Hal Wegner, You Now Have My Full Attention

By Gene Quinn
September 13, 2009

Hal Wegner

I guess I have finally made the big time!  Earlier today Hal Wegner’s e-mail newsletter was passed along to me by someone who is a subscriber to his list.  If what I was sent was in fact his entire newsletter for September 12, 2009, I should be expecting a royalty check in the mail.  It would seem that Hal’s newsletter, 13 pages in total, had about half of a page written by Hal, followed by 12 pages written by yours truly.  It would seem that Hal didn’t have anything to write about himself, so he chose to simply redistribute my original content without authorization.  I guess that means that Hal doesn’t know as much about copyright law or copyright infringement as one would expect from such a distinguished partner at Foley & Lardner.  Don’t get me wrong, I am honored that Hal thinks enough of my writing to simply take it to populate what he is passing off as “his” newsletter.  I would have thought that someone with such a distinguished background would understand that citation to a source does not absolve what is otherwise clearly copyright infringement.  And the worst part, while he copies lengthy passages from my writings he uses the opportunity to give me back-handed compliments that are obviously intended as insulting and belittling.  Well Hal, I have ignored you and your writings in the past, the lambasting of blogs in general and your arrogant and self righteous attitude.  Now you have my full attention.

In the amazingly brief original content provided in Hal’s newsletter, he writes in part:

The apparent popularity of the IPWatchdog.com today shows a seeming rebound from just two years ago when Prof. Crouch reported that the website was on the auction block for a minimum bid of $ 10,000.
With the imprimatur of Patently O, this writer has ventured to explore the writings of “The IPWatchdog”, the name that Eugene Quinn, the website author, uses to describe himself.

What is Hal referring to?  Back in the Fall of 2007, I did put IPWatchdog.com up for sale at auction.  I was in the process of building a house and figured I could use some money, as so many do in the same situation, and one of the larger assets I had was IPWatchdog.com, which has been online continuously since 1999.  I had a verbal offer to purchase IPWatchdog.com for 6 figures, the offer being authorized by the Board of Directors of a company that would be recognized by all.  The deal would have purchased the domain name and the website content, I would have stayed on as editor for a fixed monthly fee and money would have been invested into the site to take it to the next level.  For reasons that I do not fully understand, the General Counsel of this company never saw fit to write up the deal into an offer.  I tried to push things along, offered to write the deal up and things just stalled. At that point, in order expedite things I decided to try and force the issue.  I put IPWatchdog.com up for sale at auction, which did not make the situation move along any faster, and did not meet the reserve I set.

Hal is welcome to believe that there has been a rebound, but that is simply not true, and he should have done some research into the facts before making that assumption.  IPWatchdog.com has continued to grow in popularity year after year, and back then in 2007 I was receiving about 25,000 to 35,000 unique visitors a month, which grew at modest levels until about November 2008, when I decided to really turn IPWatchdog.com into something unique and began devoting full-time effort to the site.  In any event, I have had offers for IPWatchdog.com, but there is no point in selling for a song.  In the world of the Internet, a popular way to value a website is to determine advertising revenues on a monthly basis and multiplying that number by 12 to 18.  Obviously, when a business is involved that is a woefully inadequate multiple.  On top of that, no one seemed interested in taking into account that in addition to advertising revenues I collect anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 a month in attorneys fees for work done for those who find me though IPWatchdog.com.

Returning to Hal’s meager original content in his recent newsletter, he writes:

Studying the Views of “The IP Watchdog”: If there is to be a patent reform bill that passes in this Congress, all points of view must be taken into consideration. The “The IP Watchdog” website has been reviewed for postings since August, with excerpts included here which demonstrate the remarkably different views that “the IP Watchdog” has and the obviously different constituency that he represents.

Normally I do not make fun of someone who makes a typing or grammatical error, we are all human and I am an electrical and computer engineer, and folks like me are grammatically challenged no doubt, so I try and not make fun of anyone when they make such mistakes, but since Hal saw fit to point out with “sic” my mistakes, allow me to point out that I am not “The The IP Watchdog.”  I prefer simply to be referred to as “The IPWatchdog,” and IPWatchdog is all one word.

