Showing posts from May, 2013

Business Insider's Bizarre Take on Musks's "Hyperloop"

Jay Yarrow at Business Insider just penned this piece about Elon Musk's "hyperloop" concept.

While I'm sure that Mr. Must has something very interesting up his sleeve, I just wanted to point out that the idea discussed in that article, an underground vacuum maglev system detailed in a 1972 RAND paper, is utter, fantastical nonsense. Not only are tunnels fantastically expensive and time consuming to build (Second Avenue Subway? LIRR / GCT connection? Anyone?) the idea of sustaining a vacuum in anything remotely that large is pure, unabashed science fiction. It is literally impossible. No amount of money or clever engineering could make that happen. It would literally be the most expensive engineering project in history by a few orders of magnitude, and it would still fail.

My guess is that Mr. Musk - a fully qualified engineer - has nothing of the sort in mind, simply because it is a child's fantasy. However, what Mr. Musk has described, a magnetically propelled s…

Wired Misinterprets the Market Failure in Console Gaming

Wired had an article recently about the new Xbox One announcement. The Xbox One announcement has been really, really panned, and for a whole lot of good reasons. I won't get into the details of all the criticisms, such as the fact that you may have to pay a subscription service to MSFT to play your pre-existing subscription cable, or that it is an 'always-on' service, etc. etc. However, I will talk about the fact that it seems that the Xbox One it isn't really for gamers. Wired's Chris Kohler notices this, but draws the wrong conclusions, stating that:

It’s not hard to figure out what the gaming-first crowd wants: a super-powered box that connects to the TV, has a handheld controller and has a huge library of games from the biggest-budget epics to the breakout indie hits. They don’t want a PC because they don’t want to mess with settings and deal with crashes; they want a standard platform that Just Works. It can do other things, sure, but games are the meat and ev…

Contract Drafting: Software Development Agreements

Recently, I was presented with a form software development Agreement. I asked a junior associate to give it a markup for outstanding issues as a learning exercise. It reminded me that many critical areas of contract drafting are simply not taught in law school, so consider this a first in a series of tips and pointers for drafting practical agreements.

Software development contracts are a lot like other creative development agreements, in that a person or corporation is creating a new work and transferring the IP rights to its employer. As a result, here are a few things to consider in any contract that controls the transfer of IP rights:

Clearly define "Intellectual Property." Make sure that such definition includes not just copyright, but trademark, trade secret, and all patent rights. This definition covers what will, and will not, be owned by the client at the end of the engagement. Work for Hire. As a client, you will want to ensure that all materials are being made as w…

Entertaining List of Prohibited Businesses for Credit Card Processors

Examining the Stripe TOS today, I discovered that they have a very long list of businesses that they will not service, including:

(1) door-to-door sales, (2) offering substantial rebates or special incentives to the Cardholder subsequent to the original purchase, (3) negative response marketing, (4) engaging in deceptive marketing practices, (5) sharing Cardholder’s data with another merchant for payment of up-sell or cross-sell product or service, (6) evading Card Network’s chargeback monitoring programs, (7) engaging in any form of licensed or unlicensed aggregation or factoring, (8) airlines, (9) age verification, (10) age restricted products or services, (11) bail bonds, (12) bankruptcy lawyers, (13) bidding fee auctions, (14) collection agencies, (15) chain letters, (16) check cashing, wire transfers or money orders, (17) counterfeit goods, (18) currency exchanges or dealers, (19) embassies, foreign consulates or other foreign governments, (20) firms selling business opportunities…

The Copyrightability of Databases

Recently, a colleague asked me about the copyrightability of information in a database, specifically, in this instance, a phonebook. My colleague wanted to know if you could claim copyright over a database: this is a really important question, as the internet is, by and large, a gigantic database. This is actually two separate questions: 1. Are the contents of databases copyrightable? 2. Are there copyrightable elements of databases in and of themselves? So let's break it down and treat each separate.

Contents of Databases
We do know copyright does not apply to facts, and it would be an unfortunate circumstance if simply putting a fact in a database gave you copyright over that fact. The case that everyone learns in law school that expresses the copyrightable elements of compilations is Feist V. Rural Telephone Co. According to Wikipedia:
Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991),[1] commonly called Feist v. Rural, is an important United States Sup…

YCombinator and Rigged Roulette

YCombinator has been making a lot of headlines recently. I am a huge fan of their work, PG is the man,  and I think that they have a well earned reputation for being one of the most productive and successful incu-VC's out there. However, I have to play the bear a bit here, and point out that I think that YC is being overly mythologized. So, in no particular order, let's take a look at some interesting YC factoids.

A few weeks ago, a piece ran in the NYTimes magazine by Nat Rich, which was very interesting, but I feel highlighted some inherent problems with YC, exemplified perfectly by this quote:
“There are two things that people grumble about Y Combinator that are actually compliments,” [PG] told me. “One is that Y.C. start-ups are overvalued. The only way for a company to be overvalued is if there’s someone willing to pay that price. So what they’re saying is: Going through Y.C. causes companies to raise money on better terms than they would have otherwise. We wouldn’t have th…

Some Interesting Patent Statistics from 2012 via StrutPatent

StrutPatent has some really great patent statistics. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting numbers from 2012:
The top 10 companies receiving patents were all tech companies, and they received a total of 27,930 patents, or almost exactly 10% of all patents granted. The individual with most patents granted in 2012 is Kia Silverbrook. He received 220 patents. Thinking this through, assuming he takes no vacations, that is about 4.25 patents per week. Forgive me for saying so, but the idea that any one human could be that productive is truly an absurdity. It is just poppycock. The top 10 inventors of 2012 received a total of 1481 patents, an average of 2.85 patents per inventor per week. Which, again, is total insanity. Total patents granted in 1990 numbered 99,275, up to 244,513 in 2010, for a CAGR of 4.61%. There were 542,815 patent applications in 2012. Given that patent applications take several years, it is not easy to calculate what percentage of patents are granted, b…