Blueprint of a gear train.

 Robert J. Yarbrough
Patent Attorney

 Patents - Inventions - Trademarks 

Newsletter Issue 48 - February 2013

In this issue:

March 16, 2013-critical deadline for inventors!
Dr. Copyright - Copyright Alert System
Terms of Service Didn't Read
Berne Convention

Crucial Deadline for Inventors Is Looming!!image of PTO seal

We've said it before, but there is an absolutely crucial patent deadline coming up on March 16, 2013 due to a change in U.S. patent law. Contact us immediately to avoid complete and permanent loss of your patent rights if (a) you have an invention for which you have not yet filed a patent application, and (b), you performed any of the following actions within the last year:

1. You used the invention in public. That means that you used the invention where someone who does not owe you a duty of secrecy could see you use it.
2. You sold or offered to sell the invention to anyone.
3. The invention was 'otherwise available' to the public.

Even if the above situations do not apply to you, how do you protect your inventions on or after March 16, 2013? To avoid instant and complete loss of your patent rights, do not disclose your invention or use your invention where it can be seen by anyone unless that person has signed a non-disclosure agreement or otherwise owes you a duty of secrecy. Also, do not sell or offer your invention for sale unless you have first filed a patent application.

These laws are new, so no one knows exactly how they will be interpreted; however, there are common situations that we can anticipate now to avoid tragedy later.

Employees: If you have employees, do you have employment agreements with those employees? Do those employment agreements specify that the employee has the duty to keep company information secret, including information relating to inventions by the employee or by other employees?

Contractors: Do you utilize private contractors, such as engineers, designers, plumbers and the cleaning crew? Do your contracts specify that the contractor and employees of the contractor have the duty to keep company inventions secret?

Visitors: Do visitors come to your facility? If a visitor, say, walks into a room at your plant where a new invention is in operation, operation of the invention could be considered use of the invention in public or could be considered making the invention 'otherwise available' to the public, instantly terminating your patent rights. You can avoid this result by having visitors sign non-disclosure agreements for the privilege of entering your building. As a less-intrusive option, incorporate a non-disclosure paragraph into a sign-in sheet and require that all visitors and contractors sign the sheet.

Customers: As noted, do not sell or offer your invention for sale until the patent application is filed. A sale or offer of sale will immediately terminate patent rights even if the customer signed an agreement to keep the invention secret.

The patent world changes on March 16, 2013. Please protect yourself so that you do not lose your patent rights.

Ask Dr. Copyright...Dr. Copyright logo

Dear Doc:

I hear that soon, many Internet users will start getting warning notices if they illegally share copyrighted materials. Is this true? What happens if I get, say, 6 of these? How do they know?


Dear Addict:

The "Doc" has been watching this gathering storm for some time now. The "Copyright Alert System" is not a loud tone played on the radio - it's a big brother kind of system that involves AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, Comcast and Cablevision - the "Big 5" Internet service providers (ISPs). They have been working with the RIAA and MPAA (which collectively help to police music and movie rights) and have worried, since Napster was a little itty bitty nuisance, that their content was getting ripped off on the Internet.

As they have explained what they intend to do, it amounts to watching all of the files that are being shared on the Net, and automatically sending nasty notes to anyone sharing what they believe is copyright-protected content. As they have said, "Initial alerts are merely educational, letting the user know that unauthorized content sharing was detected on their Internet account."

There are two additional "alert levels" for repeat sharers: an "acknowledgement" that requires the recipient to fill out a form, and a "mitigation" which means that the user's connection speed may be reduced unless he watches an informative video about piracy. A notice may be appealed if a user feels that it was sent in error, but filing that appeal costs $35.

You can find out a lot about how this all works by going by viewing this Youtube video.

Of course, it's not right to infringe copyrights, and owners of content have every right to protect their property. It remains to be seen whether their big brother programs are accurate, or also sweep in unrelated files with similar names (maybe I just want to call my home video of my Carnival Cruise "Titanic"), fair uses such as student projects, and the like. Time will tell, but it will cost $35.

