Thursday, April 23, 2015

Legal Geek No. 41: Apple (Patent) Watch

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at whether Apple's new smart watch, released today, will revitalize yet another device market, and whether Apple will have a thicket of patents blocking competitors from entering the market easily.



 Apple Watch
("Here comes the options!" - courtesy inquisitr.com)
Apple has been at or near the leading edge on two of the most recent major technological innovations, at least from a commercial standpoint. The iPhone took smartphones to a different level in 2007 when that market was filled with flip phones and Blackberries, which of course led to competitors like Samsung and Google getting in on the mix as well over time.

Then a couple years later in 2010, Apple did it again with the iPad. All of a sudden, tablet computing was the place to be, forcing e-readers, laptop computers, and even eventually smartphones to become more like these tablet devices. Once again, competitors from Microsoft to Samsung later flooded the market as well.

Apple also happens to be one of the most active patent filing companies in the U.S. and abroad. That means just as much as innovating and developing products, Apple fights with competitors in court to try and secure and maintain superior market position. Apple and Samsung, for example, are locked in a years-long worldwide war over various phones and phone-related patents. The tablet patent market is heating up in court as well.

Today, the first generation of Apple Watch arrives. Just like with the iPhone and iPad, the first generation watch is being released to mixed critical review, but wild customer demand. Assuming watches come back into style over the next couple years, there will be plenty of lookalike competitors trying to cut into this market that Apple could expand, if things go well. It's an interesting gambit for a company which kind of made watches obsolete for many people by making smartphones so omnipresent, but then again, we all said the same thing about a tablet because who wants a bigger device that can't even work as a phone?

What's more interesting is to see whether Apple has started putting up enough of a patent thicket to make entering this marketplace hazardous to other companies. Some of the design patents on the bands for the Apple watch began issuing in March and April despite being filed only back in last August, and there's already 4 patents issued on some of those aesthetic designs. Which means competitors will have to be careful with the watch bands they offer with smart watches, let alone what patents cover the watch itself!


One would imagine that many of the important keystone utility patents, which do not publish as applications for 18 months after filing, will only start becoming public knowledge now and in the next year. The patent office is pretty backlogged, so it could take some time for these more important patents to come into allowance and effect. But if the plethora of design patents on watch bands is any indication, Apple is set to protect this innovation just as much as the others they now litigate frequently.
 
Bottom line - Apple is a leader in innovation and in patent litigation. That does not appear likely to change, even with a new hot idea and no Steve Jobs around anymore.



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Do you have a question? Send it in!
Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy

Monday, April 20, 2015

Character Insight No. 141: Private S. Money

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! There's nothing more relevant to taxes than money.  This week, to celebrate tax day finally passing by last week in the U.S., we profile Private S. Money, a recurring character from Enterprise. 

You know what's more annoying than tax day? (Enterprise theme song)
 
 
 Money MACO.jpg
(MACOs and their guns, always together, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

What's not quite as annoying is the inclusion of the MACO troops during the Xindi conflict through most of season 3 of Enterprise. These characters were typically not credited for appearances, but some of them, like Private Money, were in nearly half the episodes and were effectively regular redshirts of the era.

Things start off well for Private Money, as she shows her expertise with a stun baton and a few types of guns and rifles in missions where parts of the crew had to take back the ship from boarding parties such as the Xindi and the Triannons. She also shows well for the MACOs in a combat exercise and sharpshooting competition against the enlisted Starfleet officers later in the year.

But like all redshirts, the good luck can't last forever. During a rescue mission to extract Hoshi Sato from the Xindi, she is shot but survives. The very next day, she is shot again during a repelling of a Sphere Builder ship invasion. The next time we see Private Money, she is hit by a disruptor shot when trying to stop the Augments from preventing a rescue of Arik Soong. She's a true redshirt, soaking up as much if not more punishment than she doles out in security services.

Private Money is not paid to speak, she's paid to fight. Here's a sample of her killer jujitsu:
(Insert audio clip from Chosen Realm)

Private S. Money was named for a key costumer Susie Money, a nice nod to the background cast workers who make shows like this tick. Like other regular MACOs, this background character was a good face to see in the crowd for many episodes, and even more so as a woman who kicks some serious butt.

Speaking of background, Dorenda Moore is the actress who plays Private Money, and she makes much more of a living off stunt appearances and coordinating instead of acting. Enterprise was her only long term acting gig. She's been a stunt double for Natalie Portman in Thor, for Marina Sirtis in Terminal Error, and in Star Trek 2009.

