Archive for September, 2012

Increasingly in recent years individuals have been turning to the internet in search of legal advice. Whereas in the past the lawyer was primarily the first port of call for most people when inquiring about a legal matter, whereby it was not unusual for people to have a “personal or family” lawyer upon which they could rely when needing legal advice, nowadays individuals don’t tend to have the same relationships with a lawyer as you would have with your GP, for example, whereby, whenever in doubt, you can turn to for advice at no cost.

Many places on the internet have been offering legal advice in the last few years and this has led to attempts to curb the availability of this content. The internet has been of great help to lawyers in advertising their services, but has also prevented them from receiving potential clients, who manage to find what they need online. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2010-12, which has cut funding for legal advice and made the rules of giving legal advice stricter, has ever increased the resorting to the internet to find a legal solution.

Rather than a lawyer giving advice and answers to questions and specific problems, lawyers are becoming, increasingly, sources for information which provide general legal advice which individuals then interpret themselves. People now often create their own legal documents based on the templates that are provided by the internet. There is also such a thing called document assembly whereby, via an interface, users answer various questions which are then incorporated into the templates. Rocket Lawyer, an American project, is one of the more advanced examples of these and is planning to launch in the UK this year.

Traffic fines is an area of the law where many look to the internet for advice, and there is much information available for contesting them. On sites like “Ticketfighter”, you can speak to a solicitor online and be given quick answers. Many people have been successful in contesting such fines which can often end up in tribunals. This area of the law clearly demonstrates the growing participation that people are having with the law.

Nowadays, the increased commercialization of the law is being demonstrated by the growth in Alternative Business Structures (or ABSs) offering legal services alongside businesses such as supermarkets. Also becoming progressively more common is a brand of firms known as Quality Solicitors, who pride themselves on taking a revolutionary approach towards the law by providing their clients with a customer service and with an option to eventually meet a lawyer in person, all at a very reasonable cost.

Other than the financial implications that having to seek a solicitor implies, there is also a practical reasoning behind this phenomenon. People must feel that for certain problems, they are better off initially pursuing a resolution themselves, or that it is not worth seeking a professional for help.

Self-service wills have also been around for sometime such as those Kay Testler and more recently of Lawpack, which can be purchased at WH Smith and have been found to be quite useful. However, using a solicitor may save money in the end, although the initial expense may be off putting, given the potential for a badly drafted will to bequeath an estate to a wholly unintended beneficiary.

It should also not be forgotten that solicitors are required by the Law Society to have professional indemnity insurance of a minimum of £2 million (and £3 million in the case of a limited liability partnership or LLP), so in the event the worst happens and your will bequeaths everything to your mother-in-law, you will always be able to seek recompense from your solicitor’s insurance policy. There is also much transactional work which only qualified lawyers are capable of doing.

This is all especially true for commercial law and many people are now representing themselves in employment tribunals for example. The government has tried to encourage resolutions to employment issues through ACAS but many unsatisfied employees have insisted on making a claim and go to the Employment Tribunal. One judge has said that he believes that the rise in “DIY lawyers” is making trials more heated and fears that it could lead to more violence.

Nevertheless representing oneself is becoming more and more common and is sure to be on the rise.  Lawyers will be undoubtedly trying to find ways of benefiting from this, and others hoping that there be greater restrictions on the advice which is available.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

This article reflects the current law and practice. It is general in nature, and does not purport in any way to be comprehensive or a substitute for specialist legal advice in individual circumstances.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

Apple acquires hundreds of LTE patents in readiness for iphone 5 launch.

Last year, Apple held precisely zero LTE patents (‘LTE‘ stands for Long Term Evolution and is to do with 4G connectivity, the next generation of super fast mobile networks).  This year, that figure has zoomed to 318.

Given that this amounts to roughly 5% of the world total, according to the Korea Intellectual Property Office, it has understandably caught attention online.

