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Legal Aid – legal representation for the needy

Legal aid provides help to people who would otherwise be unable to afford legal representation or to gain access to the courts. Legal aid helps to ensure equality before the law, and to meet the right to counsel and to a fair trial.

The Daily Nation reports today:

Legal aid highly welcome

State-sponsored legal aid for the poor who cannot afford to hire lawyers is not a novelty in many countries. In fact, this kind of welfare activism has been in existence in the West since the mid-1900s, and it has caught on in many emerging democracies since then. But not so in Kenya. Legal aid is the assistance given to the individual if his or her financial circumstances do not allow the hiring of lawyers. Such lawyers are usually hired by the State for a specific purpose.

On Monday, Solicitor-General Njee Muturi announced the introduction of just such a measure through a Bill to be tabled in Parliament. Though it is still too early to speculate on the Bill’s contents, the important thing is that it is aimed at assisting the most vulnerable in society to access justice.

It is a fact that millions of Kenyans cannot afford legal fees. So when they are caught up in situations that require the expertise of lawyers, they lose out in almost all cases. Especially vulnerable are the poor caught up in criminal litigation. It is possible that thousands of Kenyans end up in prison due to ignorance, or because they cannot plead properly. This is justice denied that should not be allowed to continue.

Until such a law is passed, prisoners who cannot afford a lawyer rely on initiatives such as KCLF. As Advocates International puts it, “KCLF stands out as Advocates Africa’s leading example in the area of legal aid programs and legal representation for those in prison awaiting trial.”

It’s patented! (but it just won’t work)

It has been hard not to notice the recent 10 year sentence for a conman selling bomb and drug detectors across the world – which cannot have worked.

Fake bomb detector conman jailed for 10 years. James McCormick, who sold more than £55m worth of fake detectors likely to have caused Iraqi deaths, jailed for 10 years.

Happily the ones bought by the police in Kenya apparently do work; as the Nation reported: “The report contradicts a statement by Nairobi police chief Benson Githinji who told reporters on Friday that “the machines in use are serviceable and don’t fall short… They are in operation and they work.”

However, it seems the case above has not been alone, because the BBC has just reported on 29 May 2013,

Three people have gone on trial at the Old Bailey charged with making and selling fake bomb and drug detectors.

The marketing material for the Alpha 6 Molecular Detector billed it as revolutionary product. It claimed the device could detect explosives and drugs in quantities as tiny as 15 billionths of a gram at a range of 300m (980ft), using static electricity.

Those of us with long IP memories, might start to remember the  DKL LifeGuard patents, as explored by Daniel C. Rislove in his paper in the Wisconsin Law Review:

In 1996, a district court granted the United States a permanent injunction against the Quadro Corporation, enjoining Quadro from selling a class of devices variously called the Quadro Tracker, Golfball Gopher, Trailhook, or Treasure Hunter. The marketing literature for these devices claimed that they could detect unseen objects by directing the bearer of the device in the correct direction, much like a dowsing rod acts to conduct its bearer towards water.
For example, it claimed that the Quadro Tracker was capable of detecting contraband such as illegal drugs and explosives. X-rays of the device determined that it consisted of nothing more than a hollow plastic shell with an attached radio antenna. Thus, like the classic dowsing rod, the Quadro Tracker was incapable of detecting anything. The primary victims of this fraud were law-enforcement agencies, correctional institutions, and school systems.
Enter DKL International, Inc. DKL markets a very expensive, handheld device called the DKL LifeGuard — purported to be capable of detecting living humans at a distance—to government agencies worldwide. Like the Quadro Tracker, the DKL LifeGuard fails to function as claimed. Why then is DKL International allowed to market its detectors while the Quadro Corporation is enjoined from selling similar devices? One possible explanation is that the DKL LifeGuard, unlike the Quadro devices, is covered by no less than eight patents.

It seems Rislove’s full paper, “A Case Study of Inoperable Inventions: Why is the USPTO Patenting Pseudoscience?” is still raising as many questions today as it did in 2006.

Revealed: The Biggest Trademark Bullies

Over at Trademarkia, the big trademark search engine, there is an illuminating section suitable for Friday afternoons. You can look up what they describe as the ‘biggest trademark bullies‘ by class. Or consult the list of biggest victims. Moral of the story? Don’t use ‘Live’ or ‘Strong’ in your mark, or a charity will pursue you – The Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Cory Doctorow and ‘The Copyright Thing’

If you’ve read a book by Cory Doctorow, you may be familiar with what he describes as his “pretty unorthodox views about copyright”. If you haven’t read one, or better several, you’ve been missing out. If you head over to Cory’s site and download a free version of a book from it you will find this viewpoint in it:

THE COPYRIGHT THING

The Creative Commons license at the top of this file probably tipped you off to the fact that I’ve got some pretty unorthodox views about copyright. Here’s what I think of it, in a nutshell: a little goes a long way, and more than that is too much.

