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Trump Administration Tightens Scrutiny of Skilled Worker Visa Applicants

Slashdot - 1 godzina 7 minut temu
wyattstorch516 writes: The Trump administration is tightening the scrutiny on the H-1B visa program (Warning: paywalled; alternative source). Changes would undo actions by the Obama administration. There are two big regulatory changes looming that would undo actions by the Obama administration. "The first change allowed spouses of H-1B workers the right to work. That regulation is being challenged in court and the Trump administration is expected to eliminate the provision rather than defend it," reports WSJ. "The second change affects the Optional Practical Training program, which allows foreign graduates from U.S. colleges in science and technology an extra two years of work authorization, giving them time to win an H-1B visa. The Trump administration could kill that benefit or reduce the two-year window, according to people familiar with the discussions." The Journal highlights a "series of more modest changes that have added scrutiny to visa processing": - "USCIS directed last month that adjudicators no longer pay 'deference' to past determinations for renewal applications. This means an applicant's past approval won't carry any weight if he or she applies for a renewal. - The agency is conducting more applicant interviews, which critics say slows the system. The agency spokesman says this process will ramp up over several years and is needed to detect fraud and make accurate decisions. - In the spring, the agency suspended premium processing, which allowed for fast-track consideration to those who paid an extra fee. This option wasn't resumed until October, meaning many workers who qualified for a coveted H-1B visa had to wait months for a decision. - State Department officials have been told to consider that Mr. Trump's 'Buy American, Hire American' executive order directs visa programs must 'protect the interests of United States workers.' And the Foreign Affairs Manual now instructs officers to scrutinize applications of students to ensure they plan to return to their home countries. A State Department official said the official rules haven't changed but said a 'comprehensive' review is under way."

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Google Cloud Platform Cuts the Price of GPUs By Up To 36 Percent

Slashdot - 4 godziny 7 minut temu
In a blog post, Google's Product Manager, Chris Kleban, announced that the company is cutting the price of using Nvidia's Tesla GPUs through its Compute Engine by up to 36 percent. The older K80 GPUs will now cost $0.45 per hour while the more powerful P100 machines will cost $1.46 per minute (all with per-second billing). TechCrunch reports: The company is also dropping the prices for preemptible local SSDs by almost 40 percent. "Preemptible local SSDs" refers to local SSDs attached to Google's preemptible VMs. You can't attach GPUs to preemptible instances, though, so this is a nice little bonus announcement -- but it isn't going to directly benefit GPU users. As for the new GPU pricing, it's clear that Google is aiming this feature at developers who want to run their own machine learning workloads on its cloud, though there also are a number of other applications -- including physical simulations and molecular modeling -- that greatly benefit from the hundreds of cores that are now available on these GPUs. The P100, which is officially still in beta on the Google Cloud Platform, features 3594 cores, for example. Developers can attach up to four P100 and eight K80 dies to each instance. Like regular VMs, GPU users will also receive sustained-use discounts, though most users probably don't keep their GPUs running for a full month.

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Study of Recent Interstellar Asteroid Reveals Bizarre Shape

Slashdot - 7 godzin 7 minut temu
JoeRobe writes: A few weeks ago an interstellar asteroid, now named "Oumuamua," was discovered passing through our solar system. Being the first interstellar asteroid to ever be observed, a flurry of observations soon followed. This week, an accelerated article in Nature reveals that Oumuamua is more bizarre than originally thought: it is elongated, with a 10:1 aspect ratio, and rapidly rotating. This conclusion is based upon comparisons of its time-dependent light curve to those from 20,000 known asteroids.

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Over 400 of the World's Most Popular Websites Record Your Every Keystroke

Slashdot - 10 godzin 37 minut temu
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The idea of websites tracking users isn't new, but research from Princeton University released last week indicates that online tracking is far more invasive than most users understand. In the first installment of a series titled "No Boundaries," three researchers from Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) explain how third-party scripts that run on many of the world's most popular websites track your every keystroke and then send that information to a third-party server. Some highly-trafficked sites run software that records every time you click and every word you type. If you go to a website, begin to fill out a form, and then abandon it, every letter you entered in is still recorded, according to the researchers' findings. If you accidentally paste something into a form that was copied to your clipboard, it's also recorded. These scripts, or bits of code that websites run, are called "session replay" scripts. Session replay scripts are used by companies to gain insight into how their customers are using their sites and to identify confusing webpages. But the scripts don't just aggregate general statistics, they record and are capable of playing back individual browsing sessions. The scripts don't run on every page, but are often placed on pages where users input sensitive information, like passwords and medical conditions. Most troubling is that the information session replay scripts collect can't "reasonably be expected to be kept anonymous," according to the researchers.