Samsung remains leagues ahead with the greatest patent share on the planet (819, closely followed by InterDigital with 780).  For this reason, bloggers have speculated that this move on Apple’s behalf is an attempt to catch up in preparation for the much-awaited release of the iPhone 5, which is rumoured to be an LTE smartphone itself.

Nonetheless, the Korean Times has reported that Samsung plans to ‘immediately sue’ Apple upon their release of any such LTE device.

Presumably out for blood after their recent defeat against the very same plaintiff, Apple can only hope that in the race for LTE patents, theirs is not a case of ‘too little, too late’.  As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

The database goliath has to pay some of Google’s tab in failed lawsuit

The American multinational hardware-software corporation, Oracle, has been ordered by Judge William Alsup to hand over $1.13 million to Google.  The ruling followed a failed patent infringement lawsuit over Google’s Android mobile operating system. The judge ruled that Google had infringed just a few lines of code, and so Oracle was awarded zero dollars in damages.

Somewhat embarrassingly, the original suit diminished from 132 alleged violations to ‘a few lines of code’, as Gavin Clarke reports.  Although victory may not have been quite in the stars for Oracle, there was some good news to be had as the judge dismissed Google’s attempt to claim back a further bill of nearly $3m in discovery fees.

Judge Alsup commented:  ‘A close follower of this case will know that Oracle did not place great importance on its copyright claims until after its asserted patents started disappearing upon PTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office] re-examination…… Indeed, Oracle’s first damages report barely mentioned copyright claims.”’.

A hasty approach is ill-advised when it comes to a patent lawsuit, regardless of the circumstances. If you are in any doubt as to your rights in an intellectual property dispute, we suggest you take specialist legal advice.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

Facebook co-operates with bloggers regarding data-collecting cookies that remain after logout from the social media project

The technological industry of today is growing hard and fast, and a new vocabulary is emerging with it.  Cookies are no longer the harmless baked goods of yesterday, but a growing online privacy concern.

It is in this light that a recent discovery by blogger Nik Cubrilovic was made, revealing that Facebook was tracking users’ visits to other sites via cookies.  This tracking was taking place not only during the Facebook sessions themselves but even post-logout from the site.

Whilst Facebook engineers were impressively quick to respond directly to the situation, modifying the manner in which cookies were stored, some cookies still survive the latest changes.  For this reason, the cautious are advised to clear their cookies after every use of the networking site before moving elsewhere on the web.

As Cubrilovic points out, ‘I believe Facebook when they describe what these cookies are used for, but that is not a reason to be complacent on privacy issues… take initiative in remaining safe’.

Given the day-to-day saturation of the modern world in online social media, the onus is now on the individual to monitor their own activities carefully – a task that should hopefully be made easier by the latest Data Protection Regulation from the EU.

This came into force this summer (2012) (as far as cookies are concerned) and requires that sites warn visitors about their cookie usage.  If you are unclear on how your site should implement cookie control in accordance with this directive, we can help.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

Apple has condemned Samsung products as infringing its copyright and a hearing is scheduled on the 20th of September to consider Apple’s claims.

The tension between these two companies is not new. Their relationship has been quarrelsome for quite some time as each tries to vie for dominance of a smartphone market estimated to be worth $219 billion.

Though Apple requested a ban on seventeen models of Samsung phone and $2.5bn in damages, the jury reduced this to $1.05 bn owing to the Apple’s overestimation of Samsung’s profits.  Apple has never been restrained when it comes to condemning the products of its rivals.  However, not all allegations have been successful.  According to the Guardian, “the jury especially decided that the Galaxy Tab tablets did not infringe the “trade dress” of the iPad – that is, appear to be a copy.”  According to Bloomberg, when the claims were not found to have violated Apple’s copyright in the products named in the trial, instead of backtracking, Apple tried to extend the ban to products such as the Galaxy Tab 10.1 with wireless connectivity, which was not originally listed in the products Apple wanted banned.

