Saturday, May 26, 2007

Identity Theft - 7 Steps for Surviving Identity Theft

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I am a victim and a survivor of identify theft.

How did I survive?

I created a system and prepared for a fight. My system which included perseverance, patience, and organization made it possible to battle the businesses, the collectors and the courts. I won every battle I chose to fight and I did not pay one bill that was created by the identity thieves.

Here are 7 strategies I used in my battles.

1. You are alone. Be prepared to fight this war alone and choose your battles wisely. The police will be of little help and the government agencies will even do less.

2. Close your bank account. Contact an account manager immediately, inform him/her what has happened and close your account. Next, tell the manager that you would like a notarized statement confirming that the check was a forgery and a notarized statement that confirms your true signature. If all goes well, open a new account immediately to handle your new transactions. If the bank is uncooperative seriously consider changing banks.

3. Get a police report. Contact your local law enforcement and request a case number. If you have to, demand one. Don't let them brush you off, it will cost you later. Make sure you have copies of the check or checks and the affidavits from the bank. The next morning go to the police department or court house to obtain a copy of the crime report. It will cost about five dollars but it will well worth it.

4. Contact the credit bureaus . As soon as you have obtained your case number and the officer has left, call the major credit bureaus and request a credit report watch. This will be a bit inconvenient but well worth it. In most cases if you call one of the bureaus you can file with the other two at the same time. The watch will be in affect for about six months and should be sufficient for most situations.

5. Organize your materials. The major key to winning the war is to stay organized. You must make multiple copies of all your evidence and keep your originals in a separate file to insure that you don't mail the originals. Then set up files for every company or bill collector that contacts you and make copies of everything that receive or send. The paper trail is your friend.

6. Don't trust bill collectors or the company. Don't trust any bill collector or company to do things for you. They are not your friend. They want the money and don't care from whom it comes. Also watch out for a company and a bill collector to try collecting the same bill. Even after you have sent one of them all your information. This is a ploy to confuse you and get the money.

Warning: DO NOT PAY any bill that is not yours. Once you pay a collector, the others will pounce on you. You have given in and have lost leverage.

7. Be patient. The whole process requires patience. Don't panic and stand your ground with the bill collectors. If you didn't make the charges don't let them scare you into paying. They will use every trick in the book. They will even accuse you of filing a false report to get out of paying your bills. You don't have to tolerate that kind of treatment hang up on them and make them contact you again and demand to speak to someone else.

Remember you are in this alone, you must keep excellent records and never pay anyone you don't truly owe. Remain diligent, calm, and consistent you will win the war.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Intellectual Property Audit - Finding What You Have (Part II of V)

One traditional definition of an intellectual property audit is "a cataloging of a organization's intellectual property assets." It is required for an organization to meet its due-diligence requirements for mergers, acquisitions, or other transfers. Today, organizations see an intellectual property audit not only as a balance sheet for intangible assets but also, more importantly, as a self-evaluation that the organization constantly and consistently engages in to determine the value of its own assets, determine how to best capitalize on those assets, and keep abreast of the changing values of its assets in the face of the ever-changing economic and legal ecosphere.

Who Should Conduct an Intellectual Property Audit?

"Intellectual property audit" is perhaps something of a misnomer. It indicates that the audit is a mere counting up of assets, and the person conducting the audit merely adds up the intellectual property found in the organization and reports the value. Nothing could be further from the truth. An intellectual property audit is an inherently legal undertaking , and should therefore be performed by a team consisting of at least an attorney with expertise in the law of intellectual property, either in-house or outside counsel, or by the in-house personnel of the organization, if they have sufficient knowledge of the organization's intellectual property to perform the activities required for an intellectual property audit of the organization. An intellectual property audit is not an accounting function. The intellectual property audit is an assessment of the legal status and value of an organization's intellectual property, especially targeting those areas where the marketing and management goals of the organization and the existing protection of the organization's intellectual property are somehow not well suited to each other. The attorney or attorneys and other team members (the team might consist of the intellectual property attorney and at least one representative from each of the management, marketing and technology areas ; because of the inherent legal significance of the intellectual property audit, at least one member of the team must be an intellectual property attorney) selected to perform the audit should therefore have some expertise with the organization's technology, the marketing and management goals of the organization, and have some familiarity with what is involved in intellectual property protection: prosecution of the registration application, maintenance of the property, and on through defense of the intellectual property through litigation and the appellate process.

