The fun-loving weirdos at the World Intellectual Property Organization have a new and terrible wheeze they want to unleash upon the world: a treaty that would require "intermediaries" (web-hosts, ISPs, social networking sites, auction sites, etc) to enforce trademarks on behalf of mark-holders. Under the proposal, these companies and organizations would not only have to delete material that is alleged to infringe on a trademark, they'd also have to narc out their users, supplying IP addresses and other information to the trademark holders, without a court order.
Combine this with the current vogue to copyright trolling, where scumbag lawyers send out indiscriminate shakedown letters demanding copyright "settlements," these being sums priced below what it would cost a victim to get legal advice as to whether they should cough up, and you've got the making of a fine racket for the next generation of legal fraudsters, bottom-feeders and blackmailers.
I love that this UN agency has made its mission to provide full employment for extortionists and trademark lawyers.
English : Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications : Twenty-Fifth Session
When a Thingiverse contributor uploaded 3D-print-ready homebrew tiles for German superboardgame Settlers of Catan
, it raised a bunch of interesting legal questions. Is it illegal to make your own Settlers tiles? To download 3D files describing these tiles? To host the files? To print the files?
Now, Public Knowledge provides some legal analysis:
Let's start with copyright. Settlers of Catan is probably protected by copyright. Importantly, that protection does not cover the entirety of the game. Instead, copyright protects the design on the game tiles. This makes sense - the image on the tile (of pastures, or fields, or rocky quarries, or the like) is just a picture, and pictures are well within the scope of copyright. However, Sublime's 3D designs make no attempt to copy the images on the tiles. Copyright might also protect the shapes of the pieces, except these shapes are so generic and utilitarian (rectangles for roads, simple houses for settlements) that any protection would be extremely limited. Moreover, Sublime's pieces are generally more ornate that the official versions.
Copyright does not protect the shapes of the tiles (they are designed to fit together, and are therefore most likely "functional objects" outside of the scope of copyright). Nor does copyright protect the actual rules of Settlers of Catan. Game rules, like recipes, have a limited number of ways that they can be expressed. Copyright protects expressions, not ideas. Therefore, in order to protect the free flow of ideas, recipes and game rules are rarely protected by copyright.
PK's Michael Weinberg (author of the excellent white paper It Will Be Awesome if They Don't Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology
) goes on to analyze the patent and trademark implications, and concludes that it's almost certainly legal to make, host, design, download and print your own Settlers tiles.
3D Printing Settlers of Catan is Probably Not Illegal: Is This a Problem?
Some details on Sarah Palin's crazed attempt to register a trademark in her name; apart from making stupid errors in her application, there's the curious business that she considers "running for election" to be the same as using her name in commerce. Also, turns out Bristol Palin also wants a trademark on her name, for "motivational speaking services in the field of life choices."
On November 29, the application was rejected for two reasons. First, the examiner pointed out, the fact that your name appears in a news article or on your Facebook page is not evidence that you are "providing a website" featuring political information. Second, Palin did not sign the application.
Sarah PalinTM Having Trouble With Registration
The examiner pointed out that if a mark is the name of a particular living individual, it can't be registered unless that individual has signed or there is some other record of consent. (The examiner cited cases involving "Little Debbie," who is in fact a real person, and "Prince Charles," who arguably is too.) Because Palin hadn't signed, the application could not be granted.
It seems like signing your name is not something you would forget when your name is what you're trying to trademark, but she's a busy woman.
(Image: Sarah Palin, Queen of Pork, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from llyn_hunter's photostream)
Metallic green swirls are in!
Cellphone maker Sony Ericsson is suing Clearwire over the similarities between the two companies' logos
. The trademark infringement comes down to the 'swirl' motif, color scheme and both companies' presence in the same market.
[PDF via Engadget
New revelations on ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a secretive global copyright being privately negotiated by rich countries away from the UN: ACTA will require ISPs to police trademarks the way they currently police copyright. That means that if someone accuses you of violating a trademark with a web-page, blog-post, video, tweet, etc, your ISP will be required to nuke your material without any further proof, or be found to be responsible for any trademark violations along with you. And of course, trademark violations are much
harder to verify than copyright violations, since they often hinge on complex, fact-intensive components like tarnishment, dilution and genericization. Meaning that ISPs are that much more likely to simply take all complaints at face-value, leading to even more easy censorship of the Internet with nothing more than a trumped-up trademark claim.
At first glance, the leak suggests intermediaries such as ISPs and search engine portals may now be liable for trademark infringements by their account holders - unless there are clear exceptions such as the Safe Harbour provisions available under the Copyright Act regulations.
ACTA: ISPs could be liable for trademark infringements
Professor Anna George, adjunct professor at Murdoch University and former DFAT negotiator on WTO TRIPS and the digital economy chapters of the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, believed such a change would potentially be bad news for Australia's trade relations.
Nexus One, the new cellphone from HTC and Google, is named in homage to the the Nexus series of androids in Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Andoids Dream of Electric Sheep," filmed as "Blade Runner." Dick's estate's response? It's threatened Google
. Names can't be copyrighted, so the vague legal mutterings imply a trademark fight. As there are hundreds of live trademarks
for the term "Nexus" -- one filed by Google last month! -- this'll be a fun one.