Until next time, keep dodging death redshirts.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Character Insight No. 140: Boothby

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Mr. Boothby, a recurring character from TNG and Voyager.
 
 
 Janeway&boothby
(Replicated Boothby, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Mr. Boothby is the groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy. His character is referenced many more times than his actual appearances because he serves as a de facto mentor to many future powerful Starfleet officers. Captain Picard and Captain Janeway are two of these mentees who became something much greater than your average cadet at the Academy.

Boothby likes to give out grand tours of the Academy grounds to new cadets, and despite his curmudgeon appearance, he also loves to dole out wisdom and advice to the young future officers and servicemen of Starfleet. That wisdom can be invaluable, as it proved to save Picard's career following a mistake he made during his Academy days.

Likewise, Boothby also saw right through the ruse when Wesley Crusher and his elite Nova Squadron had an accident that claimed the life of one of the cadets during a training mission. His insight into the squadron and what they likely felt they had to do to keep their lofty reputation on campus led Picard to reveal the truth about the squadron practicing a dangerous and banned Kolvoord Starburst in the episode The First Duty. Just like with Picard, he ends up helping Picard mentor Crusher to save the young man's career.

From The First Duty:
Capt. Picard: You could use a good herbicide instead of pulling the weeds with your bare hands.
Boothby: M-hm... And you could explore space on a holodeck instead of a starship.


Much like other notable one-off or recurring characters, Boothby jumped series and made two appearances on Voyager, albeit not as the real Boothby. He is replicated by the leader of a group of Species 8472 when that species tries to infiltrate the Federation using Voyager as a first step. Janeway negotiates with the leader, playing as Boothby, for the mutual benefit of both parties.

He also shows up in hallucinations of Chakotay later that same year, caused by another group of aliens trying to use his subconscious to communicate with him telepathically. That includes one of the sillier scenes including Boothby, a boxing training scene where he speaks platitudes about the fight.

Quote from The Fight:
Boothby: [about boxing] It all comes down to the heart. Do you have the heart for this? That's the contest. It's not against him, it's against your own natural human desire not to get hurt. That's the real fight.


Boothby was also to appear in the movie Star Trek Insurrection, but his part got cut before filing began. Even without this callback, he is an interesting character who adds some much needed background on both the Academy and the captains of these shows. It would be fascinating to have seen more from this character, including any mentorship he had for others we know and love.


Boothby was played by Ray Walston. He died in 2001 at the ripe old age of 86, and two of his most famous appearances were on the movies Fast Times at Ridgemont High in the 80s and in My Favorite Martian in the 60s.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Legal Geek No. 40: The Curious Case of Post-Mortem Right of Publicity

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at the wide variation in local standards for post-mortem rights of publicity thanks to a fun bit of legal research I performed this week for a friend. 



("Einstein, the center of one recent cutting edge case on rights of publicity" - courtesy ck12.org)

The right of publicity, also known as personality rights, protects an individual by providing the right to control how one's name, image, likeness, or other identity features are used in a commercial context
.  In short, companies cannot market products using endorsement-like materials where the person on the marketing products has not consented or licensed those rights to the company. These laws are relatively recent, as the first ones appeared around the 1950s.


The personality rights are based on natural rights and property rights theories, therefore being based on similar legal theories like copyright.  Therefore, in many jurisdictions these rights survive death and pass to heirs, again, just like copyright terms. But in the United States, these personality rights are primarily based on state law, and our union of states vary wildly as far as how long these rights last after death.


27 states have explicitly established some form of rights of publicity, with a little over half these states setting forth the right in a statute or law that has been passed by legislators. The other states only have rights defined by common law, meaning judge-made law in case law decisions focusing on such claims. Perhaps not surprisingly, the standards vary dramatically across these states based on different judges and legislators making the laws, and the most dramatic differences come in post-mortem rights for heirs after the death of a person.

For example, the three states with the longest post mortem personality rights granted by statute or law are Indiana and Oklahoma, at 100 years apiece, and Tennessee, with an indefinite right so long as the persona is in continual use. However, these state laws have not been challenged or made by judges in courts, unlike bigger jurisdictions. But even those judges cannot agree, as California currently provides 70 years post mortem personality rights, Virginia 20 years, Florida 40 years, and New York none. It makes a real difference where you die, as that's where these rights are determined!