When to Conduct an Intellectual Property Audit

When should an organization consider conducting an intellectual property audit? Attorney Leslie J. Lott has identified several appropriate times in the life of an organization for intellectual property audits ; in this subsection, I borrow heavily from her listing and commentary.

New Intellectual Property Management

If the organization has new intellectual property management, the new intellectual property manager should have a thorough intellectual property audit performed to become familiar with the status of the portfolio.

Merger, Acquisition, Significant Stock Purchase

A significant corporate change (merger, acquisition, significant stock purchase) can impact intellectual property ownership; this is another signal for an intellectual property audit.

Transfer or Assignment of Interest in Intellectual Property

A transfer or assignment of intellectual property from one organization to another calls for an intellectual property audit of both organizations' intellectual property. Here, the intellectual property audit allows the organizations to be sure the transfer or assignment meets the interests of both by ensuring that the intellectual property is properly protected and enhances the acquiring organization's existing intellectual property interests, and that the intellectual property does not leave any unplanned vulnerabilities for the organization transferring the interests.

Licensing Program

An intellectual property audit should be performed when an organization sets up an intellectual property license or licensing program, and on a regular basis thereafter. This is important whether the organization is the licensor or the licensee.

If the organization licenses its intellectual property to others, it must of course actually own the intellectual property that it is licensing. Also, there must be no existing licenses that would interfere with the proposed new license.
If the organization is the licensee, obtaining the intellectual property rights of another, the audit determines that the scope and extent of the license to be obtained is adequate for its purposes.

Significant Change in Law

A significant change in case or statutory law may require an organization to re-evaluate its intellectual property.
One such change in statutory law occurred when Congress passed the federal anti-dilution statute. This change in the law significantly impacts the analysis of the potential liability of an organization for infringement of the trademarks of others and also affects the analysis of whether or not others are infringing the organization's rights.

Four examples of case law which arouse the need for an intellectual property audit are the Qualitex case (which deals with the protection of color as a trademark), the Sony case (which deals with the question of whether a device that can be used for copyright infringement is itself an infringement of copyright), the Festo case (which deals with the Doctrine of Equivalents in patent prosecution), and the KSR case (which deals with the concept of obviousness in patent law).

Financial Transactions Involving Intellectual Property

Financial transactions involving intellectual property might include loans, public offerings, private placements, or any other transaction which directly involves an organization's intellectual property, or in which the intellectual property of the organization is or could be significant.

New Client Program or Policy

An organization should conduct an intellectual property audit in connection with new programs or policies, such as an aggressive foreign filing program, new marketing approach or direction, expansion of a product line or services, corporate reorganization, or any other corporate change that could affect the interaction between the organization's intellectual property and the marketplace.

Continued in Part III.

Copyright 2003, 2007, Nancy Baum Delain. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Identity Theft In You Mail Box? Tips On How To Stop Junk Mail And Credit Card Offers At The Source

There are literally thousands of methods identity thieves enlist to stealing
vital personal information from consumers and small business owners. "Phishing" scams
sent via e mail, shoulder surfing at ATM machines, fraudulent telemarketing calls, public
records access through local government agencies, identity theft at the workplace: the
list goes on and on. Amazingly, it doesn't always take someone who is technologically
proficient to get their hands on your social security number, credit card information or
home address. The chain of ID theft commonly starts with a method that existed long before
the Internet, e mail, telemarketing or ATM's: the dreaded "Junk Mail List".

