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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Third Circuit Panels Rule Differently on MySpace Parody Cases
By Abby Lauer – Edited by Alissa Del Riego

Layshock v. Hermitage School District, No. 07-4465 (3d Cir. Feb. 4, 2010)
Slip Opinion

Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District, No. 08-4138 (3d Cir. Feb. 4, 2010)
Slip Opinion

Two different Third Circuit panels handed down seemingly contradictory decisions last week after considering whether offensive parody profiles of school principals created by students using MySpace outside of school were protected by the First Amendment.

In Layshock v. Hermitage School District, a unanimous, three-judge panel upheld the district court’s decision in favor of the student, holding that the offensive MySpace profile he created in the principal’s name was protected free speech under the First Amendment. The court based its decision on the fact that the student had created the profile off school grounds and had not substantially disrupted the school with his behavior.

By a vote of 2-1, a different three-judge panel upheld a district court’s decision against the plaintiff student in Snyder v. Blue Mountain School District. The court in Snyder held that the student’s vulgar parody profile of the principal was not protected free speech under the Constitution, and therefore the School District had a right to suspend the student. The court emphasized that the suspension was appropriate because the school had well-founded reason to believe that the student’s parody profile would cause substantial disruption.

Law.com provides a summary and analysis of the two cases. Litigation & Trial discusses why the panels came to opposite conclusions. (more…)

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

By Tyler Lacey

Australian State Backpedals on Anonymous Online Political Speech Ban

On February 2, Ars Technica reported that following a harsh public reaction, South Australia’s Attorney General Michael Atkinson has pledged to repeal a recently enacted law that banned anonymous online political speech. The new law is particularly controversial because it applies specifically to bloggers and online commentators, but not to online newspapers or magazines. Atkinson noted that “the blogging generation believes that the law supported by all [Members of Parliament] and all political parties is unduly restrictive” and promised to make efforts to repeal the law. Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson concluded the article with the thought that while the vow to repeal the law was a “victory for people power,” the dangers inherent in anonymous speech should not be ignored.

United States Patent and Trademark Office to Receive Budget Increases

On February 1, Reuters reported that President Obama’s new budget proposal includes a 23% increase in the operating budget of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in 2011 as compared to 2010. The proposal also includes a 15% increase in statutory patent application fees and an allowance for the PTO to invest all of its fee revenues internally rather than turning over a portion of them as it had done in the past. The budget proposal urges the PTO to invest its increased budget and fee allowance in efforts to “improve the speed and quality of patent examinations.” According to the article, the PTO currently takes an average of 34.6 months to fully review a patent application and is hampered by an “antiquated” computer system and high staff turnover.

British Online Surveillance Website Stalled While Under Review

On January 28, the BBC reported that the Internet Eyes website has been restricted from offering surveillance camera feeds pending an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO is a United Kingdom government agency that takes responsibility for “uphold[ing] information rights in the public interest” and “promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.” Internet Eyes’ business model is to pay interested citizens to spot and report crime that they spot in surveillance camera feeds on the Internet Eyes website. The ICO is reportedly reviewing Internet Eyes’ compliance with the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act by verifying that the footage is used appropriately and that the citizen observers are properly trained. Internet Eyes has promised to comply with any demands issued by the ICO as a result of the investigation.

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

By Natalie Ram
Editorial Policy

A full version of this article, published in the Fall 2009 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, is available here.

Today, more than 300 million tissue samples from more than 178 million individuals are stored in the United States, and this number has been growing by more than 20 million samples every year. Through genetic analysis, researchers hope to identify disease-related and other genes and to measure the frequency of such genes’ occurrence across large populations. This kind of research requires population-wide bio-repositories of samples available for study.

Yet, individuals providing tissue for research may hesitate to do so if they fear that their interests will not be respected. Tissue providers may have concerns that their cells and genetic material — materials with which they may strongly self-identify — will be used for research they find morally repugnant or about which they were not informed. Unanticipated disclosure of genetic information may negatively impact the ability of unwitting tissue providers and their close genetic relatives to obtain insurance coverage or appropriate medical treatment. Tissue providers may also have strong interests concerning the commercialization of their cells and genetic material, especially if they are not permitted to share in the profits. And tissue providers have a further interest in the progress of science and medicine.