In any event, I would agree with Hal 100%.  If there is going to be a patent reform bill it should take into consideration all points of view, including the point of view of those of us who think the proposed reform was garbage.  Regardless, the reality is that patent reform seems dead and unlikely, but you never really know.  At times in the past patent reform has been inserted into the Omnibus Budget, but with all the contentious debate on so many larger issues of popular importance, it seems unlikely that patent reform will resurface.  In any event, given that Hal italicized the word “all” I have to wonder what is really on his mind.  For someone who shows up everywhere, comments on everything and seems to think that no one other than he is knowledgeable enough to comment, Hal routinely doesn’t make his point clear and leaves many things open to interpretation.

We all know what Hal is trying to say, but either cannot muster the words or the guts.  He doesn’t like my opinions and he thinks that someone who is “The The IP Watchdog” should be neutral.  Well Hal, you are entitled to your opinion and if you had a website and were willing to embrace technology and the Internet age you could do whatever you want on your virtual real estate.  I am opinionated, I have strong views and I present them.  You never have to guess what I am thinking, and I am very direct and clear.  I have done this for years, dating back to when I started writing a monthly opinion column on the inside back page of Patent World, so it is hardly news that I have an opinion, or that I put my opinions in writing.  My goal is not to write even handed, my goal is to write what I believe to be true.  This form of writing is called opinion writing, and is sometimes referred to as “op-ed” writing.  As has always been my goal, I have started getting others to contribute to the blog in order to express other views, but whether Hal likes it or not, I am not going to change my style or moderate my opinions.  Strong opinions crystallize issues and inform those who think for themselves.  Bloviating to hear one’s self speak does not have the same effect.

With respect to my “remarkably different views” and writing for an “obviously different constituency” that I “represent,” I really don’t understand what he is talking about.  As of late I have been writing about how hopeful I am for the future of the Patent Office, how I have been impressed with David Kappos so far and how the claims and continuations rules were a horrible disaster and ill-conceived.  I don’t know what circles Hal travels in, but these are hardly “different views” compared to what all the other patent attorneys I know seem to believe.  In fact, I would say that if Hal believes that my views are contrarian then he is the one who is out of touch, not me.  Notwithstanding, while I am again honored that Hal thinks I represent a large constituency, in fact the largest on the Internet if traffic stats mean anything, the truth is I do not purport to represent anyone other than myself.  If there are those out there who agree with me I am most appreciative.  If there are those out there who do not agree with me, that is fine as well.  This is America and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and to express said opinion.  The reality is that I represent only myself, and the views I express on IPWatchdog.com are mine and mine alone.  For better or worse, I truly believe what I write, and I leave it to readers to decide whether they feel that is good, bad or ugly.

Personally, I think Hal is just jealous.  Instead of engaging in debate, discussing the facts and expressing informed opinions, Hal time after time takes the low road.  Rather than have an intellectually honest debate he holds up what he does not agree with to ridicule in his unique, condescending way.  But one thing I can say with great authority, I do not appreciate copyright infringers.  I do, from time to time, allow the reproduction of my writings, and I am always flattered that there are those out there who want to republish my work.  What I find reprehensible is when people take my original content without even asking.  How rude!  I particularly find it amusing when people like Hal take original works, hold them up to ridicule and then feel self righteous about what they have done.

I am not going to hold my breath and wait for a royalty check, but the next time it happens, should there be a next time, I suspect we will find out whether this type of wholesale copying and redistribution is copyright infringement or fair use.  I am betting on copyright infringement because “[d]irect quotations… provided to give the unfiltered flavor of the blog” is hardly comment or criticism, and wholesale copying is hardly fair use.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 14 Comments comments.

  1. breadcrumbs September 14, 2009 6:14 am

    Is there a link tot the Wegner newsletter?

  2. John White September 14, 2009 11:41 am

    Gene:

    Not having seen what Hal has written personally, I cannot stake out a position. But, I have a point of view, none-the-less (no surprise there!). Hal is well known within IP circles and has been puting his views out there for many, many years. In those years, Hal’s opinions have ranged from main stream to outside and back again depending on the subject. As far as I know he is read through his distributed news letter, and heard through occasional speaking appearances. I always listen with interest, even if I do not agree; another perspective is always welcome. I would hope that your perspective, written into the IP World and IP Watchdog pieces, is likewise a welcome addition to the debate. The fact that I happen to agree with much of what you write hopefully does not paint me into the corner of having “IP Watchdog represent my views”, I believe I can adequately represent my views on my own with support from my own thinking apparatus. In my view, truly honest debate has not been a part of the patent world owing to the notion (I think unfounded) that retribution would somehow attach. That is, if you offer a critical perspective of the CAFC or PTO (BPAI, Commissioner, Director, etc.) that is too plainly spoken, bad outcomes may follow. I think the IP Watchdog style of writing sort of “puts it out there” in a way others do not or are fearful of doing. I appreciate the writing and do not think it subject to ridicule. I think the impact of these current issues (Law Reform, PTO Rules, Harmonization) are too great to leave to those who believe that their view should somehow carry more weight; just because it should. These older views and methods have led us to the present muddle. Reform has become an endless special interest/lobbyist free-for-all; the rules packages are a mess in need of withdrawal; and harmonization should be going our way, not the othe direction. New light needs to be shed among the old. Carry on.

