Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great Googly Moogly: Two Books About Google Reviewed

Two books that attempt to examine the inner-workings of Google and what Google means for our society have been recently published (Planet Google and What Would Google Do?). Here is a link to an L.A. Times review of the books written by Matthew Shaer.
Why is this important? In a relatively short period of time, Google has become not only the ubiquitous search engine that has virtually superseded all of its predecessors and competitors, it has also become a major advertising medium as well as a communications device (email, social networking and YouTube). How did all of that spawn so quickly from a business founded in a college dorm room and more importantly, what does the future of Google mean for how we conduct our businesses and our personal lives? These two books help to explore the answers to these questions. The L.A. Times book review can help you decide which of the two books you want to invest your time in if you don't want to read both.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day Thoughts

We know this is supposed to be a blog about intellectual property and entertainment law. And it certainly will be going forward. But today is such a historic day that we did not think we could let is pass without a few comments.

Without showing our age too quickly, let us just say that we have been watching U.S. elections and inaugurations with great interest since JFK’s election in 1960 and inauguration in 1961. This is the first inauguration I can remember, however, which I truly regret not attending in person – windchill factor and all. The sights, sounds and enthusiasm of the millions of people on the streets of Washington, D.C. these last several days has been inspiring at a time when we truly need inspiration. As the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said recently, great change in America happens when a substantial number of people feel connected to the government and the American system rather than disconnected and inward-looking. She speculated that the number of people who have enthusiastically shown up in Washington to watch and participate in this transfer of power signals that kind of change in the mood of the American people. We submit that this last election was proof enough of that.

The question now becomes whether President Obama can marshal the expertise, dedication and energy that is necessary to fix what ails us as a country. There is no need for us to list the problems we are now facing – they have been discussed in print, on TV and radio, and in living rooms and bars across this country for months.
We believe there is little doubt that the new President is smart and dedicated and that he is in the process of assembling the kind of team that is necessary to help correct the problems we are currently facing. But will it work? No one knows for sure. But we are cautiously optimistic. We recall the speech JFK gave in May 1961 when he said that we would land a man on the moon and land him safely back on earth within 10 years. Everyone thought he had rocks in his head. But we did it because we applied ourselves to the task at hand. We think that is a good example of the Herculean effort that is now required. And just like we did not land a man on the moon overnight, we probably will not fight our way out of our current economic turmoil overnight. But we take some measure of comfort in knowing that we have new leadership that is genuinely dedicated to trying and has the skill and talent to make it happen if we all do our parts and keep our wits about us. To paraphrase what one of our clients said at lunch last week: “I didn’t vote for Obama and I have some questions about his economic policies. But anyone who wishes him ill and doesn’t want him to succeed doesn’t have the best interests of America at heart”. We could not agree more.

Friday, January 16, 2009


It occurred to us that a good way to start the new year would be to provide a brief overview of intellectual property and entertainment law.

Intellectual property law has been described as the law pertaining to products of the intellect such as inventions (patents), creative content (copyrights), brand names (trademarks), and secret formulas and processes (trade secrets). A patent is a grant made by a government that confers upon the creator or owner of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time. There are three main types of patents: utility, design and plant. A copyright is the legal right to control the duplication, distribution display, performance and adaptation of an "original work of authorship" such as a song, book, screenplay, poster, t-shirt design, work of art or computer program. A trademark is a word or words, logo, sound, smell, color or product configuration – or any combination of them – that identifies and distinguishes one product or service from another. Examples of trademarks include EXXON, KODAK, YAHOO, GOOGLE, the Nike “swoosh” design, the color and shape of the Perrier water bottle, and the sound of the Yahoo yodel. A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, or compilation of information which is not generally known and which is subject to reasonable efforts to keep it secret and which provides the trade secret owner with an economic advantage over competitors. Examples of trade secrets are secret customer lists, the formula for Coca-Cola and KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices.

Entertainment law is the law as it applies to everything from music to television to film to theatre to fine arts . It requires a combined knowledge of the entertainment business, contracts and intellectual property. It can involve everything from representing singers, songwriters and musicians to representing record labels, motion picture studios, television production companies, creators and producers of content for the Internet and mobile phones, and actors, actresses and directors. The crossover between intellectual property law and entertainment law occurs in many different circumstances. Examples include registering a band name as a trademark; registering the copyright in a film, tv show, screenplay, or song; obtaining a patent for the combination of mounting a video camera on a motion picture camera so that the director can watch the scenes being shot in real time; and treating as a trade secret the source, location and formulation of unusual and unique guitar strings that produce an extraordinary sound because they are treated with a special coating.

Stay tuned for future posts which will discuss interesting trends and developments in both intellectual property and entertainment law.