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Posted by Tim Bryce on April 15, 2016


– Why we hate to be called for duty.

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I’ve been summoned for jury duty twice. Both times I had mixed emotions about serving. On the one hand I understand and appreciate the need for a jury of your peers, which I consider an important responsibility for being a citizen of the United States. There are still a lot of third world countries out there who do not provide for such jurisprudence and believe you are guilty until proven innocent, as opposed to the other way around. On the other hand though, we are always summoned at the worst possible time. For example, you are called to serve just as you are preparing to go out of town either on important business or an expensive nonrefundable vacation. I think it’s a “Murphy’s Law.” In my case, I had some important projects I was working on at the time and felt the summons to be an imposition. Although I dutifully presented myself, I was not in the best of moods. Fortunately I was never actually selected to a jury and allowed to leave. Good thing for the defendant too as I was in a hanging mood by the time I got to the court house.

Here in Florida, you are given a few weeks notice to appear for jury duty. Frankly, I would prefer to get a notice six months or more in advance so I can effectively schedule around the jury duty. Unfortunately, county bureaucrats couldn’t care less about a person’s time.

Down here in Florida, you can be compensated $15.00 per day for the first three days of service if you are retired, unemployed or your employer does not pay your regular wages while you are serving. It’s not that I personally need the money, but I don’t know too many people who can get along on just $15 per day. A daily bus pass in my county costs $4.50, leaving you $10.50 to go wild on. No wonder people begin to diet when they are summoned for jury duty. By the way, your jury payment is considered taxable income. You just can’t win.

There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” involved with serving on a jury. In my neck of the woods, you are first asked to check in, take a number, fill out a form, and wait in a holding pen where you watch a brief video on your responsibilities as a juror. Next, you are called from the pool by ticket number for the various cases on the docket that day. If your number is not called, you can go home (with no apology for the inconvenience). However, if your number is called, you must go through a jury selection process whereby you may be interviewed by counsels for both the prosecution and defense. In my case, I was asked a lot of strange questions about this or that. So much so, I thought I was the one on trial and not the defendant. Whatever I said, I must have answered incorrectly as I was excused from serving, again with no apology for the inconvenience.

I believe my grandmother in Buffalo, New York set a record for serving on juries as she was called at least a dozen times over the years, leading us to believe she worked for the courts up there and not her regular job. Actually she was a model jurist and enjoyed listening to the various cases. She was also proud to serve as she saw it as her civic duty to do so.

We would all probably like to serve on the types of juries we see on TV’s “Law & Order” where we are dazzled by lawyers like Jack McCoy, or perhaps pick an argument apart as the jury did in the movie, “Twelve Angry Men.” The reality though is most trials lack the drama and histrionics as portrayed by Hollywood. You are probably 100 times more likely to serve on a case involving theft or an automobile moving violation than to serve on a juicy murder trial.

Most people tend to roll their eyes whenever you bring up the subject of jury duty, including myself. I wish I had my grandmother’s zeal for serving, but the bureaucrats have turned it into an imposition as opposed to something you want to proudly perform. I guess no matter how you slice it, jury duty is a necessary evil.

Originally published: January 28, 2011

Also published with News Talk Florida.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

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Copyright © 2016 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Posted by Tim Bryce on June 30, 2010

The protection of intellectual property should be a significant concern to all Information Technology organizations. Without protection, commercial hardware/software vendors would quickly evaporate as others would inevitably steal their designs and programs. Corporate developers would also suffer if their ideas, inventions, and programs were misappropriated thereby causing them to lose their competitive advantage. In fact, our corporate landscape and standard of living would be radically different if we had no such protection. Fortunately, the framers of the U.S. Constitution were wise enough to implement legislation safeguarding the authorship and ownership of literature, art, and inventions, thus causing the United States to flourish in the arts and sciences. But the advent of the computer caused us to reconsider how we safeguard such property. For example, the concept of a computer program has been a bit nebulous to some people; should the source code be protected by copyright? What about the object code (executable)? Attorneys have been debating this subject over the last thirty years and there is still general confusion in the field.

