Friday, May 25, 2007

Apple Thinks it can Forbid Others from Using Silhouettes!

Back in the 80s, Apple spent a lot of money suing Microsoft with a claim that Apple had copyright to the "look and feel" of an icon-based computer operating system -- even though they did not originate that idea. They lost. They now are making an even more improbable claim -- that they have the sole right to use silhouette images in advertising. They are suing a British vendor of "adult" products:

"High street adult retailer Ann Summers has landed itself in a heap of trouble with Apple. The retail chain has been promoting a sex toy called the iGasm, a device which connects to any music player and offers users an erotic vibrating treat in time to the beat.

A News of the World report claims Apple is furious about Ann Summer's promotion of the device, and is demanding all posters for the gadget be taken down, under threat of court action....

Apple is claiming the ad to be an abuse of the silhouette-based images it uses in its own advertising.


I suppose it is slightly less absurd than the claim by chocolate manufacturer Cadbury that they own the color purple!

Maybe claims like this come out of the firms' advertising budgets -- on the grounds that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That may not be a big help, though. Back in the '90s Lotus failed in another "look and feel" lawsuit and who uses Lotus spreadsheets now? Microsoft Excel rules the roost there.

Yet more cutbacks for already-overstretched NHS maternity wards

Almost one in three maternity units in England could close because of expected cuts in doctors' working hours, the Conservative Party claims. Figures released yesterday suggest that 50 out of 176 consultant-led maternity units across the country are under threat of being downgraded or closed if guidance being used in some NHS trusts is applied nationally. Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has admitted that the number of units staffed by doctors could be cut under European rules to limit the hours doctors spend on wards.

The European Working Time Directive is set to reduce the number of hours doctors spend on wards to 48 hours a week by August 2009. The changes could lead to a reduced number of consultant-led maternity units because of a lack of staff.

Maternity units in Manchester, Teesside and other parts of the country have already been earmarked for radical overhauls, and more home births and deliveries in local units staffed by midwives are expected as a result. But the plans are proving hugely unpopular, even though they have been promoted as being in the interests of patients and NHS staff. They could mean that mothers and babies at risk of complications during delivery will have to travel farther to receive specialist care rather than transferring to the nearest hospital.

The Conservatives' estimates are based on a report issued in February by Sheila Shribman, the Government's maternity supervisor, which explained cuts to services in West Yorkshire. Two units at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust each catered for about 2,500 births a year but, on their own, neither was big enough to justify the spend needed to retain specialist skills, she said. The average consultant-led unit currently delivers an estimated 1,800 babies a year.

The Tories suggest that if other trusts across England took Ms Shribman's recommendations as a guide, up to one in three units would close. Other guidance being circulated by NHS organisations in the East of England in turn suggests that maternity units need to deliver at least 3,000 or even 4,000 births a year to be viable.

The Tories called on the Government to delay the implementation of the European Working Time Directive in order to forestall cuts. Addressing the annual conference of the Royal College of Midwives in Brighton, Ms Hewitt said that recommendations for the potential closure of services in Manchester, for example, were "quite difficult and unpopular" but were good for babies and mothers.

Ms Shribman said yesterday that every major city and most rural communities in the country would have to consider the future of local maternity services in the light of the Working Time Directive. But she denied that there was a "one size fits all" figure for the number of births a unit had that could be applied to justify closures across England.



Britain's foreign minister on Tuesday said she expected no discussion of numerical targets for greenhouse gas emissions at a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Eight wealthy nations in Germany next month. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was asked by reporters in Tokyo whether she was concerned about a possible gap in climate change policy between the European Union and Japan, ahead of the summit at Heiligendamm in Germany.

"I don't think anyone envisages the idea that there should be some discussion about setting numerical targets at Heiligendamm," she said after a meeting with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Taro Aso. "There has been a misunderstanding of the nature of the discussions that we expect," Beckett said. "What we are both anxious to see is discussions about whether there should be a further international framework and what might be an effective framework," she said, referring to hopes that a new agreement will take the place of the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

Japan is finalising a proposal for a new global framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 2013, and plans to unveil it later this week, Kyodo news agency said on Monday, quoting government officials. But the United States, which did not ratify the Kyoto agreement, has been pushing for a strongly worded statement on climate change to be deleted from a final communique for the June 6-6 summit.


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