Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trademarks, the Redskins, the Slants, and the NAACP

As a former resident of the Washington, DC area, I have a natural interest in following the brouhaha over the football team's name, which some consider to be disparaging. In one skirmish, the trademark of the Redskins name has been invalidated, although that decision is under appeal. The ramifications? If the trademark is invalidated, then anyone and everyone has the right to produce Washington Redskins products, and the team can't do anything to stop them. Opponents of the name believe that this financial pressure will cause team owner Dan Snyder to change the team name to something that can be trademarked.

But this issue goes beyond football. As Courthouse News Service notes, this can also affect music trademarks.

Simon Shiao Tam had applied with the U.S. Trademark Office to register the mark "The Slants," which is the name of the Asian-American dance-rock band for which he is the front man.

The application included images of the band name set against Asian motifs.

Finding the mark disparaging to people of Asian descent, the examining attorney refused to register it.

The Lanham Act provides that the trademark office may refuse to register a trademark the "may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute."

Never mind the fact that Simon Shiao Tam is a member of the race that is being disparaged. The trademark office is color-blind. If Dan Snyder can't do it, Simon Shiao Tam can't do it, either.

So, what other trademarks could be lost by their current owners? Take a trademark that has been around longer than the name of the Boston/Washington Redskins. Details here:

There may be a number of proprietary logos, service marks, trademarks, slogans and product designations found on this SITE, including but not limited to: The NAACP name and seal.

This language does not clarify whether "the NAACP name and seal" comes under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Trademark Office. However, other language indicates that "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" is a trademark - and the trademark has been defended in court.

Color me not surprised.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why I dumped Vlade Divac in Waze

I have adjusted to the idea of my phone talking to me. (That's a post for tymshft.) And one of, avenues that my phone uses to talk to me is the Waze app, an app that provides driving directions and information.

I've never really thought about the voice that is used by Waze to give me information, until Waze sent me a message this morning informing me that Vlade Divac could provide that voice. (Story here.)

From the perspective of someone who's been in Southern California for a while, Vlade Divac is a fomer Los Angeles Lakers center who smoked up a storm, but left the team before the Lakers' two most recent runs at titles. (Yes, the Lakers used to contend for NBA titles, not lottery picks.)

I figured I'd try it, so I downloaded the Vlade Divac voice files, and planned to use Vlade as my assistant for this afternoon's commute home. I ended up leaving the office at lunch, though, so I figured, "Why not have Vlade take me back to work?"

And Vlade guided me back to the office.

However, there was something missing, as I soon noticed as Vlade gave me directions.

In one mile, turn right.
In zero point one miles, turn right.
Turn right.

Then I realized it - Vlade wasn't saying the street names. Since all of his statements were pre-recorded, there was no way that he could say every single street name - even every single street name in Serbia.

It turns out that my regular Waze voice, Samantha, is a synthesized voice, and is one of the few Waze voices able to pronounce - or mis-pronounce - street names.

So while Vlade's voice is a novelty, technological limitations ensure that it cannot give me all of the information that I need while navigating.

So after getting to work, I switched Vlade's voice to another voice - one that does support street names.

No, not Samantha.

Tonight, Monica will guide me home, and we'll see how good my Spanish is.

I can guarantee that it's better than my Serbian.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Then it makes it hard to find the door - Eaze and #WaaS

For a generation raised on Cheech & Chong record albums and movies, the changing legal and business landscape can look...pretty rad.

The latest hit to our collective consciousness? The existence of a service, Eaze, that facilitates the delivery of products to medical marijuana patients.

As PYMNTS.COM notes in an article on Eaze's latest funding round ($10 million), the market is ready for this "given the Uberization of everything and the general lack of enthusiasm for going outside typical among marijuana connoisseurs."

However, the man is still around, narcing. Banks are reluctant to get involved in this business because banks are often Federally chartered, and the possession of marijuana is still a Federal offense.

However, momentum continues. A friend of TechCrunch writer Sarah Buhr has already come up with an awesome acronym - WaaS (Weed as a Service).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

So you want to interpret for the deaf? There's just one thing...

I do not know American Sign Language, and therefore cannot judge another person's proficiency in it. However, this page seems to indicate that John Krpan is knowledgeable in the topic.

John Krpan has taught American Sign Language most of his life. His professional teaching licenses include Virginia Postgraduate License and certifications for Administration and Supervision PreK-12, ASL and English, Maryland Advanced Professional Certificate and certifications for Administrator I & II, ASL PreK-12, English 7-12, reading and special education.John interprets ASL-English and foreign languages/gestures-English. Specializes in legal interpretation.

ASL is his native language.

We'll get back to that last sentence in a minute, because it is key to this entire post.

You can see from the text above that Krpan has various certifications attesting to his ASL abilities. Certifications are not necessarily a guarantee - heck, I could provide you with an ASL certification myself - but if the organization providing the certification is trusted and respected, then the certification allows certified people to pursue their professions - somewhat.

One of the organizations providing ASL certification is the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. And they have a mission...statement:

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. promotes excellence in the delivery of interpreting services among diverse users of signed and spoken languages through professional development, networking, advocacy, and standards.

Let's take a look at one of the certifications that RID offers, the National Interpreter Certification.

The NIC certification process begins with a multiple-choice NIC Knowledge Exam. Candidates are eligible for the NIC Knowledge Exam if they are at least 18 years old. Candidates who have passed the knowledge exam within 5 years and meet RID’s educational requirement may then take the NIC Interview and Performance Exam. The NIC Interview and Performance Examination is a vignette-based assessment using video to deliver and record the assessment.

Sounds rigorous, doesn't it? You start with the written exam, meet some educational requirements, and then have an interview.

An oral interview.

Remember that statement from Krpan that said that ASL is his NATIVE language?

You can see where this is going.

It's going to court:

Despite his experience and ability to do his job "with or without an accommodation," as defined under Americans with Disabilities Act, Krpan claims that the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Inc. discriminates against deaf interpreters because its certification process includes an oral test that a deaf person cannot possibly complete.

Obviously there are two sides to every court case, and presumably RID would argue that it is not a "reasonable accommodation" to allow deaf people to serve as interpreters.

But the irony in this whole situation is delicious. It's great for someone to desire to go out and help deaf people - as long as the helper is not deaf. You need to, able-bodied to help the deaf, I guess.

Of course, the deaf community is no stranger to political controversy. In 1988, Gallaudet University was temporarily shut down as protestors deplored the appointment of a new president for the university. The problem with the new president? She could hear. She resigned after a few days, and then was banished to Moscow. (Idaho.)