What is the Prince Lawsuit Really About and Why is it Relevant

There seems to be a little confusion about who Prince Rogers Nelson (“Prince” the singer) is suing and why. I have seen multiple articles entitled “Prince sues Facebook users” which leads you to believe that he is suing people because they are Facebook users, which is not the case. Sorry if my take on it is boring, as a lawyer that has a comp sci degree who used to practice intellectual property law – I love this stuff.

prince complaintYou can read the entire complaint here on scribd in which he has filed a complaint against 22 individuals. A couple things to note, the plaintiff is indeed Prince and there are two individuals named as defendants and 20 others named using their online names. Prince is doing business as Controversy Music and has over 600 copyright registrations. In other words he has intellectual property which are assets like any other type of property. So he hates Facebook users and is suing Facebook users right? Wrong. He is going after 22 individuals that he believes engaged in infringing on his intellectual property rights. Here is where it gets interesting and why this could be a ground breaking case that may change the online behaviour of many individuals, depending on how this case is decided.

What Are the Individuals Being Sued For?
Here is why I find it so interesting. These individuals are not being sued for making copies of his works, in other words copying his songs, but instead are being sued for linking to the songs. The defendants posted the links on Facebook pages and Blogger pages. So the link to Facebook is simply that the users posted links on some Facebook pages. These links pointed to file sharing services that have the individual songs.

Claims against Each Individual
The complaint goes on to discuss what Prince believes each individual did.

All of these individuals are accused of posting links that directed others to where the file was to a Prince copyrighted work on a file sharing service.

In the claims against each individual it does not state they were direct copyright infringers, in other words made copies of the songs and distributed. However they do claim in general that all Defendants have reproduced and distributed copies of the songs, but they do not point to any one individual. That is what is confusing, since it seems as if they are looking for a charge of contributory infringement or direct infringement from a link to a songs source even if they have not had any control over the song or the source.

Damages of $1 Million Each?
Prince is asking for all the damages he can obtain under law. The $1 Million that is being reported on is a statutory amount since he registered his copyrights federally. He is also seeking other damages including but not limited to profits.

Why is this so Interesting? Why You May Want to Be Careful

It is possible that some of these defendants may be guilty of putting links on their blogs to songs on a file sharing service and found guilty of copyright infringement but have not actually made copies, or reproduced, the actual songs. Here is part of the claim that is most interesting:

prince sues

“When Defendants posted the infringing and bootlegged material to their blogs and Facebook accounts, they knew that the users of those blogs and accounts would download such material in violation of Prince’s rights.”

What does this mean for you? If these individuals are found guilty of copyright infringement by placing a link on their web page that points to copyrighted material, knowing it is copyrighted material, then you better:

Be careful what you link to.

Google Glass Patent will Revolutionize Advertising

google patent imageGoogle, like many companies, invent and patent new technologies and purchase others patents. The patent discussed below is entitled Gaze Tracking System and is patent #8,510,166. They also purchased related patents as well. Links to relevant articles and the patent itself are below.

As a computer science major, programmer, and a patent attorney, I used to write and prosecute these types of method patents. As an entrepreneur that used to have a banner and email network, I particularly like this patent and the implied uses. Check out the first claim, if you read just what I bolded below it may be easier to understand.

1. A method comprising:

receiving scene images from a head mounted gaze tracking device capturing external scenes viewed by a user wearing the head mounted device, the scene images received at a server via a network;

receiving gaze direction information from the head mounted gaze tracking device along with the scene images, the gaze direction information indicating where in the external scenes the user was gazing when viewing the external scenes, the gaze direction information received at the server via the network;

executing an image recognition algorithm on the scene images to identify items within the external scenes viewed by the user;

generating a gazing log tracking the identified items viewed by the user;

performing latent pre-searches on at least a portion of the items viewed by the user to generate latent search results, wherein the latent pre-searches are automatically triggered while the associated items are in the user’s peripheral view and without affirmative requests on a per search basis by the user; and

caching the latent search results.

It sounds like they will determining what you are looking at, save that information, and then display advertisements based on what you are looking at.

Capture Your Emotional State and Advertise to You!

This is great stuff, the kind of things that advertisers dream of. Take a look at this diagram and the process they describe. They intend to receive pupil dilation information from the glasses. Then they will infer your emotional state while you view things. They will then store your emotional state and store what you were looking at.

patent image 5b

What does this mean?

Over 13 years ago I had a company and we had email lists of individuals interested (they opted in) in various topics. For instance they may have opted in to receive deals and information about sports, or business, health, and many other topics. We knew how many emails they received, in some cases whether they opened them or not, and whether they clicked on links. Therefore we were able to gauge a persons interest in certain types of advertisements on many different levels. There is what they say they are interested in, such as sports. Then there is their behavior such as clicking a sports related link, or a link related to something else. Often times behavior is very different than what someone says.

That is where this patent becomes so interesting. Imagine if an advertiser could say the following and advertise only to this subset of people. “Google, I would like to give an advertisement to everyone who looks at a red convertible car and they like the red convertible car, or even better if Ford says I want to show an advertisement to everyone that likes a red convertible Mustang as it drives by.”

