Saturday, October 27, 2018

The ESOP of Branding: Bumped.com

This is one of the coolest things ever in branding. BUMPED. And I'll bet you haven't bumped into it yet. I assume that the name comes from the idea of going to one of your posts or items-for-sale and typing in "bump". It may be a couple days without activity, and now it has activity today. This is similar to the idea of going to your web site and changing something on it -- any change, even a space, used to work. It's all a game for search engine optimization (SEO).

But bumped, the company, is a way for people to sign up for a really cool affinity program for the brands that they really love, and frequent. Every time you buy something at Home Depot (or Starbucks, or....) you get special points. You actually get fractional ownership in the company you frequent. How cool is that?! The more you buy at Home Depot, the more you own of the company's stock.

This is a killer way to brand. This has got to be worth more that the usual 2% in credit card points. This has got to be worth more that 5% discount for using your Lowe's card. This is wonderful. The Bumped Consumer didn't get any money back. The company actually raised capital (in a fractional stock offering). If/When the Customer sells their shares, the sale would be in the secondary market, to another shareholder. The customer doesn't realize the profits until they sell the shares.

Also, the fractional shares can be sold by the customer/shareholder when they want... The expectation, however, is that customers will hold until and unless they become disenchanted with the brand that they bumped and give it the boot. Here's the YouTube Promo Video;

The old Hair Club For Men mantra by Sy Sperling: "I'm not just the president of Hair Club for Men, I'm also a client!" I remember a long time ago, I would invite people out to my restaurant, Miami Subs. At the time, it was a pretty cool restaurant. Not too fast, not too slow. It was publicly traded with some 180 locations at its peak... And I owned a few shares. Fortunately, I dumped that dog before it died. The company is private now, named Miami Grill, and expanding slowly (about 31 locations) in the US and internationally. Now I could invite people out to my restaurant, and watch the clock working as we show up at a Starbucks or a Chipotle!.

Companies have known for decades that getting employees to be part owners of the company helps to align the employees with the best interests of the company. Stock purchase options are common and bonuses are frequently in company stock or stock options. People who rise to C-level (or hired in as a Vice President) are often required to build an ownership stake in the company. This is a wonderful way to overcome the principle-agent problem in ethics (and in economics).

In many cases, especially if the company gets into trouble, they let the employees take ownership -- in part, or in total -- of the company, something called an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).  One example, UPS was owned by employees before going public in 1999 (although the employee-owners retained a significant amount of stock). But getting company stock in the hands of consumers, takes this pride of ownership to a whole new level.

The company is currently beta testing the APP and the concepts and the transactions. You can sign up on the wait list at: Bumped.com 

An article in Wired talks about Bumped Raising an additional $11.5m in venture capital (in addition to the 2.5m raised a year earlier).

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Where Intellectual Property (IP) and Sustainability Meet (GMO and Monsanto)

