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A patent ploy: Allergan’s unusual legal tactic attracts political scrutiny

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:58
Print section Print Rubric:  An unusual legal tactic attracts political scrutiny Print Headline:  A patent ploy Print Fly Title:  Allergan and the Mohawks UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  A patent ploy Main image:  20171118_WBP003.jpg “BRAZEN” and “absurd”: Allergan certainly drew a reaction from American lawmakers when it transferred its patents for Restasis, a dry-eye drug, to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in September. Last week a congressional committee held a hearing on the deal, which, if recognised as valid, risks undermining the American patent-review system. As entities granted sovereign status, Native American tribes enjoy legal immunity and so, Allergan hopes, can ward off challenges to the patents by rival drugmakers. The tribe, which is based in New York state, wants to ...
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A patent ploy: Allergan’s unusual legal tactic attracts political scrutiny

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 16:58
Print section Print Rubric:  An unusual legal tactic attracts political scrutiny Print Headline:  A patent ploy Print Fly Title:  Allergan and the Mohawks UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The army sidelines Robert Mugabe, Africa’s great dictator Fly Title:  A patent ploy Main image:  20171118_WBP003.jpg “BRAZEN” and “absurd”: Allergan certainly drew a reaction from American lawmakers when it transferred its patents for Restasis, a dry-eye drug, to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in September. Last week a congressional committee held a hearing on the deal, which, if recognised as valid, risks undermining the American patent-review system. As entities granted sovereign status, Native American tribes enjoy legal immunity and so, Allergan hopes, can ward off challenges to the patents by rival drugmakers. The tribe, which is based in New York state, wants to ...
Categories: Newspapers

We did not know: How non-disclosure agreements can protect workplace abusers

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 21:45
Main image:  IN RECENT days, as numerous actresses have described harrowing encounters with Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer, attention has turned to the vehicle that helped keep these episodes quiet for years: non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). “We did not know we were working for a serial sexual predator”, thirty or so of Harvey Weinstein’s former employees write in an unsigned letter published in the New Yorker on October 19th. “We knew that our boss could be manipulative”, they go on. “We did not know that he used his power to systematically assault and silence women”. The authors of the letter say they want to end the enforced silence in which they have been held. “We know that in writing this we are in open breach of the non-disclosure agreements in our contracts”, they write. “But our former boss is in open violation of his contract with us—the employees—to create a safe place for us to work”. They ask the Weinstein Company to “let us out of our NDAs immediately” and to “do the same for all former Weinstein Company employees”. Freed of the gag order, former employees might “speak openly, and get to the origins of what happened here, and how”. Mr Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex.The Weinstein scandal raises questions about the prevalence and enforceability ...
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We did not know: How non-disclosure agreements can protect workplace abusers

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 21:45
Main image:  IN RECENT days, as numerous actresses have described harrowing encounters with Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film producer, attention has turned to the vehicle that helped keep these episodes quiet for years: non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). “We did not know we were working for a serial sexual predator”, thirty or so of Harvey Weinstein’s former employees write in an unsigned letter published in the New Yorker on October 19th. “We knew that our boss could be manipulative”, they go on. “We did not know that he used his power to systematically assault and silence women”. The authors of the letter say they want to end the enforced silence in which they have been held. “We know that in writing this we are in open breach of the non-disclosure agreements in our contracts”, they write. “But our former boss is in open violation of his contract with us—the employees—to create a safe place for us to work”. They ask the Weinstein Company to “let us out of our NDAs immediately” and to “do the same for all former Weinstein Company employees”. Freed of the gag order, former employees might “speak openly, and get to the origins of what happened here, and how”. Mr Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex.The Weinstein scandal raises questions about the prevalence and enforceability ...
Categories: Newspapers

Difference Engine: New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:16
Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Difference Engine Byline:  N.V. Location:  LOS ANGELES Main image:  20170624_stp501.jpg CONSUMERS across America can thank a recent ruling by the Supreme Court for granting them the right to do whatever they want with gizmos and gadgets they own. Eh? Surely, one might think, ownership automatically confers such a right. In an increasing number of cases, sadly, it does nothing of the sort. If people cannot repair a product when it breaks, alter it to suit their needs, sell it or give it away when done with it, then they do not “own” it in the traditional sense. Even when they pay good money for something, restrictions buried in the small print can limit what they may, or may not, do with it. The Supreme Court ruling is a small, but significant, victory for consumers at a time when the whole notion of ownership is being rapidly eroded by digital technology. Until recently, jail-breaking (unlocking) a mobile phone, even one that had been ...
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Difference Engine: New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:16
Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Difference Engine Byline:  N.V. Location:  LOS ANGELES Main image:  20170624_stp501.jpg CONSUMERS across America can thank a recent ruling by the Supreme Court for granting them the right to do whatever they want with gizmos and gadgets they own. Eh? Surely, one might think, ownership automatically confers such a right. In an increasing number of cases, sadly, it does nothing of the sort. If people cannot repair a product when it breaks, alter it to suit their needs, sell it or give it away when done with it, then they do not “own” it in the traditional sense. Even when they pay good money for something, restrictions buried in the small print can limit what they may, or may not, do with it. The Supreme Court ruling is a small, but significant, victory for consumers at a time when the whole notion of ownership is being rapidly eroded by digital technology. Until recently, jail-breaking (unlocking) a mobile phone, even one that had been ...
Categories: Newspapers

