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Friday, 20 April 2007

Bluetooth Dispute Settled for USD$15million

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In a stunning bit of negotiation savvy, the Washington Research Foundation, a branch of the University of Washington, walked away with USD$15 million from CSR PLC. The original suit was launched against Nokia, Samsung and Panasonic for selling in mobile phones that use Bluetooth chips from CSR PLC that infringe WRF's radio frequency patents.

  • The issue: The patents have been licensed to Broadcom.

  • The settlement: USD$15 million in exchange for agreement not to sue CSR PLC for alleged infringements of the WRF patents by its products.

Bluetooth technology enables modern technological devices to communicate in a personal area network (PAN).

  1. Reuters, CSR settles Bluetooth dispute with WRF for $15 mln, 19th April 2007
  2. Bluetooth @ Wikipedia
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Thursday, 15 March 2007

Viacom Sues YouTube for USD1 Billion

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In Monopoly, sometimes somewhere along the way, the "vicissitudes" of life do take place. You go to jail. You end up on someone else's place and you pay them rent. This. That. And as the game goes on, the stakes climb up. So how does Monopoly relate to today's topic? Plenty.

Here's the basic proposition: Google's purchase of YouTube was aimed to cash in on the large online viewership, with one goal in mind: Generate a better business proposition for its AdSense programme. I may be mistaken, but consider the fact that prior to the purchase, Google already had Google Video in its arsenal. Why did it need another Flash Video community? The answer would probably be the brand name that YouTube had generated amongst bloggers.

Enter Viacom. Viacom alleges that there are some 160,000 music videos that are circulating on YouTube.

The Viacom Building @ #1, Astor Plaza
Picture: The Viacom Building @ #1, Astor Plaza
[source: indyken's photostream @ Flickr]

Justin Hughes, director of the Intellectual Property Law Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, suggests that Google should have anticipated this problem in purchasing YouTube, because of its business model which allows users to infringe copyright.1

At present, the burden of policing infringing material on a web server is on the copyright owner. The USA Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 requires a webmaster to remove infringing material from a web server only after being served notice by the copyright owner. If the removal is "expeditious" then the Act provides a "safe harbour" for the webmaster.2

Personally, I feel that Viacom would not have pursued the court case against YouTube if YouTube had not been purchased by Google for the following reasons.

  1. Financial Viability
    Quite frankly, if YouTube had not been sold to Google, it would not have been such a profitable target. Just as parents are the target of child kidnapping, Viacom is eyeing a rich payout from Google -- not YouTube.

  2. Support
    Let's face facts. The entertainment industry is worried about dwindling power. While the big corporations spend billions of dollars seeking out new artistes and grooming them up, helping them shoot their music videos, churning out their music CD's, etc, along come the new age pirates who upload tonnes of music videos and MP3 albums to RapidShare et al. The big boys were getting fed up of the DMCA. Something had to give sooner or later.

  3. Deterrant Factor
    Viacom is sending a message to all the other small timers who aspire to be the next YouTube: Cool your horses, or you may be the next. But what it does not realise is that YouTube can continue to operate until a court order is obtained. If, on the other hand, it wishes to get an interlocutory restraining order, Viacom may have to put up security for costs -- not that that would be much of a problem.

However, in the event that the lawsuit does go on, of course Viacom would have to justify its claim of USD$1 billion. How can it show that it is justified in claiming such a big sum? The answer lies in IP valuation -- the art of putting a price to a "work". IP valuation approaches are varied and it is clear that there is no one cohesive approach. Perhaps, this topic will be dealt with in a later article. For now, suffice to say that there are three main means of valuation: the cost method, the market method, and the income method.3

Has this been useful? Send me work.


1. Source: Viacom Sues YouTube for $1 billion, MSN Money, 13 March 2007 [link]

2. Ibid.

3. For my personal reference, and I believe for the reader's benefit as well, I would say that WIPO has a set of documents about IP valuation. [link]. Also check out [this link]
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Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Starbucks vs. Starstrucks

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Shahnaz Husain, an Indian entrepreneur in Mumbai.

She plans to start a string of 25 glamourous coffee shops in India, decorated with posters of (presumably Bollywood, and not Hollywood) movie stars.

God knows.


An excerpt from Reuters' report (Source: The Brunei Times):

Starbucks, the latest in a line of foreign companies facing branding challenges in India, is reported to be awaiting permission to open its coffee shops.The government had sought some clarifications from Starbucks on its joint venture arrangement.