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UCLA Researchers Use Solar To Create and Store Hydrogen

Slashdot - 12 godzin 2 minuty temu
UCLA researchers have designed a device that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices, and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars. Phys.Org reports: The device could make hydrogen cars affordable for many more consumers because it produces hydrogen using nickel, iron and cobalt -- elements that are much more abundant and less expensive than the platinum and other precious metals that are currently used to produce hydrogen fuel. Traditional hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors have two electrodes: one positive and one negative. The device developed at UCLA has a third electrode that acts as both a supercapacitor, which stores energy, and as a device for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, a process called water electrolysis. All three electrodes connect to a single solar cell that serves as the device's power source, and the electrical energy harvested by the solar cell can be stored in one of two ways: electrochemically in the supercapacitor or chemically as hydrogen. The device also is a step forward because it produces hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly way. Currently, about 95 percent of hydrogen production worldwide comes from converting fossil fuels such as natural gas into hydrogen -- a process that releases large quantities of carbon dioxide into the air, said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the research. The technology is described in the journal Energy Storage Materials.

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Uber Expands Driverless-Car Push With Deal For 24,000 Volvos

Slashdot - 12 godzin 42 minuty temu
Uber agreed to buy 24,000 sport utility vehicles from Volvo to form a fleet of driverless autos. According to Bloomberg, "The XC90s, priced from $46,900 at U.S. dealers, will be delivered from 2019 to 2021 in the first commercial purchase by a ride-hailing provider." Uber will add its own sensors and software to permit pilot-less driving. From the report: Uber's order steps up efforts to replace human drivers, the biggest cost in its on-demand taxi service. The autonomous fleet is small compared with the more than 2 million people who drive for Uber but reflects dedication to the company's strategy of developing self-driving cars. "This new agreement puts us on a path toward mass-produced, self-driving vehicles at scale," Jeff Miller, Uber's head of auto alliances, told Bloomberg News. "The more people working on the problem, we'll get there faster and with better, safer, more reliable systems."

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iMac Pro Will Have An A10 Fusion Coprocessor For 'Hey, Siri' Support and More Secure Booting, Says Report

Slashdot - 13 godzin 22 minuty temu
According to Apple firmware gurus Steven Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo, the upcoming iMac Pro will feature an A10 Fusion coprocessor to enable two interesting new features. "The first is the ability for the iMac Pro to feature always-on 'Hey, Siri' voice command support, similar to what's currently available on more recent iPhone devices," reports The Verge. "[T]he bigger implication of the A10 Fusion is for a less user-facing function, with Apple likely to use the coprocessor to enable SecureBoot on the iMac Pro." From the report: In more practical terms, it means that Apple will be using the A10 Fusion chip to handle the initial boot process and confirm that software checks out, before passing things off to the regular x86 Intel processor in your Mac. It's not something that will likely change how you use your computer too much, like the addition of "Hey, Siri" support will, but it's a move toward Apple experimenting with an increased level of control over its software going forward.

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Google Is Working On Fuchsia OS Support For Apple's Swift Programming Language

Slashdot - 14 godzin 2 minuty temu
An anonymous reader shares a report from Android Police: Google's in-development operating system, named "Fuchsia," first appeared over a year ago. It's quite different from Android and Chrome OS, as it runs on top of the real-time "Magenta" kernel instead of Linux. According to recent code commits, Google is working on Fuchsia OS support for the Swift programming language. If you're not familiar with it, Swift is a programming language developed by Apple, which can be used to create iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS applications (it can also compile to Linux). Apple calls it "Objective-C without the C," and on the company's own platforms, it can be mixed with existing C/Objective-C/C++ code (similar to how apps on Android can use both Kotlin and Java in the same codebase). We already know that Fuchsia will support apps written in Dart, a C-like language developed by Google, but it looks like Swift could also be supported. On Swift's GitHub repository, a pull request was created by a Google employee that adds Fuchsia OS support to the compiler. At the time of writing, there are discussions about splitting it into several smaller pull requests to make reviewing the code changes easier.

