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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School Punishment of Online Speech: Evans v. Bayer
By Stuart K. Tubis – Edited by Frank Sabatini

Evans v. Bayer, No. 08-61952-CIV-GARBER (S.D. Fla. February 12, 2010)
Slip Opinion

The District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted in part and denied in part defendant’s motion to dismiss. The court dismissed the claim for injunctive relief to prevent Bayer from maintaining records of the suspension and to compel him to revoke the suspension nunc pro tunc. The court held that it cannot compel someone in her personal capacity to take official action. Nonetheless, the court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim for nominal damages, holding that the action was “off-campus activity” and protected by the First Amendment.

A NY Times article provides a general overview of the case. Wired and CNN also provide summaries of the case with limited legal analysis. Jon Katz writes in approval of the opinion emphasizing the frequent underprotection of First Amendment rights in schools. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 22 - 2010 1 Comment READ FULL POST

By Joey Seiler

Google Buzz Gets Privacy Groups Talking—and Filing Complaints

When Google launched Buzz, its new social media function, on February 9, the Internet giant moved into Facebook territory by sharing information and connecting social groups. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s complaint to the FTC, Google may have also moved into Facebook territory by violating users’ privacy. (PaidContent covered EPIC’s FTC complaint against Facebook when the company changed its privacy settings in December 2009.) The New York Times provides an overview of the many problems that arose when Buzz made it possible to see a user’s most emailed contacts, including privacy issues for minors and displaying confidential contacts of lawyers and journalists. Ars Technica reports on Google’s efforts to bring Buzz back in line with users’ privacy expectations.

Schools Spy on Kids with Laptops, then Stop in Response to Suit

Harriton High School in Lower Merion Township, PA, has been using the webcams in school-issued laptops to surreptitiously monitor students at home, alleges a complaint filed against Lower Merion School District on February 11. BoingBoing reports that the issue came to light when a student was allegedly disciplined for “improper behavior in his home.” According to Ars Technica, the school says that the technology was only used for the purpose of stopping theft. The school has since disabled the remote access feature entirely.

In Tenenbaum, Defendant Files Reply Brief to Reduce Jury Verdict; Plaintiff Drops Sanctions Against Nesson

Last July, a Boston Federal jury handed down an award of $675,000 against Joel Tenenbaum for infringing copyright in 30 songs by sharing them over Kazaa. Copyrights and Campaigns reports that Tenenbaum filed a reply brief to support his motion to reduce the verdict on February 18. Tenenbaum argues the actual damages are at most $21, based on the 70 cents labels would have received from Apple for an iTunes sale for each of the 30 songs. However, this method of calculation was explicitly rejected in the remittitur in the similar case against Jamie Thomas-Rasset, previously covered by JOLT.

Tenenbaum’s attorney, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson, has made a practice of posting recorded depositions and telephone conversations regarding the case to his blog. JOLT previously covered the RIAA’s reactions as it asked the court to have Nesson pull the recordings. A hearing on the motion was scheduled for February 23, but Copyrights and Campaigns reports that the RIAA has withdrawn its motion for sanctions.

Posted On Feb - 22 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Kassity Liu

India’s Stringent Patentability Standards Cause Corporate Dissatisfaction

On February 12, the WSJ Law Blog reported that India’s standards for patentability may be leading to a lack of significant patent protection for important pharmaceutical drugs. Before 2005, India offered patent protection to processes for making pharmaceutical drugs, but no protection to the products themselves. After the patent system was extended to cover the products, a large number of multinational drug companies began to market their products in India. However, as time passed, many companies became dissatisfied as they found that the new laws were not as protective as the U.S. and Europe. The WSJ post notes several examples of inadequate protection, including the recent Deli High Court’s refusal to ban a competitor’s copy of Bayer’s cancer drug Nexovar. However, one executive of an Indian generic drug manufacturer favors India’s high standard for patentability, claiming that “[t]he U.S. would grant a patent to a piece of toilet paper.”

FBI Challenges Probable Cause Standard for Cell-Phone Data

On February 11, the WSJ Law Blog reported that Third Circuit panel in Philadelphia was set to hear an appeal on February 12 of a lower court decision denying the government’s request to access cell phone records without probable cause. Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports that the FBI has increasingly been obtaining cell-phone records for criminal investigations without a showing of probable cause. Advocacy organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU support the probable cause standard, and argue that Fourth Amendment requires the government to “show that it has good reason to think such tracking will turn up evidence of a crime” before it can pull private cell-phone data. However, the government believes that the Fourth Amendment does not protect cell-phone data which they consider to be “routine business records.”

P2P File-Swapper Thomas-Rasset Set to Face Third Jury Trial

On February 9, Ars Technica reported that Jammie Thomas-Rasset is set to face a third trial on the issue of damages. In her last trial, a jury returned a $1.92 million verdict against Thomas-Rasset, which the judge reduced to $54,000 on remittitur. The RIAA refused to accept the new award out of concern that the judgment would effectively cap statutory damages for individuals who illegally download and upload music to $2,250 per song. The new trial comes as a surprise to many, since the amount of damages is the only issue at stake, and the judge has already held that anything over $54,000 would be excessive.

