Opportunity for Professor at INTA Annual Meeting 2014

The International Trademark Association (INTA) is looking for one professor to be chosen as a Table Topic moderator for the 2014 Annual Meeting to be held in Hong Kong next May.  (For those who aren’t aware, the INTA Annual Meeting is a conference of about 9,500 trademark professionals from more than 140 countries.  It is a good opportunity to stay up to date on the latest issues in trademark law, talk with key stakeholders, connect with colleagues from around the world, and get a lot of CLE credit.)

While INTA represents brand owners and has historically spoken from that perspective, INTA has made concrete and serious efforts over the last several years to broaden its base and include the voices of academics in its programming, particularly during the Annual Meeting.  (Frankly, that is what caused me to join the Academic Committee, to work toward the realization of that inclusive voice.)  The Annual Meeting now features an entire day of academic programming, including a Professor Panel, where academic thought leaders present their perspectives on issues such as trademark boundaries, functionality, and overlapping doctrines, and a Scholarship Symposium, where papers are workshopped by both academics and practitioners.   The Professor Panel has become one of the most popular panels at the Annual Meeting.

INTA has also expressed interest in reaching out to professors who might be interested in leading Table Topic discussions in a particular area.  Table Topics are two-hour discussions limited to ten participants on a wide variety of topics related to trademarks.  Participants at the Annual Meetings register (and pay) in advance for a seat at the table to discuss, and the seats typically fill up quickly, so it can be a good opportunity to generate discussion if professors happen to be working on scholarship ideas that might benefit from input from diverse perspectives, particularly from an international audience.  I have personally found it helpful for my own scholarship—it’s not always easy to find a (captive and) interested audience to discuss an issue for two hours straight.

A sample of topics from the 2013 Annual Meeting can be found here.  If you would like to be considered, please send a short paragraph describing the general topic to me at mcarpenter@law.tamu.edu, by Tuesday, October 15.

The downside:  INTA does not cover travel expenses.


Theorizing the Web

Those near NYC this Saturday might consider visiting the “Theorizing the Web” conference. Provocative presentation titles include:

The Automation of Compliance: Techno-Legal Regulation in the U.S. Trucking Industry
What We Talk About When We Talk Data: Metrics, Mobilization, and Materiality in Performing Health Online
Crowdsourcing Assassination 2.0
Identity Prosumption and the Quantified Self Movement
Beyond Bridges, Speed-Bumps, And Hotel Keys: A New Design Paradigm for Control Technologies
There is no difference between the “real” and the “virtual”: a brief phenomenology of digital revolution

I am also really looking forward to seeing Rob Horning and Daniel Kreiss present. Having just enjoyed the WIPIP at Seton Hall organized by my colleague Gaia Bernstein, I can say that there really is an embarrassment of riches in internet thought in the NY area these two weeks.

X-Posted: Concurring Opinions.

Smartphones and Software Patents

I will be speaking at Santa Clara Law School’s outstanding conference about Solutions to the Software Problem tomorrow.  It promises to be a great event, with academics, public interest advocates, and government officials all weighing in.

As a lead-in to the conference, I want to discuss an oft repeated statistic: that there are 250,000 patents that might be infringed by any given smartphone. I’m going to assume that number is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt its veracity. This number, many argue, is a key reason why we must have wholesale reform – no piecemeal action will solve the problem.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

1. Not all of these patents are in force. Surely, many of them expired due to lack of maintenance fee payments.

2. Not all of the remaining patents are asserted. After all, we don’t see every smartphone manufacturer being sued 250,000 times.

3. Many of these patents are related to each other or are otherwise aggregated together. Thus, there are opportunities for global settlements.

4. Even if you think that 250,000 is huge number of patents (and it is, really – there’s not disputing that), it is unclear to me why anyone is surprised by the number when you consider what’s in a smartphone. More specifically:

  • A general purpose computer and all that comes with it (CPU, RAM, I/O interface, operating system, etc.).
  • Active matrix display
  • Touch screen display
  • Cellular voice technology
  • 1x data networking
  • 3G data networking
  • 4G data networking
  • Wi-Fi data networking
  • Bluetooth data networking
  • GPS technology (and associated navigation)
  • Accelerometer technology
  • Digital camera (including lens and image processing)
  • Audio recording and playback
  • Battery technology
  • Force feedback technology (phone vibration and haptic feedback)
  • Design patents

The areas above are by and large “traditional” patent areas – they aren’t software for the most part. And there are thousands of patents in each category, before we even get to the potential applications of the smartphone that might be patented (and these are of greater debate, of course).

So, yes, there are many, many patents associated with the smartphone, but what else would you expect when you cram all of these features into a single device? Perhaps smartphones are the focus of the software patent problem because, well, they do everything, and so they might infringe everything. I’m not convinced that this should drive a wholesale reform of the system. Maybe it just means that smartphones are underpriced given what they include. Not that I’m complaining.

ICANN Announces New gTLD Program

On June 20, ICANN announced that it would be opening up the domain space for new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs),  meaning that anyone will be able to register virtually any word or phrase in almost any language or script as a gTLD.  Up until now, there have been 22 available gTLDs (eg .com, .net, .org, .info etc) along with a number of country-code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) such as .us, .uk, .au, .ca etc.

Applications for new gTLDs will begin early in 2012.  It will be interesting to see how effectively this program is administered particularly in dealing with battles between trademark holders and others.  Additionally, it will be interesting to see if the possibility of so many new gTLDs actually does make any inroads into the prominence of the .com space over time.

The Virtues of Getting Shredded

I just finished participating in and presenting at the two-day “Cyberlaw Colloquium,” an annual mid-Atlanticish conference devoted to cyberlaw scholarship (with some bleeding into IP). This year it was hosted by Madisonian’s own Greg Lastowka at Rutgers – Camden, with other Madisonians Mike Madison and Mike Carroll participating.

An hour was devoted to each paper, and several more people attend/ comment than present. The price of admission is reading each paper, and very little time is spent by the author presenting each paper. I spoke for maybe 5 minutes before we got rolling with a “This is great and all that, but what’s your point…” type comment.  I think one presenter got three sentences in.

That’s really the benefit of a conference like this – it is hard to get the focused minds of 10 or more senior scholars on your problem. But that’s also the scary part – it occurred to me that I was one of very few untenured participants and I was presenting an early draft of a paper that I knew was outside my comfort zone. But that’s precisely why I needed to present.

Some people advise junior scholars to refrain from showing work that’s unpolished to senior scholars who might gossip about how dumb you are. To that, I say, “hogwash.” Sure, it’s better to have complete sentences and best to have complete thoughts, but sometimes you need a group of smart and experienced people to figure out why you aren’t making your point the way you wanted to.

You just can’t get that kind of help at a big conference where no one has read the paper and you get 8 minutes to present with another 10 minutes of comments. I don’t even think you can usually get that kind of help at your average faculty workshop, where you spend a lot of the time presenting your idea (and where your oral presentation might clarify some of the shortcomings of the paper so that you never get the right critical comment).

So, I got shredded, but in a good way, and the final paper that results will reflect that – I hope.