Apparently, Starbucks has "complained to India's Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trademark that the name is deceptively similar to its own name." Indeed, that sounds like they mean business, but does such a complaint seek? Is it to strike off the Starstruck mark from the Register of Marks? Otherwise, Starbucks may have to rely on other remedies, e.g. passing off by imitation of get-up, and also a prohibitive injunction/restraining order.

Confusing, deceiving marks would not be allowed registration. [link] A similar matter happened in the "MikeRoweSoft" case, where Microsoft bought over the domain from a 17 year old student named (eeriely enough) Mike Rowe. [link]

If you are from Starbucks and want some more advice on Starstrucks, feel free to contact me. :) [link]
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Saturday, 3 March 2007

Dell's Customers Want Preinstalled Open Source

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Dell Computers recently launched a feedback website, Dell IdeaStorm which allowed its customers to submit ideas for new products. An interesting turn of events showed that many Dell customers wanted Dell to ship computers with Linux pre-installed.

More than 45,000 users over a three-day period agreed with a suggestion that Dell should "preinstall Linux" to cut the price of new PCs. A related suggestion that Dell offer new-computer buyers an option to have the open source suite OpenOffice preinstalled on new systems garnered some 25,000 votes in two days.

Source: Tech News World

Part of the reason vendors themselves prefer bundling computers with Windows (in America, at least!) is the aggressive pricing strategies that Microsoft has adopted. Under such pricing arrangements,

Manufacturers end up paying just as much in total for a smaller number of copies of Windows than it would if it shipped every machine with Windows.

--Bernard Golden, CEO of open source strategy consulting firm Navica. [source]

In a comment posted on, a certain "David Skilling" offered the following advice:

... the second most onerous thing in Dell is the preinstalled junk or trial software. If Dell included full versions of software (60 day trial period/completely uninstallable) as a CD to be installed at the new owners option it would be an improvement.
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Hard Disk Loading and IP Enforcement

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What's "hard disk loading"? A very hard way of loading up a disk?! Well, unfortunately it's a little closer to home than that. Notice every time you purchase a new (and sometimes shiny) computer, it comes with Windows? Well, not just Windows but also lots of nice software. Like DreamWeaver, Microsoft Office, etc. You just need to tell the guy who sold you the computer what you want. "Ah, Tony ah... This one... can give me Windows XP? Or better yet maybe Vista??" And the reply is always "Can!! No problem!!" And of course it's no problem. You got your computer your way with the stuff that you need. And then you surf the Net and you read my blog.

Well, I am here to tell you that "hard disk loading" Google it! -- or the act of copying unlicensed commercial software into computers -- is an offence. Here's a mini quote from The Star Online, Feb 26th 2007:

The enforcement division of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry is using agents disguised as customers in order to nab unscrupulous computer dealers who offer pirated software via "hard disk loading."

Hard disk loading refers to the act of installing unlicensed software into a PC by copying directly from another computer's hard disk.

source: The Star Online

Section 41(1)(d) of the Malaysian Copyright Act 1987, provides sanction against software piracy by way of a fine of up to RM20,000 and/or a jail term of up to five years for every count of infringing copy of software. One interesting issue: How do you define an "infringing copy"? That would hinge on the word "copy". And if "copy" is defined properly, it includes an "installation" -- but that word ("installation") seems to be missing from the statute. Section 27(2) of the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act defines "infringing copy"Google it! as follows:

An article is an infringing copy if its making constituted
an infringement of the copyright in the work in question.


One interesting nugget that I gleaned from this particular news article is that trapping of software pirates themselves are prohibited. It is up to the vendor himself to offer the pirated "goods". Also interesting is that it is "difficult" to arrest end-users found at such stores. That would explain why the authorities would "advise" the end user and ask him to be their witness.


Here's something interesting. Whereas the recent news announced that computer traders have been recently caught for hard disk loading, a not-so-recent article in New Straits Times brazenly blared: "Bukit Bintang Declared Zero-Piracy Zone". [link] [link2] You will note that the cached copy of the article (link2) states that "82 shops trading in illegal optic discs at the shopping complexes have now been turned into outlets selling shoes and apparels." We need to think: How did these shops get "turned into" something which they were not in the first place? Just like a computer virus, there must be an author behind those actions. Some other interesting factoids found in the press statement of Ahmad Dahuri Mahmud:

There were 17 cases of copyright infringements in 2005 with seizures of software and hardware, valued at RM99 million.

The number of cases increased to 21 last year, involving 172 units of hardware, valued at RM516,000, and 228,000 copies of software, worth RM23 million.