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Why Hackers Reuse Malware

Slashdot - 14 godzin 47 minut temu
Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Software developers love to reuse code wherever possible, and hackers are no exception. While we often think of different malware strains as separate entities, the reality is that most new malware recycles large chunks of source code from existing malware with some changes and additions (possibly taken from other publicly released vulnerabilities and tools). This approach makes sense. Why reinvent the wheel when another author already created a working solution? While code reuse in malware can make signature-based detection methods more effective in certain cases, more often than not it frees up time for attackers to do additional work on detection avoidance and attack efficacy -- which can create a more dangerous final product. There are multiple reasons why hackers reuse code when developing their own malware. First, it saves time. By copying code wherever possible, malware authors have more time to focus on other areas, like detection avoidance and attribution masking. In some cases, there may be only one way to successfully accomplish a task, such as exploiting a vulnerability. In these instances, code reuse is a no-brainer. Hacker also tend to reuse effective tactics such as social engineering, malicious macros and spear phishing whenever possible simply because they have a high rate of success.

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US Sues To Block AT&T Purchase of Time Warner

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 23:40
The U.S. Department of Justice is suing AT&T to block its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. "The legal challenge was expected after AT&T rejected a demand by the Justice Department earlier this month to divest its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting -- which contains news network CNN -- in order to win antitrust approval," reports Reuters. From the report: AT&T's chief executive said then that he would defend the deal in court to win approval, and the company criticized the Justice Department's case on Monday. The lawsuit is "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent," said AT&T lawyer David McAtee, arguing that so-called vertical mergers, between companies that are not direct competitors, are routinely approved. "We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently," he said, adding that AT&T is confident a judge will reject the Justice Department's case.

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An Ethereum Startup Just Vanished After People Invested $374K

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 23:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A startup on the Ethereum platform vanished from the internet on Sunday after raising $374,000 USD from investors in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraiser. Confido is a startup that pitched itself as a blockchain-based app for making payments and tracking shipments. It sold digital tokens to investors over the Ethereum blockchain in an ICO that ran from November 6 to 8. During the token sale, Confido sold people bespoke digital tokens that represent their investment in exchange for ether, Ethereum's digital currency. But on Sunday, the company unceremoniously deleted its Twitter account and took down its website. A company representative posted a brief comment to the company's now-private subforum on Reddit, citing legal problems that prevent the Confido team from continuing their work. The same message was also posted to Medium but quickly deleted. "Right now, we are in a tight spot, as we are having legal trouble caused by a contract we signed," the message stated (a cached version of the Medium post is viewable). "It is likely that we will be able to find a solution to rectify the situation. However, we cannot assure you with 100% certainty that we will get through this." The message was apparently written by Confido's founder, one Joost van Doorn, who seems to have no internet presence besides a now-removed LinkedIn profile. Even the Confido representative on Reddit doesn't seem to know what's going on, though, posting hours after the initial message, "Look I have absolutely no idea what has happened here. The removal of all of our social media platforms and website has come as a complete surprise to me." Confido tokens had a market cap of $10 million last week, before the company disappeared, but now the tokens are worthless. And investors are crying foul.

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Amazon Launches a Cloud Service For US Intelligence Agencies

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 22:20
Amazon Web Services on Monday introduced cloud service for the CIA and other members of the U.S. intelligence community. From a report: The launch of the so-called AWS Secret Region comes six years after AWS introduced GovCloud, its first data center region for public sector customers. AWS has since announced plans to expand GovCloud. The new Secret Region signals interest in using AWS from specific parts of the U.S. government. In 2013 news outlets reported on a $600 million contract between AWS and the CIA. That event singlehandledly helped Amazon in its effort to sign up large companies to use its cloud, whose core services have been available since 2006.