Researchers and society both also have strong interests in how tissue is used. Scientific research using human cells can be (and has been) immensely beneficial. Inappropriate or onerous restrictions on human tissue research may negatively impact the progress of science and medicine—a concern about a tragedy of the anticommons clearly articulated by several courts that have presided over disputes about the ownership and control of human tissues used in research. Moreover, permitting tissue providers to commercialize their cells may divert tissue from worthwhile research, diminish the necessary incentives for research funders to invest in research and development, or undermine societal dignitary interests.

Failing to mediate tensions between tissue providers, researchers, and society may cause individuals to avoid research participation. The solution is not, however, to compel such participation by dispensing with consent altogether and generally conscripting tissue left over from, for example, blood draws or biopsies. Indeed, doing so might cause individuals concerned about the future use of their genetic material to forego routine medical care in order to prevent their cells from being so conscripted. Rather, the interests of tissue providers, of researchers, and of broader society each demand respect and protection. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 4 - 2010 1 Comment READ FULL POST

First Circuit Holds That Artists Have Moral Rights In Unfinished Works
By Debbie Rosenbaum – Edited by Alissa Del Riego

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation v. Büchel, No. 08-2199 (1st Cir. Jan. 27, 2010)
Slip Opinion

On January 27, the First Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the Museum of Contemporary Art, holding that artists have moral rights in unfinished artworks.

The First Circuit decided a number of complex issues related to the Visual Artists Rights Act (“VARA”), holding that VARA’s protection of an artist’s moral rights extends to unfinished creations that are “works of art” within the meaning of the Copyright Act.  In so holding, the court reasoned that “moral rights protect the personality and creative energy that an artist contributes to his or her work,” and “[t]hat convergence between artist and artwork does not await the final brushstroke or the placement of the last element in a complex installation.”

The court also ruled that the district judge in the lower court improperly granted the Museum of Contemporary Art summary judgment for one of Büchel’s integrity claims under VARA and his Copyright Act claim finding that there were “material disputes of fact” that should be decided by a jury about whether the museum distorted Mr. Büchel’s installation by showing it to several people after making changes in it without his approval.  However, the First Circuit ruled that Büchel’s right-of-attribution claim was moot because VARA provides only injunctive relief to protect the right of attribution and his installation no longer exists.

The New York Times and the Copyright Litigation Blog both provide an overview of the case.  The Boston Globe provides a good news story that includes the facts going back to the initial dispute. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 2 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Reverses and Remands District Court Ruling in Obviousness-type Double Patenting Case
By Kassity Liu – Edited by Joey Seiler

Boehringer Ingelheim Int’l. v. Barr Laboratories, Inc., No. 2009-1032 (Fed. Cir. 2010).
Opinion

The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the District Court for the District of Delaware, which had ruled that U.S. Patent No. 4,866,812, owned by the appellant Boehringer, was invalid because Boehringer’s terminal disclaimer did not overcome obviousness-type double patenting with respect to an earlier expired patent, and because the safe harbor provision of § 121 of the Patent Act does not protect the current patent.

The District Court had ruled that the terminal disclaimer filed by Boehringer on the last day of the trial was inoperative because it was filed after the original patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,843,086, had expired. The court also concluded that the safe harbor provision of § 121 did not apply to the ‘812 patent because it was not filed as a result of any restrictions in the ‘086 patent but rather due to a restriction in another patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,731,374. On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed with the District Court on the issue of the terminal disclaimer, but found that the safe harbor provision did apply.

271 Patent Blog and Patently-O Blog provide brief overviews of the case. Patent Docs gives a more detailed analysis of the case as well as a short summary of the dissenting opinion. IPWatchdog talks about the practical nature of the decision and criticizes the dissent’s narrow interpretation of the safe harbor provision. (more…)

Posted On Jan - 31 - 2010 1 Comment READ FULL POST
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