Patently profitable: Qualcomm is again under attack for living large off its patent portfolio

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 16:44
Print section Print Rubric:  The world’s biggest chip-design firm is under attack from its main client, Apple Print Headline:  Until the patents squeak Print Fly Title:  Qualcomm UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The multinational company is in trouble Fly Title:  Patently profitable “SHOULD five per cent appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all.” The Beatles wrote “Taxman” in 1966 to protest at Harold Wilson’s exorbitant “supertax” rates. Critics of Qualcomm, the world’s biggest chip-design firm, would say the lyric is a clue to the company’s business practices. Its methods have attracted a barrage of legal complaints. The latest came on January 25th, when Apple, a smartphone maker, sued it in China for abusing its clout in mobile processors and demanded 1bn yuan ($145m) in damages. Just days earlier Apple had filed a similar lawsuit in California asking for $1bn. America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ...
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Patently profitable: Qualcomm is again under attack for living large off its patent portfolio

Thu, 01/26/2017 - 16:44
Print section Print Rubric:  The world’s biggest chip-design firm is under attack from its main client, Apple Print Headline:  Until the patents squeak Print Fly Title:  Qualcomm UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The multinational company is in trouble Fly Title:  Patently profitable “SHOULD five per cent appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all.” The Beatles wrote “Taxman” in 1966 to protest at Harold Wilson’s exorbitant “supertax” rates. Critics of Qualcomm, the world’s biggest chip-design firm, would say the lyric is a clue to the company’s business practices. Its methods have attracted a barrage of legal complaints. The latest came on January 25th, when Apple, a smartphone maker, sued it in China for abusing its clout in mobile processors and demanded 1bn yuan ($145m) in damages. Just days earlier Apple had filed a similar lawsuit in California asking for $1bn. America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued ...
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Marks and censor: Free expression v offensive speech at the Supreme Court

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 19:20
Main image:  AMERICA protects the freedom of expression about as robustly as anybody. The courts that police this First-Amendment guarantee, though, often face dilemmas. On January 18th, in Lee v Tam, the justices considered a case involving “the first and only all-Asian American dance rock band in the world” and its quest dating back to 2011 to trademark its name, "The Slants", an appropriation of an anti-Asian epithet. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) told the band that a half-century-old law called the Lanham Act prohibited “scandalous, immoral or disparaging” trademarks. Then, citing a definition of “slants” from Urbandictionary.com, a list of ethnic slurs from Wikipedia and a slew of other evidence, the PTO denied The Slants’ application.The Portland-based quartet fought the decision and won a judgment in 2015 from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington, DC based court with jurisdiction over patent disputes. The ruling struck down the provision of the Lanham Act in question as a clear violation of the First Amendment: “The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks”, the judges wrote. The constitution “protects even hurtful speech”. The government then ...
Categories: Newspapers

Marks and censor: Free expression v offensive speech at the Supreme Court

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 19:20
Main image:  AMERICA protects the freedom of expression about as robustly as anybody. The courts that police this First-Amendment guarantee, though, often face dilemmas. On January 18th, in Lee v Tam, the justices considered a case involving “the first and only all-Asian American dance rock band in the world” and its quest dating back to 2011 to trademark its name, "The Slants", an appropriation of an anti-Asian epithet. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) told the band that a half-century-old law called the Lanham Act prohibited “scandalous, immoral or disparaging” trademarks. Then, citing a definition of “slants” from Urbandictionary.com, a list of ethnic slurs from Wikipedia and a slew of other evidence, the PTO denied The Slants’ application.The Portland-based quartet fought the decision and won a judgment in 2015 from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a Washington, DC based court with jurisdiction over patent disputes. The ruling struck down the provision of the Lanham Act in question as a clear violation of the First Amendment: “The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks”, the judges wrote. The constitution “protects even hurtful speech”. The government then ...
Categories: Newspapers

Who owns the blockchain?: A rush to patent the blockchain is a sign of the technology’s promise