In 1974, MBA embarked on our own lawsuit to protect the “PRIDE” methodology. This was a lengthy legal battle which took the courts into unchartered waters. At the time, “PRIDE” was nothing more than a methodology implemented with printed manuals and forms (no software support at the time). To safeguard our product, our lawyers drafted a standard nondisclosure agreement which all prospective buyers would sign prior to our sales presentation. Further, our contracts included similar verbiage instructing the customer to safeguard the physical embodiment of the product and not to divulge it to unauthorized third parties.

We were contacted by Arthur Young & Company in 1974 to conduct a “PRIDE” sales presentation for one of their consulting clients in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company (then a division of AMF). The attendees signed the nondisclosure agreement and the presentation was conducted as usual. Following the presentation, MBA was informed that Harley wouldn’t be purchasing our product, and that Arthur Young would be developing a similar methodology for Harley instead. This made MBA suspicious, particularly since one of Young’s consultants was a former “PRIDE” user. Consequently, MBA initiated a lawsuit over misappropriation of trade secrets.

This turned into a long and ugly legal battle which lasted eight years. Basically, the lawyers for the opposition contended that since the “PRIDE” materials had copyright notation printed on them, they were in the public domain. In contrast, it was our contention that “PRIDE” was a trade secret. In the end, we won the lawsuit and “PRIDE” was proven to be a trade secret in a court of law. This litigation established many precedents and is often referenced in similar cases; for additional information, see:

Chicago-Kent College of Law
Library Law

Many years have gone by since the verdict was passed. In 1989, Arthur Young & Company merged with Ernst and Ernst (now called Ernst & Young), the principals of the case have moved on and we no longer bear any ill-will towards the company. Further, “PRIDE” was placed on the Internet in 2004 (with copyright notation).

As a result of the lawsuit, MBA learned a lot about the protection of intellectual property. I may not be an attorney, but you may look upon this as a convenient primer to protect yourself.


Copyrights are primarily concerned with the authorized reproduction of such things as text, graphics, music, and audio/video recordings. As such, it protects publishers, authors, artists, and designers from unauthorized republication or redistribution of their work. Not too long ago, in order for a copyright to be enforceable, it had to be registered with the copyright office. However, the laws were somewhat loosened in 1976 whereby copyright protection is now effective from the moment the work is first created in fixed form. Although the use of copyright notation is no longer mandatory, it is highly beneficial to include it whenever possible to indicate your work is protected by copyright. Notation typically appears as:

“Copyright © 2007 ABC Company”

Since computer program source code is written as text, it is a wise idea to add such notation in the source code. But understand this, copyright only protects the work from unauthorized reproduction, it does not protect the author’s ideas (which is how the lawyers of Arthur Young argued against us). Although the exact source code cannot be reused, it does not protect the logic of the program. To illustrate, suppose a new employee brings with him some source code from his last place of employment. Copyright protection would prohibit him from reusing the source code, but it wouldn’t stop him from using the ideas contained in the program. Unfortunately, most programmers do not like to reinvent the wheel and, as such, frequently reuse source code over and over again. From this perspective, probably every company with an I.T. department is guilty of some form of copyright infringement.


A trade secret is much different than a copyright. Basically, it represents some unique formula, design or idea. Perhaps the best known example of a trade secret is the Coca-Cola syrup formula which is strictly protected in a vault. There are essentially two elements for establishing a trade secret; first, that it is a “unique” idea or formula, that it has distinguishable characteristics or properties to differentiate it from others, and; second, that you can demonstrate you are taking effective safeguards to protect it from unauthorized use (hence, making it a “secret”). In the lawsuit over “PRIDE”, we were able to successfully demonstrate that “PRIDE” was unique and that we had taken adequate steps to safeguard unauthorized use (our nondisclosure agreement).


A patent is similar to a trade secret in that the inventor has a unique idea or device he wishes to prevent others from producing. To implement a patent, the idea or device must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A registration process is required which includes a fee. For an invention to be patented, it must be proven to be unique, useful, and not of an obvious nature. If a patent is granted, the inventor is protected from others producing a similar invention for a limited period of time (20 years). The patent is renewable at the end of this period.

The computer field makes active use of patents to establish unique inventions and protect them from others For example, IBM typically registers the most patents each year, both hardware and software.


