Monday, November 24, 2014

13 Amazing Food and Life Hacks You Need to Know Right Now

Here are "13 Amazing Food and Life Hacks You Need to Know Right Now."
Some samples:
"1. Keep cake moist by just eating the entire thing in one sitting."
"4. Can’t fold a fitted sheet? Don’t worry, nobody can. Unless you are a wizard or something."
"5. To store asparagus for up to 2 weeks, first I would suggest you consider how much you actually like asparagus and why you bought so much asparagus 2 weeks before you planned on eating it."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dave Barry's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Humorist Dave Barry has succumbed to the trend of advertising for Christmas before it's even Thanksgiving.  Happily, it's due to Dave's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide!  Best ones: "Selfie" Toaster; "Rocky" Action Figure: The Meat: and Acupuncture Pig Model.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Latest EFF Amicus Brief: 77 Computer Scientists Ask The Supreme Court To Review Oracle v. Google

Last Friday, EFF filed the latest amicus brief I helped write, in the Oracle v. Google case.  The case involves Oracle's claim that Java's Application Programming Interfaces (API) are copyrightable.  Generally speaking, APIs are specifications that allow computer programs to communicate with each other, or to allow a program to communicate with a human being.

In May 2012, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs were not protected by copyright.  Oracle appealed to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; as part of that appeal, EFF filed an amicus brief on behalf of 32 computer scientists.

In a terrible decision in May 2014, the Federal Circuit reversed Judge Alsup and held that APIs are copyrightable.  The Federal Circuit went out of its way to disagree with the Lotus v. Borland case I worked on twenty years ago, which dealt with similar issues.  The circuit court's decision was harshly criticized by nearly every commentator who wrote about the case (the sole possible exception being a paid consultant for Oracle).  One commentary observed, "The court that created the patent troll mess is screwing up copyright too" (that commentator previously observed how the Federal Circuit has damaged the patent system).

In October, Google asked the Supreme Court to review this case; its petition for certiorari is here (or here).  On Friday, EFF and other groups filed amicus briefs supporting the petition.  EFF's amicus brief was on behalf of an expanded group of 77 computer scientists.  As explained in EFF's press release, signatories to the brief include five Turing Award winners, four National Medal of Technology winners, and numerous fellows of the Association for Computing Machinery, IEEE, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The list also includes designers of computer systems and programming languages such as AppleScript, AWK, C++, Haskell, IBM S/360, Java, JavaScript, Lotus 1-2-3, MS-DOS, Python, Scala, SmallTalk, TCP/IP, Unix, and Wiki.  ArsTechnica's article about EFF's filing is here; other articles or discussion boards are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Articles by Public Knowledge about its amicus brief are here and here.  CCIA's amicus brief is here.  Other articles about all three of these amicus briefs are here and here.

The Law Professor's brief, filed by Pam Samuelson of U.C. Berkeley, is here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Talking Dogs Explain The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court doesn't permit video broadcasts of its oral arguments -- only audio recordings.  The audio recordings are sometimes uninteresting.  To solve that problem, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver helpfully got a group of dogs to play the part of Supreme Court Justices, with the real audio in the background.

If you are inspired to create your own videos of this type, the show has helpfully provided stock footage.

EFF Files Comments With Patent Office About Review Of Issued Patents

In 2011, Congress passed the America Invents Act (AIA) to enact certain patent reforms.  The AIA included some provisions allowing review of issued patents in the Patent Office, which can be much cheaper than district court litigation.  Last week, EFF filed comments with the Patent Office about the review proceedings, which I helped draft.  EFF's blog post about those comments is here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

If Girls Proposed to Guys

If Girls Proposed to Guys.
"Maybe if you didn't want such an expensive lunchbox."
"I've been looking forward to a lunchbox my entire life."
"Yeah, I understand.  But an $8,000 lunchbox?"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 Ig Nobel Prizes Are Out!

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes are out.  My favorite: the Neuroscience prize, "for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast."  Runner-up: the Physics prize, "for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that's on the floor."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Reviews That Are Better Than The Book?