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 16:54
Print section Print Rubric:  The technology underlying bitcoin may be in for a patent war Print Headline:  Blockchain of command Print Fly Title:  Intellectual property UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Equipping people to stay ahead of technological change Fly Title:  Who owns the blockchain? FOR fans of bitcoin, a digital currency, the year got off to a volatile start. On January 5th one bitcoin changed hands for nearly $1,150—almost as much as the record set three years ago. It has since dropped by 33%. Elsewhere in the land of monetary bits, things move more slowly but trouble is brewing: a potential patent war looms over the blockchain, a distributed ledger that authenticates and records every bitcoin transaction. Heated fights over intellectual property are nothing new in promising technology markets. But given that the blockchain is expected to shake up everything from the way precious diamonds are safeguarded to the ...
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Who owns the blockchain?: A rush to patent the blockchain is a sign of the technology’s promise

Thu, 01/12/2017 - 16:54
Print section Print Rubric:  The technology underlying bitcoin may be in for a patent war Print Headline:  Blockchain of command Print Fly Title:  Intellectual property UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Equipping people to stay ahead of technological change Fly Title:  Who owns the blockchain? FOR fans of bitcoin, a digital currency, the year got off to a volatile start. On January 5th one bitcoin changed hands for nearly $1,150—almost as much as the record set three years ago. It has since dropped by 33%. Elsewhere in the land of monetary bits, things move more slowly but trouble is brewing: a potential patent war looms over the blockchain, a distributed ledger that authenticates and records every bitcoin transaction. Heated fights over intellectual property are nothing new in promising technology markets. But given that the blockchain is expected to shake up everything from the way precious diamonds are safeguarded to the ...
Categories: Newspapers

The weigh forward: MasterCard could estimate passengers’ weight for airlines based on what they buy

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 16:39
Main image:  FIRMS must tread lightly around the subject of their customers’ weight. It is a sensitive subject for many. Still, a lot of organisations would like to be able to size up those who use their services.MasterCard, a credit-card company, has filed a patent application for what it describes as “a system, method, and computer-readable storage medium configured to analyse the physical size of payment accountholders based on payment transactions, and allowing a transportation provider to apply the physical size of payment accountholders to seating”. In plain English, the firm plans to estimate its customers’ size and weight based on their clothing and shoe purchases. It could then transmit this information to airlines (and other transportation providers, such as rail and bus companies) which might use it to assign seats.Exactly how airlines would deploy this information is not known. In its application, MasterCard takes a charitable interpretation, writing that “for the comfort of their passengers, transportation providers should avoid seating physically large strangers next to each other”. (Indeed, the most optimistic possible conclusion would be that airlines would follow the model of Air Canada’s policy of giving an extra free seat to obese passengers who present a doctor’s note.) But ...
Categories: Newspapers

The weigh forward: MasterCard could estimate passengers’ weight for airlines based on what they buy

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 16:39
Main image:  FIRMS must tread lightly around the subject of their customers’ weight. It is a sensitive subject for many. Still, a lot of organisations would like to be able to size up those who use their services.MasterCard, a credit-card company, has filed a patent application for what it describes as “a system, method, and computer-readable storage medium configured to analyse the physical size of payment accountholders based on payment transactions, and allowing a transportation provider to apply the physical size of payment accountholders to seating”. In plain English, the firm plans to estimate its customers’ size and weight based on their clothing and shoe purchases. It could then transmit this information to airlines (and other transportation providers, such as rail and bus companies) which might use it to assign seats.Exactly how airlines would deploy this information is not known. In its application, MasterCard takes a charitable interpretation, writing that “for the comfort of their passengers, transportation providers should avoid seating physically large strangers next to each other”. (Indeed, the most optimistic possible conclusion would be that airlines would follow the model of Air Canada’s policy of giving an extra free seat to obese passengers who present a doctor’s note.) But ...
Categories: Newspapers

Bench-pressed: A new patent shows how airfares may one day depend on your girth

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 15:35
LAST month, bemoaning the shrinking legroom on airplanes, an American congressman introduced a measure—on which Gulliver gloomily reported—to mandate a minimum amount of space for air passengers. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, pointed out that the average American man grew from 166lb (75kg) in 1960 to 190lb today, while the average woman jumped from 140lb to 166lb. Airline seats have meanwhile moved in the opposite direction. The average seat pitch has dropped from 35 inches (89cm) in the 1970s to 31 inches now, and the width of the typical seat has contracted from 18 inches to 16.5.The measure failed, and airlines are showing no inclination toward roomier seats. Instead, they may turn to a different solution: making bigger passengers pay more to fly. Airbus, a European aerospace giant, has filed a patent application in America for a “re-configurable passenger bench seat":In a first configuration of the passenger bench seat, the seatbelt system includes a first number of seatbelts which are detachably fastened to the fastening rail in first positions which are adapted to the first configuration of the passenger bench seat. In a second configuration of the passenger bench seat, on the other hand, the seatbelt system includes a second number of seatbelts which are detachably fastened to the fastening rail in second positions which are adapted to the second ...
Categories: Newspapers

