Intellectual Property

We’ve written plenty of times about the importance of the public domain around here, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the public domain has been Disney, a company which has regularly mined the public domain for the stories it then recreates and copyrights. Of course, somewhat depressingly, Disney also has been one of the most extreme players in keeping anything new out of the public domain, as pointed out by Tom Bell’s excellent “mickey mouse curve” showing how Disney has sought to push out the term of copyrights every time Mickey Mouse gets near the public domain.

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Until last month, my entire legal career had been spent at large law firms. With a pretty specialized practice focusing on intellectual property, mainly patent litigation. And until last month, I never really needed to hire a lawyer, with one exception. Thankfully, it was for a good reason, to help me close on my house.

Which my lawyer handled with aplomb, so I am happy to recommend him if someone needs a good generalist solo based out of New York City. Even though my general tendency is to try and learn everything I can about something, when it came to buying a house, I really wanted nothing more than to have someone else deal with all the legal stuff. The fact that I was up for partner, and working pretty hard at my Biglaw firm that year, contributed to making me a “just get it done” type of client. Because I trusted my lawyer, and he demonstrated competence and responsiveness, I never needed to get out of that mode. We closed, I paid, and life went on.

I paid happily, and very quickly, because I had engaged someone to provide a service, and saw the results in a timely manner. Even though it was not a complicated transaction by any means, and I probably could have handled it myself, I valued my lawyer’s contribution and thus was happy to pay. I appreciated the small touches — like being handed a binder with copies of all the signed closing documents right after the closing. At the same time, I never really got engaged in the process enough to care to learn about it.

Comparing the experience I had then to my typical patent matter, the difference is stark….

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The past year or so has been an epic period for snarky responses to cease and desist letters. We’ve seen hilariously irreverent responses to C&D letters telling off the likes of Starbucks, the American Bankers Association, and the Township of West Orange.

And now Hollywood celebrities are throwing themselves into the mix. Which “seriously out of control” young actor just got saucy over Twitter in response to a lawyer’s letter?

Here’s a hint: Is this kid Lawless?

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Amy Chua: She’s baaaaaaack!

* “Either access to abortion will be dramatically restricted in the coming year or perhaps the pushback will begin.” We’re moving back in history. Here’s hoping pro-choice advocacy will be born anew in 2014. [New York Times]

* George S. Canellos, the SEC’s co-chief of enforcement, announced his departure on Friday, and people are already wondering whether he’ll return to his old stomping grounds at Milbank Tweed. [DealBook / New York Times]

* We hope legal educators had fun at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting, but we hope most of all that they learned what needs to change to really make legal education pay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system.” Saudi Arabia now has its first female law firm dedicated to bringing women’s issues to the country’s patriarchal courts. Congratulations! [RT]

* A Starbucks spokeswoman issued a defense to the cease-and-desist response letter that went viral worldwide, and it reads just like how her company’s coffee tastes: bland. [International Business Times]

* Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua is back with a vengeance, co-authoring a controversial new book (affiliate link) with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld. Which ethnic cultural groups are superior? [New York Post]

As they do every year, unfortunately, the good folks at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke have put together a depressing list of what should have entered the public domain yesterday. As you hopefully know, until 1978, the maximum amount of time that work in the US could be covered by copyright was 56 years (you initially received a 28 year copyright term, which could be renewed for another 28 years). That means, back in 1957, everyone who created the works in that list knew absolutely, and without a doubt that their works would be given back to the public to share, to perform, to build on and more… on January 1, 2014 at the very latest. And they all still created their works, making clear that the incentive of a 56 year monopoly was absolutely more than enough incentive to create.

And yet, for reasons that still no one has made clear, Congress unilaterally changed the terms of the deal, took these works away from the public, without any compensation at all, and will keep them locked up for at least another 40 years. At least.

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Here’s a message to all lawyers drafting demand letters. Before you fire off that deliciously evil, in-your-face, incendiary letter replete with all those unreasonable demands you dreamed up over the last 30 minutes of editing, take a good hard look at what you’ve written, and then stop. Just… stop.

What did you think you were going to gain? Did you hope it would help your letter stand out? Prove to your adversary that you’re really serious? Set a bold opening bid for negotiations? Are there visions of a terrified person reading your letter and running to the phone to give your client everything under the sun?

Because none of that is going to happen. All you’ve managed to do is torpedo your credibility… and now you’ll probably end up getting trolled by a popular legal industry website.

Take, for example, these guys, whose string of ridiculous demands not only failed to reduce their adversary to jelly, it elicited a declaratory judgment suit.

So the question is, “Would You Rather: Be self-satisfied over your own cleverness or save your client from litigation?”

