As the blockchain avalanche continues, and ever-increasing numbers of blockchain-based patent applications seek issuance, savvy inventors and practitioners continue probing for patent-eligible space. Blockchain apps ultimately will face the same barriers as other software applications—key among them being new rules on subject matter eligibility. For those hoping to make it past such obstacles, performance-related refinements to blockchain technology may provide a safe harbor.
As developments in artificial intelligence transform the business plans (and in some cases, the very identity) of industries, they also inevitably trigger the need for those industries that serve a supporting role to adapt in response. This is certainly true of the legal profession, and it’s also a given for the insurance industry. As is so often the case in life, with enough new wrinkles, there’s usually a good bit of gray. In Artificial Intelligence: A Grayish Area for Insurance Coverage, our colleague Ashley E. Cowgill explores some of the gray areas in insurance coverage created by the continued evolution and widening application of AI.
It’s Monday, and you’re at the local coffee stand with your work buddies sipping pour-overs made from freshly roasted fair trade beans. Brad from accounting is telling everyone about the new show he just binged on Netflix. It’s a coming of age story set in the ’90s and the throwback details are on point: the cool kids sport Starter jackets and Stüssy shirts; the geeks debate whether the Nintendo 64 is better than the Sony PlayStation; and the protagonist questions whether she should drink the bottle of Zima that her friend just handed to her. You interject: “Zima?! Someone should bring that back!” “Maybe we should,” says Tim from sales. “Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent,” adds Dan from marketing, because Dan always quotes Don Draper whenever he can, as he shows everyone a “Bring Back Zima” Facebook group. Soon you find yourself brainstorming ideas on how to get rich by bringing back dead, but not forgotten, brands. But then Matt from compliance asks, “Are we going to get sued?”
Of course, the answer is, “It depends.”
The March 23rd Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 contained key language to keep “wireline or mobile telephone service, Internet access service, radio and television broadcasting, cable service, [and] direct broadcast satellite service” working during natural disasters. The Act added these technological services providers to the definition of “essential service providers.” In “Broadcaster Access to Disaster Areas Becomes the Law of the Land,” colleague Scott Flick explores some key takeaways found in the pages (all 2,200 of them).
The March 21st passing of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) has dramatically altered the rules of engagement for social media companies. The new law amends and clarifies that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was never intended to legally protect websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and human trafficking or websites that should have known their platform was being utilized for such activities. The bill also creates new areas of civil liabilities for companies and necessitates more active monitoring of online accounts. In their recent Client Alert, colleagues William M. Sullivan, Jr. and Fabio Leonardi examine the immediate and future ramifications of the bill.
Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have written “white papers” and devoted considerable resources to projects intended to create services that encourage trust and a sense of familiarity on the part of users. Messages, photos and personal information are easily shared with groups of friends and co-workers, or in response to solicitations tailored to a user’s trusted brands, thus creating an environment of perceived safety and intimacy among users. However this communal atmosphere can be, and often is, exploited by “black hat” hackers and malware that lurk behind a façade of trust. In its April 27, 2017 White Paper entitled “Information Operations and Facebook,” and its September 6, 2017 “An Update on Information Operations on Facebook,” the company noted that there are, “three major features of online information operations that we assess have been attempted on Facebook.” Those features include: (1) targeted data collection such as hacking or spearfishing; (2) content creation including the creation of false personas and memes; and (3) false amplification by creating false accounts or using bots to spread memes and false content which, in turn sow mistrust in political institutions and spread confusion. Ironically, these techniques used to spread “fake news” and malware designed to amplify divisive social and political messages, are enhanced and made effective by the very environment of trust cultivated by social media sites.
For all the talk of artificial intelligence and the benefits to be found in the related field of machine learning, there are also plenty of practical issues that companies on both sides of the vendor/client relationship will need to resolve. Our colleague Kelley D. Bledsoe recently examined one of these questions in her post, “Come Harvest Time, Who Owns the Fruits of Machine Learning” on Pillsbury’s SourcingSpeak blog.
What is it worth to be able to block employees from using social media while on the job? And how should one determine that value, exactly? While it might be easy to determine the value of a stand-alone invention, it is much more difficult to determine the value an invention that is embedded within a complex product that itself has many parts and does many different things. Patent damages case law is in flux, and every court opinion regarding how to apportion and value inventions merits careful studying. A recent case demonstrates the perils of using faulty methodology to determine the value of patented software-based inventions.
We have previously examined the evolving role of the hashtag in intellectual property law, particularly trademark law. While the nuances of the symbol’s existence and use protections continue to be ironed out by the courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the hashtag has quickly become a ubiquitous tool on social media. It is no surprise the legal field is utilizing the empowered hashtag to connect members of the industry, particularly on Twitter. Using #legal or #LawTwitter hashtags on social media has created informal “groups” of lawyers, judges and other legal practitioners who provide support, feedback and criticisms of its members (and others) on a variety of topics.
If there’s a golden rule for the online age we live in, it’s “Always assume anything you post online will be visible to all.” Just like the original Golden Rule, it’s a maxim ignored often enough to bear repeating and frequent illustration. With that in mind, let’s check in on recent developments regarding social media revealing details its users would rather conceal—bankruptcy edition.