Sunday, April 27, 2008
Can you stop someone from stealing your idea? You can take preemptive steps -- one approach is to get a signed evaluation agreement (a modified nondisclosure agreement) before presenting your idea. The problem with that is that many big companies don't want to sign them because they're afraid it will prohibit them from developing similar ideas. Another approach is to seek patent protection. A patent -- as in this situation with Victoria's Secret-- gives the owner a hunting license to pursue infringers. If you're not sure about investing time and money in the full patent application, you can reserve your place in line at the Patent Office by filing a provisional patent application for $105. Nolo offers books and software to prepare a provisional application. And remember, whatever you've invented, please consider the safety issues.
Posted by The Dear Rich Staff at 10:49 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
- go to the USPTO website
- under Trademarks (on the left), click "Search TM Database"
- then click "Free Form Search (Advanced)"
- enter a word or words in the search box that signify what you're looking for followed by [DE] (which stands for "design element").
Posted by The Dear Rich Staff at 9:42 AM
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Harry Potter lawsuit -- in which a publisher and author are attempting to stop publication of a Harry Potter lexicon -- is not an unusual copyright dispute. Maybe you're too young to remember when J.D. Salinger successfully stopped a biographer from using his unpublished letters, or when ex-president Ford stopped The Nation from printing excerpts from his unpublished memoir. But you must be old enough to remember when the producers of the television show Twin Peaks stopped publication of a Twin Peaks guide, or when the producers of Seinfeld stopped a company from publishing a book of trivia questions about the Seinfeld television series. (Talk about being re-gifted!) In these situations, the courts have done a pretty decent job of separating those cases in which the author is being exploited (not a fair use) from those cases in which the author is being explained (fair use).
As for using copyright law to crush the little guy, that knee-jerk characterization may apply in cases of RIAA smackdowns but misses the boat here. (If anything, the little guy, armed with high-tech copying tricks, has collectively done more to crush copyright than any megacorp -- check out the many illegal Potters and the frivolous Muggles-related lawsuit.) The lexicon's author knew what was at stake when he proceeded and even insisted on an indemnity clause -- a provision that saved him from having to pay any attorney fees, damages, or court costs. (Kudos to his attorney.) Time-Warner and Rowling have been reasonable in permitting the free web-based version of the lexicon for years. The lexicon's publisher understood the realities -- the real money is made selling copyrighted units of content.
Posted by The Dear Rich Staff at 10:50 AM
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Although the Heimlich maneuver isn't patented, medical procedures can be protected under patent law -- over 100 of these medical process patents are issued every month. And yes, patent owners can sue when their procedures are used without authorization. (FYI Dept.: A veterinarian won a case last year over his patented process for declawing a cat.) There is one big limitation on these patents. Under a 1996 federal law, the patent owner can't sue a doctor for infringing a medical process patent. In other words, a surgeon can use a patented process in the operating room without asking for permission beforehand. Still, that hasn't stopped lawsuits.
Anyway, thanks to Dr. H., many people -- for example, Cher, former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, and Carrie Fisher -- are alive today. And since there is no copyright or patent on the method -- though there is a trademark* -- , let's all review it for our own selves. Here's the setup: A choking victim can't speak or breathe and needs your help immediately. Follow these steps*
- From behind, wrap your arms around the victim's waist
- Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim's upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into their upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Do not squeeze the ribcage; confine the force of the thrust to your hands
*Previously I suggested that you avoid backslapping in favor of the HM, but a tip of the hat to Mexican Radio (see comments below) who points out that the HM has been demoted in favor of the back slap. (See Heimlich's response to back slaps, here.) Although there is no copyright or patent on the procedure, MR points out that the Dr. does have a trademark on the term "Heimlich Maneuver" -- which may explain why the American Red Cross now simply refers to the procedure as "abdominal thrusts."
Posted by The Dear Rich Staff at 10:52 AM
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Posted by The Dear Rich Staff at 10:54 AM