Month: November 2016

Trademark Scam Results in More than $600,000 in Refunds in New Zealand

Trademark Scam Results in More than $600,000 in Refunds in New Zealand

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The records of applications and registrations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are publicly available, allowing individuals and companies to evaluate the registered trademark rights of third-parties. Unfortunately, these same records are also accessible by individuals for more sinister purposes, including sending “invoices” to applicants that appear to be official requests for required payments. While these scams have been occurring throughout the world for a number of years, New Zealand recently scored a significant win in the fight against these scams.

While most attorneys advise clients of the likelihood of receiving these notices, it does not prevent some unrepresented applicants from mistakenly making a payment. Thankfully, governments have begun to fight back against these scams. Over the last year, New Zealand has sought to obtain refunds from TM Publisher, an entity that sent misleading notices to companies in New Zealand. The company requested a payment of $1,600 NZ in order to “publish” an applicant’s trademark. Over the last six months, the New Zealand government identified and refunded more than $600,000 NZ from TM Publisher. While this is a large sum, TM Publisher is just one example of many scams, suggesting the number of payments could be even greater.

To provide some context in the U.S., it is common for applicants and registrants to receive misleading notices regarding publication, renewal, and other services. Some solicitations offer to publish your trademark in an international database, such as the Trademark Patent Publications solicitation, but doing so provides no benefit to the trademark owner. Other solicitations offer “renewal” services, which may or may not result in the actual renewal of your registration with the relevant authority. Most solicitations are printed to appear to be official, government notices. Some of the solicitations, like this notice, come from misleadingly named companies, like the “Patent and Trademark Office” in New York.

In the U.S., there have been criminal charges brought against individuals running at least one similar scam. The first indictment issued in October of 2015 and two more individuals were charged earlier in July 2016. The charges include bank fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering.

Notwithstanding these minor successes, there are still significant numbers of misleading notices sent to represented and unrepresented applicants and registrants. If you receive any notice regarding your trademark application or registration in the mail or in your e-mail, consult with your attorney. Although the Trademark Office has recently begun reminding owners of renewal deadlines, the Trademark Office does not request payment in these notices (especially through a wire to a bank account in the Czech Republic). If you don’t have an attorney, you can consult the USPTO’s information page regarding these invoices here or contact the Trademark Assistance Center.

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November 30, 2016 at 01:36AM

My Favorite Business Model for a Breakthrough Digital Business

My Favorite Business Model for a Breakthrough Digital Business

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a business model and a breakthrough

It was the end of 2008. Something you might remember about that year — in October, the markets took a nasty fall and the global economy melted down.

I was the sole breadwinner for my family. The company I worked for was going through round after round of layoffs. The well-paying, secure job I’d had for five years looked likely to evaporate underneath me.

I had some savings, but not a ton. I had a mortgage and preschool for my three-year-old to pay for, as well as silly habits like buying groceries and having health insurance for my family.

I had been noodling around with business ideas, but I hadn’t gotten serious.

In the final few months of 2008, I had to get serious. Early in 2009, I took the leap. Here’s how I did it.

My year of living dangerously

In 2009, I felt a lot like a chicken trying to cross an eight-lane highway. It was theoretically possible, but there was a non-optimal level of stress involved.

The first thing I did was hang out my shingle as a freelance copywriter.

In a lot of ways, it was wonderful. I worked on fascinating projects that I cared about. I had lovely clients who actually listened to me. I was able to implement content strategy (which I learned, incidentally, mainly from Copyblogger), instead of sitting in endless meetings talking about it.

The main downside for me was the “you don’t kill, you don’t eat” freelance model, in which I was endlessly having to close new clients in order to keep my revenue going.

I know people who are masters of this. I was not one of them.

But it worked, more or less. I was supporting my family.

Growing the audience

One thing I’m so grateful for about that time: I had started growing my audience well before I needed clients. My original intent had been to find another job — I figured a blog would help me stand out with prospective employers.

As it turned out, I was functionally unemployable, but the blog was an amazing resource. It didn’t have zillions of readers or email subscribers — but it had enough.

(By the way, I launched an email list with a simple autoresponder before I even had that site up, which I recommend if you’re starting from scratch today. You want to capture every drop of attention you can.)

