"By definition, intellectual property includes the words, images, and sounds that we use to communicate, and the courts are strongly admonished not to 'indulge in the facile assumption that one can forbid particular words without also running a substantial risk of suppressing ideas in the process'."
Wise words indeed. They come courtesy of the Honorable Paul L. Maloney, a U.S. District Judge in Michigan who wrote the above line (partially quoting previous cases) in conjunction with this trademark dispute here [PDF link]:
Unfortunately, large segments of the IP legal community haven't gotten the message. Witness this recently filed case here [PDF link]:
[Posted at 05/12/2011 01:24 PM by Justin Levine on Against Monopoly comments(0)]
Andrew Cohen over at the Atlantic has a good primer on the important argument taking place this week at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals:
In a closely-watched oral argument Monday at a federal courthouse in Washington, the core questions of the case read like scripts from a college philosophy exam: are isolated human genes and the subsequent comparisons of their sequences patentable? Can one company own a monopoly on such genes without violating the rights of others? They are multi-billion dollar questions, the judicially-sanctioned answers to which will have enormous ramifications for the worlds of medicine, science, law, business, politics and religion.
Even the name of the case at the U.S. Circuit Court for the Federal Circuit -- Association of Molecular Pathology, et al. v United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al -- oozes significance. The appeals court judges have been asked to determine whether seven existing patents covering two genes -- BRCA1 and BRCA2 (a/k/a "Breast Cancer Susceptibility Genes 1 and 2") -- are valid under federal law or, instead, fall under statutory exceptions that preclude from patentability what the law identifies as "products of nature..."
Read the whole thing here:
[Posted at 04/03/2011 10:36 PM by Justin Levine on Patent comments(0)]
David Post over at Volokh.com has a must read concerning the latest attempt by Congress to restrict the way the Internet operates in order to protect Big-IP.
As he explains:
It's awful on many fronts. It would allow a court to effectively shut down a site operated out of Brazil, or France, without any adversary hearing (unless, I suppose, "the domain name" itself comes into court to argue the case) or any reasoned determination that the site actually is engaged in unlawful activity. There is a name for that in our law: "prior restraint," and we don't like them even in cases where truly compelling governmental interests are at stake, let alone where the purpose is merely to protect the rights of copyright and trademark owners.
Check out the full details here:
[Update] Popular Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds writes: "If I have to choose between getting rid of copyright and getting rid of free speech, I'll say goodbye to copyright. The folks at Big Content, and their shills like Leahy, seem to want to make me choose."
[Posted at 11/13/2010 12:34 PM by Justin Levine on Politics and IP comments(0)]
Ron Coleman writes an essay well worth reading on how trademark law has morphed into perverse measures at the hands of IP attorneys and big businesses looking to protect their turf in response to overall changes in the IP landscape.
A small sample:
Many "IP enforcement" attorneys believe that while there
is no shortage of bona fide infringement to occupy at least a
large number of them, trademark law practice has, to a very
large extent, descended to an anti-competitive methodology
utilized by dominant market players not to prevent consumer
confusion, as was its original rationale, but to reduce consumer
choice and overall welfare by preventing competition. For
them, the signal development enabling this "evolution" must be
widespread acceptance, on extremely dubious authority, of the
doctrine of "initial interest confusion" ("IIC") in trademark as a
substitute for the traditional standard requiring that a finding of
infringement be based on evidence of a "likelihood of confusion"
between the plaintiff's trademark and the device, words, or other
branding mechanism utilized by the defendant.
Access the entire article through Mr. Coleman's blog here:
[Posted at 09/14/2010 10:22 AM by Justin Levine on Trademark comments(0)]
Justice Stevens proves to be the go-to Justice once again when it comes to IP issues on the Supreme Court.
It just released a unanimous decision that he authored, holding that the NFL can be sued for anti-trust violations for trying to give exclusive manufacturing licenses for producing trademarked clothing with NFL logos on them.