Someone published a children's book entitled, "My Parents Open Carry."  I haven't read the book -- there's no point, really, since open carry is illegal in California -- but the Amazon book reviews just have to be better than the book itself.  Some examples:
  • Can't wait for the sequel,. "My Black Parents Open Carried Until the Police Shot Them 146 Times".
  • I laughed, I cried ...I accidentally shot my mailman in the face
  • I got really excited when I found out there was a sequel coming out for the really little ones: "Goldilocks and the Three Open Carry Bears"
  • My buddies and I used the pages for target practice. I bet my friend a nickel he couldn't hit brennas face on page 7. I'm a nickel poorer, good shootin Steve.
  • If only the title was "My Two Mom's Open carry" . The Pulitzer would be already decided.
  • I gave it five stars, but my gun accidentally went off and killed Number 5.
  • The five stars are for the reviews here. These are the finest book reviews on Amazon this summer. Once I started reading them, I couldn't put them down. If you read close to 100 reviews this summer, read these. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll walk away with a big smile. Congratulations to the writers. Good, good solid work. I couldn't give a rip about the book. But these reviews? Take a bow, all. Put them in Kindle form and I'll buy it in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Need A Baby Shower Present? Here's Sushi Baby!

Need a baby shower present?  How about an infant wrap that makes the baby look like a piece of sushi?  From the product description:
Wee Wasabi
From their sweet rosy cheeks to their delectable little toes, you know your baby looks good enough to eat, and now he or she can dress the part with this chopsticks-ready rendition of swaddling clothes. Offering the whole bento box, this swaddling set offers soft layers of stretchy and breathable fabric to hold your little sashimi. A matching hat provides the perfect roe-inspired topping, bringing ample fodder for laughs during the baby shower. Made in Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Latest EFF Amicus Brief: Google Books Appeal

Last Thursday, EFF filed the latest amicus brief on which I worked, in The Authors Guild v. Google appeal.  EFF's blog post about the brief is here.

In this long-running lawsuit, The Authors Guild seeks to shut down the Google Books search engine.  The district judge held that Google's scanning of books to create a search engine was fair use.  The Guild has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  Our amicus brief asks the Court to affirm the finding of fair use, and to confirm that fair use can apply to new technologies that use copyrighted works with a new and different purpose that doesn't substitute for the original works.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pfizer Extends The Life Of Patents

"Pfizer announced a new breakthrough Friday that vastly extends the lifespan of near-death patents." You have to read this carefully.  Because "nothing causes Pfizer officials more distress than seeing a once robust patent expire at a young age, a “terrible tragedy” that allows dozens of generic manufacturers to copy it and offer pharmaceuticals to customers far more cheaply."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The 35 Dumbest Things That Have Ever Happened

35 things that are probably made up.  Some examples:

"I want my first daughter to be a girl"
"Somebody tried to tell me there was 50 states in America.  Nuh cause the scientists found out that Pluto don't exist.  We got 49."
"Does it take 18 months for twins to be born?  Or 9?"

Monday, April 14, 2014

KFC Is Two Weeks Too Late For April Fool's Day

KFC has introduced the "Chicken Corsage," just in time for prom season.  Be sure to watch the awesome video.  (Apparently, this is real.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Having Trouble Creating A Password?

Having trouble creating a password?  Don't bother clicking here.

"Jabberwocky" Parody Featuring Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank

One of my most recent EFF amicus briefs was in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int'l. The case deals with the patentability of computer software and business methods.  The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case on Monday, March 31.  While the transcript makes it seem likely that Alice Corp. will lose its patents, it's unclear whether the Court will make a broad ruling either upholding or limiting software patents.

Fortunately, EFF's Parker Higgins has come up with an explanation of the oral argument: In the form of a parody of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky."   Now it almost makes sense.  Almost.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Versus Whole Foods

Trying to decide whether to go to Trader Joe's or to Whole Foods?  Here's a handy chart to help you decide.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Three Supreme Court Briefs In Five Days

February was a busy month for me.  It resulted with EFF filing three Supreme Court merits briefs over a five day period.  The time crunch resulted when the Court agreed to hear Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int'l. on December 6, 2013 -- and then on January 10, 2014, the Court agreed to hear both Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc. and Natuilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc.  All three cases are patent cases seeking review of decisions by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because our brief in Alice Corp. supported the respondent (the winning party in the appeals court), it wound up being due on February 27, 2014.  In the other two cases, our briefs supporting the petitioners (the parties that lost) were due on March 3.