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Apple Could Have Brought a Big iPhone X Feature To Older iPhone But Didn't, Developer Says

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 21:40
Steven Troughton-Smith, a prominent iOS developer best known for combing new software codes for references for upcoming features, over the weekend indicated that portrait mode lighting effects, a major feature in the current iPhone generation -- iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, could technically be added to iPhone 7 Plus from last year. The feature works like this: you take a picture, go to the photos app on your new iPhone and play with the "Lighting" effects. He writes: So yeah you just need to hexedit the metadata in the HEIC. Not quite sure where, I copied a whole section from an iPhone X Portrait Mode photo and it worked. Original photo taken on 7 Plus on iOS 11. Someone could automate this. Just to add insult to injury, if you AirDrop that photo back to the iPhone 7 Plus now it shows the Portrait Lighting UI, and lets you change mode. So Portrait Lighting is 100% an artificial software limitation. 7 Plus photos can have it, 7 Plus can do it.

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Eric Schmidt Says Google News Will 'Engineer' Russian Propaganda Out of the Feed

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 21:00
Justin Ling, writing for Motherboard: Eric Schmidt, Executive Chariman of Alphabet, says the company is working to ferret out Russian propaganda from Google News after facing criticism that Kremlin-owned media sites had been given plum placement on the search giant's news and advertising platforms. "We're well aware of this one, and we're working on detecting this kind of scenario you're describing and deranking those kinds of sites," Schmidt said, after being asked why the world's largest search company continued to classify the Russian sites as news. Schmidt, in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, name-checked two state-owned enterprises. "It's basically RT and Sputnik," Schmidt added. "We're well aware and we're trying to engineer the systems to prevent it."

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Dark Side of Gig Economy: Some Instacart Workers Go On Strike Over Pay That Can Be as Low as $1 Per Hour

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 20:20
From a report: Instacart shoppers and drivers -- the people who gather your groceries and deliver them to you after you order via the Instacart app -- are on strike. While independent contractors can't technically strike, via a Facebook group some of the company's thousands of employees have organized a "no delivery day" in the hopes of getting higher wages, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The strike is only taking place in a few of the 154 cities nationwide that Instacart operates in. The action may be small, but the grievances are big. While Instacart, the 5-year-old San Francisco startup, is valued at $3.4 billion, it allegedly pays its workers as little as $1 per order. Ars Technica has a great breakdown of all the issues surrounding how Instacart employees get paid and it's complex, with three different income streams coming together Voltron-like to form a wage. The result, though, is that some shoppers are being paid less than the federal minimum wage, like a Jackson, Miss., worker who put in a 19-hour week in Jackson, Mississippi, that paid out $37.75 (roughly $2/hour). That's far below the $14/hour wage that Ars Technica says Instacart is targeting.

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Another Tor Browser Feature Makes It Into Firefox: First-Party Isolation

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 19:41
An anonymous reader writes: Unbeknown to most users, Mozilla added a privacy-enhancing feature to the Firefox browser over the summer that can help users block online advertisers from tracking them across the Internet. The feature is named First-Party Isolation (FPI) and was silently added to the Firefox browser in August, with the release of Firefox 55. FPI works by separating cookies on a per-domain basis. This is important because most online advertisers drop a cookie on the user's computer for each site the user visits and the advertisers loads an ad. With FPI enabled, the ad tracker won't be able to see all the cookies it dropped on that user's PC, but only the cookie created for the domain the user is currently viewing. This will force the ad tracker to create a new user profile for each site the user visits and the advertiser won't be able to aggregate these cookies and the user's browsing history into one big fat profile. This feature was first implemented in the Tor Browser, a privacy-focused fork of the Firefox browser managed by the Tor Project, where it is known as Cross-Origin Identifier Unlinkability. FPI was added to Firefox as part of the Tor Uplift project, an initiative to bolster the Firefox codebase with some of the Tor Browser's unique privacy-focused features. The feature is not enabled by default. Information on how to enable it is in the linked article.