Two observations. First, of the 17 cases in 2005, none of them passed through my hands. But there was another case which if it had gone to court, would have pushed the number to 18. Second, there were 21 cases in 2006 and only 17 cases in 2005. The value of disputed items in 2005 was valued at RM99 million.... while in 2006, the seized items only amounted to a value of RM23.5 million. That shows a great drop in value. Who evaluates these things, anyway? IP valuation is time consuming and very pricey. Personally, I believe that the figure of RM99 million was the result of some creative individuals who believed in the value of suing for a high sum.


Hard disk loading -- how is the average computer trader supposed to sell computers without losing his client? Granted, all computers are created equal. But the clients who buy computers pre-loaded with pirated software are usually those who cannot afford licensed software. These would include teenagers and those from the senior community. Their requirement is "anything will do lah, as long as the computer boleh jalan." And the solution is probably something to do with the fact that those pushing for enforcement against hard disk loaders are the big names: in short, Microsoft et al [link].

In recent years therefore there has been a shift toward open source. The open source softwares are constantly updated and bugs ironed out. On the minus side is that the open source movement in reality is ironically powered by many programmers who work for big name proprietary software companies. But that is missing the point that in purchasing the computer, you seek usability. If you were planning to buy a new computer, I would advise you to get it preloaded with ReactOS and Open Office. Of the two, I am currently using Open Office, and I am planning to install ReactOS on my new computer. But for the meantime, I shall stick to my (licensed) copy of Windows XP.
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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

BitTorrent Goes Legit!

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BitTorrent is restyling its business to sell downloads of movies and TV shows licensed from studios. This development is a bit of a surprise because BitTorrent was the bane of Hollywood, making it a regular event for people to share video based media easily over broadband Internet.

BitTorrent is betting that one third of current downloaders (users of its BitTorrent protocol) will be willing to pay for legitimate content rather than to take the gamble with possible law enforcement. And that's the point, that BitTorrent is not similar to Napster in that one respect: BitTorrent is a protocol, a means of communication between computers of a network, without a centralised server, whereas Napster had a centralised server. (Link: No, It's Not The New Napster, via

On the other hand, Hollywood executives will need more than a little reassurance to rest easy. Their biggest hope for daunting the would-be pirates of the newly available content (as low as USD$1.99 per episode!) would be digital rights management safeguards created by Microsoft Corp. search Google suggesting that Windows Media Player will play a prominent role in this interesting development. The next biggest hope would probably be digital watermarking search Google to track the original user and the movement of the digital file. It would probably be a bit like how scientists track penguins.

On the other hand, the press statement by Les Ottolenghi is that Hollywood's executives hope that "someone at home passes it on to someone at home, from one device to the next, and that becomes a value to the consumer" -- but somehow, that statement just does not seem to follow. Why is digital watermarking and digital rights management required if all that executives hope for is that the same user will continue to use the downloaded content?

Apparently not everybody is convinced to "go legit". Says one character:

"The sad thing is, it’s not about the money. I’m not interested in renting a movie. I want to own it. I want total portability. I want to give a copy to my brother. Digital convergence is supposed to make things like this easier, but D.R.M. is making them harder."
[source: New York Times]

Read more about this topic:

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Saturday, 24 February 2007

iPhone Trade Mark Dispute Ends

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Talk about how an intellectual property dispute can be amicably resolved! Today's news covered one such incident: Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. agreed that both parties could use the "iPhone" trade mark for their respective products and that all prevailing lawsuits would be dropped. I anticipate that the iPhone will prove to be another cash cow for Apple Inc.

The companies said they reached an agreement that will allow Apple to use the name for its sleek new multimedia device in exchange for exploring wide-ranging "interoperability" between the companies' products in the areas of security, consumer and business communications. No other details of the agreement were released.

The companies both said they would dismiss any pending legal actions regarding the trademark.

Source: CIO Today [link]

An analysis of the excerpt above also proves that in addition to the trade mark being made available to both parties, there is also increased co-operation and "interoperability" -- a very good example of savvy negotiation skills. In negotiation tactics, the best bet is to increase mutual benefits (upping the "win-win") by "looking around". In an age where Microsoft uses its huge market share to influence the direction of computing, alliances by other computing heavyweights are necessary to ensure survival.

