Intellectual Property

CORONAVIRUS NOTICE:  Open for business.  Call (408) 981-4293 or email 


Don’t Call Us “Twit” SM

Wanda's Moustache

By Bob Payne

Having written countless briefs in patent and trademark litigation, I appreciate the importance and value of persuasive writing.  Sometimes, advocacy makes the difference in turning the judge to your side. 

Alas, the contestants of the annual Bulwer-Lytton writing contest gleefully flaunt these writing skills.  The contest awards the world’s worst first lines of fake fiction.   (Motto: “Wretched writers welcome.”)

Consider this entry in the Adventure category.  Concise it is not. 

Sally loved Geoff so deeply that if he were a pirate on a dread pirate ship (and not an insurance adjuster), snarling and drinking, murdering and raping his way across the Caribbean (well, maybe not raping, it was the sentiment that counted) and he had a peg leg, she would have gladly sawed her own leg off and sewed it to his stump with silken threads, so he could dance again, holding her up since she was now a sudden amputee.

Wordiness intrudes on clear thinking.  Most of you immediately leapt to the phrase “silken threads.”  Everyone knows duct tape is far more effective.

Sometimes, verbosity so obscures the real point as to fail to make it entirely.  As here:

As he slowly shadowed the white Amazon Prime van down Midvale Drive in the Fresno suburbs on a sweltering July afternoon, Nigel “Cutthroat” Hawkins thought back over his career -- fastboating along the Somali coast, broadcasting at 50,000 watts from international waters just off the Isle of Man, running half a million counterfeit “Bourne Identity” DVDs out of Hong Kong -- and had but a single question: Is this really what piracy has come to?

Me, I’d have written, “Reduced to porch piracy in his later years, Nigel lamented abandoning Alsatian yodeling, just as he was about to take off in the Ozark lounge circuit.”  Regret, not bemusement, was the missed reveal.

But we get glimpses of promise.  Effective writing humanizes one’s client.  Like this:

She was the aptly named Queen of Night, dark in demeanor and sullen in psyche, nocturnal as well so her given names, Madleve, Noirine, Vespereth were spoken only in the eboonic gloom of a moonless night, whereas otherwise everyone just called her “Debbie.”

Sometimes I long for the simple prose personal injury attorneys can employ.  Writing a motion to dismiss a complaint in a tech-heavy patent case is hard.  Even I struggle to understand what I’ve just said.

“The quantum flux field of the post-Einsteinian hyperdrive has gone asymptotically and we are in danger of approaching singularity as described by the Schrodinger equations!” cried Captain Quirke, having no clue what he said, only knowing it sounded sciencey, secretly crossing his fingers behind his back and hoping there were no physicists reading because he didn’t want any pedantic letters saying it was nonsense.

But I’m not one to complain about the cases these clients bring.  You take ‘em as you get them, warts and all.

“Of all the bars and all the taxidermy shops in all the world, why did she have to walk into mine?” Hank wondered, “and when did Wanda shave off the moustache?”

Robert Payne is the founder of Payne IP Law, in Silicon Valley, California.  His practice focuses on business and intellectual property dispute resolution and litigation.  Payne is former Chair of the Executive Committee of the Intellectual Property Section of the California State Bar.  

Payne IP Law, San Jose, CA | | (408) 981-4293
Glimpsing Our Po§t-Covid World

As we live through the New Normal and approach the Next Normal, what businesses will survive and how will they cope in the new environment?   Tech and IP law will play a critical role in this changed world, and in changing that world.  We provide three articles in each issue of our newsletter, worth a few minutes of your time.  Rather than focusing on immediate issues like vaccine production and testing, we will offer articles on broader tech trends that will adapt to and define our emerging economic condition.  

Our first article examines the next step in the artificial intelligence-human collaboration.  AI speeds up the automation of basic tasks in existing workflows. But its true potential lies in the next step: moving from efficient execution of tasks to transformation of what businesses actually do.  Chatbots may currently respond to an airline passenger’s question about bringing crutches on board.  But what if an airline chatbot flags the likely mobility issue, offers wheelchair assistance at the airport, and checks the itinerary to see if an easier connection is available?  Armed with the information the chatbot gathers, is AI improving human agent performance to offer assistance and improve the passenger experience?

Our second article focuses on the challenge to organizational culture in the post-covid world.  New tech will face employee and management resistance.  The article discusses:

  • Incentivizing technology adoption
  • Investing in infrastructure
  • Making “reskilling” part of the plan
  • Be comprehensive in implementation
  • Greater governmental collaboration

Our third article addresses the “beta burden” we face in an increasingly smart tech and remote world.  Ever-evolving interfaces with machines disrupt the customer experience and customer loyalty.  Before usage becomes settled and comfortable, a “smarter” but less familiar configuration takes its place.


Our newsletter started out, and remains, an IP humor site.  Here are some of our past hits:

Why Did IBM Skip the Loo?

Save Our Planet

The Dude Abides

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock


§TO WIT is a blog about IP humor and about IP “news you can use.”  What does “To Wit” mean?  In formal, legal language, it means “namely,” to clarify and specify. “The indictment charged that Jones knowingly possessed a firearm, to wit: a .38 caliber revolver.” But for us, it’s a salute, well, "to wit." (Pop Quiz:  Did we use “To Wit” as a double entendre, a triple entendre or quadruple entendre? Answer: Who cares?)  

But we’re more than just fun and games.  We also will post articles on IP issues of interest to smaller businesses — for business owners and their general counsel.  The articles will be written in plain English and short.  Very short.  Rather than rewrite what others have said, we'll generally link to a longer article or original source for those who want to know more.  

Payne IP Law, San Jose, CA | | (408) 981-4293


Contact us at or (408) 981-4293.