I like the fact that copyright lets me sell rights to my publishers and film studios and so on. It’s nice that they can’t just take my stuff without permission and get rich on it without cutting me in for a piece of the action. I’m in a pretty good position when it comes to negotiating with these companies: I’ve got a great agent and a decade’s experience with copyright law and licensing (including a stint as a delegate at WIPO, the UN agency that makes the world’s copyright treaties). What’s more, there’s just not that many of these negotiations — even if I sell fifty or a hundred different editions of this book (which would put it in top millionth of a percentile for novels), that’s still only fifty or a hundred negotiations, which I could just about manage.

I /hate/ the fact that fans who want to do what readers have always done are expected to play in the same system as all these hotshot agents and lawyers. It’s just /stupid/ to say that an elementary school classroom should have to talk to a lawyer at a giant global publisher before they put on a play based on one of my books. It’s ridiculous to say that people who want to “loan” their electronic copy of my book to a friend need to get a /license/ to do so. Loaning books has been around longer than any publisher on Earth, and it’s a fine thing.

Copyright laws are increasingly passed without democratic debate or scrutiny. In Great Britain, where I live, Parliament recently passed the Digital Economy Act, a complex copyright law that allows corporate giants to disconnect whole families from the Internet if anyone in the house is accused (without proof) of copyright infringement; it also creates a “Great Firewall of Britain” that is used to censor any site that record companies and movie studios don’t like. This law was passed in 2010 without any serious public debate in Parliament, rushed through using a dirty process through which our elected representatives betrayed the public to give a huge, gift-wrapped present to their corporate pals.

It gets worse: around the world, rich countries like the US, the EU and Canada negotiated secret copyright treaties called “The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” (ACTA) and “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) that have all the problems that the Digital Economy Act had and then some. The plan was to agree to them in secret, without public debate, and then force the world’s poorest countries to sign up for it by refusing to allow them to sell goods to rich countries unless they do. In America, the plan was to pass it without Congressional debate, using the executive power of the President. ACTA began under Bush, but the Obama administration has pursued it with great enthusiasm, and presided over the creation of TPP. The secret part of the plan failed — ACTA ran into heavy opposition in Congress and has been rejected by Mexico and the European Parliament — but the treaty isn’t dead yet, has supporters on both sides of the house who keep attempting to bring it back under a new name. This is a bipartisan lunacy.

So if you’re not violating copyright law right now, you will be soon. And the penalties are about to get a lot worse. As someone who relies on copyright to earn my living, this makes me sick. If the big entertainment companies set out to destroy copyright’s mission, they couldn’t do any better than they’re doing now. Just as this book is coming into print (February, 2013), the big American ISPs and big American entertainment companies are rolling out “six strikes” — a voluntary plan to harass people accused, without proof, of downloading, and ultimately, to disconnect them from the net. So, basically, /screw that/.

Or, as the singer and American folk hero Woody Guthrie so eloquently put it:

“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of young adult novels like PIRATE CINEMA and LITTLE BROTHER and novels for adults like RAPTURE OF THE NERDS and MAKERS. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in London. So what do you think? Leave a comment below.

Top Toy For Your Dog – and it’s patented

If you’re searching for a new toy for your dog, what do you look for? Something novel? Something which is not obvious? Of course you would and your wish has been granted:

An apparatus for use as a toy by an animal, for example a dog, to either fetch carry or chew includes a main section with at least one protrusion extending therefrom that resembles a branch in appearance. The toy is formed of any of a number of materials including rubber, plastic, or wood including wood composites and is solid. It is either rigid or flexible. A flavoring (scent) is added, if desired. The toy is adapted to float by including a material therein that is lighter than water or it is adapted to glow in the dark, as desired, by the addition of a fluorescent material that is either included in the material from which the toy is made or the flourescent (sic) material is applied thereto as a coating. The toy may be segmented (i.e., notched) so as to break off into smaller segments, as is useful for smaller animals or, alternatively, to extend the life of the toy. Various textured surfaces including camouflage colorings are anticipated as are straight or curved main sections. The toy may be formed of any desired material, as described, so as to be edible by the animal.

That’s the Abstract for United States Patent 6360693. So to sum that up, a stick made of wood to throw for a dog is described. “Clearly, such an apparatus would be a useful and desirable device.”
Back to the drawing board for my new device, an ‘Ossiform Chewing Toy For Canine Species Fabricated in an Osseous Material’.