(It doesn't rule on whether the lawsuit will be ultimately successful or not, only that the NFL isn't immune from such lawsuits.)
Read the decision here:
(A harbinger of the forthcoming Bilksi patent decison? We shall see...)
[Posted at 05/24/2010 01:14 PM by Justin Levine on IP Law comments(3)]
from CNN is amazingly funny, and not in a good way -
Recession's latest victim: U.S. innovation
Patent filings fell in 2009 for the first time in 13 years, worrying Silicon Valley that it is losing its place as the leader in global innovation.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. innovation slowed this year for the first time in 13 years as the recession cut into budgets, and costs to protect inventions rose.
The number of patent filings in the United States fell 2.3% in 2009 to 485,500 from 496,886 last year, according to a preliminary estimate by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That makes 2009 the first year since 1996 in which businesses and inventors filed fewer patents year over year.
"That's unfortunate because [patent filings] are a reflection of innovation," said David Kappos, director of the Patent Office. "Innovation creates so many jobs and so much opportunity for our country. It is absolutely key to our long-term success in the global economy."
Most blame the recession for the drop in U.S. filings. As a result, many companies are opting to hold off on bringing new ideas to market until the economy improves substantially
Read the whole article here.
"I tend to attribute huge rise in patenting activity over the past two decades more to a perceived strengthening of the patent right and less to an actual increase in innovations. In recent years, court decisions and threatened action from congress may have reduced the perceived potential value of the patent right -- thus lowering demand. Perhaps now, applicants are filing fewer 'junk' patents."
I suppose when there is an astronomical increase in patent applications for the past decade-plus, any minuscule decrease is supposed to be from a lack of 'innovation', as though patent applications should be expected to automatically increase exponentially every year - just like housing prices.
So-called 'performance reports' from the Patent office going back roughly 15 years can be found here.
[Posted at 12/11/2009 11:36 AM by Justin Levine on Patents (General) comments(21)]
this figure in its coverage which speaks volumes -
Applications for so-called business method patents have soared over the past decade, from 974 in fiscal 1997 to a peak of 14,364 in 2008, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
[Posted at 11/09/2009 07:10 AM by Justin Levine on Patents (General) comments(0)]
Wired.com has the scoop:
A federal judge ruled Monday that a lawsuit can move forward against the Patent and Trademark Office and the research company that was awarded exclusive rights to human genes known to detect early signs of breast and ovarian cancer.
The first-of-its-kind lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law claims that the patents violate free speech by restricting research.
Three cheers for the judge!
More to read (along with documents and decision from the case) can be found HERE.
UPDATE: CourthouseNews.com has more interesting tidbits regarding the lawsuit HERE.
[Posted at 11/03/2009 10:55 AM by Justin Levine on Patents (General) comments(3)]
Monster energy drink backs down from a frivolous trademark claim.
[Posted at 10/23/2009 06:05 AM by Justin Levine on Trademark comments(0)]
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made a most unfortunate ruling that trademark law and California's 'right of publicity' law "allows a celebrity to sue a greeting card company for using her image and catchphrase in a birthday card without her permission."
Read the original travesty here.
Fortunately, Hallmark greeting cards is not taking it lying down.
They have asked the entire 9th Circuit to re-hear the case en banc.
Read their compelling petition for rehearing here.
The Opinion holds that a right of publicity claim asserted by an iconic
celebrity, stemming from an expressive work that "spoofs" that celebrity and her
oft-repeated catchphrase, is not transformative or otherwise protected by the First Amendment. In his well-known dissent from denial of en banc review in White v. Samsung, the Chief Judge of this Court expressed grave concern about courts giving celebrities a "right to keep people from mocking them or their work." White, 975 F.2d at 1516. The Opinion does exactly that, in direct conflict with numerous decisions by this Court and others, and to the detriment of the fundamental right of free speech.
[Posted at 09/21/2009 01:53 PM by Justin Levine on Right of Publicity comments(0)]