By the time I went out on my own, that blog had already started to pull a small audience together. It also connected me with like-minded people for projects, support, expertise, and eventually business partnerships.

The email list allowed me to put offers in front of potential customers — and discover what worked and what didn’t.

Finding stability

2009 was a year of hustle, and trying out all kinds of business models.

I tried freelancing, which sort of worked. I tried some content strategy consulting (we called it something else then), which also sort of worked. I put together a few simple information products with friends. I had some affiliate offers going.

My friend Gary, a business coach who talked me down from Mount Freakout about a thousand times that year, had been on my case to launch an online course with a membership component. I told him I’d get it done that year.

It was not pretty. Building the site was complicated, and I needed to hire someone to put together a variety of puzzle pieces that came from entirely different puzzles. It was fairly expensive to build. But I got it launched — in mid-December, since I’d promised Gary I’d do it that year. (Accountability is a useful thing.)

I called that site The Remarkable Marketing Blueprint, and it changed everything.

(There are still lovely and successful folks out there who identify themselves as “The Remarkables.” That makes me deeply happy.)

I launched the Blueprint at a pretty modest monthly fee. The checkout system was a PayPal nightmare, and I’m lucky it worked at all. The membership management tools were primitive, with lousy security. (Remind me to tell you about the week that Russian hackers kept putting porn into my member library. Fun times.)

That’s why I’m a bit emphatic about how much easier the Rainmaker Platform makes things. Trust me, the early tools were not so user-friendly.

But they got the job done. People bought the course. They benefited from the course.

After a short time, I relaunched the Blueprint (Gary was bugging me again) at a higher price. And that launch went even better.

I didn’t become a millionaire. But I had momentum and steady revenue. I was helping people with their problems, and in turn, I was making a reasonable living. I had a business that worked.

If you think that would be an amazing feeling … you’re absolutely right.

Come to the free webinar

Building an online course or membership community is a great business model — but it’s not a guaranteed home run. You can set yourself up for failure, or set yourself up for success.

Brian Clark’s original Teaching Sells was the course that taught me how to set the Blueprint up for success. How to structure it, how to make it marketable, how to position it, how to get the content created, how to launch it, and how to run it.

Teaching Sells isn’t on the market anymore, but Brian Clark still teaches folks how to build online courses — only these days, it’s a much more streamlined process.

Brian’s holding a free webinar on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time that will get you started.

Click the button below for easy (and free!) registration.

Free Webinar:

How to Develop an Irresistible Online Course People Will Line Up to Buy (and Then Actually Use)

I love this model for so many reasons.

  • I won’t say it was easy, but it was doable.
  • It supported me and my family when we really needed it.
  • It provided steady, predictable revenue so I could catch my breath and actually plan something.
  • It was conducive to my commitment to be a good parent and spouse as well as a capable businessperson.
  • It connected me with wonderful customers, who became friends, and who went into the world and did amazing things.
  • And it opened doors to other possibilities — the business stage that Brian Clark calls “Acceleration.”

It’s a model that works if you know how to do something really well. It’s also a model that works if you don’t have your own particular area of expertise, but you partner with someone who does. (You set the course up and run it; they provide the content and expert authority. These can be remarkably productive businesses.)

Even though we’ve been business partners for years now, I always make a point of listening to what Brian has to say about online courses. He always has new insights and points of clarity that I learn from.

So I’ll be there … and if you have any interest at all in this model, I recommend you check it out as well. You can just click the button to get registered.

Free Webinar:

How to Develop an Irresistible Online Course People Will Line Up to Buy (and Then Actually Use)

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November 30, 2016 at 01:08AM

7 Rules for Using Your Real Life in Fiction

7 Rules for Using Your Real Life in Fiction

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Writing Wednesdays

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 30, 2016

 

Today we start a multi-part series on using your real life in fiction. The example I’m going to use is my own newest novel, The Knowledge. We’ll bounce back and forth from story principles in the abstract to how these concepts were applied in The Knowledge.

"Hey! Taxi!"

“Hey! Taxi!”

I’m gonna put up a new post every Mon-Wed-Fri, just for this series. Hopefully we’ll run through Christmas.

If you have any questions, please feel free to write them in to the Comments section below. I’ll answer them as best I can.

Ready?