Posted On Feb - 15 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Affirms Infringement but Reverses Findings of Damages in Software Patent Case
By Andrew Segna – Edited by Gary Pong

ResQNet.com, Inc. v. Lansa, Inc., No. 2009-1030 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 5, 2010)
Slip Opinion

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in a per curiam decision, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings a patent infringement decision made by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that Lansa had infringed ResQNet’s Patent No. 6,295,075 (the ‘075 patent). The court also affirmed the finding that Lansa had not infringed Patent No. 5,831,608 (the ‘608 patent).

However, the court vacated the district court’s award of damages and remanded for a redetermination of damages. The court criticized the district court’s accepted royalty rate of 12.5% as being artificially inflated and disagreed with the process used to arrive at that rate. The court held that the “reasonable royalty rate” used in calculating damages must not be “speculative” and must not rely on royalty rates derived from licenses that are different from the current patents in dispute. Finally, the Federal Circuit also reversed the district court’s imposition of Rule 11 sanctions upon ResQNet and its counsel.

Law.com has an overview of the decision. PatentlyO analyzes the damages aspect and its relation to the Lucent v. Gateway decision by the Federal Circuit. The Patent Prospector offers a breakdown of the decision and thoughts on the disparity between the majority and Judge Newman. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 12 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

The Digest Staff is thrilled to announce that the newest volume of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, volume 23, is now available online, featuring:

Timothy Holbrook, “Equivalency and Patent Law’s Possession Paradox
This paper explores the paradox of the doctrine of equivalents — that the patentee is afforded protection for that which she did not possess — and offers two possible means of reconciling it: first, that patentees should only be protected under the doctrine of equivalents for changes in technology that arise from outside their field of technology (the status quo); and second, that patentees should be protected by the doctrine of equivalents if the patent’s disclosure would enable the asserted equivalent at the time of infringement, thus allowing the patent’s disclosure to grow over time.  This paper advocates that the second approach offers a better fit with the doctrine as traditionally understood.

Oren Bar-Gill & Rebecca Stone, “Mobile Misperceptions
This Article studies three central design features of cell-phone service contracts, arguing that rational-choice explanations of these contractual features fall short and that they are better understood as a rational market response to the imperfect rationality of cell-phone users. After verifying the theoretical claims empirically, this Article finds that the identified consumer mistakes and providers’ responses to these mistakes generate substantial welfare costs.  As a solution, this Article proposes mandated disclosure of use-pattern information, including average-use and, more importantly, individual-use information that, by directly targeting the identified consumer mistakes, can enhance efficiency and increase consumer surplus in the cellular service market.

Natalie Ram, “Assigning Rights and Protecting Interests
This Article proposes a new model for adjudicating disputes between individuals providing tissue for research and researchers accessing that tissue.  Drawing on intellectual property doctrines, this Article advocates the creation of “informational property,” a property right to one’s own genetic information. Guided by a framework of the interests of tissue providers, researchers, and society in the control and use of human tissue in research, this Article advocates an informational property approach modeled on Creative Commons licensing and reinforced by enhanced privacy protections in tort.

Kevin Werbach, “Higher Standards: Regulation in the Network Age
This Article proposes that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) remake itself as a standards organization, making its mission to catalyze the adoption of open standards that promote its regulatory objectives.  This Article then explains how a standards-based approach offers a better solution to the network issues faced by the FCC, such as network management practices of broadband access providers and unlicensed wireless devices adjacent to broadcast television frequencies.

Jon Darrow, [“The Neglected Dimension of Patent Law's PHOSITA Standard”] (Student Note)
Modern invention bears little resemblance to inventive activities of the nineteenth century.  Today, invention typically involves teams of highly-trained specialists provided with funding and equipment, who devote months or years to developing an invention. As a result, when judges look at a patent from the perspective of a “person having ordinary skill in the art,” the “art” they consider is the art of innovation.  This is a shift from early patent jurisprudence, however, which considered patents from the perspective of practitioners. The change has resulted in the withholding of patents on deserving inventions.  By restoring the traditional meaning to the word “art,” patent law can appropriately motivate socially valuable inventions that are currently being neglected.

Chris Johnson, [“Leveraging Technology to Deliver Legal Services”] (Student Note)
This paper examines technological solutions and tech-enabled business models for the delivery of legal services to those with limited incomes and specific needs. In particular, it considers several existing websites as case studies, and then proceeds to discuss the potential future commoditization of legal services and the coming transformation in the legal profession.

Sarah Sorscher, [“A Longer Monopoly For Biologics?: Considering the Implications of Data Exclusivity as a Tool for Innovation Policy”] (Student Note)
Analyzing the Access to Life Saving Medicines Act, currently under consideration by Congress, explaining how it will create a regulatory pathway for follow-on biologics that will likely include an extended period of data exclusivity for innovator brands and exploring the conflicts between and overlap of patent protection and data exclusivity protection, focusing especially on the impact of these new protections on the market for follow-on biologics.

Posted On Feb - 7 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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