|National Edition||Volume 15 #1||January 2005|
A federal judge in Alexandria VA, dismissed a key claim in the trademark infringement suit brought against Google by GEICO, the huge auto insurer owned by Berkshire Hathaway the holding company run by Warren Buffet. In the trial, GEICO argued that a Google policy allowing competitors to buy ads linked to searches for GEICO and GEICO Direct confuses Web surfers who are looking for GEICO. The US District Court judge, responding to a motion by Google for summary judgement on the issue, ruled that there was not enough evidence that the policy confuses consumers. The judge will continue to hear arguments on another claim by GEICO, that Google is liable for trademark infringement when it lets marketers buy ads that use trademarked names in the ad copy. Google executives have said they remove such ads when trademark holders complain. But the contest over keyword searches was what mattered most to Google, which collected 51% of its $806 million in third-quarter 2004 revenue from selling ads that are displayed on-screen next to search results. The company went public in August 2004 with an initial public offering (IPO) that sold a small percentage of its shares and raised $1.7billion. The ruling does not directly affect other trademark infringement cases pending against Google including those filed by American Blind & Wallpaper Factory and a computer-repair company called Rescuecom, based on claims similar to those made by GEICO. It is not expected to be a binding precedent. Other judges may make different rulings, with appeals likely. In any event, some of the cases will almost surely get to the Supreme Court.
A US appeals court upheld a finding of patent infringement against Research In Motion (RIM) but struck down part of the ruling and sent it back to a lower court for further proceedings. Shares of RIM, which makes the Black Berry PDA data device, soared more than 10% on the news that a decision had been reached. Those gains were erased after the court released details of the decision. Analysts differed on whether the decision was positive or negative for RIM, which is based in Waterloo Ontario Canada. The court of appeals said a lower court had correctly found infringement of patents in the case that pitted RIM against NTP, which is based in Arlington VA. But the court concluded that the lower court had misconstrued the term originating processor, which was used in several of the patent claims at issue, and sent it back to the lower court to determine if the first verdict should be modified. RIM and NTP are both claiming either full victory or partial victory. NTP, a closely held holding company, successfully sued RIM in 2002 for patent infringement, a ruling that RIM appealed. Last year, a court issued an injunction banning BlackBerry sales in the US, but stayed the injunction pending the outcome of the appeal. Three judges on the US Court of Appeals heard the appeal.
As desktop searching became one of the most used functions on the Internet it was just a matter of time until the 800-pound gorilla of the software industry got involved. Microsoft is now offering a beta version of their desktop-searching tool. The searching tool is designed to find documents, media files and email items quickly anywhere on your computer. Microsoft claims it to be a rapid search and most reviews have found it fast as well. The MSN Toolbar Suite can be downloaded free from beta.toolbar.msn.com. The download is not too large making it practical to do even with a dialup connection. It is a 4.7MB download. It is as the name implies a group of toolbars. It will add a search toolbar to Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer and Outlook 2000 or later. If you often use PDF files then you should download the Adobe PDF ifilter from adobe so that you can search PDF files as well. The ifilter should be downloaded at no charge from the Adobe primary Internet site which can be found at www.adobe.com/support/downloads/detail.jsp?ftpID=2611. It should be installed prior to the MSN toolbars. As is true with all Microsoft products you are asked to report any problems directly to Microsoft. This is optional but Microsoft makes it very easy for you to report any problems via the Internet. The main competitor for the new Microsoft product is Google’s Desktop Search product followed by Yahoo and Ask Jeeves.
During the current holiday gift giving season it is estimated that the most popular gift is the digital camera. Soon after the new owners of the cameras starting using them they found that the digital photographs seem to multiply on the computer. It becomes very clear quite quickly that special software is needed to manage and organize the photos. Many computer users have purchased separate software to perform this important function when in fact they already own a very capable photo manager. It is called Microsoft Office Picture Manager. It is supplied with Office 2003. It can be found in the tools folder of the Office Start area. Because it is rather buried many people do not know it is there. The software facilitates moving, resizing, cropping, renaming and performing other functions on your digital photographs. It also makes it very easy to drag and drop any of your images from Picture Manager to any other Office 2003 program. You can then use Windows XP Photo Printing Wizard to control the printing process. It even allows printing of multiple images on a single sheet. Few know that they already have such capable tools for handling digital photos already on their computers.