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Deep Learning Is Eating Software

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 19:00
Pete Warden, engineer and CTO of Jetpac, shares his view on how deep learning is already starting to change some of the programming is done. From a blog post, shared by a reader last week: The pattern is that there's an existing software project doing data processing using explicit programming logic, and the team charged with maintaining it find they can replace it with a deep-learning-based solution. I can only point to examples within Alphabet that we've made public, like upgrading search ranking, data center energy usage, language translation, and solving Go, but these aren't rare exceptions internally. What I see is that almost any data processing system with non-trivial logic can be improved significantly by applying modern machine learning. This might sound less than dramatic when put in those terms, but it's a radical change in how we build software. Instead of writing and maintaining intricate, layered tangles of logic, the developer has to become a teacher, a curator of training data and an analyst of results. This is very, very different than the programming I was taught in school, but what gets me most excited is that it should be far more accessible than traditional coding, once the tooling catches up. The essence of the process is providing a lot of examples of inputs, and what you expect for the outputs. This doesn't require the same technical skills as traditional programming, but it does need a deep knowledge of the problem domain. That means motivated users of the software will be able to play much more of a direct role in building it than has ever been possible. In essence, the users are writing their own user stories and feeding them into the machinery to build what they want.

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The Secret to Tech's Next Big Breakthroughs? Stacking Chips

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 18:20
Christopher Mims, writing for the Wall Street Journal: A funny thing is happening to the most basic building blocks of nearly all our devices. Microchips, which are usually thin and flat, are being stacked like pancakes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). Chip designers -- now playing with depth, not just length and width -- are discovering a variety of unexpected dividends in performance, power consumption and capabilities. Without this technology, the Apple Watch wouldn't be possible. Nor would the most advanced solid-state memory from Samsung, artificial-intelligence systems from Nvidia and Google, or Sony's crazy-fast next-gen camera. Think of this 3-D stacking as urban planning. Without it, you have sprawl -- microchips spread across circuit boards, getting farther and farther apart as more components are needed. But once you start stacking chips, you get a silicon cityscape, with everything in closer proximity. The advantage is simple physics: When electrons have to travel long distances through copper wires, it takes more power, produces heat and reduces bandwidth. Stacked chips are more efficient, run cooler and communicate across much shorter interconnections at lightning speed, says Greg Yeric, director of future silicon technology for ARM Research, part of microchip design firm ARM.

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Spam Is Back

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-11-20 17:40
Jon Christian, writing for The Outline: For a while, spam -- unsolicited bulk messages sent for commercial or fraudulent purposes -- seemed to be fading away. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act mandated unsubscribe links in email marketing campaigns and criminalized attempts to hide the sender's identity, while sophisticated filters on what were then cutting-edge email providers like Gmail buried unwanted messages in out-of-sight spam folders. In 2004, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told a crowd at the World Economic Forum that "two years from now, spam will be solved." In 2011, cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs noted that increasingly tech savvy law enforcement efforts were shutting down major spam operators -- including, alleged to be a major hub in a Russian digital criminal organization that was responsible for an estimated fifth of the world's spam. These efforts meant that the proportion of all emails that are spam has slowly fallen to a low of about 50 percent in recent years, according to Symantec research. But it's 2017, and spam has clawed itself back from the grave. It shows up on social media and dating sites as bots hoping to lure you into downloading malware or clicking an affiliate link. It creeps onto your phone as text messages and robocalls that ring you five times a day about luxury cruises and fictitious tax bills. Networks associated with the buzzy new cryptocurrency system Ethereum have been plagued with spam. Facebook recently fought a six-month battle against a spam operation that was administering fake accounts in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Last year, a Chicago resident sued the Trump campaign for allegedly sending unsolicited text message spam; this past November, ZDNet reported that voters were being inundated with political text messages they never signed up for. Apps can be horrid spam vectors, too. Repeated mass data breaches that include contact information, such as the Yahoo breach in which 3 billion user accounts were exposed, surely haven't helped. Meanwhile, you, me, and everyone we know is being plagued by robocalls.

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Vulnerabilities of Weak Marks and Uncurated Websites

CircleID - Pon, 2017-11-20 17:07

Dictionary words, alone, combined as phrases, modified by other parts of speech, and single letters that function as marks also retain in parallel their common associations that others may use without offending third-party rights. As a rule of thumb, generic terms are not registrable as marks until they perceivably cross a threshold to suggestive and higher classifications. Even then, if terms are capable of multiple associations (even though distinctive in a trademark sense) and there is no evidence of trespassing on complainant's rights, registrations of domain names identical or confusingly similar to marks will not violate the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP). But where domain names attract visitors for their trademark association or the resolving pages contain links to competitive products or services then they are infringing even if actual knowledge of complainant or the mark is denied.