For decades Monsanto has enjoyed Intellectual Property (IP) protection on both sides of the plant-agro business. The dominant herbicide in the world, RoundUP, and the Genetically Engineered (GE or GMO) crops that shrug off the active ingredient – glyphosate – in RoundUp.
Patented Product (herbicide) that relies on Patented Products (GE crops)
Monsanto started using their glyphosate product in the 1970’s, a product that would become widely marketed under the branded and trademarked name of RoundUP®. Although the patents expired in 1991 and a related patent in 2000, Monsanto is still the major producer of glyphosate produces. Plus, the use of RoundUp has escalated over the years, for several reasons including the unfortunate fact that weeds have started to adapt and have become more tolerant of glyphosate.
But the major reason for the escalation in the use of RoundUP is that Monsanto genetic engineers have developed crops that are genetically modified to ignore glyphosate. That’s right, the engineers have twiddled with the genes of corn, soy, cotton and other crops that ignore RoundUP, so the herbicide kills only the weeds. In fact, the entire field can be sprayed in order to kill the weeds. These genetically modified plants are patented using “Plant Patents” and marketed under the branding of RoundUP Ready”.
Sex on the Farm, In the City, and in the GE Labs
First, a little background on sex, the birds and the trees. A new sexually created plant would be like taking pollen from one flower and introducing that plant to another. If they are close enough cousins, say a red and white rose, they may result in a new “varietal”, say a pink rose. If they are dissimilar then there is little chance that reproduction will happen. Creating a completely new varietal of plant using sexual approaches can be protected by the US Department of Agriculture through the Plant Varietal Protection Office.
On the other hand, asexual reproduction might be protectable through the US Patent and Trademark Office in the form of a plant patent. The USPTO discusses plant patents and summarizes “Asexually propagated plants are those that are reproduced by means other than from seeds, such as by the rooting of cuttings, by layering, budding, grafting, inarching, etc.” Tubulars (underground kind of plants like potatoes) have special exceptions.
There are only about 1,250 plant patents issued per year in the USA, just a fraction of a percent of all US Patents. The whole protection of new types of plant and animal concepts are rather specialized and esoteric.
A quick overview on GMOs (and Organic Foods) can be found at these sites:
In the USA, more than 90% of all corn, soy, cotton and more are genetically modified. Even though the RoundUP Ready® soybean patent expired in 2015, Monsanto has other intellectual property and legal agreements that tie up the crop. A farmer probably cannot legally save seeds from this year’s crop of RoundUp Ready® soy and plant the seeds next year (without paying a royalty or licensing fee). Plus, as you might expect, there are new patents on RoundUp Ready 2 Yield®, the next generation of patents to protect Monsanto’s monopoly in US food crops. (See this discussion/video at Soybean.com, a Monsanto site.)
The problem with Genetic Engineering is that we are making DNA changes that may have taken millions of years to occur in nature, if ever. When you change one gene in the DNA, you also need to change “transgenes” for the twiddling of the genes to be successful. The GE corn that is fed to the cows for years, will modify the DNA of the cows. The people who eat the corn, eat the meat, drink the milk and eat the cheese, will also have their DNA impacted. There are massive numbers of plants, animals and insects that interact with every crop. It may be decades before the full effect of a single genetically altered crop can be fully understood as they transition through bio systems.
Monsanto has been less than Truthful!
In mid-2018, Monsanto lost a major $289 lawsuit in California where a jury ruled that RoundUp resulted in the likely cause of non-lymphoma cancer to grounds keeper Dewayne "Lee" Johnson. There are many non-lymphoma cancer cases that have been building. This saga will go on, even though Monsanto has sold/merged into the chemical giant Bayer from Germany.
The prolonged use of RoundUp has resulted in glyphosate showing up in soil, waterways and food supply including vitamins and cereal. The available research showing about a 50-50 split on several factors including the health of soil. (See our discussion of available research by the Soil Association at SustainZine.com on soil and glyphosate impact.)
But, discovery in the Johnson case demonstrates the efforts by Monsanto to influence research findings and block academic research that was damming to the use of RoundUp. One aspect is that glyphosate, when used as directed, in moderation, seems to be rather safe. But, glyphosate and RoundUp are two different things even though the herbicide product, obviously, contains the active ingredient. Other ingredients in the RoundUp cocktail would help with sticking and penetration. The surfactant(s) help penetrate the leaves/cells of a plant (or an animal, for that matter). Discovery also showed a very cozy relationship between Monsanto executives and the FDA.
Conclusions
When you see research that says that organic is much better than GMO, and research that says GMO is much better than organic, you have to ask yourself who is likely more truthful. The independent research, or the research commissioned by an Agro Giant? Given that the pro-GMO research is tainted, you should go with research that is totally independent and ignore the noise on the other side.  
We love innovation, intellectual property protection, and economic development… Monsanto is where intellectual property protection and sustainability meet: feeding a hungry world while protecting the innovators who work to do so…
You have to wonder, however, if Monsanto, like the tobacco industry before it, will end up on the wrong side of history on GMO-RoundUp?
As inventors and innovators, “may we collectively make the world a better place. And, may we have the wisdom to use a wealth of new technologies wisely.” (Hall & Hinkelman, 2018, p. 8)
...
For an overview of Intellectual Property and Patents check out Hall & Hinkelman’s  Patent Primer 4.0 a booklet in the Perpetual Innovation™ series at LuLu Press or Amazon.
References
Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2018). Perpetual Innovation™: A guide to strategic planning, patent commercialization and enduring competitive advantage, Version 4.0. Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press. ISBN: 978-1-387-31010-4 Retrieved from: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/SBPlan
Hall, E. B. & Hinkelman, R. M. (2017). Perpetual Innovation™: Patent primer 4.0: Patents, the great equalizer of our time! An overview of intellectual property for inventors and entrepreneurs.  Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press. ISBN: 978-1-387-07026-8 Retrieved from: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/SBPlan  [Amazon v4.0e  ASIN: B074JJCDHG Retrieved from: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B074JJCDHG ]  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

IP for Corn that fertilizes itself with Nitrogen Fixing bacteria.

