A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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U.S. Marshals Service Uses Airborne “Dirtboxes” to Collect Cell Phone Data

By Katherine Kwong – Edited by Mengyi Wang

The U.S. government has been using “dirtboxes” to collect cell phone data. The program, designed for criminal suspect surveillance, is accused of also collecting cell phone data on numerous Americans not suspected of any crime. While many commentators express concern about the program’s legality, others argue that the program is an effective method of catching criminals.

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News In Brief

By Henry Thomas

Ads For Content Scheme Held To Be Abstract Idea, Not Patentable Process

Federal Circuit Limits Application of Collateral Estoppel in Patent Litigation

Electronics Company Avoids Patent Enforcement By Directing Sales Outside U.S.

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Silk Road 2.0 Takedown Indicates Law Enforcement May Have Developed a Method to Trace Hidden Tor Websites

By Steven Wilfong — Edited by Travis West

The complaint filed against Blake Benthall, the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0, indicates that the FBI identified a server that was used to host the popular drug market website, despite the fact that the website’s location was hidden by the Tor anonymity software.  Law enforcement may have developed a method of compromising Tor anonymity, a possibility that would prove useful in future operations, but that also raises concerns for legitimate users.

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Ken Winterbottom

Motion to Dismiss in Hulu Patent Infringement Suit Affirmed

“Virtual Classroom” Patent Infringement Case Remanded for Further Determination

Attorney Publicly Reprimanded for Circulating Email from Judge

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Spain Passes a “Google Tax,” Analysts Predict it Will be Short-Lived

By Michael Shammas — Edited by Yixuan Long

Spain recently amended its Intellectual Property Law and Code of Civil Procedure to levy fees on aggregators that collect snippets of other webpages. It is at least the third example of a European government fining search aggregators to support traditional print publishing industries, a practice often labeled a “Google tax” because of the disproportionate impact such laws have on the search giant. Some analysts are already predicting that Spain’s new law will fail.

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Panel Criticizes Bilski Machine-or-Transformation Test
By Kathryn Freund – Edited by Ryan Ward
Editorial Policy

On Thursday, April 1st, JOLT hosted a panel discussion at Harvard Law School on the impact of In Re Bilski, a 2008 en banc decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit holding that the machine-or-transformation test is the proper method for determining patent-eligible subject matter. Digest previously covered the Bilski decision here. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in November 2009.

The three panelists, Don Steinberg, Professor Kevin Collins of the University of Indiana Maurer School of Law, and Professor Michael Meurur of Boston University School of Law, examined the Bilski holding from different litigation and economic perspectives, and wagered predictions on the forthcoming Supreme Court decision. The panelists agreed that the Bilski machine-or-transformation test rightly excludes software and business method patents, but fails as a useful test. They went on to agree that the Supreme Court will likely strike down the Bilski patent, but is unlikely to provide a concrete new test for courts to follow.

(more…)

Posted On Apr - 6 - 2010 1 Comment READ FULL POST

The JOLT Digest is proud to introduce our newest feature, Digest Reporter!  In addition to our coverage and commentary on the latest law and technology news, the Digest will now periodically report on important technology-related events at Harvard Law School and other events that may be of interest to the law and technology community.  These pieces are written entirely by members of our staff, on topics and events they choose to cover.

While the Digest provides hosting for Digest Reporter, the opinions expressed in the Reports are those of the Authors or named participants alone, and do not reflect any position of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, the JOLT Digest, or the Harvard Law School.

– The Digest Staff Editors

Posted On Apr - 6 - 2010 1 Comment READ FULL POST

District Court Limits the Use of State Secrets Privilege in Warrantless Wiretapping
By Kathryn Freund – Edited by Davis Doherty

Al-Haramain Islamic Found., Inc. v. Obama, No. 07-0109 (N.D. Cal., Mar. 31, 2010)
Memorandum of Decision and Order
(hosted by Electronic Frontier Foundation)

The District Court for the Northern District of California granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs, the defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and the charity’s two attorneys, finding that they presented sufficient non-classified evidence to hold the government liable for electronic surveillance without a warrant in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”).  50 U.S.C. §§ 1801–71.