Bench-pressed: A new patent shows how airfares may one day depend on your girth

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 15:35
LAST month, bemoaning the shrinking legroom on airplanes, an American congressman introduced a measure—on which Gulliver gloomily reported—to mandate a minimum amount of space for air passengers. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, pointed out that the average American man grew from 166lb (75kg) in 1960 to 190lb today, while the average woman jumped from 140lb to 166lb. Airline seats have meanwhile moved in the opposite direction. The average seat pitch has dropped from 35 inches (89cm) in the 1970s to 31 inches now, and the width of the typical seat has contracted from 18 inches to 16.5.The measure failed, and airlines are showing no inclination toward roomier seats. Instead, they may turn to a different solution: making bigger passengers pay more to fly. Airbus, a European aerospace giant, has filed a patent application in America for a “re-configurable passenger bench seat":In a first configuration of the passenger bench seat, the seatbelt system includes a first number of seatbelts which are detachably fastened to the fastening rail in first positions which are adapted to the first configuration of the passenger bench seat. In a second configuration of the passenger bench seat, on the other hand, the seatbelt system includes a second number of seatbelts which are detachably fastened to the fastening rail in second positions which are adapted to the second ...
Categories: Newspapers

Genetic engineering: CRISPR crunch

Thu, 02/18/2016 - 16:45
Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Out of ammo? Fly Title:  Genetic engineering Location:  Washington, DC Main image:  20160220_stp503.jpg “IT HAS not escaped our notice”, wrote James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, “that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism.” What they had discovered was the structure of DNA and the way its halves matched up. It was a classic of understatement, for what they had noticed would revolutionise biology. With similar self-restraint, results published in Science, in 2012, noted “considerable potential for gene-targeting and genome-editing applications”. In fact, the study revealed a simple method allowing scientists to tinker, at will, with the genomes of animals and plants. It threw open the doors to a new and egalitarian era of genetic engineering—a way to tackle problems ranging from pest control to drug design to the undoing, with military precision, of harmful mutations. What remains to ...
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Genetic engineering: CRISPR crunch

Thu, 02/18/2016 - 16:45
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Out of ammo? Fly Title:  Genetic engineering Rubric:  A row over who invented a new gene-editing technique heats up Location:  Washington, DC Main image:  20160220_stp503.jpg “IT HAS not escaped our notice”, wrote James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, “that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism.” What they had discovered was the structure of DNA and the way its halves matched up. It was a classic of understatement, for what they had noticed would revolutionise biology. With similar self-restraint, results published in Science, in 2012, noted “considerable potential for gene-targeting and genome-editing applications”. In fact, the study revealed a simple method allowing scientists to tinker, at will, with the genomes of animals and plants. It threw open the doors to a new and egalitarian era of genetic engineering—a way to tackle ...
Categories: Newspapers

Foxconn: Pointed questions

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 16:44
Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The right way to do drugs Fly Title:  Foxconn Location:  SHANGHAI AT FACE value, there is little sense in the $5.6 billion proposal by Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, owned by Hon Hai of Taiwan, to buy Sharp of Japan. It seems an extravagant price for a debt-laden firm that is bleeding red ink and squandered two previous bail-outs. Terry Gou, Hon Hai’s frugal boss, had the sense to walk away from a previous deal for his firm to invest $800m in Sharp in 2012, after the target’s finances deteriorated sharply. Why is he now so keen to spend lavishly on something that may prove a millstone around his neck? Mr Gou is not saying, but there are several possible explanations. Hon Hai surely wants to gain bargaining power over Apple, which provides around half its revenues. Foxconn, which has more than 1m workers on the Chinese mainland, has long been the biggest assembler of iPhones and other devices for the Californian firm. Since Sharp, which makes display panels, is also a big ...
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Foxconn: Pointed questions

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 16:44
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The right way to do drugs Fly Title:  Foxconn Rubric:  Foxconn’s bid for Sharp is a risky attempt to reinvent its business model Location:  SHANGHAI AT FACE value, there is little sense in the $5.6 billion proposal by Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, owned by Hon Hai of Taiwan, to buy Sharp of Japan. It seems an extravagant price for a debt-laden firm that is bleeding red ink and squandered two previous bail-outs. Terry Gou, Hon Hai’s frugal boss, had the sense to walk away from a previous deal for his firm to invest $800m in Sharp in 2012, after the target’s finances deteriorated sharply. Why is he now so keen to spend lavishly on something that may prove a millstone around his neck? Mr Gou is not saying, but there are several possible explanations. Hon Hai surely wants to gain bargaining power over Apple, which provides around half its revenues. Foxconn, which has more than 1m workers on the Chinese mainland, has long been the ...
Categories: Newspapers

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