Thursday, September 29, 2005

Commentary Site Can Stay

4th Circuit rules “Gripe” site OK (at least under trademark law anyway)

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has joined the cause of free speech supporters by refusing to order the shut down of the website http://www.fallwell.com/, which posts material which is critical of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and his views on homosexuality. Falwell claimed that the website domain, which is a deliberate misspelling of his name constituted trademark infringement under the Lanham Act and violated the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. In an opinion written by Circuit Judge Dianna Gribbon Motz, the panel stated that “No one would believe that Reverend Falwell sponsored a site criticizing himself, his positions and his interpretations of the Bible”. Therefore, there was not a likelihood of confusion with the opinions expressed on the “gripe” site and those expressed by Rev. Falwell. Additionally, Falwell could not prevail on an Anticybersquatting claim because he cannot show that the operators acted in “bad faith” when they registered the domain fallwell.com as their site constituted a legitimate use, they did not register multiple domains with the intent of preventing Falwell from registereing them, and the owners had never contacted Falwell and attempted to sell the domain to him.

So just a hint to business owners, major corporations or others who do not wish to have “gripe” sites out there with highly visible domains – register common misspellings and the classic "Insert your domain here" sucks.com yourself! If you own them – your enemies cannot. While you are at it, grab the .net .org .biz .us versions also. For a few hundred dollars you can help protect yourself from embarassment and lost sales that can occur when peoople misspell your domain name and wind up on of these “gripe” sites.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The 10% Rule?!

My wife sent me a link the other day to a brief story about the mominventors.com guidebook by Tamara Monosoff. The book was just recently published. After reading the brief article, I became quite steamed! What a bunch of misinformation. I was so mad I ordered the book from Amazon. Is this author really so dim? According to the article, she isn’t very pro patent and indicated that a rival only has to make their competing article “10% different from the patent” to render the patent useless! What! Once and for all, there is no 10% rule nor a 5% rule nor a 1% rule. I don’t even know how one would measure percent difference. Simply, for a competitor to get around your invention, they need only produce a product that does not read upon the claims in your patent. If you have nice broad claims, getting around your patent can be next to impossible no matter how much different. On the other hand, if your patent’s claims are weak, than a very small inconsequential change may be all that is required. To lay it out simply: a high quality patent with high quality claims is usually what is required to thwart your competition.

Anyhow, back to the author, Tamara Monosoff: after cooling down I realized the quotes and statements attributed to Ms. Monosoff may have been misrepresented by Mr. Steve Hargeaves, the staff writer who prepared the article. I have had that happen to me all too much. In fact, when I had my bicycle component manufacturing business and an article was run on the company or me, my statements were almost universally changed. Luckily, the gist of what I was trying to say was usually communicated if not in an altered fashion. So when the guidebook arrived, I quickly scanned it for the 10% rule reference and it was not there. In fact, the little of Ms. Monosoff’s book that I have read is very good and offers some very reasonable advice. Perhaps in the future I will provide a more complete review of the book.

What is the point to this post? Well, I suppose it is a rant on how the press constantly misrepresents patent law. They just do not understand it and they are trying to take a very complex body of law and distill it down to very basic principles. This is tough if not impossible to do. So be careful when reading articles in the newspaper, magazines and the internet about patenting and inventing. Unless the article is written by a qualified patent attorney (notice I said written because a written interview of a patent attorney can suffer from the same problem as the article that precipitated this rant), take what is being written with a grain of salt. In the end, you can always expect to find the truth right here and on the firm’s website.

And if you come across any mainstream press articles about inventing and/or patenting send them to me and perhaps they will be the subject of a new blog entry.

Till next time….

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