Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Monkey Business

In 2011 a black macaque monkey grabbed David Slater’s camera and started pushing the buttons.  It really turned out to be a great selfie.  However, on August 19th, 2014, the US Copyright Office refused to register a copyright for it.

Copyright law limits copyright protection to the “original intellectual conceptions of the author” and since 1884 the US Copyright Office has refused to register a claim if a human being did not create the work.  Specifically, the office will not register copyrights for works produced by nature, animals, plants or works attributed to divine or supernatural beings. Neither will they register copyrights for works created by machines or mechanical processes that operate automatically, randomly, or without creative input from a human author.

Under this standard, the monkey never really stood a chance. 

While the above story is a lot of fun, it does bring up a different question:  why would someone register a copyright?  According to the US Copyright Office, copyright protection for a work exists from the time the work is created in fixed form.  Moreover, the copyright immediately becomes the property of the creator (or his employer).  So why bother?

It turns out that copyright registration provides several benefits. 

First, registration establishes a public record of the claim.

Second, for works of US origin a copyright must be registered before an infringement suit can be brought before a US court.  In addition, if the copyright was registered within 5 years of publication, the registration acts as prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright, making it more difficult to argue that the copyright is invalid.  Registration also affects the ability to collect statutory damages and attorney fees.

Finally, copyright registration allows the owner to register the work with the US Customs Service so that they can protect against the importation of infringing copies.

In order to register a copyright, you need to provide the US Copyright Office with an application, a filing fee and a “deposit,” or a copy of the copyrighted work being registered.  The application form used depends on the type of work being registered.  The appropriate applications and instructions can be found on the ECO Registration System of the US Copyright office website.  As of this writing, the applications are on the right hand side of the page and acceptable file types for online deposits are in the center of the page.

Do not confuse a deposit for registration with the “Mandatory Deposit” requirement.  In general, the owner of a copyright has a legal obligation to deposit with the US Copyright Office two copies of the copyrighted materials for use by the Library of Congress.  Fortunately, failure to comply does not appear to impact copyright protection but can result in fines and other penalties.

Below is a summary of selected patents that have been recently issued in textile related classification codes:

Tobacco plant derived dye and process of making the same:  A dye and process to make a dye produced from tobacco plant materials In a preferred embodiment, the tobacco plants are organically grown and the stems and leaves of the plants are utilized to produce the dye. The process percolates a hot enzyme solution onto ground plant materials to produce tobacco plant fiber and the dye. The dye can be produced in many colors, does not require a mordant to bind and does not produce waste..  Patent:  8690966.  Inventor:  Devall.  Assignee:  PBO, Inc.

High tear strength flame resistant cotton fabric:  An affordable flame resistant cotton fabric with better tear strength. The 100% cotton yarn is produced using a combination of compact spinning technology and gassing and/or singeing process performed in tandem.  The yarn is turned into fabric through normal processes.  A flame retardant is applied with appropriate finishing chemicals.   Patent:  8689413.  Inventor:  Ramaswami.  Not Assigned.

Protective fabric with weave architecture:  A fiber architecture that advances soft fabric armor.  Specifically, it is a method for crimping a yarn for combined ballistic and penetration protection effectiveness in a resultant soft armor form.  The method crimps the yarn by pulling the yarn through a solution that coats the yarn. The removable coating has a thickness that ensures a proper amount of crimp in the yarn. Once the crimp is applied, families of the crimped yarns are utilized as a layer or layered to produce a soft armor form.  Patent:  8689414.  Inventor:  Cavallaro.  Assignee:  The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Navy. 

Magnetically-supported article of footwear:  A magnetically-supported shoe that supports a wearer's weight by repulsive magnetic forces from magnets arranged in and around the article's sole. Patent:  8689464.  Inventors:  Rodman and Haber.  Not Assigned. 

Jim Carson is a principal of RB Consulting, Inc. and a registered patent agent.  He has over 30 years of experience across multiple industries including the biotechnology, textile, computer, telecommunications, and energy sectors.  RB Consulting, Inc. specializes in providing management, prototyping, and regulatory services to small and start-up businesses.  He can be reached via email at or by phone at (803) 792-2183.

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