Sunday, April 28, 2013

linkedin bounced my essay about WCC (too long), so I'm putting it here

OK, so I suffer from diarrhea of the fingers.

This would not fit in the description of what I was doing at WCC


I started out thinking I wanted to retrain in biology.  I took two semesters of biology.  My next move was supposed to be to take Anatomy and Physiology.  I decided that I could not waste a single additional precious brain cell on memorizing body parts, which struck me as the most deadly boring possible activity.  My favorite part of biology was cellular respiration, which was the most similar to the work I had already been doing in patent law.

Then I went to chemistry, which was an improvement over biology, but the course was fairly rinky dink and the part I liked best was the part that dealt with the physics that was most close to my father; which brought me back to why I studied physics in the first place: my father was a famous physicist.

So I switched over to 2 semesters of electrical engineering.  Immediately, I felt much more at home.  These were the kind of people I went to college with and the kind of topics I loved studying.

I concluded that I had not made a mistake in college by studying physics, computers, and electrical engineering.  This was really the area I loved and love, much better than biology and chemistry.  That was a relief, knowing that I did not make a mistake back then.  I think one of the things that dominates your thinking, when you're in your fifties, was "Did I make a mistake in my earlier choices?"  NO. I didn't.  Physics was the right major.  Thank you, God.

Anyway, then, on a lark, I auditioned for X-factor in May of 2012.  I went to Providence Rhode Island.  There were 7,000 people there.  I got through two rounds of auditions, which meant there were only a few hundred people left.  That was May 11, 2012.  

The third round was a video tape that was sent to Los Angeles for review by the show's producers.  I was told that if I was going to get on TV, in front of the celebrity judges, I would hear back by June 27.

That time period coincided perfectly with the first summer term of Westchester Community College.  I dropped everything and took acting and voice for five weeks as a full time student.

I didn't get called back.

But the idea was planted.  I like performing.  I don't like sitting in front of stacks of paper reading technical information with no contact with people and no opportunity to actually see any physical products.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sexism in IP law


On April 26, 2013, I attended an event called the "Fashion Law Institute."  This even was timed to coincide with world IP day, and was co-sponsored by NYIPLA and AIPLA at Fordham Law School.  I don't normally do fashion law, but I went, because it sounded interesting.

Speakers included attorneys, a law professor, and fashion designers, and was situated in a delightful atrium, with a free bar and finger food.  If you did not want CLE credit, you did not have to pay anything.  Such a deal!

I had somehow thought that the copyright law had been reformed so that fashion designs could now be copyrighted.  I was mistaken.  They still can't be.  

There was a heart wrenching story there of an independent fashion designer who designed what was clearly an innovative and never before seen collar on a dress, posted it on Facebook, and had it ripped off by big name labels immediately.

Another speaker, an attorney, spoke of being able to protect copyright in photos of dresses & therefore sue those producing knock-offs based on their photos of their products -- when the dresses themselves were not protectable.

Another speaker had gotten a utility patent on a novel structure for a girdle and had gotten a multi-million dollar settlement against an infringer.

On the whole, though, the feeling was a bit dismal that designers could not protect their original designs.  Design patents would take too long, given that a design was probably only useful for a single season.

Moreover, designers were depressed that they would graduate from top notch schools and find that their new employers were not interested in their designs, but only in knocking off the designs of others.

As I was listening to this, I remembered my days back at Kenyon and Kenyon, doing litigation support for the great cookie litigation.   This was a litigation between Proctor and Gamble as patentee, and Nabisco, Keebler and Frito-Lay as defendants.   It concerned a patent on cookies.

It was hornbook law that recipes for the preparation of food could not be patented.  The patentees there got around that, by using a smoke screen of elaborate machines to measure texture of the cookies and elaborate calculations on measurements taken by the machines, so that the Examiner reading the patent did not suspect that it was actually a recipe.  It looked so very high tech.

So sitting there, looking at all these clothing designers, who were primarily women -- and thinking of those who create recipes, most of whom are likely also women -- I had an abrupt realization that there is something fundamentally sexist about the intellectual property law of this country.  Creative people in traditionally female fields are denied protection for their inventions.  

This seems to be a way of disenfranchising women and denying us access to the benefits of Intellectual Property --- another way that men rig the system to keep women in poverty: barefoot, pregnant behind the plough.

Interestingly, we were informed that other countries do not have the same law as we do.  Fashion designs are protectable in many other countries, such as the European Union and China.  

Here we are running about telling the world that IP is *so* important.  Yet, in this area, which nevertheless represents a substantial industry, we are the rogues, allowing designs to be stolen freely.

Why?

This seems like supreme hypocrisy on our part.

And, as I said before, profoundly sexist.

We learned that there is copyright legislation being considered that would allow fashion designs to be the subject of copyright in the USA.

I hope the readers, if there are any such, will contact their Congress Critters -- as my ex husband used to call them -- in support of such legislation.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Health Savings Accounts


For people who have health insurance plans with a high deductible, the tax code and/or regulations provide the possibility of a Health Savings Account (HSA), to which one can make tax deductible contributions for the purpose of covering health expenses not covered by insurance.

The problem here is that the contribution limit for an HSA is 3250, while the deductible for my insurance from the New York State Bar Association is $5000.

The contribution limit should be the same as my deductible.