Heroes and villains of World Intellectual Property Day

Out-Law News | 26 Apr 2006 | 8:32 am | 4 min. read

We’re celebrating the fifth World Intellectual Property Day today at OUT-LAW, doing our little bit to raise awareness of the role of IP in our daily lives, and to mark the contribution of innovators and artists across the globe.

Asserting your rights is a dangerous game. You might get flamed; you might get rich. This is your chance to hold your creative heroes high or name and shame the mercenary scoundrels.

Submit your nominee using the form below.

We'll add your contributions to this page today (and over the next few days). It can be a person or an organisation from recent times or years gone by. Just as long as they have something to do with intellectual property that you like or dislike.

All submissions are anonymous. We might edit or embellish some contributions if we think it's appropriate and we might not publish contributions that are clearly defamatory or just rubbish.

Heroes of World Intellectual Property Day

  • Thomas Edison for inventing a lightbulb and other handy stuff and for these words of wisdom: "I make more mistakes than anyone else I know. And sooner or later I patent most of them."
  • Florian Mueller, founder of the NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign which campaigned against a European law that many feared would open the floodgates to software patents. The law eventually fell.
  • Hugh Laddie, ex-judge who made "interesting and controversial" judgments and for apparently being an Arsenal fan and waving an Arsenal scarf above his head in the well known Arsenal trade mark case.
  • Jeremy Phillips, IP(Cool)Kat and all round Superman – how does he find the time?
  • The people behind patentlysilly.com, for spending the time to highlight the more "unusual" patents being granted by the US Patent Office.
  • Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, the GNU Project, and the Free Software Foundation and the author of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL or GPL), the most widely-used free software license, which pioneered the concept of the copyleft. A fresh view on what is important and what is unhelpful in IP law.
  • Jim Callaghan, MP, for indefinitely extending the term of copyright in "Peter Pan" for the benefit of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital by Schedule 6 of the 1988 Copyright, Designs & Patents Act. A rare exercise of common sense and humanity by a legislator.
  • George and Laura Bush, for their nice letter about World Intellectual Property Day

Villains of World Intellectual Property Day

  • NTP: many people hoped that BlackBerry would somehow prevail in its lawsuit against NTP. Everyone except NTP, that is. The company asserted its patent rights and threatened to darken the screens on a nation’s handhelds. Eventually this tiny company settled for more than $600 million last month.
  • Eolas Technologies: won a whopping $520 million judgment against Microsoft after arguing that Internet Explorer ripped-off an Eolas patent. But they’re not rich yet: a retrial has been ordered.
  • The Court of First Instance: who used the trade mark Hoover in a generic way in a judgment earlier this week.
  • Cliff Richard: not just for the appalling songs (an affront to copyright itself!) but for trying to extend performer's royalty rights under the pretence of championing other artists. Response from another submission: Cliff wants to extend the copyright term for sound recordings rather than the performer's right (which is a separate right under the CDPA 1988)
  • Jerome Lemelson: This guy was a bit of both really depending on who you ask. Some people view him as a hero, as the Lemelson foundation donates huge amounts of money to US based inventors and is seen as someone who made a real success of IP exploitation. Others viewed him as one of the first real "patent trolls", someone who made enormous sums of money by cleverly predicting trends and filing anticipatory patents and the use of "submarine patents", without ever really "creating" anything or adding anything of value. Jerome Lemelson is listed as an inventor on hundreds of United States patents. During the last decade, Mr. Lemelson, his heirs, and their attorneys have asserted that a large number of US companies infringe one or more of the patents. The infringement claims have generally involved patents that Lemelson's attorneys call "machine vision" or "auto-id" patents. The patents have been the subject of past and active litigation. If you do a google serach for Lemelson and patents you get over 100,000 hits, which shows the impact he has had.
  • The Recording Industry association of America, suing 12-year-olds for downloading nursery rhymes! Come on?! For protectionism, paranoia and charging download prices which fail to recognise the huge savings they are making in manufacture and distribution costs of conventional music media.
  • China: for their disturbing disregard for intellectual property rights, resulting in sanctioned rip-offs of everything from cars to computer chips. Oh, and for internet censorship.
  • SCO Group: for trying to use the nebulous and not legally defined term of "Methods and Concepts" in its court battle against IBM.
  • Thomas Edison: for misappropiating so many examples of other peoples IP (often those working for him).
  • Dr Lionel Sawkins' lawyers: for bringing those champions of under-exposed great classical music, Hyperion Records (amost) to its knees over a dubious copyright claim. The only winners here were the folks in the dark suits. Response from another submission: true, but they also helped establish a groundbreaking precedent on the extent to which copyright protection is given to musicians when there is a jointly created work. They've helped the cause of any bass player in a band who is cut out of songwriting royalties!

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