Archive for May 2010


May 25, 2010

“All is fair in love and war.” Ok, right! but how about when it comes to business? It’s true that the most important aspect of business is making money and of course many companies are doing whatever it takes to reach that goal. This is where Unfair Competition comes in and no matter what the business, it’s just about taking advantage through false, fraudulent, or unethical commercial conduct. However, what constitutes as an “unfair” act varies with the context of the business and its involved facts and actions.

Here I’m going to introduce some practices that fall into the category of unfair competition like: misleading advertising, misappropriation of trade secrets, misrepresentation of products or services, below-cost selling, dumping and substitution of one brand of goods for another one. It’s good to mention that the famous aspect of unfair competition is trademark infringement, where someone intentionally means to defraud and confuse buyers or does it unintentionally, but there is still a likelihood of confusion.

Another scope of trademark infringement in unfair competition is trademark dilution, where there is no need to prove a likelihood of confusion, but there is still damage done to a famous mark. It can happen either by blurring or tarnishment.

Well, it’s clear that the touchstone of any trademark infringement case is likelihood of confusion. But it still remains the fundamental rule of fair dealing and honesty. What’s your take on it?


Facebook loses Face!

May 25, 2010

I’ve been an active Facebook user for almost 3 years and it is an incredible feeling to know I can keep in touch with my friends so easily. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve never been worried about my privacy and how my information is used and shared in ways that I might have no idea about!

I’ve done my own share of research on Facebook privacy loopholes. However, it’s hollow has deepened after it was revealed that Facebook had been passing personal data and details to advertising companies – including Google’s DoubleClick and Yahoo!’s own Right Media – without consent. Moreover, it coincides with the result of a recent online survey by Internet Security firm Sophos which disclosed 60% of Facebook users considered quitting the site over worries about their private data.

After all controversy around Facebook’s chaotic and afflicted privacy flap, its chief executive, Mark Zukerberg, finally admitted that they had made a “bunch of mistakes” in an email to tech blogger Robert Scoble and promised changes “in coming weeks.” He also in an open letter published in the Washington Post wrote that Facebook had been “growing quickly” and confided that “sometimes we move too fast.” But Zukerberg promised additional privacy controls would be “much simpler to use” and also would provide “an easy way to turn of all third-party services.”

“Many of you thought our controls were too complex”, Zukerberg said in his letter. “Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls” – you bet – “but that may not have been what many of you wanted” and he confessed “we just missed the mark.”

Well, seems Zukerberg has taken a step in the right direction, but I hope it’s not just all talk. There is a long way to go untill Facebook is completely trusted again. What’s your take on it?

Infringe my patent. I dare you!

May 23, 2010

We’ve seen it a lot how seriously companies take the patent protection of their innovative products to ensure that competitors will not immediately imitate the products they have researched and developed. Obviously innovation or developing innovating goods is risky, time-consuming and expensive. However, its benefits to the companies are far beyond imagination!

Much has been written about patent rights and patent infringements, but what I’m going to talk about is patent trolls. To give you an idea, patent trolls are firms which basically buy up patents usually from bankrupted companies, inventors or by acquiring smaller licensing companies, then demand fees from companies which use technology that they say is covered by one of those patents. It’s a simple strategy: to obtain patents with the initial purpose of making patent infringement allegations.

The most famous patent troll also known as the Mother of all Patent Trolls is Acacia Research Corporation, a company that makes no products, with at least 337 patent-related lawsuits since its establishment. What such companies do is they target companies that have  much to lose or little money to defend themselves. knowing how expensive and risky it would be to fight patent trolls, usually encourages defendants for a settlement.

One of Acacia’s patent infringement claims was against Yahoo. I’m sure you all are familiar with IMVironments-the background themes for Yahoo Messenger-which has made so much trouble for Yahoo! Acacia claimed that IMVironments infringes U.S. patent Number 6,205,432, field by a trio of inventors and published back in 2001. Here is an abstract from the patent: An advertisement system and method are provided for inserting into an end-user communication message a background reference to an advertisement. In some embodiments, the background reference causes an advertisement image to be tiled, or watermarked, across an end-user screen behind the text of an e-mail message or public posting.

Yahoo lost the patent infringement case and as a result forked over $12.4 million plus $6.6 million damages in the lawsuit. In addition, Acacia also was awarded an ongoing royalty rate of 23 percent for all Yahoo IMVironments sales. Sounds easy enough, but is it?  Well, if you ask the critics they would say that the patent trolls are in a position to negotiate licensing fees that are grossly  out of alignment with their contribution to the alleged infringer’s product or service. From their point of view, such tactics curb innovation and produce threats and lawsuits that try to cash in on the matter. 

