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Thursday Watercooler


A giant redwood towers high above the camera

See you at the top!

Tonight’s video is “What’s Hidden Among the Tallest Trees on Earth?” from TED-Ed.

When Stephen Sillett was a boy, he took to the forests of Pennsylvania with his brother and grandmother. Looking up into the dense branches and leaves, his curiosity was piqued: What was hidden up there? Wendell Oshiro tells the story of an adult Sillett’s bold (if not a little dangerous) exploration of the canopy of an ancient redwood and details some of the fascinating discoveries he made.

Lesson by Wendell Oshiro, animation by Black Powder Design.

Patent trolls — corporations which only exist to bully legitimate businesses with frivolous lawsuits over vague technological innovations they supposedly own. But trolls depend on the prohibitive legal costs of fighting their lawsuits to keep companies from fighting, and a Brooklyn law clinic just rescued a company by offering free supportBoing Boing has a summary of what happened:

When they were approached by a small NYC startup that was being sued by a patent troll called 911 Notify, LLC, who had a ridiculous patent on ‘notifications’ (basically, if someone calls 911, look up their emergency contact info and call that number) that wanted $250,000 to settle, they went to work.

By putting the troll on notice that there was an unlimited amount of free legal hours from third-year law students available to the defendant — students who got more out of the experience if they got to work on a full-blown trial that could invalidate the dumb-ass patent — they terrified the troll into dropping the suit and running away.

I think there are other ways of recreating this dynamic (though this is a great way, because it gets law students really valuable experience that they would otherwise have to get after graduation while interning, provides a community service, and makes the world a better place), without relying on an infinite supply of third-year law students.

Patent lawyer Eric Adler, writing in Medium, explains in much detail how it was done and how other companies or student legal clinics can adopt his strategy.

Bonus: Rawstory reported on a group of strippers from Ohio that fought back against harassment by a local church with a topless counterprotest.

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The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Photo by Alec Perkins released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and