A Montgomery County Maryland judge has ruled that the Maryland State anti-Spam law is unconstitutional because it seeks to regulate commerce outside the state. The circuit judge tossed out the case brought against a New York email marketer by a George Washington University Law School student. The ruling effectively overturns the state's 2002 Commercial Electronic Mail Act. Among the more than three dozen state anti-Spam laws on the books, laws in California and Washington were declared unconstitutional on grounds similar to Thompson's ruling in Maryland. But higher courts overturned those decisions. It remains to be seen if higher courts yet will again overturn those decisions.
For the first time a major survey in the US found the number of domestic broadband Internet users exceeds the number using dialup service. The survey was conducted late last year and the results were released by Nielsen/Net Ratings. A common broadband promotion has broadband users talking about what they will do with the extra time that they have available because of saving time using the broadband service. That does not seem to be happening. Of the broadband users 69% go online daily and only 51% of dialup users according to the same survey. The survey also found that of the broadband users who do go online they spend an average of 107minutes per day online and dialup users spend an average of 86minutes each day online. The figures seem to show that switching to a broadband service will cause you to spend more time online instead of less. It should also be pointed out that the degree of broadband penetration in the US trailed that of 12 of the world’s 15 top economies according to a September 2004 report from the UN International Telecommunication Union. Number one on the UN ITU list is South Korea. One of the major aspects of broadband service that many people like is that the connection is always online. However this is a double-edged sword as staying connected 24hours a day greatly extends the window that hackers can use to gain access to your computer.
The arrest of the Indian-born chief of Baazee.com, the unit of eBay that is India’s largest Internet auction site, has raised an uproar. It is prompting calls for clearer Indian laws on whether executives of such sites can be prosecuted because of the material, like pornography, that is offered for sale on their sites. The chief of Baazee was arrested in a case related to the sale on the Baazee site of a video clip of a teenage couple from an exclusive New Delhi school engaged in a sex act. Several copies of the clip were sold through Baazee in late November before the sales were stopped, according to the police in New Delhi. In a statement, eBay said it was outraged at the arrest. The arrest was unexpected and completely unwarranted, according to an eBay spokesperson. The people at eBay are working to secure the chief’s release from jail. The seller had offered it to buyers by simply describing its content and eBay said the video clip was never actually shown on the site. The listing violated Baazee.com’s policies and user agreement and was removed from the site once it was discovered, the company said in a statement. In a first-of-its-kind incident in India, the police arrested the chief under the Information Technology Act, which makes publishing or transmitting obscene material in any electronic form punishable by up to five years in jail. Experts said that India’s laws on electronic crime were ambiguous and needed to be modified. Should a CEO or a director of a company be held liable in such an incident? There are several such gray areas in the law that should be improved upon. The chief is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and a US citizen although he was born in India. Baazee, a popular online auction site in India with over one million users, offers a wide range of goods from computers and jewelry to movies and holiday packages. The site was bought by eBay, the world’s largest auction site in June 2004 for $50million. The current chief of the site was one of its two co-founders. He continued on as chief executive after the purchase by eBay. The police also arrested a 17-year old New Delhi student who used his mobile phone camera to record a female classmate performing a sex act with him, and then circulated the video clip to friends. The student will face charges in juvenile court. The clip found its way to Baazee when a student from an engineering school in eastern India who had come across it tried to sell it on the auction site.
Google plans to place the content of many books from some of the world’s largest libraries online. The libraries in question are:
Few people took much notice when Sony Electronics opened a tiny storefront in 2003 at South Coast Plaza, a swanky mall south of Los Angeles. As it turns out, the small store represents part of a big change in how Sony sells its televisions, DVD players and other electronics gear. Since opening its first store in 2003, Sony has quietly opened stores in several other cities. The Japanese giant has just opened its 11th and 12th US retail stores this month, in Denver and Las Vegas, and expects to have about 30 Sony stores in the United States by April of next year. Some retailers that sell Sony products are very worried they will lose sales. They also worry that if the stores are successful, other manufacturers in the consumer electronics industry will open stores, too. This could of course shake up the consumer electronics business a great deal.
