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of Such Copies, During the Times therein Mentioned" and was enacted in the United Kingdom during the reign of its namesake, Queen Anne.