In another recent incident involving Apple Inc., Apple Inc. settled patent disputes with Creative Technologies of Singapore in the following terms: USD$100 million, Creative Technologies being made a "Made For iPod" vendor, introducing various iPod compatible earphones and speaker systems, and cross-licensing of patents. link

Here's to more good negotiating skills in intellectual property disputes.
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Friday, 2 February 2007

6 Million Malaysians Transacted Online Last Year

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IDC Malaysia1 in a study reported that six million unique buyer identitites conducted online transactions i.e. e-commerce.2

Here are some statistics from the report:

Malaysia's population: 26.6 million
Growth of e-commerce spending: 70%
Malaysian business funds spent online last year: RM47.6 billion
Percentage of Internet access devices represented by mobile Internet access devices: 45%


2. In-Tech, the Star newspaper (Malaysia), at page IT22
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Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Potential Loopholes in Comparative Advertising

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What is comparative advertising1? It takes place when the advertiser compares his product to another known product. It "rides on the reputation" of the mentioned product. It also "runs down" and potentially causes "dilution" of the competitor product. In some countries, unfair competition laws have made comparative advertising an offence. Recent laws have allowed comparative advertising as long as it does not mislead the public.

In Malaysia, sections 38(1)(b) and (c) of the Malaysian Trade Marks Act 19762 provide for the infringement of trademark by "importing a reference to the proprietor or registered user or to the goods of each of them".3

During a recent Q & A session in my LLM night class, we discovered several possible loopholes in the Malaysian law of trademarks (in relation to comparative advertising).

Potential Loophole #1

The first loophole is that the Trade Marks Act only applies to registered trade marks.4 So, this means that comparative advertising can potentially be carried out with unregistered trademarks.5 Can this be justifiable? Yes, it can be, if the Government wishes to encourage people to register under the Trade Marks Act.

Faced with the prospect of not having any statutory remedy, the trademark proprietor is forced to rely on common law remedies. Yet, the most suitable remedies to him are passing off and dilution -- both not likely because passing off requires confusion (which does not happen in comparative advertising) and dilution is difficult to prove.

Potential Loophole #2

The second loophole is the fact that comparative advertising requires that the advertiser do the comparison himself. This can be avoided if the advertiser merely reproduces a comparison survey report written by a third party. The advertiser is not representing anything, he is merely disseminating the written survey report.

Have you found this useful? Send me work.


1. An attempt at defining "Comparative Advertising" was tried by Péter Miskolczi-Bodnár A more economic-slanted article, try this one by Andersen and Renault:

2. A copy is available at the Japan Patent Office website:

3. Following section 4(1)(b) of the UK Trade Marks Act 1938.

4. Section 82 of the Trade Marks Act 1976:

82. Unregistered trade marks.
(1) No person shall be entitled to initiate any action to prevent or to
recover damages for the infringement of an unregistered trade mark.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), nothing in this Act shall be deemed
to affect the right of action against any person for passing off goods
or services as those of another person or the remedies in respect thereof.

5. By the way, the Coca-Cola logo is reputedly not registered in Malaysia under the Trade Marks Act 1976, but this is subject to further confirmation ;-)
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Saturday, 27 January 2007

Passing the Patent Agent Exams

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I've passed the Patent Agents Exams, set by MyIPO. That was the best news. Where to from here? File Form 18, together with a cheque for RM2,000/= and get admitted as a Patent Agent. The funny thing about it is that my dad has been registered as a patent agent for many years, but we have only done a handful of patent applications. It could be that the bigger name firms have been getting the "confidence votes". I don't get it -- patent drafting is just as well done by the small guys as by the big guys. In any case, if a foreign inventor (or patent owner) wanted to register his patent in Malaysia, it is likely that most of the claims will be a repeat of the original application. My role as a patent agent would be minimal -- merely to push the formalities through.
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Monday, 8 January 2007

Schematic Diagrams

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Schematic diagrams are floating on the Internet, a veritable free-for-all! Schematic diagrams in relation to intellectual property are like recipes in relation to the art of cooking. With a little ingenuity, you can spruce up any old schematic with decorations, and the like. It would seem that if you have a penchant for electronics, you may well be embarking on your new career path! (Or, perhaps you've found your new DIY hobby!)

A search on Google for "free schematic diagrams" has turned up the following site (which has links to many other sites with circuit diagrams):
  • RadioLoc-Man [link]

From there, I discovered other sites:
  • Circuits in the Circuits Archive [link]
  • Tomaz's Circuit Collection [link]
  • Electronics Lab [link]

Circuit boards are protected in Malaysia by the Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits Act 2000. The Act protects layout designs of integrated circuit boards, in much the same way that the Copyright Act 1987 protects published "works". There is no need for registration or deposit. Protection arises auto-magically.

Need more advice? Send me work.
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