Tag: legal


Should (or Will) Google Start Playing Offense With Its Patent Arsenal?

When Google first launched their patent search in December of 2006 I don’t think many people believed or even thought it possible that Google’s own patents would come to flood the search results only a few years later.  But now in 2011 we’ve witnessed Google, a company that has grown to massive proportions over the years, going on a rampage buying up patents left and right.  Be it the purchase of 1,000 IBM patents earlier in the month – something that I viewed as entirely hypocritical – or the even larger move to purchase Motorola Mobility and gain an estimated 17,000 patents there’s no denying that Google has been quite busy recently.  Just last month some people were predicting a “patent war” between Apple and Google, both of whom have expressed an interest in expanding their patent catalogs, and as of right now Google is definitely winning by far.

And Google isn’t bashful about letting their true intentions being known, either.  Larry Page has been quoted as saying that the “acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable [them] to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”  Of course the reference to anti-competitive threats comes after Google has been taken to court for violating patents that have been granted to other entities.  But really I have to wonder if Google really intends to simply sit on all of those patents.  I get the fact that they’re looking to protect themselves, but the question still remains; will Google flex their now super-sized muscles in court and go after other entities (e.g. Microsoft and Apple) for violating patents that Google now owns (or will own in the near future)?

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Could Piracy Be On The Decline?

Back in the medieval days, everyone associated the term “pirate” with crooked and drunken sailors – often with creative names such as “Redbeard” – sporting swords, peg legs, hook hands, parrots, and repulsive breath.  In more modern society, however, the terms “pirate” and “piracy” have taken up quite a different meaning.  Modern day piracy – a term used to describe the theft, distribution, and use of electronic software and multi-media – has come to impact every single electronic-driven industry.  But the culprits don’t travel on ships or wreak havoc on the wide sea.  Instead they do their work on a keyboard in front of a screen.  Sure, they don’t sport parrots or swords, but much like medieval pirates of centuries past electronic pirates share the same attributes of unlawful theft (and sometimes bad breath).

In the last few years, it has been estimated that about ninety-five percent of music downloaded online is obtained through illegal methods such as illegal download sites and peer-to-peer sharing protocols like as BitTorrent and Gnutella.  According to similar studies, videos and movies only fair slightly better with approximately eighty-five percent of content being downloaded and consumed illegally.  Even electronic software and applications are subjected to piracy, with an estimated forty-one percent being downloaded, distributed, and consumed via less than legal methods.  But even with these undeniably high numbers – in some cases with illegal downloads far surpassing legal ones – I am convinced that the problem with piracy is an issue that will begin to fade out over the next few years.

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Microsoft Argues Against Apple’s Pending “App Store” Trademark

As it stands today, the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad are three widely used devices that arguably pioneered the new mobile trends that we have been seeing over the last couple of years.  One of the biggest features behind Apple’s “iOS” – the underlying operating system that is used on all of Apple’s non-MacBook mobile products – is the “App Storewhich allows users to purchase and download mobile applications for their handheld devices over-the-air without the need for any physical installation media.  In fact, the iOS App Store has done so well for Apple that the company recently released a similar software center – also bearing the “App Store” name – for the Mac OS X platform as well.  However, in the heat of Apple’s success, competitor Microsoft is making claims that the term “app store” is too generic to be awarded the patent in which Apple is in the works to obtain.

This controversy, which made its way around the headlines yesterday comes more than two years after Apple filed the initial request to be awarded a trademark, and nearly a year after the United States Patent and Trademark Office opened the doors for contestment on Apple’s proposed trademark.  On top of that, the timing of this controversy also comes relatively shortly after the release of Windows Phone 7; a product that Microsoft has been pushing very heavily, and a product that contains a similar software marketplace.

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Trek 2000 Acquires “ThumbDrive” Trademark

When discussing data storage solutions for individuals, flash-drives are often one of the most efficient and frequently used options.  Students, business people, technicians, and individuals alike use flash-drives because of the rapid data transfer rates and overall durability; a trait that is attributed to the device’s use of flash memory as opposed to typical “disk” solutions.  However, because of the shape and size of typical flash-drive designs, many people have referenced them as “thumb drives” from the get-go.

Recently, Singapore based Trek 2000 hit a major legal milestone by having their argument that “ThumbDrive” is a proprietary, non-generic term, upheld by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  In basic, this ruling means that the term “ThumbDrive” is now recognized as a trademark of Trek 2000.  Moreover, this ruling makes Trek 2000 the only company in the world that is able to produce and sell flash-drives under the “ThumbDrive” name.

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Google Sues US Government

For any business in any industry, landing a government contract is often a major victory in the sense that it provides a steady and reliable line of work and gives the business the ability to expand.  However, in the United States, all government agencies are typically required to bid-out projects before making contracts and agreements, except in cases where the cost of said services are relatively minor.  However, Internet giant Google, Inc. is now making allegations that the United States Department of Interior is not following these important regulations.  Rather, Google claims that the DOI is neglecting to consider non-Microsoft software solutions and is refusing to consider worthy alternatives.

You see, the United States Department of Interior put out a bid for companies to provide cloud-computing services (email and collaboration) for approximatively eighty-eight thousand users within the department.  In this bid request, the DOI specified that the cloud-computing solution had to be based off of Microsoft’s “Business Productivity Online Suite.”  By doing so, the DOI essentially ensured that Microsoft was going to benefit from the deal by providing the software licenses.  More importantly however, by making this requirement the DOI eliminated the number of entities that were able to bid on the project, and ultimately shut their eyes to other solutions that easily could have been more efficient and/or cost-effective.  For this reason, Google has opted to sue the Department of Interior, claiming that their specification of Microsoft’s platform was unfair and showed unjustifiable favor towards the software giant.

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Copyright Office Makes Changes, Gives More Rights to Consumers

Yesterday the United States Copyright Office held a rare meeting (held once every three years) to review and change some copyright law. In doing so, the Copyright Office made a landmark decision that can definitely be seen as a win for digital rights supporters. Changes to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allowed for more freedom for users wishing to install custom firmware on to their phones, as well as (some) users who wished to make backups of their DVD movies.

First and foremost the new rules allow owners of smart phones such as the Apple iPhone to legally develop, distribute, and use non-approved third party applications. On the iPhone, this process known as “jailbreaking”, allows a user to install an application from a source outside of the Apple App Store; a store that is often attacked for being too strict.

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