Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Harvard Bookstore Part Two

Via the Harvard Crimson, Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society responds to the Harvard Coop's claim of intellectual property rights in its book pricing.

I do believe that's the most I've ever used "Harvard" in a single sentence.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Trademark Rights in Second Life Avatars

There is a post on Valleywag today regarding the trademark rights in a Second Life avatar. The post makes some common errors when referring to trademarks. The errors are not simply semantic, but are important to truly grasp how trademarks work. The first sentence of the post reads: Alyssa LaRoche has successfully obtained a trademark for her Second Life avatar Aimee Weber. Trademark rights come about through actual use of a mark, so rights are more accrued than obtained. A party can own a trademark registration but that by itself does not necessarily determine the strength of the mark, nor the ability of the owner of the registration to enjoin others from using a similar mark. If the post is referring to this trademark application, it should be noted that the application has not yet matured into a registration. Moreover, the application is based on an intent to use the mark and no statement of use or allegation of use has been filed, although it does not necessarily follow that the mark is not yet in use.

The post concludes by calling Alyssa Roche, the owner of the mark, foolish to think she really owns anything. She is seeking, in essence, a trademark on a figment of her imagination, in the service of a business of selling figments. It makes for good copy, but bad trademark analysis. Trademarks rights are always connected to the goods and services which the mark is used on or in connection with. Ms. Roche's trademark application sets forth the services as Computer programming services, namely content creation for virtual worlds and three dimensional platforms. From a trademark law perspective, so long as Ms. Roche uses her mark/avatar in connection with the services she provides, there is nothing stopping her from accruing trademark rights. Ms. Roche is not selling figments, she is selling very real programming services.

There are many fascinating intellectual property issues inside virtual worlds. This does not appear to be one of them.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Now That's a "" Site

If you were going to create a website devoted to informing the world about the problems you've had with a chain link fence purchased from Lowes, you probably couldn't do a more thorough job than this man has. Photos, audio, scanned letters, some gentle taunting... it's got it all. Definitely one to watch.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Harvard Bookstore Apparently Claims Copyright in Prices

The Harvard Crimson reports that university bookstore the Coop has taken to shooing out students who are caught writing down prices, presumably for the purpose of comparison shopping. The President of the Coop, Harvard grad Jerry Murphy, claims that the store considers the prices its intellectual property. I would assume that was an off the cuff remark by Mr. Murphy, and that he hasn't perused the "law" aisle of his bookstore in a while. Prices by themselves are generally not protected matter.

The Coop's informal policy is apparently in response to competition from Crimson Reading, a student-run site that seeks to save students money on their books (and contributes profits to charity, mind you). We've seen this sort of dubious invocation of intellectual property rights in prices before, as when Best Buy twice attempted to use the DMCA to keep various "Black Friday" websites from listing their day after Thanksgiving deals.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Social Networking roundup

The Boston Globe covers a few Massachusetts-based companies -- Utterz and MocoSpace -- in the mobile social networking space.

Slate delves into Club Penguin, and sits down with a focus group of eleven year olds to discuss what other websites they're into these days.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Copyright Office Records Search

The Copyright Office has rolled out its new records search system. On first blush it's light years ahead of the clunky previous system, particularly in that the searchable fields are fairly extensive, and it allows for Boolean searching. The results page is far easier to comprehend as well. The downside is that no records prior to 1978 are available electronically, which seems odd as I'm fairly certain there were plenty of pre-1978 records available via the old search.

Overall, though, definitely a step up.


Friday, September 07, 2007

IP Considerations for Game Developers

Heads up to all the game companies in the Boston area: CNet summarizes a recent talk given by Greg Boyd at the Austin Game Developers Conference about the many intellectual property issues game developers should take into consideration before, during and after the development process.


Good v. Sucks

In one corner, Life Is Good, a company built on the sartorial adventures of a smiley-faced doodle. In the other, "parody company" Life Sucks, an undisguised stab at the overly-cheery original, run by 17 year old James Costantini and building itself on the sartorial misadventures of a frowny-faced doodle. The Globe tells the tale.

New t-shirt idea: The expense of fighting a trademark infringement suit filed against me by a one hundred million dollar company sucks!