In all UDRP disputes, there are factors that weigh heavily in one direction or the other. That a domain name registrant may claim letters are random or word combinations innocently chosen does not foreclose proof they are infringing. This raises the interesting question of weak marks and uncurated content. In the interplay between marks, domain names, and content, weak marks, and uncurated content favor complainants. By curation, I mean pruning content to avoid suggesting any association with the complainant or its competitors. This puts a premium on curated content.

The ultimate test of abusive registration in a proceeding under the UDRP is not identity or confusing similarity (which is merely a first step in establishing standing) but bad faith registration and use where respondents are shown to lack rights or legitimate interest in the domain names. This is to say that marks on the lower end of the spectrum may be distinctive when they specifically relate to goods or services, but generic when the connection to the marketplace is weak.

The letters "k" and "p" and "i," "m" and "i" (discussed below, already decided) and multiple other two or three letter domain names ("ktg" and "ivi" pending adjudication), that to mark owners are their distinctive indicators but to others are simply random letters, can be both, or more one than the other,depending on respondents' business model and use. Similarly with word combinations such as "herb" and "farm" or "print" and "factory" both of which are composed of common language parts, yet "herb" when prefixed with an "i" (the dominant part of the mark) stands higher on the classification scale as more inventive, which is not to say that under the right factual circumstances even that combination cannot be used by someone else, lawfully, but the Panel held it was not in iHerb, Inc. v. nathan hatter / blackonomics global trust group, FA1710001754609 (Forum November 16, 2017). I will return to this case in a moment.

The issue of letter strings and curation is played out in a particularly intriguing dispute between the mark IMI and the domain name. Respondent in Irving Materials, Inc. v. Black, Jeff / PartnerVision Ventures, FA1710001753342 (Forum November 7, 2017) registered the domain name in 1994 (23 years ago, although the mark predated the registration by decades!). Respondent did not appear to defend itself and lost. Why? It was not (according to the Panel) because of the default but because of the contents of the website (disclosure, the Panel, Neil Anthony Brown, QC authored the Foreword to my treatise, Domain Name Arbitration). I put this down to a curation problem; if a valuable domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a weak mark, it is necessary to attend to its contents. The Panel noted that

Complainant's screenshot confirms [that] ... the domain name contains various IMI related links and descriptions of the content located at the linked webpage.

This decision has been criticized for two reasons, namely the letters are arguably random and the length of time between registration and complaint. See Matt Serlin, UDRPs Filed–j Brand Owners Take Note (I think a better fit the title would be "Investors Take Note!) The second reason raises again the issue of laches as a complete defense, except that the equitable bar is only dusted off when there is no infringing use. Marks that predate domain names have potentially actionable claims, but only realized with proof of abusive registration, and in this particular case the proof was provided by the uncurated page to which <> resolved.

If website contents are properly curated, domain names must remain with respondents. As I read the ICI decision, the content supported Complainant's contentions. Either Respondent decided not to appear and offer a counter-narrative, or it was unaware of the proceeding. However, the Panel acted on the record before him, and that record supported Complainant.

The record in PCO AG v. Register4Less Privacy Advocate, 3501256 Canada, Inc., D2017-1778 (WIPO October 30, 2017) was better. The domain name was originally registered in 2000, although not acquired by this Respondent until 2008, which postdated Complainant's first use of its mark in commerce. The Panel explained that

A number of UDRP cases relating to three-letter domain names reflect the fact that such terms are generally in widespread use as acronyms or otherwise and it is entirely conceivable that a respondent registered such a domain name for bona fide purposes.

Obviously, each case will rest on its own factual circumstances. So, is there any evidence here which suggests that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name with the Complainant in mind? According to the Panel, there is not:

The Complainant claims to be widely known by the name "PCO" and to have a strong reputation worldwide but it has supplied no evidence in support of this assertion. In any event, the Complainant appears to operate in a somewhat niche and specialist sector and, even if the Complainant does possess a strong reputation in its field, there is nothing to support the Complainant's claim that the Respondent was "obviously" aware of the Complainant on acquisition of the disputed domain name.