From SustainZine: Corn that fertilizes itself with Nitrogen Fixing bacteria. How best to propagate the innovation & commercialize it. #SustainZine #RegenerativeFarming
http://sustainzine.com/2018/08/corn-that-fertilizes-itself-with.html
*** Blog Article ***
This is a cool article in Science by Ed Young about a giant corn varietal in Sierra Mixe Mexico that grows in very poor soil, but actually fertilizes itself. There's a bacteria that grows around the roots that absorbs nitrogen from the air and provides it to the corn. The team of researchers led by Alan Bennett from UC Davis referred to this a "Nitrogen Fixing" which works just like roots absorbing nitrogen from the soil.
In this case, the soil is very poor quality, so the corn actually gathers nitrogen from the air (78% nitrogen for dry air).
One major disadvantage of this corn is that it takes 8 months to mature.
The benefits are many. In a linear world of farming, row crops are raise on big farms and the crop shipped off to marked (cities), which deplete the soil. So fertilizers are needed to replenish the soil to grow the next crop. The fertilizers (mainly phosphate and nitrogen) end up running off into the water ways and result in massive ecological damage such as algae blooms and red tide.
Because fertilizers are expensive to buy, and expensive to apply, farmers continue to do a better job with fertilizers. (Other factors like urbanization, turf grass and golf course are taking over lead positions in pollution generation.)   However, linear systems in farming are non-sustainable, broken systems, compared to Regenerative Farming approaches that use non-til and corp rotations to restore the quality of the soil.
To commercialize this "nitrogen fixing" cereal crop requires some improvements, new varietals (sexual reproduction) or genetically engineered (GMO crops). The intellectual Property (IP) of such crops will be important. Profits and the capitalist system at work, availability to the people and countries that need it, and the property rights protections that make IP work are just a few important ingredients in the dissemination of new technology -- in this case, new crops.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Taking Liberty, A $3.5m copyright stamp of mistaken identity

Putting the Status of Liberty on a US stamp seems like a no brainer, send someone out to take an original picture of miss liberty, stamp it and run. Or, get full rights to a picture, modify it to your hearts content -- maybe make her happier to be holding up so well after most of a century in the New York weather! (Maybe add a Mono Lisa Smile!?)... But, often, copyrights may not be as simple as they appear.
Rick Kurnit has a great blog about a copyright for the Status of Liberty stamp on Lexology.
Here's the backstory. The US Post Office got a picture of a Status of Liberty, but not THE Status of Liberty. It is a picture of the replica (although Lady Liberty is smaller, mind you) in Las Vegas.
"Robert Davidson, the artist who created the model, upon seeing the stamp (after his wife came home from the post office and exclaimed 'they put our statue on a stamp') registered the copyright in his version of the statue and sued."
After 5 years and a 2 week trial... Davidson won $3.5m+. That's a lot of forever stamps. Talk about making it BIG in Vegas!
Kurnit takes the time to make this a learning moment by discussion the use of copyrighted materials, and even derivative works.
You would kind of think that anything publicly owned and publicly viewable link the Statue of Liberty would be, well, public domain, including the photos thereof. Not so. (Generally, I own my photos, and the derivative works of those photos.)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Jury Awards Apple $539 Million in Samsung Patent Case - The New York Times

Jury Awards Apple $539 Million in Samsung Patent Case - The New York Times:

The do-over award to Apple from Samsung on the patents law suit (and damages) is down to $539M from the original $1B. Here's info on the original infringement ruling of $1B. VentureBeat has a good take on this as well.

The war chest of patents -- world wide -- is massive in order to play in the smart phone and tablet space!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

PetroCoins, Oil Sands Extraction and Blockchain.

