Collaboration for invention

A mantra for our business environment emphasising innovation and collaboration could be: "Collaborate to survive and invent."

Collaboration is as old as the first invention. Bill Bryson's remarkable book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, tells us in his 29th chapter about teardrop-shaped stone hand-axes.

These axes first appeared about a million and a half years ago and are certainly the most common technology for the vast majority of human history. They have come to be known as Acheulean tools.

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Ray Charles learned from his mama

We all know that owning, controlling and trading in intellectual property (IP) can create wealth. Losing ownership and control, or not trading IP, can lose wealth.

Industry case studies bring these truths to life. One for the music industry was in BusinessWeek last week. It reports US census data showing one in four U.S. record stores around in 2002 was gone by 2005, a net loss of 1,900 stores. It points at digital retailer, iTunes, which boasts 6 million songs.

Personal case studies make the truths register. We did it in Music business entrepreneurship: eulogy for James Brown. We do it now for Brown's predecessor, and fellow Georgian, Ray Charles (1930-2004).

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Improve your creativity, invention, innovation

We welcome and make no charge for conversations with new clients about how we might help with their intellectual property. To get you into the groove to call, here are some thoughts on creativity, invention and innovation. We are tracking with Australia's 2020 Summit.

We can all be creative

All human beings have a creative urge. Mine for some months has been to write about the following four minute home video on YouTube. It's the Fountains of the Bellagio Hotel in Los Vegas. The music is Dawn, Ayeshe's Dance, a piece in the Gayane ballet by Aram Khachaturian. Observe the fountain's interplay with the music and then read on.


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Intellectual property is not a thing

Speaking in workshops and seminars I've often posed a puzzle to wake up the audience. I've asked: "What is the most powerful thing in the cave of a cave man when he skins a freshly killed beast using a stone tool?"

Most guess that the most powerful thing must be the stone tool. Few point to the one thing that helps the cave man know where to hunt, what to hunt, how to skin and how to fashion tools to help in all aspects of survival.

That most powerful thing is the cave man's brain.

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Website terms of use reduce risk

Millions of people each day accept or click "OK" to terms of use on websites and internet facilities. The terms of use regulate legal relationships, particularly contractual dealings between users and site owners.

Terms of use are useful because most online intellectual property (IP) and general business law issues can be partially or fully treated or neutralised with comprehensive, customised and site-specific provisions. This is apparent from common law (ie court decisions in Australia and elsewhere), and our day to day practice as specialists in IP, internet law, IT and E-business law.

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Consultant or contractor intellectual property

In disputes between clients and their consultants two questions often arise.

They are whether money is outstanding and who owns the intellectual property in completed and delivered work. The short answer for both questions is, it depends... and a lot on what is in writing.

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Employee or independent contractor?

In the eyes of the law, employees and contractors are as different as apples and oranges. Hence numerous legal issues turn on whether a person is another's employee or, alternatively, an independent contractor.

The distinction is critical for ownership and protection of copyright and other intellectual property. It is also vital for legal compliance considerations under workers compensation, superannuation, insurance, taxation and other legislation.

A good contract prepared by a competent business lawyer will help remove legal doubts. However, take care. Consider the bias of the person preparing the contract. "Creative lawyering" involves genetic engineering ("GM") to modify the distinction between employee apples and independent contractor oranges. What you see in some contracts is not necessarily what you get.

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Poster advertising legal claims

Poster advertising is a prominent ad trend in the release of 2007 statistics yesterday by the Commercial Economic Advisory Service of Australia. An inappropriate poster ad was also the cause of bad press for Virgin in 2007.

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Teenage mobile phone use statistics

What use do 58,480 teenagers aged 12 to 18 make of their mobile phones in 31 countries? A major survey indicates a lot has changed in 18 months. It is immediately relevant to the IP commercialisation strategy of many businesses trading in intellectual property .

The teenagers were surveyed in October and November 2007 by Habbo, part of Sulake, an online entertainment and social networking company in Finland. Habbo states that statistical weighting was employed to give all participating countries an equal weight in the global results. Habbo's virtual world website claims 8.6 million unique users on a monthly basis.

Gathered below are statistics from the survey released in April 2008. It follows Habbo's first survey in 2006. A lot has changed in 18 months.

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Telstra guilty in keywords advertising

The rise in keyword advertising has brought with it opportunity for some and piracy, theft or misleading conduct for others. Telstra yesterday admitted it fell into the later camp in 2005 in its use of keyword advertising.

A court case report in today's Australian, indicates that "Telstra announced yesterday that its classifieds division, the Trading Post contravened sections 52 and 53(d) of the Trade Practices Act through its search engine marketing on google.com.au in August 2005."

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Lawyers who get social media

Every business has a brand, some have several. All businesses need customers for their brands because the dominant purpose of business is to make money. To reach those customers they need exposure. Simple really... except things constantly change.

They just did for Uniliver which went public about its strategy for marketing online, ie its digital strategy.

Take the business of Unilever Australia Limited as an example. In Australia it owns or conducts brand management for such trade marks as Rexona, Surf, Sunsilk, Vaseline, Streets, Omo, Lipton, Flora, and Bertolli.

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How to be smart in patent search work

" I viddied right at once what to do " says Alex in the 1962 book and 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange. Viddied is Alex's lingo for viewed, saw or realised. I had Alex's sensation this evening as I viddied a superb slide presentation titled "Web 2.0 goes social" credited to Jia Lynn Yang of Fortune magazine.

At once I viddied how it provides insights on conducting smart patent search work. This is a very real issue, including for inventors of software patents and business method patents.

Earlier today I had a phone conversation with an inventor client about how he might go about commissioning a patent search. His invention will be initially rendered in software and later as a hardware product. As an analogy, imagine if Apple first launched with iTunes, and followed up with the iPod and iTunes pre-loaded Apple computers.

Advising an inexperienced client about IP search work takes time. The conversation turned to how to gain from patent protection and avoid patent threats.

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Learning from Xerox's trademark makeover

PRESS RELEASE: Here at Xerox Corporation we've got a problem and we think we can fix it in 2008 with a brand makeover. Customers are being drawn to Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. Don't even mention Nokia or Apple! We have said goodbye to our almost 50 year old logo. Today we'd like you to meet our new logo.

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Contract Drafting Tips Series: Restraint of Trade Clause

A restraint of trade clause seeks to restrict the freedom of a person to trade or deal in specified ways with assets, information or third parties. It can apply during a contractual relationship and also for a period after its termination or expiry.

This article is part of our series on drafting tips for contract clauses.

The law is that a restraint of trade is contrary to public policy and unenforceable unless the restraint is reasonable in the parties' interests and also in the public interest: Attwood v Lamont (1920) 3 KB 371.

The typical situation we see is when a company, employer or employee calls us in a panic for advice on a restraint. It's best to check restraints earlier than this.

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Does your business have an effective digital media footprint?

What does it take today to create or improve your corporate or business digital footprint? Is reaching business elites part of your target?

As a solicitor working with content for 25 years and with digital media  since 1983 I've learned a thing or two about digital media law as well as creative and commercial considerations. The question is: what works today for business? If you are pressured for time then make this sentence your mantra: The digital media footprint and functionality a business or corporation needs requires ideas and a plan. Following are free ideas, call and we can discuss a plan.

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