Let’s start with what was honest-to-God, real-life true in The Knowledge:

 

In truth, I was driving a cab in New York City. I was broke. It was a high-crime period. I was finishing my third novel (all unpublished and unpublishable so far).

I had committed a terrible crime against my wife, which had broken up our marriage. I was desperate to redeem myself, both in her eyes and my own. I had become fixated on the idea that getting this new book published would, if not atone for what I had done, at least prove to my wife (and maybe to me too) that I wasn’t the bum and the loser that she thought I was.

 

That’s the set-up. That’s the real-life, exterior and interior foundation of the story.

 

The All Is Lost moment (again, in real-life) was me finishing the book and it failing to find a publisher. In other words, that’s the crash-and-burn moment at the climax of the true-life story. The Epiphanal moment is me deciding to pack up and move to L.A. to try to find work writing for the movies.

(This move, as it turned out, succeeded. It was the decision that made me a writer for real and put me on the path I’ve been on ever since.)

 

Still with me? To repeat, the above is the real-life narrative that I began with, about eighteen months ago, when I decided to write this story as a novel.

[By the way, if you haven’t ordered The Knowledge yet, please do. I know it’s tempting to tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll just follow along in these posts.” But trust me, you’ll get ten times more out of these if you can follow along in the book.]

The first thing I knew, assessing the true-life story elements described above, was that they weren’t enough for a novel.

They were too boring.

Too ordinary.

Too internal.

Maybe Henry James could do it, but I sure couldn’t.

I knew right away that I had to, as they say in England, tart this material up.

I had to fictionalize.

The question was how.

How much?

And where?

Before I address these questions, a short digression:

I’m reading a great book now—Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Notebook.

The Notebook tells how Coppola, starting with Mario Puzo’s novel, put together the screenplay and screen story that would become the movie, “The Godfather.”

Coppola had the exact opposite problem I had. He already had the jazzed-up story. He had Mario Puzo’s novel, which was a runaway bestseller. sensation-of-the-decade. Coppola’s issue was how to inform that material with his own sensitivity, to bring his own real-life instincts and genius to it.

Francis Ford Coppola comes from a family of artists and musicians. Like the Corleones, it was a close-knit, ambitious, high-achieving, multi-generational, immigrant Italian-American family.

Imagine for a moment that Coppola had the idea to write a novel about his real family. He might have come to the same conclusion I did about my own real-life material. It’s too ordinary, too boring, not enough drama, etc.

Then (let’s keep imagining) he is seized with an inspiration:

 

I’ll tell my family’s story. Except I’ll make them a gangster family.

 

See what I’m getting at?

With that single (imagined) stroke of fictionalization, our hypothetical Francis Ford Coppola has made his real-life family story a blockbuster.

In essence, that’s exactly what David Chase did with The Sopranos.

The Sopranos is basically the story of an upwardly-mobile American family with issues around fidelity, child-rearing, and general panic-attack/freak-out red-white-and-blue angst. What made The Sopranos great was the translation of that universal American family anxiety into the world of gangland crime and murder.

Which brings us to the first principle of using your own life in fiction:

 

Make the internal external.

 

Is your interior story about being trapped, held captive, imprisoned in some doomed stasis?

Consider telling it as a prison story.

Make the internal external.

Too much? Then ask yourself, How can I heighten the reality of my story? How can I raise the stakes?

How can I make the internal external?

Here’s what I did in The Knowledge:

I built a parallel redemption tale on top of the real-life interior “How can I redeem myself?” narrative of my own life. Then I wove the two stories together.

My real-life boss at the taxi company was rumored to have a suspicious past. Word around the shop was that he was into all kinds of shady (and maybe-worse-than-shady) activities.

Considering how to structure The Knowledge, I said to myself,

 

“Let’s make the taxi boss [Marvin Bablik] an out-and-out gangster. Let’s have him hire the character-that’s-me [“Stretch”] for some seeming innocent extra-hours work. And let’s have that work spin out of control, increment by increment, until the character-that’s-me is inextricably tied up in this criminal’s affairs.”

 

Further, and critically important:

 

“Let’s have Bablik’s interior story be one of redemption as well. Let’s make his inner life a parallel for Stretch’s, only on a much more heightened, higher-stakes level. Life and death. Bullets. Murder.”