Dumpster diving identity thieves and computer hackers represent only a small
fraction of the faceless armies constantly working to ruin your financial identity.
Contrary to popular belief, junk mail, specifically credit card offers, are typically
the culprit. In fact, every credit card offer you receive is an invitation to have
your identity stolen, and your credit ruined. These "mail box marauders" are probably
the most brazen identity thieves, right up there with common burglar. Stealing mail
directly from your mailbox is by far the riskiest method, which leaves the potential
of being identified from eyewitnesses. Never the less, it does in fact occur and is a
Federal offence.

Needless to say, the most effective way to avoid this financial nightmare is
to prevent it from happening in the first place. Though ID theft is growing problem
for consumers and small business alike, it is not an inevitable part of modern life.
Hence the old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". And that
ounce of prevention begins right at home, in your mailbox.

Over 4 million tons of paper "junk mail" are mailed in the U.S. every year,
and 50% of it is never even opened. These are staggering statistics and only grows
as time goes by.

Here are several tips and tricks to drastically reducing or eliminating bulk mail
and credit card offers, thus aiding in the prevention of identity theft.

Credit Card Offers- The major credit agencies all sell credit information to the highest
bidder. Direct mail and credit companies generate mailing lists based on certain demographic
information including you zip code, annual income and general credit history. Stopping these
types of offers are useful in preventing identity theft for two reasons: First, it narrows
down and separates the "legitimate" offers from potentially fraudulent offers. Second, it
simply cuts down on the amount of mail you receive, thus reducing the potential for information
to be physically stolen from your mailbox.

Simply contact the three of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis
with your current address former address within two years, and social security number. Request
to be "opted out" of these mailing lists. These requests will be granted immediately as required
by law.

First Class Mail- This is a sneaky tactic used sometimes to make a credit card offer seem
exclusive or more appealing. After you receive one of the first class offers, simply cross out
the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write exactly this: refused: return to
sender. Mail it in any mail box and it will be returned directly to the sender.

Bulk Mail in General- Your local post office will always dispose of bulk mail it cannot be delivered,
so "returning to sender" does absolutely no good. The USPS actively provides for bulk mailers to
accumulate their mailing lists. As hard as it is to belive, they actually encourage it. Simply
write "address correction requested" circle it, and drop it in any the mail box.

If Bulk Mailing persists, simply send a letter or postcard to the Mail Preference Service,
There address is: Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643
Be sure to include your full name, current address, zip code and request to "activate the preference service".
This will stop mail from all of it's member organizations for up to five years.

A Secure Mail Box- Obviously, this is probably the simplest method protect mail from
being stolen out of your mail box. Don't be afraid to buy a lock for your mail box. Get to
know your neighborhood delivery schedule and your mail carrier. Your home is the front line
in the ongoing battle against identity theft, pure and simple.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Intellectual Property is Your Greatest Asset - Four Ways to Create Value

Intellectual Property makes you or your business worth more than you can be worth on your own. IP lets you command a premium for your services. It lets you make money in your sleep. It lets you create a business that can be sold to others or passed on to your heirs.

Too often IP discussions focus only on legal rights: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, domain names and right of publicity. These are important, of course. But the are the merely legal tools for protecting key business assets. The starting point for IP should be the underlying assets: information, innovation, content, brands, names, reputation, websites, and more.

Applying IP rights to these key assets can create value in four important ways.

1. Charge a premium for your goods and services.

Consider generic cola v. COKE. Why is one worth more? Because Coca-Cola has used IP to enhance the value of a simple commodity. It receives a premium because it has a secret formula and a distinctive well-known brand. Generic cola has a formula, too, but its not secret; it also has a name, but it is not distinctive. Anyone can make cola and use the cola name. IP keeps COKE from being copied. The formula is protected as a trade secret and the brand is protected as a trademark.

2. Earn additional revenue.

Consider the average software developer v. Microsoft. The software developer is a knowledge worker paid for her labor. If she doesn't work, she can't make any money. Without her work, her business has no value. Microsoft uses IP to turn the product of many knowledge workers into property that can be licensed and sold. Once that is done, Microsoft can make money without further time and effort from the knowledge worker. Copyrights and patents are the IP rights that keep others from copying Microsoft's products.