If that doesn't seem fair, that's because it is not. While some celebrities or luminaries like Albert Einstein benefit from decisions and law allowing continued control of the deceased person's persona, others like Nikola Tesla do not simply because they died in New York.
 
Bottom line - even though all 50 states can likely be implied to have rights of publicity in some form, the piecemeal state-by-state method of defining the term and operation of this property right has resulted in what appears to be a total mess. You might not like copyright's long term, but at least it is predictable. Perhaps it is time for the USA to consider standardizing the right of publicity as well, both during and after death.



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Do you have a question? Send it in!
Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Character Insight No. 139: Kurn

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Kurn, who is Worf's brother and who appears in a few episodes of TNG and Deep Space Nine. And it's a bunch of Klingon honor episodes, which means StarMike can go take a nap for this one!
 
 
 
(TNG Klingons just have that badass look, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Kurn grows up as the assumed son of Lorgh, a family friend of the Moghs, as a result of being left with Lorgh when Worf and his parents go to Khitomer on a trip that happened to coincide with the Khitomer Massacre. Thus, unlike the unique path that Worf takes, Kurn grows up as your typical Klingon warrior, even reaching the commander rank in the Klingon Defense Force. 

Kurn does find out his true family heritage when reaching the age of ascension, and that becomes important when a Klingon high council member tarnishes the reputation of the Mogh family by accusing them of betraying the Klingons at Khitomer many years later. Kurn comes aboard Enterprise to evaluate his older brother and whether to seek his help, and they decide to go to Qo'nos to clear the family name in what passes for Klingon legal proceedings. 

[[Stabbing sounds from fight in Sins of the Father]] and...
Kurn: So, your blood is not so thin after all.
Lieutenant Worf: I am a Klingon! If you doubt it, a demonstration can be arranged.
Kurn: That is the response of a Klingon - the response I would expect... from my older brother.

Later, Worf talks Kurn out of assassinating Chancellor Gowron in an attempt to bring powerful leadership back to the Klingon Empire. Kurn listens to his younger brother and defends Gowron from other attacks, which leads to his further elevation to a high council member. Leading his brother from dishonored family to the high council so quickly shows why Worf became an excellent ambassador candidate.

 Of course, no position of power is ever truly stable in the Klingon Empire, where backstabbing is more common than in Frank Underwood's Oval Office. Worf refused to join the Klingon invasion of the Cardassian Union in the preludes to the Dominion War, and that brought dishonor that kicked younger brother Kurn from the high council.

Kurn ends up suicidal but is eventually guided to a solution by the Deep Space Nine crew. Dr. Bashir erases his memory and alters his face and DNA, allowing him to assume a new identity as Rodek, the son of Noggra. Although he's much uglier then, at least he has his honor back.

From Sons of Mogh
Kurn: I have never understood you, Worf. But I do know this: in your own way... you are an... honorable man.
[he slums on the table]
Lt. Commander Worf: And you will be an honorable man again. But not as my brother.

Kurn or Rodek is an interesting character who makes for a good tie into Klingon stories for Worf. Thus, even though it would have been good to see this recurring character developed more, he did provide good fodder for furthering Worf's rich character build. Perhaps if Captain Worf gets his own show, this would be a good character to bring back somehow.

Kurn was played by Tony Todd, who also appeared as adult Jake Sisko in The Visitor and is set to appear in Star Trek Axanar this year. He is still very active today in acting, but his best role was probably as the title villain in the Candyman movies, which is the creepier cousin of Beetlejuice.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Character Insight No. 138: John Farrell

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile a recurring bridge crewman from early episodes of TOS, Lieutenant John Farrell.
 
 

John Farrell.jpg 
(This guy has a face made for radio, or communications in this case, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Farrell serves as a command track bridge officer and therefore is seen as one of many communications officers on the show as well as one of an even bigger list of navigation officers to appear on the Enterprise. His first appearance was one of his most notable, as he is manipulated by Mudd's women into supplying her with a communicator and the frequency to contact miners which he wanted to defraud with the women. He just can't avoid the wiles and charm of these women, much like many other crew members. This is the only time his first name Johnny is mentioned as well. 

Farrell also appears as a confused bridge officer when Captain Kirk is duplicated and both copies show up on the bridge to struggle for command in the episode The Enemy Within. His poise as a bridge officer showed much better in Miri, where he led the communications with a stranded landing party needing help in finding a cure to an ancient disease. 