The google glass process identifies that person 1 sees a red convertible Mustang but based on pupil dilation it is determined they do not like it, therefore no advertisement is shown. But person 2 that sees the car is shown an advertisement for a local Ford dealership showing a red convertible Mustang and lease terms, as well as the fact that the dealership is only .6 miles away and has a deal for this weekend only.

A person wearing the glasses sees a red mustang convertible and their pupil dilation shows they like it, then Chevy shows a red convertible Camaro with lease terms at a local dealership.

Honestly, the list goes on and on.

* the examples above are my own interpretation of how it may be used, I could be completely wrong

Purchasing Related Patents

Per the Reuters article Google has purchased additional related patents to protect their advertising. “Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry said it sold Google Inc part of a patent portfolio involving the superimposition of virtual images on real-world photos.”

Revolutionizing Advertising

Assuming there is a large enough group of people wearing google glass or related technologies, this type of “right ad at the right time” could be just that much more effective.

References and Good Articles
U.S. PTO: Patent # 8,510,166
Google Patent Search: Patent # 8,510,166
Reuters: Google buys patents on virtual image technology from Hon Hai
NY Times: How Pay-Per-Gaze Advertising Could Work With Google Glass

Updated FTC Disclosure Law

2013 FTC Disclosure GuidelinesThe FTC has updated their guidelines and you can find the updated file here: FTC Staff Revises Online Advertising Disclosure Guidelines. From the page:

“The Federal Trade Commission today released new guidance for mobile and other online advertisers that explains how to make disclosures clear and conspicuous to avoid deception.”

Did you know that the FTC has a blog? Here is a post entitled FTC Reboots .com Disclosures: Four Key Points and One Possible Way to Bypass the Issue Altogether

Essentially they updated the guidelines to make is crystal clear that disclosures are needed no matter where the advertisement is. Here is an excellent article discussing how it applies to twitter entitled FTC Lays Down the Law on Endorsed Tweets.

Patent Holder Sues Over Facebook Like Feature

As a prior patent attorney dealing with method patents (aka process patents or loosely called software patents) this is a very interesting case to me. These are the types of patents involved with online businesses. Obviously Facebook, like any large company, may attract lawsuits due to their success. However some may have merit. This particular lawsuit against Facebook is very interesting.

Potentially Infringed Patents

There are two patents in question:

The first patent 6,289,362 is entitled System and method for generating, transferring and using an annotated universal address and patent 6,415,316 is entitled Method and apparatus for implementing a web page diary. Both list the inventor as Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer.


From what I read in the BBC Article this individual has passed away. The patents were assigned to a holding company named Rembrandt Social Media. The case against Facebook was filed in the Federal Court in Virginia. This particular court is known as the Rocket Docket because after you file you can be in front of a judge, and jury, much faster than any other district. The patents were filed in 1998 and were issued in 2001 and 2002.

How to Read the Patent
Every patent has the same sections, such as the abstract and the description. The most important part is what is known as the Claims. Think of the claims as defining what is protected, much like a fence around a yard. Some claims are broader than others and therefore protect more much like a larger fence around a larger property. The patent ending in 316 discusses what they call a ‘diary’. I do not want to speculate on the case itself but as it unfolds I will provide what I find.

While most of what I have read discusses the “like” feature I am guessing there may be more features involved in this suit.

Occupy Wall Street Defectors Want to be 1 Percenters

occupy wall streetIt looks like there are one or more “Occupy Wall Street” defectors. Apparently someone in the 99% wants to be in the 1%. A couple Trademark applications have been filed for the following three marks related to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Take a look at the goods and services below, such as bags, shirts, photos, videos, entertaining materials, all types of clothing and more. Interesting that some of them want to profit from this. I guess there are some Occupy Wall Street defectors.

This information is public and freely available at the USTPO

Mark 1
Application Serial Number: 85454550
Goods and Services:
Periodicals and newsletters. Bags, including but not limited to backpacks, gym bags, tote bags, luggage and overnight bags. Clothing, namely t-shirts, sweatshirts, headwear, and jackets for men, women and children. Entertainment services, namely, providing a web site featuring photographic, audio, video and prose presentations featuring educational and entertaining materials relating to Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement Generally.
Filing Date: October 24, 2011
Occupy Wall Street AKA Friends of Liberty Park GA Victoria Sobel (US),
10 Spring Street
Suite 1
New York NEW YORK 10012

Mark 2
Application Serial Number: 85454831
Goods and Services:
All purpose sport bags; Backpacks; Backpacks; Backpacks, book bags, sports bags, bum bags, wallets and handbags; Beach bags; Canvas shopping bags; Carry-on bags; Gym bags; Hard-sided and soft-sided carry-on bags and gym bags; Overnight bags; Sack packs, namely, drawstring bags used as backpacks; Schoolchildren’s backpacks; Umbrellas. Footwear; Golf shirts; Hats; Headwear; Hooded sweat shirts; Polo shirts; Shirts; Short-sleeved or long-sleeved t-shirts; Sweatshirts; T-shirts; Tee shirts; Wearable garments and clothing, namely, shirts.
Filing Date: October 24, 2011
PMB 9, PO Box 5000
Rancho Santa Fe CALIFORNIA 920675000

Mark 3
Application Serial Number: 85449710
Goods and Services:
Filing Date: October 18, 2011
Maresca, Diane
688 pat drive
West Islip NEW YORK 11795