Clearing the way for homes and businesses to receive high-speed Internet services through their electrical outlets, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules on Thursday that would enable the utility companies to offer an alternative to the broadband communications services now provided by cable and telephone companies. As a further spur to the rollout of broadband Internet services, the FCC also ruled that the regional Bell operating companies do not have to give competitors access to fiber optic lines that reach into consumers’ homes. That decision prompted two of the Baby Bells—SBC Communications and BellSouth—to announce that they would move quickly to build new fiber optic networks in residential neighborhoods. Rivals of the Bells criticized the ruling and consumer groups, which called it anti-competitive, said it would lead to higher prices. For the electric companies’ part, broadband Internet service is more than a year away from becoming widely available. However, the agency’s ruling is expected to increase significantly the level of investment and interest by the utilities, which had been stymied in previous attempts to offer new services over power lines. They reach more American homes than either telephone lines or television cables. So far, the technology has been limited mainly to experiments around the country, although a commercial version recently became available in some communities near Cincinnati Ohio. The service is priced just below most other broadband services in the same areas at the same speeds. The FCC expects the new service will greatly aid in developing competition in the broadband market. While some regulatory and technical issues remain, the technology offers enormous promise because the power grid is ubiquitous. The costs to the industry to offer the new service would be comparatively small, and the possible returns on those investments could be high. If the utility companies do begin to offer the broadband service more widely, they would also be likely to enter the telephone business by offering phone services over the Internet, just as phone and cable companies have begun to do. This should create greater competition in not only the broadband industry but in telephone and cable TV service as well.
It was twenty-five years ago that the personal computer (PC) revolution really got going. It is true that the first PCs started to appear in the early to mid 1970s — about thirty years ago. But they were considered fairly useless to most people & about the only ones using them were true geeks.
Apple was on the market with their model II. However about the only people buying & using them were the computer hobbyists often called geeks.
Then in 1979 something happened that changed the PC industry significantly & forever. The first software application that made the PC useful for a worthwhile purpose was released. That program was VisiCalc (visible calculator) an electronic spreadsheet. It was released for use on the Apple II.
The company that released the product was Software Arts. Business managers were very well aware that the spreadsheet itself was a very powerful tool. Even a fairly small spreadsheet could take hours of recalculating with nothing more than a few small changes. Then these managers found out that they could build large spreadsheets & have them recalculate in seconds at electronics speeds just by entering the changes.
Suddenly the PC became the darling of many business managers & they started to appear in offices—mostly the Apple II. At that time the business computer industry was pretty much owned by a single company—International Business Machines (IBM).
They built most of the hardware & published most of the software as well. The big shots at IBM made a quick decision that they must bring out their own PC very quickly. This led to a machine that consisted of mostly generic—off-the-shelf parts—which allowed the IBM PC to be copied (cloned) very quickly.
It was that decision that led to the way in which the entire PC industry developed with no dominant hardware company & the subsequent dominance of Microsoft as the giant software company it is today. It is also very ironic to note that VisiCalc, the electronic spreadsheet that got it all started on the Apple II did not become the dominant spreadsheet used on the IBM PC in the early years.
That distinction fell to a spreadsheet called 1-2-3 from a company called Lotus Development. This became the killer application for the IBM PC in the early years & remained the dominant electronic spreadsheet program until Excel from Microsoft displaced them.
Sometime after that IBM bought out Lotus where it still operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of IBM. For anybody interested VisiCalc is now available for free. It can be downloaded from www.bricklin.com.
Although it certainly will not be able to replace the current version of Excel, because of significant limitations, you may be amazed at the power of this 27KB over twenty-year-old download. Time to download even with a slow speed dialup service is only in the seconds.
It does not have the power of Excel but was a marvel of its time. It has not been changed much over the years & the version you are able to download now is virtually the same as the one that was sold to the public twenty-five years ago. Dan Bricklin was one of the two co-founders of Software Arts back in the late 1970s.
Under ordinary conditions, an email message appears to move instantaneously from the sender to the addressee’s inbox. But in reality, most messages make several momentary stops as various computers process them en route to their destination. Those short stops may make little or no difference to the users, but they make an enormous difference to the privacy that email is accorded under federal law.