Alice Corp. discusses when abstract ideas can be patentable, under 35 U.S.C. § 101.  As applied in this case, the statute affects the patentability of business methods and computer software, an issue on which the courts have been divided.  Previously, the Federal Circuit heard the case before a panel of 10 judges to try to resolve the issue; EFF and I had filed an amicus brief in that proceeding.  However, the court was unable to decide anything precedential, splitting 5-5.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case to try to set a definitive precedent.  Our amicus brief in the case argues that the software industry was doing just fine without patent protection before the Federal Circuit concocted the notion of broad software patents in 1994.  As the brief put it:

"Software patents do not promote innovation in the computer software industry—in fact, the recent flood of such patents impedes innovation."
EFF's press release about our brief in Alice Corp. is here.

Limelight is another appeal from an en banc Federal Circuit case.  The case originally dealt with the issue of whether anyone is liable for patent infringement if no one person performs all the steps of the patent, that is, if separate entities perform separate steps of the claim.  EFF's amicus brief argued against joint liability for patent infringement, because joint liability could ensnare innocent third parties such as users of someone else's technology.  This time an 11 judge court, splitting 6-5, did decide something, but not the question of joint liability.  Instead, the court held that a party (Limelight) could be liable for actively inducing infringement of a method claim as long as the party induced one or more other parties to perform all the steps.

The Supreme Court agreed to review Limelight.  EFF filed a similar amicus brief as it did in the lower court which argues, among other things, that better claim drafting could avoid the whole problem.

Finally, Nautilus involves 35 U.S.C. § 112(b), which requires that patent claims "particularly point out and distinctly claim the subject matter which the inventor … regards as the invention." Here, contrary to the statute, the Federal Circuit's current rule doesn't require that a claim be either particular or distinct.  The Federal Circuit merely requires that the claim not be "insolubly ambiguous," a very difficult standard to meet.  In other words, claims aren't indefinite so long as a meaning can be ascribed—“however difficult that task may be” and even if this meaning is “one over which reasonable persons will disagree.”

EFF and Public Knowledge filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to review Nautilus. I didn't work on that brief, but when the Court agreed to review the case, I worked on our amicus brief on the merits.  Our merits brief argues that vague patents harm innovation and the patent system; gives examples of patent owners drafting intentionally vague claims; and points out (as in Limelight) that better claim drafting can solve the problem.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Online Content Creators Outnumber Consumers 2,000 To 1"

There are reasons why my blogging has been light lately.  The Onion explains one of them -- you all have way too many other things to read.  "For every one viewer, there are dozens of fully staffed companies churning out articles, videos, blogs, vlogs, and countless social media posts hoping to lure that person to click."

Anyway, thanks to my readers!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Federal Circuit Upholds De Novo Claim Construction

In today's Lighting Ballast v. Philips Electronics case, the en banc Federal Circuit upheld the previous Cybor case, which provides for de novo review of claim construction. The court took the case en banc to decide whether or not to overrule Cybor and allow for deferential review of a district court's factual findings. The vote was 6 in favor of upholding Cybor and 4 against, showing the the CAFC remains deeply split on some issues.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Best 2014 Super Bowl Commercials

During the last several years, I've been watching the Super Bowl for the commercials at least as much for the game.  Here are my choices for the best ones this year.  Sadly, there weren't that many good ones this year -- the commercials were almost as bad as the game.
I could not find the GoldieBlox commercial online, which was pretty good.  UPDATE: Thanks to Parker Higgins, here is the GoldieBlox ad.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Two Videos

Two videos showed up today.  The first one is "A Conference Call in Real Life." 
This is what happens if a phone call happened in person -- especially "Happy hour in 5."

The second video is "A Bad Lip Reading of the NFL."  As one coach says, "Look, I can spin around!"

Friday, January 17, 2014


Want to be able to play the drums . . . with your PANTS?  Of course you do.