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Two New Online Resources For IP Information: “WIPO GOLD” And USPTO

Within the last week, two separate intellectual property search engines were launched, each of which has the potential to significantly palliate searches for patents, trademarks and other IP. http://www.wipo.int/wipogold/en/

Specifically, on June 1, 2010, the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) introduced a free online public resource, “WIPO GOLD” which aims to facilitate universal access to IP information. It promises “quick and easy access to a broad collection of searchable IP data and tools relating to, for example, technology, brands, domain names, designs, statistics, WIPO standards, IP classification systems and IP laws and treaties..” The site also includes a helpful translation option, should users wish to search results in a language other than the default, English. The news report can be viewed here: http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2010/article_0018.html

Meanwhile, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) separately announced on June 2, 2010 that it has entered into a “no-cost, two-year agreement with Google to make bulk electronic patent and trademark public data available to the public in bulk form.” Under the agreement, USPTO will provide Google with “existing bulk, electronic files, which Google will host without modification for the public free of charge.” Examples of searchable items include: patent grants and applications; trademark applications and Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) proceedings; and patent classification information. The USPTO and Google also will work together to make additional data available in the future, such as patent and trademark file histories and related data, the office said. The bulk data can be accessed at http://www.google.com/googlebooks/uspto.html.

In other words, as technology moves forward, so too does the ability to research and guard intellectual property ownership and interests… at least in the Western Hemisphere and other WIPO member countries. Now, if only the remainder of the world could come together to unify owners’ capabilities to globally protect their IP rights.

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What’s in a Name? Domain Name Disputes for Dummies

Never underestimate the value of a good domain name! As any website owner will tell you, http://www.rose.com, by any other name, is likely to lose customers.

About a week ago, my colleague’s nephew, Kevin Bortnick, found himself in a domain name predicament. His plight is interesting and he has graciously permitted us to blog about his situation, which provides some useful context for a discussion about domain name disputes.

Kevin is a talented website developer who used the name “KBortnick” or “KB” for his internet business. In November of 2005, he registered the domain name kbortnick.com for a period of four years, at a cost of about $10 per year. Although the domain name expired in November, 2009, he explained that “I was moving out & had a bit of a money crunch, so I figured I’d renew it in about a month, because it really wasn’t worth anything & I figured it would be fine….”

A couple of weeks ago, he attempted to re-register the name, only to discover that someone else had purchased it. That unknown ‘someone’ had immediately put it up for sale on a website that auctions off domain names, http://seto.com, subject to a minimum bid of $480. As you can imagine, Kevin was livid. “The highest I’ve ever seen my domain name appraised at was about $30”, he exclaimed, “and most places didn’t even give it that!”

(I empathized with Kevin’s situation. Over Canadian Thanksgiving, while I was sitting before the computer in a state of turkey-induced lethargy, I was suddenly roused from my stupor by the discovery that the domain name “pamelapengelley.com” could be registered for the low, low price of just $10 a year. I may soon write a post that is entitled “How I learned the hard way that just because you can make a hideously tacky personal flash website dedicated to your glorious self doesn’t mean that you should make one.” But I digress…)

Kevin’s dilemma got me thinking – is this what is known as “cybersquatting”? Is there any remedy for this sort of thing? Does Kevin have any recourse?

In fact, there are a couple of different mechanisms for resolving a cybersquatting dispute, and my understanding of them was greatly assisted by some basic knowledge about the development of the Internet and some tech-related acronyms like “DNS”, “IP” and “ccTLD”. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, then I ask for your indulgence while I lay out some of the basic IT background. It’s a bit lengthy so if you are computer-savvy, you may just want to skip part 1. Read the rest of this entry »

Loss of Computer Data: Is it Property Damage?

j0236341Let us say, speaking hypothetically, that a grossly negligent individual (who, since we are speaking hypothetically, is named…”Mr. X”) has accidentally uninstalled my favorite computer game, “Sid Meyers Civilization IV” (for which, by the way, I paid good money and patiently waited three whole hypothetical hours to legally download onto my computer).

Let us further hypothesize that I was twelve hours into a very successful game which has now gone the way of the passenger pigeon. Is the loss of my computer software considered “damage to property” for the purpose of a negligence action, or is it just a form of pure economic loss? “Of course it’s property damage!” I thought to myself, “and a most egregious form at that!”

Yet, in law, as in life, few things are certain. I was compelled to learn more, and so I conducted a brief review of the case law from Canada, the United States and Australia to satisfy my curiosity. What I have learned is that, notwithstanding that we live in the age of the internet, it is far from clear whether we can sue for the loss of electronic data in a negligence action.

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Facebook Subpoena Information – Here It Is!

facebook_picSo you want to get production of documents from Facebook to assist you in your civil case. How do you go about it? We asked and Facebook answered.

Well, first off, you are going to need a court order (subpoena) to obtain the information. In the U.S., Facebook users’ data is protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”). See 18 USC section 2701 et. seq. ECPA is a federal statute that prohibits Facebook from producing any “content” without notarized user consent or a Search Warrant. Facebook’s Law Enforcement Response Team has advised that, with regard to civil matters:

  • State Court Subpoenas must issue from a court within California or must be issued pursuant to the proper California court commission.
  • Federal Civil Subpoenas seeking the production of documents must issue from the court in the district where the production is to be made.

The subpoena should be sent to subpoena@facebook.com or faxed to 650-644-3229.

Facebook states that it requires a $150 processing fee per User ID. Checks can be made payable to Facebook, Inc. and can be sent to the attention of Facebook Security at 1601 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, CA, 94304, bearing the name and number of the case for which the fees are paid.

In addition to a valid subpoena, Facebook advises that as much of the following information as possible should be provided in order to expedite a request:

  • Your full contact information (name, physical address, phone and email)
  • Response date due (please allow 2-4 weeks for processing)
  • Full name of user(s)
  • Full URL to Facebook profile
  • School/networks
  • Birth date
  • Known email addresses
  • IM account ID
  • Phone numbers
  • Address
  • Period of activity (specific dates will more likely expedite your request)

It takes Facebook approximately 2-4 weeks to respond to questions from law enforcement agencies or legal representaives about the status of these requests. If Facebook is informed and has a good faith belief that the matter is an emergency regarding potential threat of serious bodily harm or threat to life (see Title 18 United States Code section 2702(b)), they generally respond within 24 hours.

Facebook advises that if you are not a member of a Law Enforcement Agency or Legal Department, you will have to contact Facebook through their Help Page or have your local law enforcement or legal representative contact them. Some other helpful Facebook links are as follows:

Facebook Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help

Facebook Terms of Use: http://www.facebook.com/terms.php

Hacked/Phished Facebook Account: http://www.facebook.com/security

Facebook Safety: http://www.facebook.com/safety

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