With everything that has been said, what’s your take on it? 

Let’s keep it hush hush!

May 13, 2010

I’m absolutely hundred percent certain that all of you know Coca-Cola the word’s most popular soft drink! It’s been more than a decade that Coca-Cola has been protecting its exact formula of natural flavourings which has stated a popular myth that only its two executives have access to the formula, with each executive having only half the formula. 

What I’m trying to say is that the formula for Coca-Cola is the most famous trade secret. Let me get into detail, trade secrets are any confidential information that companies keep secret to give them a competitive edge. The subject matter of trade secrets is explained in a range of terms like knowledge, idea, managerial capabilities, sales methods, advertising strategies, manufacturing process and lists of suppliers and clients. 

But a final determination of what information comprises a trade secret will depend on how companies prove that it adds value to their businesses. In addition it has to be non-disclosed or in one word it must be secret, Otherwise can’t be claimed as a trade secret! Some of the pros of trade secret are, it’s not limited to time, I mean, you can continue indefinitely as long as your secret is not revealed to the public. You don’t need to pay any registration fees although you may incur high costs related to keeping your information confidential! It has an immediate effect and also it doesn’t require compliance with formalities such as disclosure of the information to a government authority. 

On the other hand, there are some cons. For instance, if the secret results in an innovative product, others may analyze it and find the secret, therefore they can use it as well. Once the secret is revealed to the public anyone can have access to it. In comparison with patent, it’s considered weak because it is difficult to enforce. And finally a trade secret may be patented by someone else who expanded the related information through legal means.   

Let me know what you think. 

Sourc:  World Intellectual Property Orgnization (wipo)

I’ve got my eye on you!

May 3, 2010

 If you look up the term “Big Brother” in the lexicon you’ll notice that it is the synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respective to civil liberties. The novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was written in 1949 by Eric Arthur Blair better known by his pen name George Orwell, in which he describes how everybody is constantly being watched by Big Brother.

In his classic novel, Orwell uses the  anonymous and unrecognizable shadowy figure that was placed on posters and put all over the place with the saying, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.” This was used to let the people know that no matter where they go they could not escape the watching eyes of the controlling government. 

How true are those words now. We are living in an age where google can pinpoint exactly where you are in a split second, where everywhere you go you’ll notice a surveillance camera and where  access to all of your personal data is possible in a blink of an eye. Seems the Orwellian society is now all around us!

So have we ever really given any thought to this? The fact that we are always being watched, or the fact that the governments and corporations know so much about our private life? Why is this not of concern to most people and why is it necessary? 



How much is too much?

May 2, 2010

I remember once in our cyberlaw class our teacher started a debate on employee privacy by asking a question, “Do your employers have the right to monitor your activities in the workplace?” We all had different opinions but like it or not, nowadays employers are monitoring their employees more than ever. They may spy on their employees in ways like computer keystrokes and files, Internet and email usage, Locations and activities, phone conversations and numbers dialed and job performance. It is somewhat of a controversial subject.

As an employer, you are in the position of monitoring everything that goes on in the workplace. Because you don’t want to pay high costs associated with losses caused by employee theft, vandalism and lawsuits. Safety warrants your monitoring! But do you practice what you preach?

I mean, sometimes there is a diversity between what companies say and what they do. There is  serious tension here, between the concept of monitoring and the idea of privacy. How far are you going to go? What I’m trying to say is that employers should have clear policies on what activities they monitor. They should specify their expectations of employees related to the stated policies.

On the other hand, trust and values as an employee are important when it comes to performing the job effectively. When we accept a position, this means we’ve already accepted the company’s policies. Everything that has been provided in our workplace is the company’s property. So, what makes us think that we have the right to use them as personal property? How could we lose our perspective on the meaning of the workplace as a place for work?

Here is the thought, if we are using the company’s Internet and computer for personal activities, it is obvious that we are decreasing our productivity. No matter of what we do, it will affect our performance in a major way. And also anytime one goes on the Internet, in most instances, there is a chance that his/her firewall or security program could be breached. Just imagine the computer being used has highly classified information about the company, its resources and its employees. What a disaster for the company and the employees as well!

In my point of view, whether you are an employee or employer, you must have reasonable expectations of privacy and a better definition of  its scop in regards to better cooperation and mutual respect.