  3. wise observer September 14, 2009 12:31 pm

    He must have recently lost a few big clients to you!

  4. Bryan September 14, 2009 1:17 pm

    breadcrumbs,
    The Wegner newsletter is not available on the Web, so far as I know. It’s by email subscription, and comes about daily.

  5. Gene Quinn September 14, 2009 1:25 pm

    Breadcrumbs-

    As Bryan says, it is my understanding that Hal does not have a website or blog, and distributes his newsletter only via e-mail. I did a Google search, and while I do not claim it to be an extensive search, I could not find his newsletter. I found references to others discussing it, but I am not signed up for it, and I couldn’t figure out where it is or how one would sign up for the newsletter. Not that I am interested in signing up for his newsletter, but it seems to be fairly well hid.

    I was not going to post his newsletter, because I do respect the work of others and am mindful of original content both from a copyright standpoint and a sweat-of-the-brow standpoint. Having said that, I figure that given that about 92% of his newsletter is my writing I must have the right to redistribute this edition of Hal’s newsletter. So, here is a link to at least what I was sent.

    http://ipwatchdog.com/blog/IPWatchdogSeptember12.pdf

    -Gene

  6. Dan Feigelson September 14, 2009 2:56 pm

    Gene, if you didn’t get the whole email from Hal, then here’s the intro to the missive in question, which you should reprint for your readers. FWIW, I think the quotes Hal chose to use fairly represent both your views and the tenor of most of your postings.

    “Professor Dennis Crouch, author of the world’s most popular and widely read patent blog, Patently O, has provided a list of other blogs and mentions what is described as the No. (2) blog, “IPWatchdog.com.” See Professor Dennis Crouch, Ranking of Patent Law Blogs, Patently O (Jul 11, 2009). The apparent popularity of IPWatchdog.com shows a seeming rebound from just two years ago when Prof. Crouch reported that the website was on the auction block for a minimum bid of $ 10,000.
    With the imprimatur of Patently O, this writer has ventured to explore the writings of “The IPWatchdog”, the name that Eugene Quinn, the website author, uses to describe himself.
    Studying the Views of “The IP Watchdog”: If there is to be a patent reform bill that passes in this Congress, all points of view must be taken into consideration. The “The IP Watchdog” website has been reviewed for postings since August which demonstrate the remarkably different views that “the IP Watchdog” has and the obviously different constituency that he represents.
    Direct quotations are provided to give the unfiltered flavor of the blog in the pdf version of this note. “

  7. Fred September 14, 2009 5:05 pm

    “the remarkably different views that “the IP Watchdog” has and the obviously different constituency that he represents.”

    Different from what? I can’t help thinking that the Patent Reform bill is the work of too much inside-the-beltway thinking, sort of like the Obama Health Care Reform. If you are a fan of big government taking away traditional freedoms, both of them suit you fine.

  8. Carey September 14, 2009 5:11 pm

    Although you’ve made it painfully clear that you don’t want to subscribe, I thought I’d at least point out for the sake of your readership, that subscribing to Hal’s daily email listserv isn’t nearly as onerous a task as you make it out to be. You just send an email to Hal (found on his Foley & Lardner employee page (http://www.foley.com/people/bio.aspx?employeeid=16338) and ask to subscribe.

  9. Gene Quinn September 14, 2009 5:17 pm

    Carey-

    Thanks for the information. I will, however, take issue with it not being onerous. In the digital age those without a website or blog might as well be hidden, and managing your own e-mail list is rather old fashion and out dated. So I stand by what I said, which is correct. I searched Google and couldn’t find it. Today if an author’s writings are not findable through Google then they are rather irrelevant.

    -Gene

  10. staff1 September 14, 2009 10:22 pm

    “If there is going to be a patent reform bill it should take into consideration all points of view, including the point of view of those of us who think the proposed reform was garbage.”

    I agree completely.

