In a fractured decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held on June 28, 2023 that two key provisions of the Lanham Act that prohibit trademark infringement do not extend to conduct that occurs outside the United States. Although all nine justices agreed that the Lanham Act does not apply extraterritorially, the Justices split five-to-four on the proper extraterritoriality framework. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito stated that extending the Lanham Act to conduct that occurs outside the United States is “wrong,” even if the conduct creates a likelihood of confusion in the United States, and that the contrary rule “would give the Lanham Act an untenably broad reach that undermines our extraterritoriality framework.” In contrast, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued in an opinion concurring in the judgment that the majority decision “significantly waters down protections for U.S. trademark owners”, and called for “Congress to correct the Court’s limited reading of the Act.” Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic Int’l, Inc., 600 U.S. _ (2023).Read More
A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held on June 8, 2023, that a dog toy company’s “parody” chew toy that mimics Jack Daniel’s widely recognized whiskey bottle does not escape trademark liability merely because the toy has “expressive content” or because it parodies Jack Daniel’s. Justice Kagan delivered the narrow opinion, writing that because the dog toy company, VIP Products LLC (“VIP”), used Jack Daniel’s trademarks as a designation of source for VIP’s own goods – i.e. using another’s trademark as a trademark – there is no special threshold First Amendment inquiry. The Supreme Court vacated the prior Ninth Circuit opinion that VIP’s use was protected under the First Amendment and the so-called Rogers test for “expressive” works, and remanded for consideration of whether VIP’s use is likely to cause consumer confusion. The Supreme Court expressly did not evaluate whether or how the well-known Rogers test may or may not apply in other contexts. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC, 599 U.S. ___ (2023).Read More
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) refusal to register the trademark “Trump too small” violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.Read More
The USPTO on April 21, 2023 proposed a variety of changes to the pre-institution requirements and briefing process for post-grant proceedings, including both IPRs and PGRs. Among the proposed changes are broad amendments to the discretionary denial frameworks, which are intended to provide clarity, curb abusive litigation tactics, and generally align procedure with the objectives of the AIA. The deadline for submitting comments and suggestions related to these rules is June 20, 2023. The proposed rules provide valuable insight into the future of post-grant proceedings before the PTAB. An overview of these changes is outlined below, and additional details follow.
- Parallel Proceedings – The USPTO is considering changes to the Fintiv framework, including the elimination of current factors 1, 2, and 5, a requirement for a Sotera stipulation, and a grace period that would exempt petitions filed within 6 months of service of the complaint from being discretionarily denied under this rule.
- 325(d) Framework – The USPTO is considering a rule that would reign in the application of discretionary denial under 325(d) by limiting its application to art or arguments that had been “previously addressed,” or actually evaluated by the patent office as articulated on the record, such as in a rejection, notice of allowance, or examiner interview. Mere citation in an IDS will no longer meet the standard. Prior art will only be considered “substantially the same” where it contains the same teaching relied upon in the petition, and that teaching was addressed by the patent office.
- Serial Petitions – The USPTO is considering replacing the existing framework for serial petitions with a rule that will deny any serial or follow-on IPR petition filed by: (1) the same petitioner; (2) a real party in interest to that petitioner; (3) a party with a significant relationship to that petitioner; or (4) a party who previously joined an instituted IPR filed by that petitioner. There will be an exception where the earlier petition was not resolved on the merits of the petition, or where exceptional circumstances are shown.
- Prior Adjudications – The USPTO is contemplating stricter requirements where a prior final adjudication by a district court or in a post-grant proceeding upheld the validity of claims that substantially overlap the challenged claims, essentially requiring the petitioner (1) either has standing to challenge the validity of the patent in district court or intends to pursue commercialization, (2) was not a real party in interest to the party who unsuccessfully challenged the claims, and (3) meets the heightened burden of compelling merits.
- Micro and Small Entities – The USPTO is mulling changes that would protect under-resourced entities by denying institution where the patent owner (1) claimed micro or small entity status at the time of filing; (2) did not exceed a gross income cap in the calendar year preceding filing of the petition; and (3) was commercializing a product covered by the challenged claim at the time of filing.
- For-Profit Entities – The USPTO is contemplating a rule that would deny any IPR or PGR petition by a for-profit entity that has not been sued or threatened with infringement of the challenged patent, is not otherwise practicing in the field of the challenged patent, and is not in “substantial relationship” with an entity to which the rule would not apply.
The USPTO has also proposed changes to the disclosure requirements, what constitutes compelling merits, and termination by settlement filing requirements. An in-depth discussion of each suggested change is included below.Read More
Hydrogen production technology, according to the joint EPO-IEA report summarizing patent trends in the hydrogen economy (summarized here), accounts for the largest percentage of patenting activity since 2011 among the three primary stages of the hydrogen value chain (i.e., (i) production, (ii) storage, distribution, and transformation, and (iii) end-use industrial applications). Trends show a shift in hydrogen production from carbon-intensive methods to technologies that do not rely on fossil fuels. The bulk of recent increased patent activity is directed to electrolysis development, while patent activity related to production from biomass and waste has decreased.Read More
Some of the largest false advertising jury verdicts were recorded in 2022. This, coupled with increased inflationary pressures will likely lead to an uptick in false advertising suits given that such pressures will impact consumer spending habits, leading to increased scrutiny of competitor advertising practices—particularly in the social media space.Read More
In CareDx, Inc. v. Natera, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that CareDx’s patent claims to methods of detecting organ transplant rejection were invalid as patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.1 Affirming the district court, the Federal Circuit determined that CareDx’s claims “are directed to a natural law together with conventional steps to detect or quantify the manifestation of that law,”2 relying on “admissions” in the patents themselves that the claims recited only “conventional” techniques.’Read More
Have you chosen a brand only to learn months later that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is refusing to register it due to someone else’s prior trademark registration or pending application? The USPTO’s most recent Q4 2022 data indicates that it takes 8 months or more for a trademark application to be reviewed—and ideally approved—by an examiner. Given that prolonged timeline, any issues with the application, such as a similar third-party mark that could prevent your own registration, may not surface until you or your company has already invested heavily in the mark.
This raises the question: what can be done for brands eager to launch but that want some measure of comfort that their trademark will be valid?
The answer: Searching.Read More
The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently held that merely removing copyright management information (CMI), without showing that that defendant knew or would have reason to know that its actions would induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal a copyright infringement is insufficient to meet the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) requirements for liability for wrongful removal of CMI.1
CMI typically consists of items such as title and authorship. In the digital world, CMI frequently is provided in metadata, essentially background technical data about a digital work. Metadata is a set of data that describes and provides information about other data. CMI typically is included in the metadata embedded in photographs, videos, documents, and other digital media. When distributing a digital work, the metadata, including CMI, may be altered in the course of reformatting the work, typically to reduce the size of the work.Read More