law

‘Never argue with an idiot. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.’ –George Carlon

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Forget patenting an invention. These days, companies patent conceptual categories for future inventions.

During the first dot-com boom, Amazon famously patented the concept of buying things online with one click. More recently, companies have patented concepts such as scanning documents to an e-mail account, clearing checks electronically and sending e-mail over a wireless network.

The problem with these kinds of abstract patents is that lots of people will independently discover the same basic concept and infringe by accident. Then the original patent holder — who may not have come up with the concept first, or even turned the concept into a usable technology — can sue. That allows for the kind of abusive litigation that has been on the rise in recent years.

A lawsuit over an Internet advertising patent offered a key appeals court an opportunity to rein in these abstract patents. Instead, the court gave such patents its endorsement on Friday, setting the stage for rampant patent litigation to continue unchecked.

A firm called Ultramercial claims to have invented the concept of showing a customer an ad instead of charging for content. The company has sought royalties from a number of Web sites, including Hulu and YouTube. Ultramercial’s patent isn’t limited to any specific software algorithm, server configuration or user interface design. If you build a Web site that follows the general business strategy claimed by the patent, Ultramercial thinks you owe them money.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

But I can fe-fi-fo-fum, diddly-bum, here I come

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Let’s say you ran one of the Fortune 10 companies. And for some reason, you wanted to ensure that this business would be hated by its customers, forever. What would you do? […] for long term contempt, you need stuff that nobody notices. […]

What I’d do is create a policy that makes it really hard for my company’s employees to ask questions of my company’s customers. I’d make it a struggle to collect feedback. In order to collect any form of feedback, I’d make it so that you had to first ask for permission from an underfunded and understaffed component of the central office of my corporation.

Of course I’d also make it take at least six months to get this approval. That way, most of the people who wanted to ask my customers a question were immediately discouraged from doing so. […] I’d staff this office with economists and lawyers. […]

Then, just to be especially perverse, what I’d do is encourage my company to use social media. I’d create policies around it, pushing my company to go online on Facebook and Twitter and stuff, and to have “authentic conversations” with our customers. I’d tell them that it was totally cool to use social media to informally do whatever they wanted, except to use that information to inform product or service decisions. This way, my employees will be completely cut off from their customers needs. And the only employees that actually make it to the customers are the people who know how to talk to the economists. That’ll make it so whatever inputs and outputs of my business are so incomprehensible that they’ll just create more frustration rather than solve problems. [And customers will] think they’re giving input to the company without that input actually making it anywhere useful.

It’s a machievellian scenario that, sadly, I didn’t make up. This “corporate policy” is actually a law that makes your government act like this, and it’s nefariously named the “Paperwork Reduction Act.” It was the last bill signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1980.

{ Information Diet | Continue reading }

You make these gentlemen a receipt for $12,000 please. It was a pleasure doing business with y’all. Now gentlemen, if you care to join me in the parlor, we will be serving white cake.

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The US Congress has severely scaled back the Stock Act, the law to stop lawmakers and their staff from trading on insider information, in under-the-radar votes that have been sharply criticised by advocates of political transparency.

The changes mean Congressional and White House staff members will not have to post details of their shareholdings online. They will also make online filing optional for the president, vice-president, members of Congress and congressional candidates. […]

The Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge – or “Stock” – Act prohibited them from buying or selling stocks, commodities or futures based on non-public information they obtain during the course of their work. It also banned them from disseminating non-public information regarding pending legislation that could be used for investment purposes. […]

Political watchdogs were dismayed. “Are we going to return to the days when public can use the internet to research everything except what their government is doing?” asked Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation, which monitors money in politics.

{ Financial Times | Continue reading }

The Federal Reserve said early Wednesday that it inadvertently e-mailed the minutes of its March policy meeting a day early to some congressional staffers and trade groups.

Late this afternoon, the central bank released to reporters a list of more than 150 e-mail addresses that it says received the early e-mail on Tuesday afternoon. (The minutes had been scheduled for release a day later.) The list includes e-mail addresses for dozens of congressional staffers, along with contacts — many of them government-relations executives — at major banks, lobbying firms and trade groups.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

We will provide the full list of people who manipulate and cheat the market shortly, but for now we are curious to see how the Fed will spin that EVERYONE got an advance notice of its minutes a day in advance without this becoming a material issue with the regulators, and just how many billions in hush money it will take to push this all under the rug.

{ Zero Hedge | Continue reading }

‘I’m not into this detail stuff. I’m more concepty.’ –Donald Rumsfeld

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With human decisions come human biases, even in situations that demand objectivity. For example, crimes involving more victims can sometimes receive lesser punishments, an outcome known as the “identifiable victim effect.”  With more victims, each one becomes less identifiable, and this elicits less sympathy for the victims and a corresponding punishment that’s less severe.

A new study by a group of Tilburg University psychologists lays out another bias that can creep into evaluations of wrongdoing. In a series of six experiments the researchers found evidence for the “insured victim effect” — the tendency for perpetrators to be judged differently if the losses they cause are covered by insurance.

{ peer-reviewed by my neurons | Continue reading }

art { Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1980 }

‘I feel so blessed that the government protects my wife and me from the dangers of gay marriage so we can safely go buy some assault weapons.’ –Will Ferrell

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As I reported a couple of weeks ago, a recent Senate bill came with a nice bonus for the genetically modified seed industry: a rider, wholly unrelated to the underlying bill, that compels the USDA to ignore federal court decisions that block the agency’s approvals of new GM crops. I explained in this post why such a provision, which the industry has been pushing for over a year, is so important to Monsanto and its few peers in the GMO seed industry. […]

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has revealed to Politico’s ace reporter David Rogers that he’s the responsible party. Blunt even told Rogers that he “worked with” GMO seed giant Monsanto to craft the rider.

