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.
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. The Supreme Court’s denial of Herman Miller’s petition means the Ninth Circuit’s decision will stand.Read More
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).Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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).)Read More
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. 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.Read More
The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that brand owners are not required to prove willful intent before obtaining a defendant’s lost profits. On April 23, 2020, the Supreme Court resolved a longstanding circuit split and unanimously held that trademark infringers may have to hand over their profits even if they did not willfully infringe.
In Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil Group, Inc., the Supreme Court was tasked with determining whether the rule that a plaintiff can win a profit remedy only after showing a defendant willfully infringed its trademark can be reconciled with the statute’s plain language. Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs, Romag Fasteners (Romag), holding that:
“[a] plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a precondition to a profits award.”
In a Notice issued April 28, 2020, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) further extended certain filing and payment deadlines to June 1, 2020, provided that the filing is accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This Notice supersedes the prior March 31, 2020 Notice that offered 30-day extensions to certain deadlines through April 30, 2020.Read More