Chief Judge Walker rejected the government’s argument that the Executive can invoke the State Secrets Privilege (“SSP”) to conceal the existence of a FISA warrant, and thus preclude a case the Executive believes would compromise national security. Instead, the government bore the burden of proving the existence of a FISA warrant once the plaintiffs established sufficient evidence of electronic surveillance. The court argued that Congress enacted FISA to impose judicial review of surveillance that the Executive cannot avoid by invoking the SSP.  In addition, Congress established a procedure under section 1806(f) allowing the government to show the legality of particular instances of surveillance — a procedure the government did not use in this case.

The San Francisco Examiner and Electronic Frontier Foundation provide an overview of the case and the Terrorist Surveillance Program under which the National Security Agency wiretapped Plaintiffs. The New York Times Editorial page views the court’s holding that FISA preempts the SSP as a step in the right direction in the fight against warrantless wiretapping. Wired questions whether the decision will be upheld if appealed. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 4 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Chinh Vo

Moviemakers Sue Tens of Thousands of BitTorrent Users

A coalition of independent filmmakers has sued more than 20,000 individual movie torrent downloaders for copyright infringement in federal court in Washington D.C., the Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog reports. The series of lawsuits marks the first major move in the U.S. by the movie industry to target individual torrent downloaders, rather than the torrent sites themselves, and is preceded by similar actions in Germany and the U.K. According to the Hollywood Reporter blog, these suits may signal the beginning of a wave of “massive litigation” against movie torrent downloaders, as 30,000 new lawsuits are allegedly forthcoming.

UK Journalist Wins Libel Appeal

The Guardian and Ars Technica report that on April 1, UK science journalist Simon Singh won an important appeal in a libel suit brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association (“BCA”). Singh is accused of libel based on an article he wrote, which described some of the BCA’s treatment practices as “bogus.” In reversing an earlier decision that had required Singh to meet the difficult standard of showing that the BCA was knowingly engaged in false claims, the court accepted Singh’s statements to be a matter of opinion, noting that it was not in the position to settle scientific claims. Singh no longer has to show that his comments were factual and can instead use a “fair comment” defense.

Major Online Service Providers Push Privacy Law Reforms

Wired reports major online service providers, including Google and Microsoft, have combined forces with internet rights organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation to form Digital Due Process, a coalition pushing for modernization of U.S. privacy laws. The group says that current electronic privacy legislation, particularly the 1986 Electronic Communications Protection Act, needs to be updated to reflect changing technology. Specifically, Digital Due Process advocates the adoption of several principles, such as requiring judicial approval for government access to information about email and phone usage. None of the internet companies that are part of the coalition, however, have announced changes to their own practices.

Posted On Apr - 3 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Court Invalidates Gene Patent
By Elizabeth Akerman – Edited By Davis Doherty

Assn. for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. USPTO, et al. Case no. 09-CV-4514 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2010)
Slip Opinion
(hosted by PatentlyO)

The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held the patents issued to Myriad Genetics for isolated versions of two human genes to be “directed to a law of nature,” and therefore invalid pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Judge Sweet granted the Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment to invalidate 15 claims in 7 patents relating to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.  The court reasoned that isolated DNA containing naturally occurring sequences is not markedly different from the native DNA, and thus falls within the “product of nature” exception to patentable subject matter under § 101. Additionally, Judge Sweet held that the claims regarding comparisons of BRCA sequences to determine whether a mutation is present are invalid under § 101, as they only refer to “abstract mental process.”  The court further notes that even if the claims-in-suit included the physical transformations associated with isolating DNA, this would merely constitute a data-gathering step and would not satisfy § 101.

A brief review of the decision is available at Patent Docs Biotech & Pharma Patent Law & News Blog. PatentlyO suggests that this decision is likely to be reversed by the Federal Circuit. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 3 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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