{ Mother Jones | Continue reading }

art { Cady Noland, Mutated Pipe, 1989 }

‘If you receive a little money for this, a little money for that, everything becomes mediocre.’ –Salvador Dalí

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The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York dismissed collector Jonathan Sobel’s lawsuit against photographer William Eggleston. […]

The lawsuit was spurred by Christie’s sale last March of 36 poster-size, digital prints of images that Eggleston had shot in the Mississippi Delta more than 30 years ago. Some were created from negatives he had never printed before, while others were based on iconic works, such as “Memphis (Tricycle).” (Sobel owns a 17-inch version of that photograph, for which he reportedly paid $250,000.) The sale was a massive success — by the time it was over, the large digital works accounted for seven of the artist’s top 10 prices. (The five-foot “Tricycle” came in on top, selling for a record $578,500.)

For Sobel, who owns 190 Eggleston works, the success of the sale was part of the problem. “The commercial value of art is scarcity, and if you make more of something, it becomes less valuable,” he told ARTINFO last April.

The judge disagreed. Egggleston may have profited from the Christie’s sale, she concluded, but not at Sobel’s expense. Eggleston could be held liable only if he created new editions of the limited-edition works in Sobel’s collection using the same dye-transfer process he used for the originals — a move that would directly deflate their value. In this case, however, Eggleston was using a new digital process to produce what she deemed a new body of work. 

{ ArtInfo | Continue reading }

‘It’s hard to walk down Bedford Ave., Williamsburg’s bustling main drag, without seeing someone dressed like an exploded taxidermist workshop.’ –Adrian Chen

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{ A man dressed as Batman has handed over a wanted man at a Bradford police station before disappearing into the night. }

Some, to example, there are again whose movements are automatic. Perceive. That is his appropriate sun.

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There’s growing privacy concern over flying robots, or “drones.” Organizations like the EFF and ACLU have been raising the alarm over increased government surveillance of US citizens. Legislators haven’t been quick to respond to concerns of government spying on citizens. But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses.

{ Robots | Continue reading }

The eyes in which a tear and a smile strove ever for the mastery were of the dimensions of a goodsized cauliflower

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Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G said last Thursday they would buy Heinz for $23 billion in cash. Almost immediately, options market players noted there had been extremely unusual activity the day before the deal was announced.

On Friday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a suit against unknown traders who it said used a Goldman Sachs account in Switzerland to trade on purported inside knowledge of the transaction.

On Tuesday, the FBI said it was joining in as well.

{ Reuters | Continue reading }

Would you rather eat a pinecone, or poop a pinecone?

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To determine whether “folk myths” regarding the relationships of penile size to body height and foot size have any basis in fact, 63 normally virilized men were studied. Height and stretched penile length were measured; shoe size was recorded and converted to foot length. Penile length was found to be statistically related to both body height and foot length, but with weak correlation coefficients. Height and foot size would not serve as practical estimators of penis length.

{ Annals of Sex Research, 1993 }

Gary and members of his law firm filed a lawsuit late Monday in federal court in Fort Pierce on behalf of Chubby Checker, the 71-year-old singer known for “The Twist,” against Hewlett-Packard and its subsidiary Palm Inc. over the use of Checker’s name on a software application that claims to estimate the size of a man’s penis based on his shoe size…

{ via Improbable | Continue reading }

photo { Leon Levinstein }

Agree, for the law is costly

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How far has society gone in dreaming up new dangers to protect our children from? […]

(A.) An upstate New York school district outlawed soap in its pre-school bathrooms for fear that children might suddenly start drinking it. Now kids must come out and ask an adult to squirt some soap in their hands.


(B.) Unaccompanied children under age 12 were banned from the Boulder, CO, library, lest they encounter “hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture…and other library patrons.”


(C.) The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of certain fleece hoodies sold at Target because of lead paint on the zipper, which presumably could raise blood lead levels if the zippers are eaten.


(D.) Children under age 18 were prohibited from gathering on the streets of Tucson, AZ, for fear they might “talk, play or laugh” in groups, which could lead to bullying.


(E.) A New Canaan, CT, mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor,” for letting her 13-year-old babysit the three younger children at home for an hour while the mom went to church.


(F.) A Tennessee mother was thrown in jail for letting her kids, aged 8 and 5, go the park without her, a block and half away from home.

[…]

The message to parents? The government is better at raising your kids than you are. The message to kids? You are weak little babies.

{ CATO Unbound | Continue reading }

photo { Mary Ellen Mark }

She captures his hand, her forefinger giving to his palm the pass touch of secret monitor, luring him to doom

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Federal prosecutors intend to bring civil charges against Standard & Poor’s for wrongdoing in its rating of mortgage bonds prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

Allegations against the McGraw-Hill unit will center on the model used to rate the bonds and will reportedly be made in lawsuits to be filed as soon as this week.

A move by U.S. officials would be the first federal enforcement action against a major credit rating agency over alleged illegal behavior tied to the financial crisis.

The lawsuit is reportedly regarding 30 triple-A rated CDOs from the first half of 2007, and the Department of Justice is seeking “a 10 figure plus settlement and the admission of wrongdoing,” according to sources.

“A DOJ lawsuit would be entirely without factual or legal merit,” S&P said in a statement. “It would disregard the central facts that S&P reviewed the same subprime mortgage data as the rest of the market – including U.S. government officials who in 2007 publicly stated that problems in the subprime market appeared to be contained – and that every CDO that DOJ has cited to us also independently received the same rating from another rating agency.”

Shares of McGraw-Hill are down nearly 14 percent following news of the charges.

{ CNBC | Continue reading }