A trademark is an arbitrary word, name, symbol, or device used to distinguish a particular product. A service mark is similar except it is used to distinguish a particular service. For example, “PRIDE” is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

Like a patent, the trade/service mark has to be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. And, Yes, a registration fee is required. Notation normally accompanies the trademark to indicate it is registered ®. Use of such notation should be encouraged so that others know your product or service is a trademark.

A trade/service mark means no other company can use it to offer a competing product or service unless authorized by the company holding its title. As such, it is closely related to the integrity of the title company. If a competitor uses it, the public will assume they are somehow aligned with your business and, as customers of your competitor, are entitled to the same level of service or quality your business offers. If the competitor fails in this regards, it is a reflection of both your product/service and your company which could damage your business.


When MBA was founded, we were very lucky to get good, sound legal advice for protecting our intellectual property. Because of this, I encourage anyone concerned in this regard to seek such advice from a qualified attorney.

Another way to assist in the protection of your intellectual property is to enact some form of employee agreement, whereby the employee agrees not to misappropriate your products (such as designs and software), or use other intellectual property without expressed authorization. This puts your employees on notice.

Devices such as copyrights, trade secrets, patents, trade/service marks are very helpful for preventing the unauthorized use or distribution of your products. However, if someone really wants to pirate your products, they will. When you catch someone in the act though, try to give them a way out. I always recommend that you try to avoid litigation whenever possible. I find such lawsuits primarily benefit the attorneys and nobody else. But if your livelihood is genuinely threatened, as ours was, then you have no alternative but to use the full force of the law.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

COMING IN JULY: “Tin Heads” – where transportation merges with communications. What is Bryce up to now?

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Posted by Tim Bryce on October 2, 2009

There’s some trouble brewing in Virginia, something that will inevitably spill over to other states if we’re not careful. In the case of Kellerman v. McDonough, et al, a 14 year old North Carolina girl was accidentally killed in an automobile accident while visiting a friend in Virginia. This resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit against the mother of the friend who, according to the plaintiff, was responsible for supervising the child while in her custody. Although a lower court dismissed the case, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the decision. In a nutshell, it means adults are liable for any injury incurred by a child placed in their custody for supervision, even if the injury is committed by a third party (as was the case of the 14 year old). For details on the case, click HERE.

Consider what this means from a social aspect. As kids we used to visit our friends’ homes all the time, play, cause whatever mischief we could, and, Yes, sometimes fall down and hurt ourselves. Now, with this decision, parents will be less inclined to let neighbor children visit their homes in fear of a lawsuit. This means children will spend more time “locked up” at home and have fewer opportunities to socialize with other people. Further, this could conceivably lead to the end of the “good neighbor policy” whereby we will see more frivolous lawsuits enacted pitting neighbor against neighbor. However, this will not stop simply at next-door neighbors, but will also involve baby-sitters, teachers, coaches, crossing guards, bus drivers, shopkeepers, you name it; anyone who may come in contact with a youngster. What’s next? Obviously a mountain of waivers allowing adults to come in contact with a child.

All of this because of a single tragic accident. I do not know the specifics of the case, particularly the dynamics between the cast of characters prior to the accident, but it sounds to me like the parents are partially to blame for allowing their daughter to be placed in harm’s way. And now we will all have to feel the effects of their decision.

Another lawsuit, which is somewhat similar in nature, comes from Staten Island, New York where a mother finally settled a lawsuit with the New Springville Little League for $125,000. It seems a few years ago her son injured his knee while trying to stretch a single into a double under the instruction of the coach. The mother argued that the Little League and coaches were negligent in teaching her son how to properly slide (the defendants countered otherwise). For more information on this case, click HERE.

Here again is another instance where the rest of the world will feel the effect of a seemingly inane lawsuit. As in the first lawsuit, this will undoubtedly result in more waivers to be signed by children and parents in order for them to participate in any kind of organized activity, such as sports, picnics, playgrounds, tag, hide-and-go-seek, and tiddlywinks.

My God, will this madness ever end? Can’t we invent a single waiver that can be universally applicable? Something like…

“The undersigned hereby agrees to hold harmless anyone I willfully come in contact with, that I won’t act like a dumb ass, and that I alone will be responsible for my own actions. Further, if any accident befalls me, I will not make use of any ambulance chaser to try to squeeze blood from a turnip.”

What a horrendous price to pay for the lack of common sense. The insurance companies are going to love it.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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