Oil sands are seriously back in play with patented technology. Combine that with blockchain tech, and you have an investment that you simply gotta get into, or not!...
Petrotech Energy Inc. is touting both patents and blockchain in a penny, over-the-counter, stock (PQEFF).
Well, maybe not investing, but here is a hyped-up "sponsored" Ad that looks slightly like an article over at OilPrice.com: https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/This-New-Technology-Could-Transform-The-Oil-Industry1.html
Two things that are interesting in the penny stock that's now up to $1.50 level. It has patented tech on oil sands extraction that is a closed loop system that sounds interesting. With the dry sands of Utah it apparently has the ability to extract 99% of the heavy oil and leaves only sand as the byproduct. That is pretty cool because oil sand extraction has historically been a very, very dirty and expansive business. They want to expand their patents to the countries where lots of (dry) oil sands deposits live and make a fortune. Unfortunately, two of the biggest candidates are Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Russia and China -- not exactly the worlds heaven of intellectual property (IP) protection countries.
In fact, the bitcoin IP (ICO) backed by oil reserves by Venezuela in an interesting ploy. We thought the initial coil offering should more aptly be called an IKO, for Initial Kleptocurrency Offering.
A cybercurrency like bitcoin is, however, an interesting way to do business in any world, especially a kleptocratic country. And blockchain is the underlying transaction technology. So the marriage of blockchain to this company has real merit (they call their technology PetroBLOQ). However, bitcoin and blockchain technology are publicly available -- open source -- technologies.
Petrotech says that they can produce oil at $22 per barrel. Maybe even as low as $18. That's impressive for oil sands. Transportation and the extra costs of processing heavy ("dirty" vs "sweet" West Texas type crude) change that dynamic some; but still impressive.
What's somewhat funny is this statement: "It extracts over 99 percent of all hydrocarbons in the sand, generates zero greenhouse gases and doesn’t require high temperatures or pressures."
Generates "zero greenhouse gases"? It has to be transported, refined, transported to the pump and then burned in a vehicle where it produces between 19 and 20 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon, depending on the type of gas/diesel.
Yes, more green than the tar sands of Alberta, but certainly not as green as wind or solar. 
Look, as well, at the trillions of barrels of oil in sands around the world. Even if we could extract it all and burn it, does not mean we should burn it.
Check out a sister blog on the scenarios associated with the demise of oil (excluding any discussion about greenhouse gas issues).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Venezuela's 'Petro' Token Launches in Pre-Sale - CoinDesk

Venezuela's 'Petro' Token Launches in Pre-Sale - CoinDesk:

Is it an ICO or an IKO. There has been a new trend that is catching fire, to do an initial public offering (IPO) in cyber/cryptocurrency coins, or ICO. Venezuela, with a failed currency in a failed state, is doing a very novel approach their new ICO offering is to be backed by a small portion of their vast oil reserves. And the coin will be called a Petro, which is equivalent to a barrel of Venezuelan (sour) crude in the ground. It is generally better that the collateralization of the Petro is oil in the ground because kleptocracy government can't steal it, privatize it or transfer it to friends and family. (See Wikipedia's article on the Petro, great because it is dynamically updated.)

Given the kleptomania of the country, it probably should be called a IKO, for klepto currency. There is some genius involved here. Government employees have not been paid for months. And there is only government employees, since the private sector has been taxed, squeezed, arrested and otherwise squeezed out. No one wants to lend money or invest in capital investments because the government has a way of lying, stealing, cheating and privatizing.

The Bolivar currency is a klepto nightmare. The preferred exchange rate is about 10 to the US$ so friends and family get a spectacular subsidy. But hyper inflation has about 25,000 Bolivar to the US$. Of course, it is hard to get US dollars, and bolivars are useless.

When it was announced that Russia was going to "help" Venezuela with this Petro IKO, it was an obvious in for Russia to meddle in Latin America. The Petro, will obviously supersede all other (worthless) Venezuela Debt and liabilities. It is very clever. Venezuela can move to a new currency for some things, and leave the worthless currency for other things (like paying off debt).

Other countries and other dictators will be watching this closely.

On the other hand, a collateralize ICO has lots of potential. Troubled, or failed states can offer an ICO to keep mining their diamonds, oil, gold and lithium. Hmmm...???

While you are thinking about Oil-collateralized-ICOs, check out our scenario discussion on the death of big oil at our sister site here at ScenarioPlans.com: http://delphiplan.com/2018/02/20/scenarios-of-stranded-oil-assets/ 

Notes. The Petro "white paper" discusses opaquely the intermix of the Vz Goverment, the oil-collateralize instrument, and more. (Check bitcoin news on Petro.) Here's a summary and link to the white paper at Medium. There are soooo many issues with this ICO. The gov makes out here, there and everywhere: about 17% of the allocation, a discount to entice usage, a ICO price of $60 per barrel. Venezuela has  (dirty) heavy crude, so it should be discounted something like $7 per barrel... Oh, and the oil is still in the ground!

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