Terms of Service Didn't Read

If you thought reading privacy policies was a was a waste of time you were right. The Carnegie Mellon Institute calculated that it would take 10 minutes to read the privacy policies of the 75 most popular websites at the standard reading rate of 250 words per minute. The medium length of privacy policies from top websites was calculated to be 2514 words. If you can do the math, it takes about 10 minutes to read each privacy policy. The Carnegie Mellon Institute estimated, based upon several sources, that the average American visits between 1354 and 1518 websites per year. Assuming that you are an average Internet user, if you were to read every privacy policy on each website you visit, you would spend 25 days out of the year just reading privacy policies. Carnegie Mellon "put a dollar amount on this massive time suck" and came up with an astonishing hypothetical cost of $781 billion per year! According to the Atlantic, that's more than the GDP of Florida.

It's no wonder, that nobody reads web site privacy policies or terms of service. In fact, it's a standard joke. Of course, because nobody reads them doesn't mean that they aren't important. When you agree to a web site's privacy policy you can be handing the web site owner your credit cards, personal information and other matters that you don't wish to share with the public. It's really imperative that you insure that the web site owner protects your information. To make it easier to understand what rights you are giving up by visiting popular websites a new online project called Terms of Service Didn't Read tries to make the process simpler. The project provides easy-to-read summaries of the privacy policies and terms of service of most popular websites. Although not all sites are rated yet, a quick visit provides some interesting observations:


Thumbs Down: Very broad copyright license on your content.
Thumbs Up: You can give your feedback before changes: Facebook will solicit your feedback during the 3 or 7 days minimum preceding changes to their terms. However, the results are not binding unless 30% of the active users voted.


All Thumbs Up - very good user policies.


Thumbs Down: Terms may be changed any time at their discretion, without notice to the user.


All Thumbs Up: Transparency on law enforcement requests and Promise to inform about data requests.


Big X: Lawsuit and class action waiver. Arbitration for dispute resolution in the United States: a binding arbitration clause and class action waiver that affects how disputes with Microsoft will be resolved in the United States. This clause governs many of Microsoft's online services - including your Microsoft account and many of their online products and services for consumers, such as Hotmail, SkyDrive, Bing, MSN,, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, Windows Mail Desktop, and Windows Writer.


Big X: You cannot delete your account.

Terms of Service Didn't Read should be required reading for anybody that uses the Internet.

The Berne Convention: Mother of All Copyright Treatiescopyright symbol

You may have never heard of the Berne Convention but it's a very import international treaty governing copyrights. Here's a brief overview. The Berne Convention was first adopted in Berne, Switzerland in 1886 and requires its signatory countries to safeguard the copyrights of a work created in other signatory countries as it would protect those of its own country.

This means that if a work is protected by copyright in one Berne Convention nation it is automatically protected in all other Berne Convention nations. Currently, there are 165 countries that are party to the Convention including the United States, which joined on March 1, 1989. Initially, the United States declined to become a party as it would have required drastic changes in its copyright law particularly with regards to moral rights, removal of the general requirement of registration of copyrighted works and elimination of the mandatory copyright notice.

Article 2 of the Convention, which governs the type of work protected, applies to "every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever may be the mode or form of its expression." The Berne Convention primarily authorizes two groups of protective rights for copyright works: economic rights and moral rights rooted in the copyright work itself.

Under the Berne Convention, all works are protected for at least 50 years after the author's death with the following exception: (1) for photography, the minimum term is 25 years from the year the photograph was created; and (2) For cinematography, the minimum term is 50 years after first showing, or, if the work has never been shown, 50 years from the creation date.

The Berne Convention may be thought of as the mother of copyright treaties. Articles from the Berne Convention have been incorporated in several other international copyright treaties. For example, Article 9(2) of the Berne Convention, which addresses the exclusive rights of reproduction has been directly implemented and extended into the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the EU Copyright Directive and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. TRIPS Article 30, covering limitations and exemptions to patent law, is also derived from the Berne Convention.

If you would like to learn more about the convention, a good place to start is Wikipedia.

Robert J. Yarbrough was awarded an 'AV' (highest possible) rating by the Martindale 
			Hubbel attorney rating agency.