Needless to say, the position would be different if the disputed domain name has been used for a website relating in some way to the Complainant's industry, but there is no evidence of any active website at the disputed domain name. The Panel continued:

[N]otwithstanding the Respondent's default, the Panel concludes that the Complainant has failed to establish bad faith. While the Panel takes account that, for whatever reason, the Respondent has not appeared in this proceeding to contest the Complainant's allegations, this is outweighed by the fact that the disputed domain name is [a] common three-letter acronym and there is no evidence whatever to link the Respondent's selection of the disputed domain name with the Complainant. The Complainant's key conclusions are unsupported and conclusory.

"Unsupported and conclusory." Those words are the kiss of death in a UDRP (as of course, it would also be in a litigation). The fact is, Complainant lost despite having a valid mark because it failed to support its contentions.

In Aurelon B.V. v. AbdulBasit Makrani, D2017-1679 (WIPO October 30, 2017) the Panel explained that although "use for PPC purposes of a domain name which is identical to a trademark, combined with an offer to sell the domain name for valuable consideration will [ordinarily] satisfy the requirements of the Policy ... [and those] precedents might have [mis]led the Complainant to believe that domaining is not admissible under any circumstances," that does not hold under all factual circumstances. What may be surprising to mark owners (although it should no longer be!) is that "speculative business models that are developed around the scarce resource that domain names are [are not unlawful]."

Two-letter strings are certainly a scarce resource. In John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Inc. d/b/a Knight Foundation a/k/a KF v. Matthias Felger, FA1709001749586 (Forum November 6, 2017) involving a two-letter string <> the domain name was registered in 1997. The Panel rested its decision on several points, including lack of evidence that Respondent could have known about Complainant (the letters are not even random, but Respondent's initials):

Complainant in effect replies by pointing to the fame of the letters KF, and it adduces several pieces of evidence to support its contention. The Panel has taken considerable time to examine the specific searches relied on by Complainant and finds them singularly unpersuasive. It is not necessary to dissect them in detail, but one illustration to show the Panel's assessment of this evidence is the search result obtained from a Google search done by Complainant designed apparently to show how KF is widely understood to refer to the Knight Foundation, as the search produces results referring to Complainant and not to others. But it seems to the Panel to be of little use to search the expressions "knight foundation" "kf" ", which appears to have been done, as it will obviously produce the results obtained.

As the Panel explains

The test should be how the market sees KF itself, standing alone, as that is the trademark claimed by Complainant, and when the same search is done of those letters together, it produces results that make no mention of Complainant but many references to parties other than Complainant. The Panel is therefore not satisfied that any of the evidence adduced helps Complainant to prove its case for a common law trademark.

There are certainly cases in which generic terms that would ordinarily favor respondents are lost for puzzling reasons. I've pointed them out in earlier essays, and also noted that in ACPA actions UDRP awards have been vacated because of the weakness of mark and curating of the website. The point that must be emphasized is that UDRP jurisprudence favors established rights (whether of mark owner or domain name holder), but parties have to recognize the evidentiary demands that float or sink a case.

To return to the beginning, to the <> dispute. Respondent stated that it would have no problem with "allowing you to buy ... from us but we will not be transferring over our product for free." It expected to be compensated for the website, which is fair enough if the evidence matches the contentions, but in this case the,

domain name resolves to a website that purports to sell cannabis products from which Respondent likely profits. See Compl. Ex G. As the Panel has observed already, the use of Complainant's trademark, creating a confusingly similar domain name and using it to promote sales of cannabis products, whether lawful or not, wrongly suggests to the internet user that the sale of such products as promoted on Respondent's website is a business activity of Complainant.

Where the UDRP jurisprudence now stands in its development is that strings of lexical characters (letters and words) that by happenstance are identical or confusingly similar to complainants' marks, but whose values are built on the semantic senses for which they are used or can be used, cannot be forfeited to complainants in a UDRP proceeding. But incorporating marks (even of the "imi" class) to sell products or services or populating websites with hyperlinks to competitive products will surely be found infringing. The burden of complainants with weak marks is to establish their reputation and respondents' knowledge of them; and for respondents with valuable domain names, to curate them to avoid forfeiture.

Written by Gerald M. Levine, Intellectual Property, Arbitrator/Mediator at Levine Samuel LLP

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More under: Domain Names, Intellectual Property, UDRP

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