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‘F**kin’ intellectual property, bro!’

This year certainly had its share of ups and downs in terms of lawyerly antics, but in our minds, 2013 shall forever be known as the year of the snarky cease and desist response letter. Back in June, we broke the news of the now famous response to a cease and desist letter received from the Town of West Orange, New Jersey, which went viral worldwide thanks to the power of sarcasm. A few months later, we wrote about an equally entertaining response to a cease and desist letter received from the American Bankers Association, rife with Spice Girls lyrics and Valley girl lingo.

It’s been a while since we wrote about one of these treasures, so we figured we’d close the year out with a bang. We discovered yet another amazing response to a cease and desist letter, and this one may be the greatest of them all — if only because we think its author might have been drunk while writing it….

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Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’s writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

When you work in Biglaw, you are pretty much assured you will have a nice office to go to everyday. Of course, you are also expected to spend the vast majority of your waking hours in that office, particularly as an associate.

My personal Biglaw experience when it came to offices was probably the norm. When I started at Greenberg Traurig, the IP department was located just above some of Bernie Madoff’s offices in the Lipstick Building on Third Avenue in Manhattan. A few years in, we joined the rest of the firm within the MetLife (former Pan Am) Building right over Grand Central. In the summers, and after the partners I worked with relocated more frequently depending on our case load, I would spend time working out of Greenberg’s New Jersey office. While not Manhattan, that office had nice suburban views and was easily accessible off the highway. And when I lateraled to Locke Lord, I got to enjoy a very easy commute from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan, and some beautiful views from my office of the Hudson River and New York Harbor.

Biglaw does office space right. In some respects, though, that is changing….

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* The DOJ is looking to retry an accused Somali pirate. They’re totally on top of piracy as long as it doesn’t take place here. [The Blog of the Legal Times]

* Yesterday we posted our holiday tipping thread, heavily citing Corporette’s Kat Griffin. Now she’s posted her own guide and we’re linking to it. It’s like Inception up in here. [Corporette]

* Why fashion gets knocked off: delving into the world of design patents and trade dress. [Fashionista]

* Comparing the modern NSA to the intelligence-gathering techniques employed during the American Revolution. Interesting stuff, but a total cover-up job. Where’s the discussion of Ben Franklin’s “electric kite drones,” eh? You must think we’re pretty naïve, Logan Beirne. [Fox News]

* Incredibly sad, but also incredibly fascinating: if a child is rendered brain dead by a possible medical mistake, should the state honor the wishes of the family to keep the kid on life support even though every day on life support makes an investigation into the cause of death harder? [CNN]

* Loyola University Chicago introduces a new curriculum to give students an opportunity to get real-world experience with a judge or practicing lawyer before graduating. A law school focusing on training lawyers to be lawyers? This isn’t all that surprising when you look back at Dean Yellen’s previous work. [Loyola University Chicago]

* Congratulations to Therese Pritchard on her election as the first female chair of Bryan Cave. We’re big fans… until you fail to leak your bonus memo to us first. The ball’s in your court now Pritchard. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The venerable Green Bag is parting ways with GMU Law. Thankfully, it has already found a new home. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Former White House attorney John Michael Farren who we reported on a lot in the past about beating his wife nearly to death… was found liable for beating his wife nearly to death. So that happened. [News Times]

You get objectified and denied all control over your own sexuality. You’re welcome.

* Judge Brian Cogan has ruled that a group of New York Catholic institutions doesn’t have to provide health insurance plans that include birth control coverage to its employees because… insurance policies with provisions that other people may or may not ever invoke is a religious thing. Too bad no one told the Catholic Church in New York, which already pays for insurance that provides birth control coverage and has for years. [Jezebel]

* Judge Richard Leon’s decision ruling the NSA metadata gathering program unconstitutional makes a lot of good points, but perhaps the best is that even if you think there’s a compelling counter-terrorism concern that trumps constitutional safeguards, the NSA just can’t point to it. Of course we’ll all be singing another tune when the Moldovans take over. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* Here’s a tale of dealing with a Biglaw bully. I don’t get the concept — being locked in a locker is way better than spending the whole night conforming edits. [Big Law Rebel]

* Elie appeared on the Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast to discuss drones. [Lawyer 2 Lawyer]

* Eyewitness testimony is often disastrously wrong. Suddenly that “Eyewitness News” title your awful local news channel uses seems really appropriate. [Slate]

* A guide for tech startups and software developers dealing with contracts. I’m looking in your direction, Winklevoss twins. [Alleywatch]

* An IP lawyer makes a rap video. His record may affirm that he knows IP, but I don’t think Death Row is going to be calling any time soon. Video embedded below…

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