Tech law GEEK


Suborning Perjury via email and Testilying

Prof Volokh mentions an article about a criminal defense attorney who advises his client to lie via email.
One email says in part: "they won't have anyone there to testify how much you had to drink. You won't be charged with perjury. I've never seen them charge anyone with perjury, and everybody lies in criminal cases, including the cops. If you want to tell the truth, then we'll just plead guilty and you can get your jail time over with."

I'm still not sure whether the comments advocate not giving such advice or not giving such advice via email. It wouldn't be the first time I've seen people surprised not by the content of the communication (bad behavior), but the form in which it was given (leaving evidence of bad behavior). Shouldn't we be more concerned about the former?

I'm also trying to resolve the comments about testilying (I still have my doubts whether WikiPedia should be the reference of choice on issues of witness credibility) with the bagel man in Freakonomics (people are trustworthy more often than you might expect with small amounts of money on the line, but the higher up you go, the more cheating you'll probably see). OK, maybe that is a no-brainer. Have I mentioned recently how often people end up on my blog using the keywords: "ExamSoft cheat"?

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Domestic surveillance: No surprise here

The terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks. -- Pres Bush

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ICODR 2006: The virtual moot court

The hosts of CyberWeek opened up registration for their 5th annual online dispute resolution competition, ICODR, that will include mediation, negotiation, arbitration, and litigation problems resolved entirely ONLINE.

This looks like a great opportunity for both students and faculty to familiarize themselves with some of the technology available to facilitate dispute resolution with participants from around the world in a cost-effective manner. Interested faculty can volunteer as evaluators or just observe the competitions in progress for the duration of the competition.

The technology platform is West Workspace, a version of EMC's eRoom, that provides a virtual collaboration area to share documents and post messages about the dispute.

Much like Michigan's recent decision requiring their high school students take at least one online course before graduating, law school's should start getting comfortable with the idea that future dispute resolution may be handled exclusively online. Virtual competitions like ICODR seem like a great way for both faculty and students to learn the process.

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Dallas attorney & CEO claims 90% savings on legal bills

As mentioned on Legal Blog Watch, Dallas attorney & CEO Michael Gorton's letter to Atlas Legal praises them for their blue chip service at 1/10th the blue chip rate through the miraculous cost-saving measure of outsourcing legal services:

“Your group saved me nearly 90%, AND completed the work in less than half the time. For clarification, the research you did in less than one month, saved TelaDoc over $200,000.”
---What Atlas clients are saying

No confirmation on who the "other firm" was that charged the exorbitant amount for the same work product in this client's eyes. Although Gorton claims he "favors doing business with friends," who needs friends when you can save 90% offshoring? Of course, Gorton admits
there's a political component to outsourcing. "Sometimes a law firm doesn't want word getting back to associates so they feel their jobs are in danger," he says. Others are "trying to maintain their image as an all-American company."

Trying to maintain the image of an all-American firm capable of delivering superior service (read: at a justifiably higher price) is just going to become more difficult if today's associates are unable to compete effectively with their offshore counterparts. While there are some concerns around ethical standards, privacy, confidentiality, and IP rights, they're not entirely new considerations for those of us familiar with outsourcing technology.

Read more in the In-House Counsel article. In the meantime, I'll try not to sound like a broken record.

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Another real UH story

While Tom Kirkendall points out some critical missing info in the latest Chron article about the Univ of Houston, I will add my 2 cents on why I ended up here in 1990 - and stayed.

The article only briefly mentions the Honors College, which, thanks to Dean Ted Estess and others, did a great job of recruiting me as a pre-med undergrad back in 1990 (before they were considered a "college" of their own). Not only was UH one of the leading institutions sponsoring National Merit Scholars at the time, but the Texas Medical Center was, and continues to be, world-renowned for its facilities and caliber of professionals. For an out-of-state student like I was, the cost:benefit analysis was a no-brainer.

Although I did not end up going the med school route, I had great opportunities to co-op with Houston-based companies before completing both engineering degrees. And if engineering is your thing, Houston's got plenty of opportunities to go around in the energy and technology sectors.

To top it all off, when looking at Texas law schools, the UH Law Center ranks right up at the top of my book. Not only are they consistently ranked 1st or 2nd in Health Law nationwide, their Intellectual Property program is usually ranked in the Top 5 nationwide by USNWR. With a strong part-time program on top of all that, you end up studying alongside experienced professionals from various industries that make the whole law school experience MUCH more valuable than you would expect in a typical "college town." (Just don't expect much consolation if all the patent agents throw off the curve in some of your IP classes).

I suppose if I grew up in Houston, I might have been one to overlook all that UH offers, given the way they are marginalized at times by local press. And it is hard to find Cougar gear as often as Longhorns' or Aggies' ... just don't forget Andre Ware was the man when I showed up in 1990 (let's just not discuss what happened afterwards. Work with me here.)

I suppose you could assume that when I made the decision to move here to attend UH, I was clueless about the "real" college market. Well, 15+ years later, I still find myself appreciating the same great things about this school and this city. From my perspective, they both just keep getting better.

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AIPLA's Economic Survey 2005

Here's how my AIPLA membership more than pays for itself: the 2005 Report of the Economic Survey.