Perhaps the real impact on Samsung is yet to be seen.  As yet, Apple have successfully banned just 17 models.  Samsung sells 152 models in the US.  Under the proposed ban is the Galaxy S2, Galaxy S.  The Nexus S and the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note remain unharmed.

Samsung has kept its comments restrained yet bitter, commenting that the court’s decision “should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer.”  Samsung believes that patent law is susceptible to manipulation “to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners.”  It appears there remains a disagreement on the actual terms of commercially essential patents which is yet to be solved.

It now remains for the jury to give a $1bn verdict in Apple’s favour and Samsung awaits a decision on which of its phones may be sold on the market in the US.  Though Samsung has “strived to maintain a cheery face” against its recent defeat, ostensibly the world market is not trusting this façade.  According to the Register, the “South Korean firm’s stock price has dropped nearly 8 per cent on the news.”

As both Apple and Samsung wait with bated breath for the outcome of the most recent conflict, the world waits to see if there will be a winner in the race for the perfect smartphone…

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

The Chinese web firm Cubic Network is suing Facebook as it claims that the timeline feature is in fact a breach of Xiong Wanli’s copyright.  It is believed that ‘friendly’ US lawyers have advised Xiong to file a case.

In 2011, Facebook introduced the Timeline feature allowing members to display their photos, comments and messages in chronological order on their ‘homepage.’  Cubic networks claim that they had the idea three years before, in 2008.

The allegations do not end there.  Xiong is believed to have claimed that the logo of Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference is also a mimic of their own logo.

The Chinese seem intent on suing.  Only recently, they tried to sue Apple over coining the name ‘iPad’.

The public is not the only group to question the Xiong and the Cubic Network’s actions.  It is curious why the Chinese are only raising the case now.  Perhaps Cubic Network is hoping that the giant social networking monster will come down and will provide a hole in the market for a website of their own to be the new dominator.

If you have a copyright idea (and it is genuinely original, or sufficiently different from a base work as to have its own copyright), then you should create an audit trail showing you are the original creator of the work.  If you are in any doubt as to how to do this, we can help you work out what would constitute an original work and what might be deemed to be a copy.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog

Companies are being encouraged to introduce well-drafted media policies to ensure employees know their boundaries and the consequences if their actions do not comply with expectations.

The Medical Protection Society’s head of medical services, Dr Nick Clements has reported that as much as a third of all society members use Facebook on a daily basis.   ‘It is all too easy for boundaries between our professional and private lives to become blurred’ said Dr Nick Clements.  Although a smaller crowd use Twitter the same dangers apply.  A single post on any of these sites can jeopardise the individual’s career as well as the company for which they work.

This policy swings both ways.  The private lives of the employee should not be readily available to clients and the general public.  Developments in the technology world mean that almost anything can be tracked. Should companies therefore ban the usage of personal social media altogether?

Though some believe ‘anonymously’ posting information is safe, this is not the case.  Identity can also be traced via an IP address.

Companies and medical organisations alike, must decide to what degree they will or will not tolerate the personal and business use of social media.  They would be advised to offer training for employees concerning their involvement and usage limitations with sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  For example, some Doctors use doctors.net.uk and must not forget that the same code of conduct applies for such sites as for the more obvious social network media.

Ultimately, employees must remember that their behaviour can be traced, anything written be it for work or recreational purposes must be entirely compatible with employment standards.  Every company should have an up to date, accessible and comprehensive social media policy applicable to all past and present employees.

If you are unsure as to what such a policy should contain, or how it can be enforced against employees who breach it, we can help you draft one or deal with a difficult employee who has put your company’s reputation in jeopardy.

© Brian Miller, Solicitor, 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

Brian is a solicitor at Stone King LLP.  For further news and information on legal topics of interest, please visit Brian’s other blogs:

Brian Miller Solicitor’s Games Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s IP Law Blog
Brian Miller Solicitor’s Privacy & Data Protection Law Blog