 

And finally …

 

“Let’s have a deep, unlikely, and unexpected bond develop between Bablik and Stretch. Let’s have them come to care profoundly for each other, so that the self-sacrifice of one can mean  liberation for the other.”

 

In other words, I stole the emotional dynamic of Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Do you remember the story? It’s a parallel saga of Woody Allen’s character, a failing film documentarian trying to woo Mia Farrow away from TV big-shot Alan Alda–and Martin Landau, a successful ophthamologist who contracts for the murder of the nutty woman he fell into an affair with, Angelica Huston. One story informs the other. The two work as one.

We’ll get into this deeper in the next post. But as a quick flash-forward, here are the seven principles of using your real life in fiction:

 

  1. Make the internal external

 

  1. Pick a genre and run with it

 

  1. Raise the stakes to life and death

 

  1. Fictionalize on-theme only

 

  1. Make it universal

 

  1. Make it beautiful

 

  1. Detach yourself from the character that is you

 

[At the risk of repeating myself, please order The Knowledge if you haven’t already, and read it. It will make these posts ten times more productive.]

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November 29, 2016 at 08:18PM

Tim Ferriss on Finding and Focusing On What Truly Matters

Tim Ferriss on Finding and Focusing On What Truly Matters

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unemployable-timferriss

Tim Ferris broke into popular consciousness nine years ago with the release of The 4-Hour Workweek. He’s gone on to create a series of books based on the “4-Hour” concept.

That’s in addition to a wildly popular blog, podcast, and even a TV show. But in economic terms, all of that pales in comparison to Tim’s success as an angel investor; he’s scored early positions in Uber, Twitter, Evernote, Shopify, and Facebook.

So, it was somewhat of a shock to hear that Tim is stepping away from new investments. And you’ll be more than a bit surprised to hear what he’s focusing on next, and more importantly … why.

Listen to this Episode Now

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November 29, 2016 at 07:10AM

How #1 Hit Podcast ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ Co-Creator Jeffrey Cranor Writes: Part Two

How #1 Hit Podcast ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ Co-Creator Jeffrey Cranor Writes: Part Two

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wf-jeffrey-cranor-file-two

The co-creator and co-writer of the #1 international hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale and New York Times bestselling co-author of the novel of same name, Jeffrey Cranor, dropped by the show to talk about the importance of collaboration, deadlines, and bad writing.

In addition to producing and touring with the theater ensemble The New York Neo-Futurists, the playwright and author tours with live shows for the Night Vale Presents production banner, co-created with Joseph Fink.

Night Vale Presents now produces four podcasts that regularly sit at the top of the charts — including Within the Wires, also created by the author — and recently published two volumes of episode transcripts that include extras for fans of their original show.

Welcome to Night Vale has been described as “NPR meets The Twilight Zone,” a sci-fi broadcast about a small desert community where strange mythologies abound, and all conspiracy theory is potentially real.

If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews.

If you missed the first half, you can find it right here.

In Part Two of this file Jeffrey Cranor and I discuss:

  • The power of productive procrastination
  • How “making the familiar strange” produces great writing
  • Why it’s really hard to be good all the time
  • How the battle against expectation can surprise readers
  • The art of great audiobooks as performance

Listen to this Episode Now

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November 29, 2016 at 06:13AM

Orbit Media’s Latest Survey of 1000 Bloggers

Orbit Media’s Latest Survey of 1000 Bloggers

http://bit.ly/2gtCeKr

cbfm-orbit-media-survey

It’s time again for Andy Crestodina’s annual survey of 1000(+) bloggers. Take a listen and see how your site measures against the trends …

For the third year running, Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media has run his Survey of 1000 Bloggers. We had a chance to chat about the most interesting findings … and talk about what a big project like this can mean for an organization like his (or maybe yours).

In this 30-minute episode, Andy and I talk about:

  • The content practice that twice as many bloggers are doing this year: How does your process stack up?
  • The emerging role of editors for professional content
  • The most effective content formats (as seen by content creators)
  • The two types of content that get the most links and shares, and how you can add both types to your mix
  • What organizing a big project like Orbit’s survey could do for your business and your authority
  • Figuring out how often to publish fresh content
  • The power of a mighty LBOW

Listen to this Episode Now

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November 29, 2016 at 05:16AM