The United States Patent and Trademark Office is publishing a final rule revising the claim construction standard used by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the “Board”) in inter partes review, post-grant review, and covered business method patent review proceedings. The Board will no longer interpret claims under the broadest reasonable interpretation standard and will instead use the claim construction standard enunciated in Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) and its progeny and followed by federal courts and the United States International Trade Commission (“ITC”). The changes to the claim construction standard will only apply to proceedings in which a petition is filed on or after the effective date of the final rule.
On September 25, 2018, the House concurred in Senate amendments to the newly-named Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (the “MMA”), sending that act to the president for signature. The MMA is intended to “modernize copyright law” as applied to songwriters, publishers, digital music providers, record labels, and others involved in the creation and distribution of music. The MMA consists of three parts:
- Title I establishes a licensing collective for digital music service providers to grant blanket mechanical licenses to such providers and collect and distribute royalties to rights owners;
- Title II creates a royalty structure to compensate owners of pre-1972 sound recordings; and
- Title III provides a statutory right for producers, mixers, and sound engineers to collect royalties for digital transmissions of sound recordings.
The MMA is the result of unprecedented alignment among Republicans and Democrats, the U.S. House and Senate, and music industry stakeholders. Nonetheless, this major update to copyright licensing law in the music industry may cause upheaval within the complex music marketplace structure, which encompasses songwriters, studio professionals, artists, record labels, and digital streaming services.
On Monday, August 13, 2018, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a notice updating the Trial Practice Guide. The update provided revisions to Sections I.G. (Expert Testimony), II.A.3. (Word Count and Page Limits), II.D.2. (Considerations in Instituting a Review), II.I. (Reply to Patent Owner Response and Reply for a Motion to Amend; Sur-Replies), II.K. (Challenging Admissibility; Motions to Exclude; Motions to Strike), II.M. (Oral Hearing), and Appendix A (Sample Scheduling Order). The update further contemplates additional revisions that will be released on a rolling basis when applicable.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware denied a motion for reargument sought by Alvogen Malta Operations Ltd. (Alvogen) in their dispute against Pernix Ireland Pain DAC and Pernix Therapeutics, LLC, (collectively Pernix) regarding the subject matter eligibility of Pernix’s patents under 35 U.S.C § 101 (§ 101).
Alvogen asserted that, in denying summary judgment, the court misapprehended the claims at issue, and had failed to individually analyze some of the claims.
The Federal Circuit, in a nonprecedential decision, held that claims of a reissue application were properly rejected because they recaptured subject matter surrendered during the original prosecution of U.S. Patent No. 8,282,591 (“the ’591 patent”).
The ’591 patent is directed to an arteriovenous shunt that connects a graft to an artery and passes returned blood through a “single lumen venous outflow catheter” into the right atrium of a patient’s heart. This system reduces the risk of infection, clotting, and hyperplasia compared to systems that remove and return blood through a graft connected to a vein.
The Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) brought a declaratory judgement action against Ford Global Technologies (Ford), the holding company for much of Ford Motor Company’s patent portfolio. ABPA argued that design patents are inappropriate for auto-body parts and, in the alternative, that Ford’s design patents were unenforceable against the members of ABPA because the patent rights had exhausted upon the first sale of the vehicle. (Automotive Body Parts Association v. Ford Global Technologies, LLC, Case No. 2:15-cv-10137 (E.D. MI Feb. 20, 2018).) The Court held that Ford’s designs for their vehicle components were indeed eligible for patent protection and further that the design patent rights were not exhausted when the vehicle was first sold. Id. at 2.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a reasonable jury could find a design pattern on rifle scopes is “nonfunctional” and thus potentially amenable to trade dress protection. Since 2002, Leapers, Inc. has been selling adjustable rifle scopes with knurling on the surface. Knurling is a common manufacturing technique that allows users to grip and fine-tune products more easily.
Leapers asserted “that it uses a unique knurling pattern that is distinctly ‘ornamental’ and by which customers recognize [Leapers] as the source of the product.” Leapers had executed an exclusive manufacturing contract with a Chinese company, but chose to end that relationship in 2011. The manufacturer agreed to cease using all technical specifications and designs, but later a factory manager from the manufacturer formed his own company and began manufacturing scopes allegedly using Leapers’ knurling design.
U.S. Congress created the first statutory private federal cause of action for trade secret misappropriation when it enacted the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) on May 11, 2016. Now, more than a year since its enactment, the DTSA is being shaped and interpreted by various federal court decisions and enforcement trends are emerging.
It’s game, set, match for Adidas when it comes to the protectable trade dress in its iconic Stan Smith tennis shoe. In a dispute between Adidas and Skechers over the “Skecherizing” of the Stan Smith shoe, the District Court for the District of Oregon denied Skechers’ motion for summary judgment finding that Adidas could show it has protectable trade dress in its well-known shoe design because the design was recognizable to consumers and not functional. Adidas America Inc. et al. v. Skechers USA Inc., D. Or (August 3, 2017) (order granting in part and denying in part motion for summary judgment).
Is this the right angle?
Is this the best filter?
Do I have the legal right to post this content?
While the first two questions may be at the forefront of the mind of social media users, the third is arguably as important as the pressure to push content to followers mounts in a saturated market. It is all too easy to download, screen-shot or take a photo of an image and share it across many platforms, however, taking a laissez-faire attitude to copyright ownership can land social media users in hot water.
Last week, Xposure Photos UK LTD, an “international celebrity photo agency”, filed proceedings against Ms Kardashian in the Central District Court of California alleging that she had infringed its copyright in an image that was posted to her Instagram® account. The image in question had originally been licensed to The Daily Mail and contained a copyright notice “© XPOSUREPHOTOS.COM”. The version of the image that appeared on Ms Kardashian’s account did not contain this notice nor any acknowledgement of Xposure Photos. The unauthorised removal of the copyright notice attracts 17 US Code § 1202 -1203 which provide the basis for a civil action for such conduct. In addition to seeking an injunction to prevent Ms Kardashian from using the image, Xposure Photos is also seeking US$25,000 in statutory damages as well as any profits resulting from the infringement.
While this is arguably small change for Ms Kardashian (who allegedly earns up to US$250,000 for a sponsored post on her social media sites), once legal costs and any time invested in litigation or negotiating a settlement is considered, it seems a hefty price to pay for failing to obtain an appropriate licence from the copyright owner. It is a timely reminder to social media users to ensure that they have the appropriate rights to the content they intend to use.
- Xposure Photos UK Ltd v Khloe Kardashian et al, 2:17-CV-3088 (C.D. Cal).
By: Jaimie Wolbers