18 March 2010

Cyberspace April 2010


Would you go to camera.canon? Apparently the first company to take steps to acquire its own top level domain (TLD) is Canon. This means it will be able to have an internet address such as  printers.canon. Why would Canon want to spend a lot of money on acquiring the domain and running a TLD (which isn't cheap)? I suppose this isn't a huge business expense, compared to, say, a national marketing campaign. It probably isn't for brand protection, since the rules and costs around TLDs will probably rule out domain name squatters.

But speaking of brand protection, Colombia's (.co) registrar  will soon loosen its rules limiting names to the third level name space (eg lawsociety.net.co). This means that we could see lawsociety.co one day. Given that typing .co instead of .com is a relatively common mistake, brand protection principles suggest that acquiring a .co domain is going to be a nice money earner for Colombia. The process started on 1 March 2010.

Another change is happening in the .uk name space, as the registrar (Nominet) is considering allowing one and two character third level domains (eg:  uk.co.uk). This will benefit companies well known by two character names such as HP (Hewlett Packard).


The National Broadband Network (http://www.nbnco.com.au) hasn't been particularly well communicated to the average voter. It will be a wholesale provider of high speed internet connectivity, from whom your average ISP such as iiNet or Internode will purchase services. Most ISPs purchase some or all of their connectivity from wholesalers (eg Reach, Telstra, Vocus) then provide it to consumers. If you happen to live somewhere where the NBN has laid its network, and your ISP buys connectivity from the NBN, then you'll be on the NBN. However, if you live somewhere today where you get ADSL2 or cable then you're in good shape anyway and the NBN may never feature in your life.

The NBN fits in neatly with some proposed legislation that is supposed to be introduced in the Autumn 2010 sittings - fibre to the premises. This legislation requires property developers to either install optical fibre or nothing into new developments. Today the best speed we can get is around 20 Mb/s either over cable or ADSL2+ (which is copper wire). Optical fibre, if run to your house, can be much faster. So if you live in a new estate with fibre, and have an ISP who has linked to the NBN or other wholesalers then you're likely to see 100 Mb/s into your house. While dial up (0.056 Mb/s) and ADSL 1 (1.5 Mb/s) is unusable today, anything over 10 MB is fine. I have a solid 11 Mb/s connection and I cannot saturate that connection without some technical trickery because sites such as YouTube or Microsoft simply do not deliver data at that rate.

The NBN aims to deliver 100 Mb/s to 90% of Australians and 12 Mb/s to the rest, so there is an element of 'future-proofing'.  100 Mb/s will be merely nice to have now, and will be truly useful someday in the future. However, speed isn't everything. A fast network is like having a multi-lane freeway - you can move a lot of cars, but it doesn't change the fact it takes 10 hours to drive from Sydney to Melbourne. Without special hardware the network experience for Perth users when using a Sydney server is not a good one, no matter how fast the network is. This delay (latency) may still pose problems for remote users, no matter their speed.

12 March 2010

Apple - gone much too far

Apple Pty Limited ABN 46 002 510 054 uses a number of law firms in Australia, including Clayton Utz. CU acted for Apple in the matter I discuss here, where Apple lost, with costs against it.

Common sense and the law prevailed against Apple in a recent trade mark decision.  In Opposition by Apple Inc to registration of trade mark application 1162904 (9) filed in the name of Wholesale Central Pty Ltd Apple Inc opposed the registration of the trademark (actually an image)
in Class 9. This class covers general computer accessories, mp3 players and accessories and other goods.

dopi is, of course, ipod spelled backwards. That of itself tells you that this company and its products are not related to Apple Inc. Would you buy a router from ocsic? Would you buy a car from drof? For goodness sake, Apple, wake up. Having said that, the Applicant had a pretty dodgy explanation for the name: "Digital Options and Personalised Items." Good luck with that.

For some reason, Apple listed twelve grounds in the Notice of opposition, but only relied on sections 44 and 60 at the hearing. This means that the trade mark applicant had to spend time dealing with the other, redundant, matters, yet they were not pressed.

Apple's first argument was that dopi was deceptively similar to iPod. The Delegate politely dealt with this argument. I will deal with it thus: ha ha ha ha ha ha.

By way of intermission, I note that Apple has also registered the very attractive trade mark "IPODCAST".

The Delegate said in para 27 that Apple's counsel's analysis in relation to piggybacking on the letter "i" was "flawed." He noted that Apple had not led evidence about associated marks such as "iMac." He noted that there are "scores of parties" with marks such as IBOX, iPort, iJOG, IWAKE, IVISION and iDrive.

What led to my hilarity about this application by Apple Inc was the fact, noted by the Delegate in para 28, that Apple itself markets third party products on its own web sites at www.apple.com and www.apple.com.au (amongst many others) with names such as iSkin, iClear and iSee!! He went on to note that he has personally owned Apple products for many years and purchased associated magazines which advertise products such as iSkin, iTalk and iMic.

So, another note about the evidence... Counsel for the Applicant (the dopi people) noted that Apple had not produced any evidence of actual confusion or deception, despite having had months to do so.

So Apple was left with the last of its "twelve" arguments - s 60 - the Trade Mark is similar to a trade mark that has acquired a reputation in Australia.

Let's see...   iPod    v    dopi


Again, the Delegate gave a much more polite response than me.

So, Apple Pty Limited lost. Costs were awarded against Apple. Good result.

Apple does not own the letter "i".

09 March 2010

Bad news should travel faster - Google Mobile Sync

I'm a bit of a Google fanboy - I find many of its services very useful. The relationship is a commercial one, because in return for Google's services I give Google a set of eyeballs to look at advertisements. These services are not free services - either for Google or me.

One particular service makes my iPhone a useful gadget - Google Mobile Sync. This allows an iPhone to synchronise almost instantly with my contacts, email and calendar (all of which are Google services). This service is expressed to be in beta, although so was GMail for a long time and people relied on it.

Unfortunately, Google Mobile Sync has been flaky and unreliable for some months, and Google has, to the best of my knowledge, mentioned it ONCE on the Internet. This mention was on a support forum, and provided little information; in fact it was misleading as people had had the issue for many months before.

There was a semi-scheduled outage on 5 March 2010, but it's not clear if this has solved the problem.  Oddly enough, this issue nor the outage has been mentioned on the Official Google Australia Blog, the Apps Status Blog or any other blog that I'm aware of. I really can't understand why. An educated guess is that this has affected more than a million users, many of whom are expressing confusion as to what they've done wrong. Many, like me, have fiddled endlessly with our phones, trying to 'fix' them.

The lesson in all of this is that bad news should travel fast. If you're responsible for IT services then please don't hide your problems, hoping that no-one will notice. Tell your users that there's an issue, and if you can, tell them when it might be fixed. If you don't know, then tell them that too. Be up front so that users can make plans to work around the issue. If a user knows the expected outage time then he can either delay an activity or find another way to do it. He'll get really frustrated if he finds out too late, so that he is unable to achieve his goals some other way.