    Patent reform is a fraud on America…

  11. breadcrumbs September 15, 2009 5:15 am

    For what it’s worth, the subscription to the Wegner newsletter took less than two minutes to Google, find the very question I put forth and the answer of how to achieve it, and perform the task of writing the email.

    Gene,

    It appears that Hal Wegner has your attention as well, as I had mentioned your post in the second line of my email. Not only was I added to the subscription within the hour, but Hal also forwarded the article in question. From what I can tell (time is limited due to an imminent business trip), the only mistake I see in attribution is the credit to Dennis Crouch rather than to you for the survey of blogs (Dennis had reported on your survey and Hal did not go to the primary source – you). Hal does seem to give credit for the bulk of the points directly to you.

  12. Hope4theBest September 15, 2009 9:42 am

    I don’t have a “dog in this hunt” as they like to say in Texas, but I would point out that the “meager” original content you ascribe to Hal Wenger surrounding your secondary content, you yourself describe as holding your opinions up to ridicule, insult, and belittlement.

    Although one can argue that the proportion of Wenger’s “takings” might exceed that which is necessary to make his points about your opinions, it sounds to me–just based on what you say–like Wenger is criticizing and commenting on your opinion in his newsletter, hence Fair Use.

    I also think you could publish his offending newsletter on your Web site and it would be Fair Use for the same reason, and also for the news value.

  13. Gene Quinn September 15, 2009 9:49 am

    Breadcrumbs-

    Attribution does not absolve copyright infringement, and that law is extraordinarily clear. Otherwise anyone could simply copy entire articles out of newspapers and magazines and redistribute them without paying a royalty simply by saying “what I have copied and circulated without permission comes from Source X.”

    Insofar as finding his newsletter in less than 2 minutes, I am happy for you. The truth is Hal doesn’t use advanced technologies like the Internet, and the first page of results on Google results is what matters. If you Google “Hal Wegner newsletter” right now the top reference that comes up is to this article. Others in the top 10 are Patently O, Patent Docs, Patent Hawk, IP Biz etc. Hal criticizes blogs for reasons that are beyond me. I tend to think it is because he doesn’t like the fact that a newsletter is so yesterday and blogs and Google indexing have changed the dissemination of information.

    Searching for an information source should be easy. If you search for “Gene Quinn” or “IPWatchdog” or even “IP Watchdog” I am the top source, with all kinds of websites in the top 10 that point back to me. The same is true for Dennis Crouch, Patently O, Patent Docs and so many others.

    I don’t know what Hal’s problem is, and I don’t personally care. If he thinks attribution absolves copyright infringement then he has lost his mind and needs to retire. If he thinks he can through innuendo and sloppy logic raise questions about me, my audience, my website or my business then he is right. He can do it as long as he is willing to suffer the consequences.

    -Gene

  14. Gene Quinn September 15, 2009 9:59 am

    Hope-

    Thanks for the comment. I agree in part with what you are saying, but I don’t believe that is the law. The comment or criticism needs to be about what is taken. You cannot use the work of someone to comment about unrelated matters. That is 100% true with respect to trademark law, and there is plenty of precedent on that. For example, famously anti-nuclear power activists used the Mutual of Omaha Indian on shirts, etc. with the slogan “Mutant of Omaha” and I believe the Indian had 3 eyes and doppy look. The comment or criticism, which is a right under the First Amendment, was found not to apply because they simply took the property of another to make a comment about something else.

    What really made me mad was Hal’s insulting comments about the IPWatchdog auction and using that clearly out of context in order to make an insinuation that was simply incorrect. I think that sort of ridicule has nothing to do with his wholesale copying of my original content, and is not the sort of comment or criticism that he would be able to use to defend his copying. With respect to his comments about my “different views” and me representing a different constituency, those probably are comments and criticisms, albeit ill formed and not conveying his real thoughts, but rather simply allowing the reader to think whatever they want. But his saying that he was just copying my stuff to give an unfiltered view, that is surely not comment or criticism, but rather an admission of copying without comment or criticism as to the substance of what has been copied.

    I would agree that there are arguments he could make, but given the volume of the copying I think it is clearly not a fair use.

    You know, the funny thing really is I wouldn’t have any problem (or at least far less of a problem) if Hal hadn’t insinuated anything about my business and if he had actually linked to my works. But because he didn’t want to do any heavy lifting, create any original content that was directly commenting or criticizing and because he doesn’t have his own website, he couldn’t provide a link. He simply provided a substitute and those who don’t like me or don’t agree with me don’t have to visit to see for themselves.

    Thanks.

    -Gene