March 29, 2006

“Property?” Really? [7:29 pm]

This is not the language I would have hoped for from any lawyer, much less a Supreme Court Justice. Based on this account, anyway, it’s clear that the Court has no desire to tackle the hard question and, luckily for them, they have a nice narrow out to let them wriggle through — still, what an example of how “property” thinking has come to pervade this discussion! And from a “strict constructionist” justice! I wonder what the Founders would have to say about his construction of what a patent is: Justices question eBay patent arguments [pdf]

Several of the justices expressed skepticism during oral arguments about eBay’s contention that a federal appeals court had made it too easy for patent owners to get injunctions barring the use of their technologies.

“You’re talking about a property right, and the property right is explicitly the right to exclude others,” Justice Antonin Scalia told eBay’s lawyer. “That’s what a patent right is … give me my property back.”

I look forward to the analyses that we’ll find tomorrow. CNet’s (by Anne Broache and Declan McCullagh) is here: Supreme Court hears eBay’s patent appeal. They give a little more context to the Scalia quote, but it’s still an assertion that patents “are” property rights rather than “like” property rights:

Justice Antonin Scalia questioned eBay’s argument that companies should be treated differently if they don’t actually use the patents they own in business–such companies are often derisively called “patent trolls.”

“Why should we draw a distinction between the solo inventor who needs a patent speculation firm to market his invention and somebody else?” Scalia asked. “We’re talking about a property right here, and a property right is the exclusive right to exclude others.”

And a priceless quote from the new Chief Justice that suggests that there might at least be something in dicta about what ought to be patentable:

Chief Justice John Roberts drew laughter from the usually taciturn court audience when he made a quip about his interpretation of MercExchange’s patent. “It’s displaying pictures of your wares on a computer monitor and picking the ones you want. I might be able to do that.

“It’s not (like the patent describes) the internal combustion engine,” he added. “It’s very vague.”

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Mother Jones on IPR [5:29 pm]

A list of inane, but largely factual, intellectual property factoids: Intellectual Property Run Amok [pdf]

FOR INCLUDING a 60-second piece of silence on their album, the Planets were threatened with a lawsuit by the estate of composer John Cage, which said they’d ripped off his silent work 4’33”. The Planets countered that the estate failed to specify which 60 of the 273 seconds in Cage’s piece had been pilfered.

[...] AFTER INTEL was sued for libel for calling someone a “patent extortionist,” one of its lawyers coined the term “patent troll.”

[...] MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’s estate charges academic authors $50 for each sentence of the “I Have a Dream” speech that they reprint.

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Living With Your Digital Identity [8:36 am]

A famliar problem, with an interesting turn as to where the burden falls to remedy the “discrepancies:” New ID System May Block Voters [pdf]

A new statewide database designed by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to authenticate voter registrations has blocked otherwise valid registrations because of computer glitches, slight discrepancies in spelling or incomplete applications.

The problems have required registrars to contact voters — a time-consuming process that is already taxing some counties facing elections next month.

[...] The new database system was installed to meet the requirements of the Help America Vote Act, the 2002 federal law designed to avoid the voting irregularities cited in the 2000 presidential race. Since the start of this year, voters in all states have been required to provide their driver’s license number, other state-approved identification or the last four digits of their Social Security number when they register to vote or change their information.

Voter information is checked against records with the federal government and state motor vehicles department. Under an agreement negotiated by McPherson and the U.S. Justice Department, California is one of nine states that use the standard of an “exact match,” in which the records must be the same to the letter, according to a national survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit group in New York City. Thus, “Robert Smith” and “Rob Smith” would not be considered a match.

Ashley Snee Giovannettone, spokeswoman for McPherson, who oversees elections, said a sampling of statewide registrations found that 74% were immediately verified. She said state election law requires county officials to resolve the discrepancies for the others, which might mean fixing a typo or contacting the voter to obtain missing information.

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Datapoint: Life in the Music Biz [8:31 am]

Minding the Peas [pdf]

The man they call Will.I.Am has one of the busiest hard drives in hip-hop these days, and he carries it with him in a case marked “Will’s Travel Kit.” Last weekend, the leader of the Black Eyed Peas slid behind the keyboard of a computer in the mobile music studio that follows him on tour, loaded up the drive and clicked through a directory of his dizzying workload.

[...] But the hard drive is more than music projects. Will clicked on a video file: “This is the Adidas campaign I did for the World Cup,” he said, bringing up an image of kids playing soccer on a dusty field with their kicks keyed to a pulsing, Latin-flavored soundtrack. “And this one is a short film I did with Snickers; they’re doing films because TiVo is killing commercials.” The vagaries of the advertising world are important to Will because the Black Eyed Peas are corporate America’s leading hip-hop partner and proud of it.

[...] The Peas have a rare spot in hip-hop. Separate in themes and vibe from the gangsta scene that long dominated rap, the group found it hard in the 1990s to capture a mass audience. While they were waiting for “positive” hip-hop to make its mark in America, they toured the rest of the world, which most rappers ignore or find unwelcoming.

“The world caught on before the United States caught on, and the beauty of being able to travel the world was that we turned around that whole concept that you have to be big here first,” Taboo said. “In Vietnam, we can go and get big audiences, and we’ve been going there for so long. A lot of other hip-hop groups don’t even go. And that helps with the advertising too. We have a global audience … we travel, and our name travels.”

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