Amazing Customer Service From Apple

This doesn’t necessarily fit with the theme of this blog, but when a company treats me this well, I feel compelled to talk about it.

I purchased a used 2008 MacBook Air a year and a half ago. The machine had Apple Care, Apple’s transferable extended warranty. My wife was using it and unfortunately the hard disk had to be replaced.  Apple handled the repair quickly.  However, it happened again, this time after the expiration of the Apple Care plan.  Apple again repaired the machine quickly, but we were nervous about this becoming a recurring issue.

The third time the machine started to act up, my wife took it into the local Apple Store. The manager looked at the service history and surmised that the problem would likely keep repeating itself. He gave us a choice: either repair

The new MacBook Air in the home office

the machine for a third time in a year, or he would replace it with another 13 inch MacBook Air.  Of course, a new (mid 2011) MacBook Air is a bit of an upgrade.  Okay, it’s a huge upgrade. I no longer even have a hard disk since this machine has an SSD.  I am also now running Lion instead of Snow Leopard.

Granted, Apple may be saving itself more headaches with continued repairs, but this went beyond what I would have expected.  My next purchase will be an Apple Care plan for this notebook.

Pinterest and Copyright Infringement

Pinterest has a remarkable story.  They’ve grown faster than even they could have hoped and now have millions of users “pinning” their favorite things from the web onto the users’ boards.

Of course, some brands love the grassroots advertising this provides, and many content providers appreciate the exposure.  In many cases Pinterest and other social media sites are driving more traffic to sites than search engines.  That is all well and good until someone doesn’t want their content copied and pinned.

Enter Pinterest and its response to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  The DMCA can make ISPs and online publishers liable for copyright infringement by their users, unless they take certain actions to fall within the safe harbor provisions.  Pinterest does this and even blogged about it this week.

I think Pinterest’s strategy of providing code for a meta tag that will prevent pinning of content from a page having that tag (an opt-out) is a bit short sighted.  But what I really found interesting were the comments from the content providers.

Now excuse me while I go find a plugin for WordPress so this post can be pinned.

Patenting on the Side

There are some things inventors should know about who owns their ideas.  First, the patent statute and the Constitution of the United States vests ownership of patents in the inventors as an initial matter.  After that, ownership can be transferred like any other property right.

Generally, it is straight forward if the inventor has a written agreement to assign the invention, such as in an employment agreement of consulting contract.  In some situations, an inventor may have an obligation to transfer ownership to their employer, client, or customer depending on a number of factors even if there is no provision in a written contract.  Some questions to think about are:

Was the inventor hired for his inventing skills?  There is a difference between an engineer hired to develop new products and an employee not hired for his or her technical skills.

Did the inventor use the other parties resources to develop the invention?  This could include using employer owned computer equipment and software as opposed to using your home computer.

Does the invention relate to the other parties business?  There could be different outcomes if an automotive engineer invents a new engine air intake valve, or instead, a new and better mousetrap.

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am in no way presenting a journal article type review of the law.  These are just some indications that may be helpful to a non-lawyer inventor.

In my case, the invention is unrelated to my employer’s business.  It actually relates to a personal hobby.  No employer resources were used in it’s development, and I think it’s hard to argue attorneys, though hired for their creative and critical thinking skills, are hired to invent.  The downside to that is I can’t really expect to be reimbursed for filing fees.  Oh well, it’s a small price to pay for the best thing since sliced bread.

Patenting for Myself

Over the years I’ve had some ideas that I could have filed patent applications on, but I never did. One of these ideas showed up in a product later, and when I checked the filing dates of the patent listed on the product package, it was about six months after I had first thought of the idea. Thankfully I am not flexible enough to do much damage when kicking myself.

I recently had another idea, and will be filing an application. I’ll have to piece enough time to prepare it in my spare time, so this may take a little while. I will disclose it here when the application publishes. I don’t know if it will be commercially successful, but I think the ensuing process will be interesting to write about.

I will provide updates as the application progresses and think this could provide a series of posts that, in sum, will give other inventors and idea of how the process works.

If only dogs could talk

My lab, Remmy

I had a great pheasant hunt with some good friends. Luckily for me there is significant overlap between my circles of friends, colleagues, and clients. We hunted with a pair of shorthair pointers that were exceptionally well trained and a joy to watch. One issue with hunting behind pointers is that you can loose sight of them in the grass which is a problem if they go on point. If only the dog could let me know where she and the birds are.

An interesting and elegant solution is the SportDog DSL-400 Deluxe Beeper collar. The collar emits a periodic beep while the dog is moving and changes to a shriek that sounds like a hawk when the dog stops. This lets you keep tabs on the dog and know when it has gone on point even if out of sight. I really enjoyed hunting with the two dogs wearing these.

Of course, being a tech geek I needed to see who invented this collar. Take a look here for one of the patents.

What this blog will be about

I am a patent attorney and I love technology. I have no idea who, if anyone, will read this, so it may as well be something I will enjoy writing. With that in mind, this blog will not simply restate news stories and recent cases. Yes, there will be some of that, but when I write about an update in patent law, it will be because of something I personally find interesting about it. I also want to focus on the things that I enjoy doing outside of work as well and how intellectual property issues relate to those activities.

So, here is a little about me. I thoroughly enjoy cooking. I like a good glass of wine or a well crafted beer. I am a geek. I am a Mac user. I am a dog lover and enjoy outdoor activities, especially hunting, fishing, camping, and target shooting. I am a very proud father and husband, but to spare my family some embarrassment, I’ll probably keep this blog to my work as an intellectual property attorney, my hobbies, and how those two areas blend together. After all, if you’re paid to do work that relates to what you would pay to do, it’s easy to enjoy.

In short, this blog will discuss the things I find interesting and how they interrelate. I hope others enjoy it as well.