Released every other year, the AIPLA Report of the Economic Survey is the most comprehensive and reliable review of incomes and demographics of intellectual property law attorneys and associated practitioners. It examines billing rates and charges across a variety of significant characteristics and is the foremost guide to current financial trends among your colleagues and in the workplace. The Report provides detailed information on income, billing rates, and typical charges by IP practitioners, as well as types of practice, age of practitioners, years of experience by job type, and bar membership, as well as technical education and specialization.

If there's any way you could possibly want to slice and dice income, billing, demographics, and firm composition data for solo, private, in-house or government IP counsel, this report has it. Based on a survey of over 1500 AIPLA members in almost 300 firms, you get almost 200 pages of charts, graphs, and lists reporting billed services, rates charged, employer contributions to retirement/savings plans, percent of time devoted to various activities, typical charges for trademark and patent applications as well as copyright registrations, and typical costs of litigation based on the amount at stake. If you're a techlawgeek, too, (or wannabe) you'll want this report and it's FREE for all AIPLA members (students pay only $45 to join).

They don't even have to pay me to recommend it, but if they did, I'd know the going rate for Texas on page...

See also "If you KNOW you want to be a patent attorney"

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Wikipedia vandalism follow-up

The NYTimes had an interesting follow-up to John Seigenthaler's USA Today op/ed on the false information included in his Wikipedia "biography."

Turns out a Nashville delivery manager made the changes to pull a prank on a friend of Seigenthaler's. He naturally thought Wikipedia was a gag site to start with since it let him make the changes without any verification. Worse yet, the false information was propagated to other sites including and Who knew people actually relied on that information as factual?

Of course, I tried to make the point about questionable authors last year when I made some random (but truthful) changes to our school's page available here. Can you tell if it was really me who made the changes? Under what names or which IP addresses?

Nothing like questioning the credibility of online identities during finals, eh? Care to wager whether we will still find more prior art references in the USPTO database after this?

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Oracle's Global Support now based in .... Cairo?

Yes, that's right. Egypt is taking on India to be the "Call Center Capital" of the world according to CRMBuyer's story Monday. This coincides with the opening of Oracle Global Support center at Xceed, a part of Cairo's rapidly expanding Smart Village.

Cairo has long been a valuable hub for activity in the EMEA divisions of global organizations like ORCL, MSFT, and HPQ. It's nice to see they're not being overlooked for larger investments to support global operations that might otherwise be sent to India or China, e.g., Microsoft to Invest $1.7 Billion in India.

Not that I'm biased ...

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Locking up the IP Criminals in Europe

The Int'l Herald Tribune has an article on proposed criminal penalties for IP infringement under consideration in the EU. The EC wants to show it's serious about IP enforcement to protect inventors and promote innovation, BUT

Some of the biggest patent owners have themselves been accused of patent infringement. Microsoft owns around 5,000 patents and is currently fighting 32 infringement claims, the company's spokesman in Brussels, Tom Brookes, said.

Note an FFII campaigner (open source advocate) admits

This law doesn't make much sense for anyone in the patent world

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DOJ Statement re Korean FTC MSFT Decision

The DOJ released a statement regarding the Korean FTC's ruling against Microsoft today. The Korean FTC wants to impose similar remedies as the European Commission did last year, requiring an alternate version of Windows without Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. This comes even after European sales show consumers and vendors do not want the minimalist version of Windows. See Scott Bekker, "Windows XP N stands for 'No Sales'", Oct. 7 2005.

The Antitrust Division believes that Korea's remedy goes beyond what is necessary or appropriate to protect consumers, as it requires the removal of products that consumers may prefer. The Division continues to believe that imposing 'code removal' remedies that strip out functionality can ultimately harm innovation and the consumers that benefit from it.

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Wikipedia and Prior Art

TechnoLawyer's IP Memes had an interesting post on the use of Wikipedia references in prior art searches for some patent applications (A search of the PTO database for the term wikipedia currently has 17 hits).

Geek that I am, I've used wikis on occasion as collaboration tools for geographically dispersed workgroups. Twiki is usually the wiki package I think of first, perhaps because my significant other insists on using it for EVERYTHING - or more likely because the name conjures up fond memories of watching Buck Rogers as a kid.

I wouldn't consider Wikipedia authoritative for most information requiring citation, but I have been known to reference it for general, non-critical information, like a history of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The problem, as pointed out in TechnoLawyer, is that anyone can post anything in Wikipedia. It's left up to volunteer editors to maintain the integrity of the information submitted. You can find out who's been editing a certain article by checking the history tab. You'll notice some entries only list an IP address and no username. That's where it gets a bit, well, scary - you may have an idea of the geographic location of that user (if you have access to some IP reference databases and assume a proxy isn't hiding their real location), but you really don't know who they are or why they made the changes they did. Editor comments can sometimes be (un)intentionally misleading, as I've often seen in internal version controlled projects, too.

Does that mean I never use Wikipedia? Of course not. Overall, the info in there seems fairly reliable for the topics I've researched, but trustworthiness is always an issue when you're dealing with electronic data. How many people are willing to challenge the reliability of the WestLaw or LexisNexis databases? Does a black box editorial process inspire more or less confidence?

For me, the more significant the issue is, the more authoritative the reference needs to be. A freely accessible encyclopedia composed by (sometimes) anonymous volunteer authors just doesn't always fit the bill. On the occasions where it does suffice, I always archive a copy of the current version of the page for future reference. I'd hate to have one of my sources disappear without notice.

[UPDATE] The Tech Law Prof blog has a couple related entries this week on Wikipedia vandalism and the Wiki-Law project [/UPDATE]

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