Category: United States

1
State AGs Join the Push to Restore FTC Powers to Obtain Monetary Relief
2
USPTO Proposes Rulemaking to Implement Provisions of the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020
3
A Fair Use Tale, or All’s Well That Ends: the U.S. Supreme Court Holds Google’s Use of Java Code to Be a Fair Use under U.S. Copyright Law
4
When Is an Office Chair Design Famous? U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Herman Miller’s Trade Dress Appeal Regarding the Eames Chair
5
“Lettuce Turnip the Beet” Pun on T-Shirts Not Trademark Use, Ninth Circuit Affirms
6
U.S. Spending Bill Includes Sweeping New Copyright and Trademark Measures
7
PTAB Decisions Can Now Be Nominated Anonymously
8
Can’t “Shake It Off” Yet: Court Denies Taylor Swift’s Motion to Dismiss Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
9
PTAB’s Motion to Amend Patentability Powers
10
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Booking.com to Trademark Its Domain Name

State AGs Join the Push to Restore FTC Powers to Obtain Monetary Relief

On June 28, 2021, the Attorneys General from New York and Colorado co-authored a letter to congressional leaders supporting the restoration of the Federal Trade Commission’s right to seek equitable relief, an affirmation urgently sought by the pending Consumer Protection and Recovery Act (H.R. 2668).  Twenty-eight attorneys general joined en masse to support the passage of H.R. 2668, which was introduced in April 2021 by Representative Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) to “to affirmatively confirm the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to seek permanent injunctions and other equitable relief for violations of any provision of law enforced by the Commission.”

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USPTO Proposes Rulemaking to Implement Provisions of the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020

On 18 May 2021, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (TMA). The USPTO proposed to amend the rules to implement certain provisions of the TMA, as detailed below. The proposed new and amended rules:

  1. establish procedures and fees for ex parte expungement and reexamination proceedings
  2. provide nonuse grounds for cancellation before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB)
  3. establish flexible office action response periods, and
  4. amend the existing letter-of-protest rule to indicate that letter-of-protest determinations are final and nonreviewable.

Amendments are also proposed for the rules concerning the suspension of USPTO proceedings and rules governing attorney recognition in trademark matters. Finally, a new rule is proposed to address procedures regarding court orders cancelling or affecting registrations. The USPTO must receive written comments regarding these proposed rules on or before 19 July 2021.

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A Fair Use Tale, or All’s Well That Ends: the U.S. Supreme Court Holds Google’s Use of Java Code to Be a Fair Use under U.S. Copyright Law

By: Mark H. WittowPaul J. BrueneTrevor M. Gates

On 5 April 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved a major copyright dispute that had wound through the federal courts for over a decade. In a 6-2 decision written by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court held that Google’s copying of roughly 11,500 lines of declaring Java code for Google’s mobile Android platform was a fair use as a matter of law and thus not copyright infringement. The decision addresses the application of copyright law to software and updates and extends the Supreme Court’s copyright fair use jurisprudence. Read our recent client alert here.

When Is an Office Chair Design Famous? U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Herman Miller’s Trade Dress Appeal Regarding the Eames Chair

The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take up Herman Miller, Inc.’s appeal from a Ninth Circuit holding that partially overturned a jury verdict and held that Herman Miller’s popular Eames office chair (average retail price US$1,200) is not “famous” enough to qualify for trade dress dilution protection.[1] The Supreme Court’s denial of Herman Miller’s petition means the Ninth Circuit’s decision will stand.

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“Lettuce Turnip the Beet” Pun on T-Shirts Not Trademark Use, Ninth Circuit Affirms

The owner of the trademark “LETTUCE TURNIP THE BEET” cannot prevent third parties from printing the mere phrase on t-shirts, tote bags, or other products. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed on January 20, 2021 that consumers are likely to purchase such products because they find the phrase aesthetically pleasing and not because they associate the phrase with any particular source. LTTB LLC v. Redbubble, Inc., 19-16464 (9th Cir. 2021).

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U.S. Spending Bill Includes Sweeping New Copyright and Trademark Measures

On Monday, 21 December, U.S. Congressional leaders passed a spending bill that included government funding and folded in several controversial intellectual property provisions that will expand the rights of intellectual property owners. These provisions include the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforce (CASE) Act, the Trademark Modernization Act (TMA), and a law to make certain illegal streaming a felony. The bill was signed into law by President Trump on 27 December 2020.

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PTAB Decisions Can Now Be Nominated Anonymously

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) now allows “individuals to anonymously nominate any routine decision of the Board for designation as precedential or informative.” (Click here for PTAB Decision Nomination form.)

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Can’t “Shake It Off” Yet: Court Denies Taylor Swift’s Motion to Dismiss Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

On September 2, 2020, a California federal judge denied musician Taylor Swift’s motion to dismiss copyright infringement claims related to the lyrics in Swift’s hit song Shake It Off. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the district court held the merger doctrine did not apply at this stage and that plaintiffs Nathan Butler and Sean Hall sufficiently alleged a protectable sequence of creative expression and substantial similarity in the lyrics at issue. This ruling comes nearly three years after Hall and Butler originally filed suit, and nearly one year after the Ninth Circuit breathed new life into the case by reversing the district court’s prior dismissal of this lawsuit.

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PTAB’s Motion to Amend Patentability Powers

In a 2-1 split decision on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, the Federal Circuit confirmed that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB“) had the authority to reject substitute claims under 35 U.S.C. §§ 101 and 112, statutory grounds not available to the PTAB for evaluating patentability of granted patent claims in inter partes review (“IPR“). (Uniloc 2017 LLC, v. Hulu, LLC et al., Case No. 2019-1686, slip op. at 3 (Fed. Cir. July 22, 2020).)

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Booking.com to Trademark Its Domain Name

On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., 591 U.S. ___ (2020) that “Booking.com” is eligible for trademark registration because consumers do not perceive “Booking.com” as a generic name.[1] The 8-1 decision written by Justice Ginsburg rejected the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s argument that when a generic term is combined with a generic Internet-domain-name suffix like “.com,” the resulting combination is necessarily generic, noting that such an unyielding legal rule that entirely disregards consumer perception is incompatible with the Lanham Act.

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