3. Increase market valuation.

The value of a commodity business is typically the book value of its hard assets. The market value of an S&P 500 company is usually several times book value. The difference is largely the value of IP.

4. Create marketable assets.

Markets exist for the resale of IP rights. Ross Perot has invested in a $200 million IP fund based on patent assets. David Bowie raised $57 million selling bonds backed by the royalties in his recordings. These financial strategies let IP owners cash in on IP assets.

Corporations, entrepreneurs and business owners can benefit from the strategies by turning more of their business assets into valuable IP assets. Unfortunately, many ignore simple, inexpensive steps to secure these rights, leaving others - like Apple, Microsoft, and IBM - to charge ahead. What are you doing to secure your business success in the Internet age?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Debit and ATM Card Identity Theft - What You Don't Know Will Hurt You!

The biggest risk associated with ATM or debit cards is identity theft done by way of stolen PINs. To access your bank accounts, identify thieves typically have several ways of obtaining your PIN.

One way that an identity thief can obtain your PIN is if you write down your PIN and keep it together with your ATM or debit card. Never have your PIN and debit card in the same place. If someone steals your pocketbook or wallet, he will be able to use your ATM or debit card. An ATM or debit card is useless unless the PIN is also in the thief's possession. With the combination of your card and PIN, the thief would be able to use your accounts as easily as you could.

Another way that an identity thief can obtain your PIN is by watching you use your ATM or debit card or by overhearing you give your personal information. In reality, you are at the greatest risk of exposing your PIN when you are in a crowded place. It is very difficult to safeguard your PIN when people are standing very close to the ATM you are using or when you have to enter your PIN by a cash register.

Thieves get very close to you and "shoulder surf" as they watch you input your PIN into the machine. Of course, even if you trust the person you give your PIN to, is everybody near you who might overhear your conversation also as trustworthy?

Keep in mind that when a thief obtains your ATM or debit card's PIN, his next step is to try to steal your ATM or debit card from you. If a thief obtains your PIN, he is likely to try force in order to get the ATM or debit card. You need to be careful because a thief watching you enter your PIN or hearing you give your PIN could cause you physical injuries.

The third way that identity thieves obtain PINs is rather technical in nature. The police refer to this type of ATM or debit card theft as "skimming." Identity thieves use a magnetic strip card reader or a keyboard logging device and attach it to an ATM machine. These devices capture your ATM or debit card; they are very advanced, look very much like a regular card swiping device and will fool most people.

Unsuspecting folk will swipe their ATM or debit cards in these devices, thinking that they are using the real thing. Now that the thieves have your personal information, they won't need your ATM or debit card. They will make a "new" card which will look similar to your card.

Another skimming technique is done at the store, when you are the cashier. This method is much more difficult to do, but it does happen. This is when the cashier swipes your ATM or debit card a second time. You can protect yourself from this type of ATM or credit card identity theft by remaining alert to your surroundings and the things that are happening.

As long as you are able to safeguard your PIN, you should be able to protect you debit card. As soon as you suspect that your PIN has been compromised or if you misplace your card or even suspect that it has been stolen, contact your bank immediately. Your bank will issue you a new ATM or debit card and you can choose a new PIN.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Yale Law Journal's Official Response

Journal editors and members of the Yale Law School community:

I apologize for joining this discussion somewhat late. The Journal officers and the Symposium Committee have been monitoring the discussion that has taken place over the class lists. Over the course of many hours today, we discussed the question of how to proceed, and we thought it would be best to communicate everything in one email. But before I get into the details of how the Journal accepted this piece, how we have responded to the concerns raised over the past few weeks, and the reasoning behind our ultimate decision, I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion thus far. The importance of this issue--to the Journal and the school--cannot be understated.

First of all, I think it would be helpful to explain how and why the Journal accepted this piece.