A Disneyland look-a-like theme park outside of Beijing called Shijingshan has been shut down by Chinese authorities, apparently as a consequence of the deal to open a Disneyland Shanghai park. Shijingshan sported some intensely crappy rides and attractions that seemed to have been designed by making wild guesses about the equivalent rides in the actual Disney parks (amusingly, the "American Adventure" ride was a haunted house).
Shijingshan management claim that they aren't copying Disney, merely taking their inspiration from the same sources. It's an interesting example of the difference between copyright and trademark; from the particulars I can see online, I don't think there's much merit to a copyright claim here -- though there are a few examples where there are clear derivative works, most of the design is merely generically derived from public domain sources such as castles and fairy tale characters. On the other had, there's a very strong trademark case here, since the use of distinctive ride-names and such seem deliberately chosen to confuse customers about the nature and origin of the park's designs.
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Deputy general manager, Yin Zhiqiang, said: "The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different."
"We do not have any agreements with Disney."
Despite the striking similarities to foreign characters, Yin insisted the Beijing park's are all locally designed.
"Take our Cinderella as an example. The face of Disney's Cinderella face is European, but ours is a Chinese. She looks like a young Chinese country girl," he said.
A little trademark thought-experiment: under a proposed UN treaty, Internet Service Providers (as well as search engines, social media sites, online auctions, online games, and sites like Etsy and Thingiverse) will be responsible for detecting and interdicting trademark infringement and helping punish infringers by retaining and providing their personal information on demand from a trademark holder, without a court order.
Now, many coffee shops today are ISPs (that is, one of the kinds of intermediary targetted by this proposal). And many coffee shops today are the locus of trademark infringement -- say, when you walk in with your kid clutching a fake Barbie from a stalls market or a blanket in Santee Alley or on Broadway. If you applied this intermediary liability standard to the real world, every barista would have to be on the lookout for this kind of trademark infringement. If someone in the shop were to say, "Hey, I work for Mattel, and that Barbie's a fake!" it would be the barista's duty to leap over the counter and take away the fake Barbie.
But her responsibility wouldn't stop there: her employer would have to set up cameras and cash-register logs so that they could identify infringers later. So after you left with your kid (who is by now in tears, screaming for her lost Barbie) (or "Barbie") the barista would have to pull your name off your credit card receipt and hand it over to the random dude who says he works for Mattel, without seeing any ID (much less a court order). Read the rest
FreeNYTimes writes, "The twitter account I set up to broadcast data from the NY Times API, @freeNYTimes, was recently suspended, ostensibly for trademark infringement. But I set up a mirror at @freeUnnamedNews, which should be good to go because it doesn't use the paper's name in the feed. Right?"
Some background: the new NYT paywall allows for unlimited free article views for people following links from Twitter. The @FreeNYTimes feed created links to all the NYT stories, which meant that you could read the whole paper gratis, simply by following the feed (presumably, you could also create an index of Twitter URLs that corresponded to all the URLs on the Times's site, a kind of codex of free backdoors to the paper).
The NYT has many options to fight this sort of thing. They could program their firewall to restrict Twitter referers, or to simply block anything from the @FreeNYTimes account. Instead, the Times lodged an utterly bogus trademark complaint with Twitter -- bogus because trademark doesn't generically give you the right to stop people using your product or company's name; rather, it stops people from doing so deceptively. The Times's position effectively was that Times readers would mistake @FreeNYTimes for a big-hearted gesture from the Times itself, operated by the Times in order to defeat the Times's paywall. This is a stupid thing to assert.
It's also damaging to journalism: there are many trademark holders, from Sarah Palin to Dow Chemical, who'd love it if the NYT could only use their name with permission. Read the rest
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.
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.Read the rest
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.
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) Fake Disney movie trailer for the Sarah Palin story - Boing Boing The Sarah Palin Turkey Video - Boing Boing Video footage of Sarah Palin's church - Boing Boing Palin Debate Prep Flowchart - Boing Boing Computer-Generated Sarah Palin Interview - Boing Boing Vlad and Boris: Love Song for Sarah Palin, our Alaskan Neighbor ... Read the rest
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 (Thanks, NeilM!) How ACTA will change the world's internet laws USA caves on secret Internet treaty Secret copyright treaty: USA caves on border laptop/phone/MP3 ... Read the rest
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.