Ask SAM

Q: Has there ever been a time when there was an invention that was someone else’s idea — for example, as in the movie “The Jerk” — where they shared the profit?

J.G.

Answer: Though he has not seen the movie in question, local attorney Rodrick J. Enns said that is a common situation.

“This happens all the time, and is usually documented by a written agreement,” said Enns, who specializes in intellectual property law. “There are all kinds of circumstances where this might happen, such as when the inventor wants to assign the rights to someone else who will actually make the invention and sell it, or when there are two or more inventors that all contributed to the invention, or when someone invents something but then discovers that someone else may have invented it first.

“In all those situations, and many others, the interested parties may do a written agreement to sort out who has what rights to the invention, and that often involves a sharing of any profits earned on some basis.”

In “The Jerk,” a 1979 comedy, Steve Martin plays a bumbling character who becomes rich — and later loses his fortune — after someone markets an idea of his and shares the profits with him.

Q: A few months ago, I read on NPR that chalking tires for parking enforcement was deemed unconstitutional, yet every day driving through downtown I see multiple cars with tires chalked. Did Winston-Salem parking enforcement not get the memo? Also, since Business 40 has closed, downtown traffic has had to figure out how to get back on the freeway using alternative routes. My GPS frequently directs me down Third Street, but there are often parked cars blocking the right lane traffic and I’ve had a few close calls. I haven’t seen any “no parking” signage, but it doesn’t seem like an appropriate parking area.

W.R.

Answer: Regarding your first question, that was a ruling of the 6th Circuit, which does not include North Carolina, said Rodd N. Ring, transportation operations manager for the city. The court’s decision affects the 6th Circuit, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The case involved a claim that chalking tires is a kind of trespass and requires a warrant.

Regarding your second question, “Typically parking on most streets is allowed unless there are no parking signs posted and/or the on-street parking reducing the travel lane to less than 10 feet,” Ring said. “The Winston-Salem Department of Transportation will investigate.”

Q: How long with the cicadas be around? I think the noise from the trees is scaring my new puppy.

H.J.

Answer: According to Mike Waldvogel, an entomologist with N.C. State University Cooperative Extension, the cicadas should be around “maybe two more weeks or so.”

Q: A fire hydrant in the cul-de-sac on the edge of my lawn has leaked for years. I’ve called the city to report it, and someone comes and flushes it and soon it leaks more. Can you urge them to take action?

E.S.

Answer: SAM got in touch with the Winston-Salem Fire Department, which sealed the leak. The city will work on a permanent repair.

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Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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