Tuesday, 29 March 2005

What can we learn from this? A request for participation

Boing Boing has posted

an interesting tale of an enterprising web page developer, [Mr. Hank Mishkoff] who had set up a fan page for a local mall. The mall developer sued to shut him down, he registered a number of *sucks.com sites (including one directed at the developer's attorneys) and represented himself pro se in the litigation (he eventually had the assistance of counsel) and WON. [I recommend reading the condensed version...the full version is extremely detailed]

[quote taken from http://nip.blogs.com/patent/lawsuits/index.html]

The counsel assisting the Mishkoff is Paul Levy with the Public Citizen Litigation Group who was introduced to Mishkoff by Ronald J. Riley of www.InventorEd.org and also President of www.PIAUSA.org. Riley has an account of his story at a comment to false positve (the second comment).

Request for participation

This is an interesting story and I have spent 6 hours reading through the web pages.

Without legal training myself, I must have picked up a few legalese along the way. But it would be more interesting to note what I have learnt from this reading. The point here is that different people, with different background and interest will read the story and gathered different key points. I am using a technique I used before here. I shall write the lesson I learnt in the next few paragraphs and rendered them in white. If you want to read them, just high-light them. However before you do this, please do the following:

  • do NOT read any comment to this blog until you have done the rest of these bullet points

  • bookmark this page so that you can come back later

  • go and read the story (mind you, it is a long read)

  • come back here and post your lessson(s) learnt in the comment

  • high light the white space below to read my lesson learnt

If sufficient people pick up my request and post their comments here too, you should be able to compare the differences of these different lessons learnt. Say after a week, I may ask you to come here again and post a background about yourself and explain why what you have learnt is relevent to you. I hope it will be a vivid demonstration of the importance of learner's background to learning to those who are still struggling in the instructivitic domains.

-- Start of my lessons learnt, read by high-lighting the following "white space" --

I have a web-site http://www.scormplayer.com [in order to prevent the links from appearing and instead of creating a different CSS class, all the links to websites are not linked here!]. SCORM is a registered trademark of ADLnet.org. Interestingly, http://www.scorm.com exists and is operated by Rustici Software, LLC. apparently not related to ADLnet. The use condition of ADLnet for its name and logo stipulated that
[quote]While ADL encourages organizations to describe their adoptions of SCORM in their product descriptions and literature, the use of SCORM in a product name is strictly prohibited.[/quote]
Hence, the product for SCORMplayer.com is called Course player and usually prefixed by SCORM Course player because this is a player specifically designed to deliver SCORM-compliant courses.

I read with interest this story, trying hard to verify from the legalese that my use of the reference to SCORM does not violate any trademark owned by ADLnet.

I learnt that, by selling course player's professional license (the course player itself is NOT open source, but is free to use), the fact that I am in Australia does not remove my potential of being sued by someone in a USA court in civil proceedings if anyone in USA has brought any one of my license.

Although Mishkoff eventual won the case, it is obvious that corporate with a huge legal war chest has a significant upper hand. Without the help of Levy, the result of the case would be very different.

Another case I remembered is Lindows vs Microsoft. See for example http://www.linspire.com/lindows_news_pressreleases_archives.php?id=2&all=1 and the series of press release about the ligitation between Lindows and Microsoft. Even with a first bag of gold from mp3.com, the founder of Lindows could not fight against Microsoft when MS started court proceedings in whatever countries that Lindows try to sell to. Although failing to apply an injunction in American proper, by initiating proceedings in various countries were defined a huge blow to resource of Lindows. Eventually, the case was settled (see their press release http://www.linspire.com/lindows_news_pressreleases_archives.php?id=69&all=1 on 29th September, 2003) and Lindows is now called Inspire.

Another interesting case to watch will be SCO against IBM.

When I first incorporate Fablusi P/L into a separate entity last year (before that, it was a business unit running under Digital Learning Systems P/L), the legal fees involved in the transfer of rights of the Fablusi software (i.e. move something I have from my left pocket to my right pocket - ok, there also involved different people who can put the hands in left pocket from the right pocket) was huge (relative to the resource we had at the time).

My unease feeling is whether that is all necessary? and if yes, to what cost? Can small independent people, like me, ever able to do anything?

The Mishkoff case, on the surface, is a positive note - but when I think slightly more, I think he was basically very luck that help was there when it was really critical. For me, being in Australia and with our government leaning towards USA so much, if anything happens to me, the result would be quite obvious. Filing chapter 11 or declaring bankruptcy is a very likely prospect.

Hence another lesson learnt is that I should avoid any ligitation at all cost. I may have chosen to settle the case when Mishkoff was offered the 1000 dollars compensation despire of the additional "after-the-fact" addition of conditions of the proposed settlement.

-- end of my lessons learnt --

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