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Sunday, 1 November 2009

Letter from AmeriKat II: Parody and some odds and ends

Parody and Press Conferences

Last Tuesday the US Chamber of Commerce filed a copyright and trade mark lawsuit against political activists the Yes Men who two weeks ago staged a fake news conference announcing that the Chamber had changed its policy on climate legislation. The 19 October staged press conference was instigated after a few members of the Chamber, including Apple Inc., left the organization, citing as their reason the fact that they did not support the Chamber’s climate policy. During the fake conference Jacques Servin, a member of the Yes Men, stood behind a podium that incorporated the Chamber’s logo and service marks (U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, THE SPIRIT OF ENTERPRISE, and Eagle and Stars Design) while he read a statement purported to be from Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. The press statement proclaimed (see the statement here at the Yes Men’s hoax Chamber website) the Chamber’s support for the Kerry-Boxer Bill – an 831 page environmental protection bill that proposes a cap and trade emissions scheme. The Chamber had previously opposed the Bill.

The Chamber’s lawsuit states that they seek redress for trade mark infringement and dilution, false advertising, cybersquatting and unfair competition. The complaint states that

“these acts deceived the press and public, and caused injury to the Chamber , while promoting the commercial ventures of certain members of the Defendants...The Acts are nothing less than commercial identify theft masquerading as social activism. These infringing and fraudulent acts are antithetical to public debate on important issues, because they prevent the public and the press from knowing the true position of the intellectual property owner whose trade marks and copyrights were used without permission...”
Steven Law, the Chamber’s appropriately-named chief legal officer and general counsel, reiterated the position:
“The defendants are not merry pranksters tweaking the establishment. Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise.”
According to the New York Times, in response to the law suit Servin stated that "it's really disappointing that the chamber would take this approach to something that's clearly political speech." Servin also stated that using the Chamber’s intellectual property was free speech.
In response Law stated:
"the Chamber is a strong proponent of free speech and encourages public debate on issues of the day. However, the law is clear that you can't misappropriate others' intellectual property for personal financial gain".

Obama Nominates Espinel as Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC)

At the end of September, the Obama administration nominated Victoria Espinel to the position of the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. The position was created under the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act (Pro-IP Act – clever, huh?) which was signed into law by former President Bush despite his administration’s opposition to the position. The IPEC provides guidance and strategic plans to federal agencies combating IP infringement by chairing an advisory committee comprised of theses agencies, which include the Office of Management and Budget, the Justice Department, the Commerce Department, the US Copyright Office and the Office of the US Trade Representative. The IPEC has no formal power to control or implement how the agencies investigate, prosecute or manage IP cases.

Victoria Espinel, a former Visiting Assistant Professor in intellectual property and international trade at the George Mason University School of Law and the founder and President of the non-profit Bridging the Innovation Divide organization. Espinel has acted as an intellectual property advisor to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Finance Committee, House Judiciary Committee and House Ways and Means Committee. According to a White House press release, prior to her work with the U.S. Government, she was in private practice with Covington & Burling in London and D.C. and Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood in New York. Espinel received her LL.M from LSE and J.D. from Georgetown University Law School.

Mark Esper, a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated that Espinel’s nomination “is a positive development towards fully implementing and funding the Pro-IP Act, and we hope President Obama and Congress will continue this important work by ensuring Victoria has the resources and authority necessary to get the job done.” For further commentary, please see this article in Wired.

Other News

Lil Wayne’s Bad Week - It has been a mixed year for Lil Wayne. First came the Rolling Stone cover alongside a critically acclaimed album. But then, two weeks ago he pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal possession of a weapon and last week he was hit with a copyright infringement claim brought by Thomas Marasciullo. Thomas’s complaint states that Lil Wayne, Cash Money records and distribution outlets used his material on a total of nine tracks without permission or remuneration. See this article from the BBC for more information.

Google Chrome’s Infringing Courgette - Last Tuesday Red Bend Software Inc. filed a complaint in Boston district court for patent infringement over Google’s Chrome internet browser. Red Bend claims that Chrome contains a differential compression algorithm, called Courgette (or zucchini if you are the AmeriKat) which enables Google to update only the part of the software that actually requires updating. Red Bend claims that this infringes a 2006 patent. The complaint also states that Google infringes another of Red Bend’s patents that enable wireless carriers to distribute updates for mobile-phone software. The AmeriKat suggests you read this article in The Register and this piece in MSN Money.

Lego Patent Geek - the AmeriKat suggests for a bit of light-hearted fun for those of you who enjoy nothing more than kicking back and reading patent applications you read this article in Wired about a filing made by Lego.

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