A federal appeals court in Boston has ruled that federal wiretap laws do not apply to email messages if they are stored, even for a millisecond, on the computers of the Internet providers that process them. This means that it can be legal for the government or others to read such messages without a court order.
The ruling was a surprise to many people, because in 1986 Congress specifically amended the wiretap laws to incorporate new technologies like email. Some argue that the ruling's implications could significantly affect emerging applications like Internet-based telephone calls, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and Gmail—Google's new email service—which shows advertising based on the content of a subscriber's email messages.
In the past Congress made it easier for prosecutors and lawyers in civil cases to read other people's email messages than to listen to their phone calls. The wiretap law—which requires prosecutors to prove their need for a wiretap and forbids civil litigants from ever using them—applies to email messages only when they are in transit.
But in a 1986 law, Congress created a second category, called stored communication, for messages that had been delivered to recipients' inboxes but not yet read. That law, the Stored Communications Act, grants significant protection to email messages, but does not go as far as the wiretap law: it lets prosecutors have access to stored messages with a search warrant, while imposing stricter requirements on parties in civil suits. Messages that have been read but remain on the Internet provider's computer system have very little protection. Prosecutors can typically gain access to an opened email message with a simple subpoena rather than a search warrant. Similarly, lawyers in civil cases, including divorces, can subpoena opened email messages.
The Boston case in question involved an online bookseller named Alibris. In 1998, the company offered email accounts to book dealers and, hoping to gain market advantage, secretly copied messages they received from Amazon.com.
In 1999, Alibris and one employee pleaded guilty to criminal charges. But one supervisor fought the charges, saying he did not know about the scheme. He also moved to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the wiretapping law did not apply. He argued that because the messages had been on the hard drive of Alibris's computer while they were being processed for delivery, they therefore should be counted as stored communication.
The wiretap law bans a company from monitoring the communications of its customers, except in a few cases. But it does not ban a company from reading customers' stored communications. Congress appears to have recognized that any time you store communication, there is an inherent loss of privacy.
In 2003, a federal district court in Boston agreed with this interpretation of the wiretap law and dismissed the case. The First Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-to-1 decision, affirmed that decision. Because most major Internet providers have explicit policies against reading their customers' email messages, the ruling would seem to have little effect on most people.
However, Google is testing a service called Gmail, which electronically scans the content of the email messages its customers receive and then displays related ads. Privacy groups have argued that the service is intrusive, and some have claimed it violates the wiretap laws. The decision, if it stands, could undercut that argument.
Federal prosecutors, who often argue that wiretap restrictions do not apply in government investigations, were in the somewhat surprising position of arguing that those same laws should apply in this case. A spokesperson for the US attorney's office in Boston said the department had not decided whether to appeal.
The entire area of whom and with what type of approval your email can be read without your permission should be quite an interesting area of debate. Much of this article is based on a piece in the New York Times that can be found at www.nytimes.com/2004/07/06/technology/06net.html?ex=1090250675&ei=1&en=bc224
Help in cleaning up and organizing your email procedures
Just about all Internet users are in need of some help in organizing and cleaning up their email. One of the most difficult things about email is that it keeps coming.
You may want to take a day or two off but your email will not. About the only time it slows down is on the weekend and major holidays.
Paraglyph Press has a series of books designed to help the normal user of the PC with very basic functions. They call it the Degunking Series and the newest one is called Degunking Your Email, Spam and Viruses.
Some of the major functions that the book covers include:
A unique 12-step program will aid you toward becoming much more productive in handling email. That should allow you to handle it in less time giving you some extra free time.
The book is well organized into sixteen chapters. It has two tables of contents—one is a condensed version on a single page and then you have the fully detailed table of contents that takes up eight full pages. The book also has an excellent index that is very detailed. It takes up 12 pages.
The book is surely worth taking a look at if you feel that you would like to learn to handle your daily load of email better that you do now. It is distributed in the US and Canada by O’Reilly Media, www.oreilly.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / (800)294-4747 / (800)998-9938. Degunking Your Email, Spam and Viruses, Jeff Duntemann, Paraglyph Press, www.paraglyphpress.com, ISBN:1-932111-93-X, 352 pages, $24.99US, S Marder
1. A recent Google release
1. A federal judge in VA recently dismissed a tradmark infringement claim against Google, filed by this company