This character was also written into several other episodes, but his scenes never made the cut. for example, his character was replaced in the final scripts that were shot for The Naked Time and Charlie X. However, apparently his character was not compelling enough to keep around past the first season, even though it is never addressed if he is reassigned or killed/missing in action.

Farrell does appear in a small number of novels as well, including My Brother's Keeper: Constitution, and the novelizations of several episodes including those he did not actually appear in on screen. According to the books and comics, he goes on to become an instructor at Starfleet Academy. Apparently command didn't work out, because those who can't do, teach.

Farrell was played by James Goodwin, who enjoyed a 30 year acting career with mostly one-off bit appearances in many television series as well as TV movies. his three appearances on Star Trek tie his most appearances on any one show. These shows include Little House on the Prairie, Chips, and Perry Mason.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Legal Geek No. 39: GenCon goes political to take on Indiana Lawmakers (Updated)

This is the latest installment in a series of "Legal Geek" articles and audio segments regarding current events and trends where the geek world crosses streams with legal land.  An audio version will appear on the Current Geek podcast, available for direct download here.

NOTE - Current Geek on March 27 was canceled, so some edits are included below for re-recording the following week. My apologies for readability! 
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Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at how GenCon taking a political stand last week could significantly change the future of the country's largest gaming convention.


Gen Con logo.svg 
("The iconic GenCon, a haven for all gamers for decades" - courtesy gencon.com)

GenCon has been a summer convention staple in Indianapolis since 2003, when it moved from Milwaukee after outgrowing all available convention spaces in Wisconsin
.  The relationship has been very good for Indianapolis, which holds a lot of conventions and major sporting events but none so big as GenCon.  Indianapolis has been estimated to receive over $50 Million in revenue annually from attendees of this four day convention.  Indeed, Indianapolis expanded the convention center a few years ago at a cost of $275 Million primarily to accommodate the crowds of GenCon, but also to lure some other big conventions such as the NRA convention in future years.


But last week, the future of GenCon in Indy became foggy as GenCon's CEO sent an open letter to Indiana governor Mike Pence demanding his veto of religious freedom legislation passed by the Indiana legislature a week ago.  The letter was also circulated on social media sites.  Quoting from the letter, GenCon writes:

"Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention. Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state's economy"

Clearly, GenCon is drawing a line in the sand and threatening to leave Indianapolis over the legislation.


The legislation itself is Indiana Senate Bill 101, which would prevent state and local governments from "substantially burdening" a person's exercise of religion unless the government can prove it has a compelling interest and is doing so in the least restrictive means.  Proponents of the law note that this is in compliance with the 22-year old federal religious freedom laws.  Opponents of the law deem this a potential loophole license for all private companies to discriminate, particularly against gays and lesbians.

Pence signed the bill into law despite the protests from GenCon, making a statement indicating that he does not believe this law authorizes discrimination in any way. However, the opposing economic and political pressure from GenCon, other companies like engine maker Cummins, and the mayor of Indianapolis have apparently been enough to collectively make Pence consider revising or repealing the law to avoid the potential discrimination effect. GenCon released a further letter this week indicating that the governor has reached out to begin figuring out whether an amendment to the bill or enforcement of a current city rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will be enough to avoid having the religious freedom act twisted against its intended purpose.

USA Today reports that 19 other states have similar laws in effect already.  Thus, even if GenCon's threat to move is serious, it's unclear what, if any good alternative options are available for GenCon to move to. Should the convention move to a city and state with smaller convention center space, that would likely lead to caps on attendees and ridiculous overcrowding problems.  Furthermore, the best alternatives may already have generally competing conventions like San Diego with Comic Con and Atlanta with Dragoncon. If Indiana is bad news for GenCon, the alternatives could be much less preferable. Who knows, if GenCon stays on the same week as Nerdtacular, maybe they could move it to Salt Lake City to appease those few of us who go to both!
 
Bottom line - GenCon going political to protect all of its diverse gamer attendees is a bold move that should be appreciated by nerd world, but the move could lead to an undesirable relocation that would negatively impact the very gamers who love to attend this convention annually.  Even with that relocation risk seeming to be less this week, it would still pose some interesting questions for one of the biggest conventions in America.


For more on this from a sports-related slant instead of geek-related, check out my longer article on BigTenOT.com about the subject.
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Do you have a question? Send it in!
Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy