Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

July 2014 Archives

For 1st U.S. Patent's Anniversary, 5 Patently Fun Facts About Patents

Today marks the anniversary of the first U.S. patent. On July 31, 1790, Samuel Hopkins was issued the first patent, for a procedure for making potash.

Two hundred twenty-four years and over 8 million patents later, here are five patently fun facts you might not know about patents and patent history:

Does your online advertising strategy keep up with the latest tech and SEO trends? Let our experts take a second look.

Firm Central, 1 Year Later: Updates and Deadline Assistant

When we last caught up with Firm Central, a cloud practice management program created by our corporate cousins in Minnesota, we came away impressed with its debut, calling it amazing, especially for those who love WestLaw and Outlook. To put it simply, it was more robust than any other platform we had ever tried, almost to a fault.

The fault was this: a lot of features, some only loosely integrated from other West products, that could be a bit overwhelming without a training session. Fortunately, the fine Firm Central folks helped me with a remote install and training session last time -- and did the same this time, both as a refresher course and to show off the big new feature, Deadline Assistant.

Does your online advertising strategy keep up with the latest tech and SEO trends? Let our experts take a second look.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

When will it stop? We have been hearing about cyberhacking for years, and rather than hack attacks dropping out of the news, we continue to be inundated with reports of successful hacks. This time the latest victim is the European Central Bank.

Perhaps you are thinking that because hacking is nothing new, methods and technology should have been developed to thwart hackers in their tracks. And it is true, there has been significant progress in this regard.

Unfortunately, as time marches on, the techniques and technological prowess of hackers has advanced too.

New App Fights Parking Tickets for You, but It's 'Not an Attorney'

The "sharing economy" allows you to make money by "sharing" your car and your house. You can also enlist others help you with physical tasks as well as mental ones.

Until recently, at least one company thought you could share your San Francisco public parking space, but the San Francisco City Attorney quickly put that one to bed, as SF Weekly reported.

It's too soon to be sharing our underwear and kidneys -- the inevitable endpoint of our dystopian future -- but a new app called Fixed is here to help you fight your parking tickets. That's a nice service, but is it legal?

Does your online advertising strategy keep up with the latest tech and SEO trends? Let our experts take a second look.

Apple's Plans for Fall: Yosemite, Retina MacBook Air, 4K iMac?

We had planned to make today's column a preview of OS X Yosemite, as the public beta was released yesterday to the first million people who signed up. Alas, Apple is popular and this error happened repeatedly. (Tip: Supposedly, deleting the Yosemite file from your applications folder and restarting the download does the trick. It's still not working for us, but we'll keep trying.)

But Yosemite isn't Apple's only big plan for the fall. In addition to the iPhone and iOS 8 rumors that we've gabbed about, there are rumors that upgrades are coming to the company's desktop and laptop lines as well -- including the long-awaited "Retina" MacBook Air.

What Does Microsoft's 'One Operating System' Talk Really Mean?

During Microsoft's recent earnings call, CEO Satya Nadella stated that the company would "streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system," relates The Verge.

"This means one operating system that covers all screen sizes."

This isn't the first mention of a one-OS-fits-all vision -- Windows Threshold has been in the rumor pipeline for months, if not years, after all. But, it is certainly the clearest. Microsoft's vision is simple: phone, tablet, laptop, PC, Xbox, whatever -- one operating system and one set of universal apps that work everywhere.

This Budget Phone is Microsoft's Biggest Hope

Microsoft sold about 5.8 million Lumia smartphones in a mere two months, a pretty impressive number considering nobody you know actually owns a Windows Phone. Out of all of the Windows-based phones in the wild, one model is far more popular than any other: the Lumia 520, which makes up 31.6 percent of all active Windows phones, according to AdDuplex. Add in the slight variant 521 and you have 36.4 percent of the phone's OS share covered by what is essentially one model.

The 520 is also ancient and doesn't even support 4G. But it is insanely cheap, often going on sale for less than $100 for a fully functioning smartphone.

It's successor, the $114 Nokia Lumia 530, has big shoes to fill. The new phone is not only important for helping Microsoft to capture low-end market share (against the flood of quality low-end Android devices from Motorola and others), but it also brings all of the latest Windows Phone 8.1 features to the masses, most notably Cortana.

1L Tech Shopping List: Things You Need, Things You Don't

For most incoming law students, 1L starts in just a few weeks. At this point, you're probably figuring out apartment leases, moving trucks, and tying up loose ends in your current living situation. But when 1L arrives, you'll want to be prepared and ready to jump right in.

A couple of weeks ago, we have you a list of supplies to get you started, but being the resident geek in the building, I figured a little tech talk was also in order.

Here are a few things you need, technology-wise, and some that you don't:

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

It is very easy to communicate freely and anonymously on the Internet. And some people believe that if they do not use their real names and easily identifiable information, they can basically say whatever they want online, without needing to worry about the impact that their Internet speech may have on others.

Is this true? Read on, because the answer is not simple.

Microsoft Ends Nokia Android Offshoot, Reaffirms Windows Phone OS

The Nokia Asha line of "Android X" phones was an odd bird to begin with. Announced before Microsoft acquired Nokia's hardware division, the phones were a venture into a branched version of Android (much like Amazon's Kindle Fire OS) by a company that for the previous few years, had exclusively made Windows Phone OS smartphones.

At the time, many wondered if it was the first step towards backtracking on the Windows Phone OS exclusivity. Then after Microsoft acquired Nokia, it seemed destined for the trash bin -- except, a couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released a second batch of the phones, long after the acquisition. We really hope you didn't buy one.

EsqSocial: Because Lawyers Plus LinkedIn Equals PROFIT

"You know what would be a great idea? Like, LinkedIn, but for only lawyers man."

"Totally man. Like lawyers and social media and stuff."

Damn it, damn it, damn it. Why didn't I think of this? Oh wait, that's right, because it has been been done -- repeatedly: (deep breath) EsqSocial, Foxwordy, EsqSpot, LegallyMinded, Lawford, MyPractice, Lawyer-Link, HubSTREET, PivotalDiscovery, ESQchat, Martindale-Hubbel Connected, LegalOnRamp, Lawyrs, LawLink, jdOasis, wirelawyer, and of course, the AboveTheLaw comments section. And we'll never forget the Greedy Associates message boards.

Why, in the neon blue hell, do people keep making social networks for lawyers? Seriously.

5 Reasons Microsoft's Battle to Protect Cloud Data Matters

A United States court issues an order to Microsoft, requiring them to turn over data from a suspected drug dealer. No big deal, right? What if that data is stored in the cloud, technically on a server in Dublin, Ireland? Can that court order reach into the ephemeral cloud, and across political borders into a physical server in a foreign country?

That's the issue being debated in this landmark case, creatively captioned In the Matter of a Warrant to Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained By Microsoft Corporation. (We'll stick with In re: MS Email.) Here are the five biggest things at stake in the case:

Google Authorship in Search Gets Trimmed, Google+ Gets Fake Names

For some, Google+ Authorship in search results was a magic elixir: your photo and name next to your posts in search results would spike traffic and maybe even help with ranking. Some claimed that adding Authorship bumped up their traffic as much as 150 percent. In one of my favorite experiments, Cyrus Shepard at Moz optimized his "ugly" profile picture using a dating site, which led to a 35 percent bump in traffic.

Crazy, right? Well, at least now, with the removal of Google+ profile pictures and circle counts, us unfortunate-looking folks have a fighting chance. And speaking of Google+, another interesting tweak went through this week: fake names are now allowed. Add in April's decision to gut Google+'s staff, and this is looking more and more like G+ is inching closer and closer to obscurity.

ABA States Obvious: Suing File Sharing Pirates is a Stupid Idea

The ABA's Section of Intellectual Property Law just released an interesting white paper, one that every Internet Law geek should read: "A Call For Action in Online Piracy and Counterfeiting Legislation." It's an exhaustive 133-page PDF file that delves into everything from taking action against individuals and predatory foreign websites, to legislation meant to aid in the defense of intellectual property against online piracy. Personally, I'm especially curious about what the ABA has to say about controversial legislative proposals, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was protested against by pretty much the entire Internet.

But for now, here's a little tidbit of advice from the paper that is obvious to anyone who has followed the waves of filing file-sharing lawsuits against individuals over the past couple of decades: it isn't worth it. (H/T to Ars Technica.)

No, Windows 7 is Not Being Abandoned by Microsoft Any Time Soon

"Mainstream Support ends January 13, 2015."

This past weekend, a flood of tweets started popping up, warning people that, just like Windows XP's end of life earlier this year, Windows 7 would be killed by Microsoft in January 2015.

Not quite. If you're using Windows 7, you can continue to do so safely for at least the next five years. The only thing that will change for most people is that Microsoft will not release any new features after the end of "Mainstream Support." Security fixes, however, will continue until January 14, 2020.

6 Features That Smartwatches Need Before Becoming 'Must Buy'

Smartwatches. They're coming at us in waves, with Google's friends pushing two to market at the recent Google I/O conference and a third one set to follow soon. That's not to mention the dozen or so that have already been released by the likes of Samsung, Qualcomm, and others. And rumors of Apple's iWatch continue to proliferate, with many expecting it to arrive on store shelves later this year.

Why? Does anyone, outside of the core group of hardcore tech geeks, really want one of these things?

Chromecast Screen Mirroring for Android is Here and It Is Glorious

It's my phone's screen on my television screen. And it only requires a compatible phone, a $35 Chromecast, and a Wi-Fi connection.

Why is this so awesome? It's because I can do anything on my phone (presentations, software demonstrations, toss up videos or pictures, or show off a document or PDF) and it displays wirelessly on a nearby television or projector.

It's just another reason why Chromecast, at $35 or less, is the perfect impulse buy and tech toy.

BlackBerry Argues for a Square-Screened Phone; Are They Right?

Yesterday, I was having dinner with a friend, one that is definitely a Crackberry addict. Where the NRA says, "From my cold, dead hands," about firearms, she feels the same way about her QWERTY-equipped BlackBerry Q10. I mentioned the company's upcoming devices, specifically the 4.5-inch BlackBerry Passport, a phablet with a square screen and, of course, the QWERTY.

Her response? An unhesitant "When?"

BlackBerry has one fan, at least. But will they gain additional productivity-obsessed fans with their new square screen phone? In a recent blog post, the company sang the virtues of a massive square screen, instead of the otherwise ubiquitous smartphone rectangle.

Do they have a point?

Law and Video Games: Teaching Tool, Being Cool

Today is Video Games Day (or at least one of them). What does this have to do with law? Not a whole lot, admittedly, but heck, give me a topic and I'll make it work on a law blog. (See: Ides of March, dog breeds, and online dating.)

When "Video Games Day" popped up on my calendar, two thoughts immediately popped into my head: a particular Nintendo game and Stephanie Kimbro's startup. One of these will help your coolness factor with the kids, while the other could be a valuable teaching and business development tool.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

More and more, people are migrating away from the traditional call-a-taxi model, and are instead searching on their smartphones for the closest Uber or Lyft vehicle. You might remember the Beatles' lyric "Baby, you can drive my car," and now Uber and Lyft drivers likely are singing to themselves, "Baby, you can ride in my car." Copasetic, right? Well, maybe....

Just when this new business model has been taking the country by storm, along comes a cease and desist order commanding Uber Technologies and Lyft Inc. to immediately stop operations in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. The two judges who issued the order have ruled that Uber and Lyft cannot operate in Pittsburgh until they obtain the proper authority from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). And to top this off, the judges have taken the position that the order prohibiting operations will not be stayed while this matter is reviewed by the PUC.

In the tech industry, a company may only be as strong as its non-compete agreement -- at least that's what Amazon thinks. Back in 2010, Amazon sued a former Sales VP Daniel Powers, after he accepted a new role at Google. In a bit of déjà vu, Amazon is again suing another one of its former employees that went to Google.

Will this case be more successful? We'll have to wait and see.

Project Volta is the Real Reason We're Excited for Android L

What is the most important specification in a smartphone? It's not the operating system (Android, Apple, BlackBerry, or Windows). It's not the screen size, storage, processor speed, or camera. It's the battery life, because as we've all found out, our smartphones are pretty darn useless when they're dead -- and they're always dying.

Android L, the next version of the mobile operating system, will be a lot of things: a design update, a move from Dalvik to the faster ART runtime, some to be determined reference to a dessert. But more than anything, Android L excites us because of Project Volta.

Volta. Volt. Voltage. Power. Battery Life. Get it?

TLDs: Google Enters Domain Game With .esq; .io

How important is a domain name? Very important.

Consider this: what's easier to remember or put on a business card: familylaw.esq or losangelesfamilylawattorney.com? With .com becoming increasingly crowded, short names are hard to find. That's why we're excited about the new Top Level Domains (TLDs).

Earlier this year, we reported that a Google shell company had registered a ton of these new TLDs, including .esq. Now, the company's plan is coming to life: a domain registration service, like GoDaddy, that will provide access to the company's newly acquired 101 TLDs.

Windows Threshold: Old Desktop Returns, Free Upgrades for All?

This fall, Microsoft will release an update for Windows 8.1, but it is not the one you (and we) are hoping for. It's rumored to be a smattering of bug fixes, security updates, and minor interface tweaks -- basically a service pack.

The good stuff, the stuff mentioned at Build 2014, the stuff that will make Windows 8.x usable, is being held over for Windows Threshold (the code name for what will probably be Windows 9). According to ZDNet, Microsoft's goal for Threshold is to get as many holdout Windows 7 users to switch over as possible, and to get there, the company will basically revert Windows to the classic desktop scheme, if a keyboard is attached.

But even more exciting is this: it might be free.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Jurors always are admonished by judges not to conduct any independent factual research with respect to the cases they are considering. In this way, the rules of evidence will be adhered to and jurors will only be permitted to evaluate evidence deemed admissible and relevant by the judge.

But what about lawyers? How much sleuthing can they do with respect to the potential and actual jurors for their cases? Can they, for example, snoop on social media sites to learn more? Read on.