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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By Tyler Lacey

Founders of The Pirate Bay Internet Piracy Site Convicted, Sentenced to Prison

The New York Times reports that on April 17, a Swedish court convicted four men, including the three founders of The Pirate Bay website, on charges of promoting copyright infringement. The men were sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay the equivalent of $3.6 million in damages to the holders of the infringed copyrights. The Pirate Bay continues to provide links that allow users to download thousands of copyrighted songs, movies, and computer programs. John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said that the copyright holders will continue their efforts to shut down the website.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Supports Block on Gambling Domain-Name Seizure

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in conjunction with the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, filed an amicus brief to the Kentucky Supreme Court on April 17. The brief supports the blocking of a Kentucky state court order, which requires domain name registrars outside of Kentucky to release control of over 100 domain names associated with gambling websites. A Kentucky court of appeals had previously blocked the trial court’s seizure order, ruling that Kentucky’s ban on “gambling devices” did not extend to internet domain names.

South Korean Blogger Acquitted on Charges of Spreading False Information

On April 20, a South Korean court acquitted Park Dae-sung on charges of purposely harming market sentiment. Reuters reports that Park had been accused of causing instability in the South Korean currency by spreading false information on his blog. Park had previously gained notoriety for posting accurate predictions of future economic troubles, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The court reasoned that even if Park did spread false information over the internet, he could not be convicted because he lacked the necessary intent to harm the public interest.

Posted On Apr - 23 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Equates Covenants Not to Sue for Patent Infringement with Unconditional Licenses

By Debbie Rosenbaum – Edited by Evan Kubota
TransCore, LP v. Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp., No. 2008-1430, April 8, 2009
Opinion

On April 8, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment, which held that an unconditional “covenant not to sue” has the same effect as an unconditional “license” for purposes of patent exhaustion.

In 2000, TransCore settled a patent infringement action against Mark IV.  The settlement agreement required Mark IV to pay $4.5 million in exchange for TransCore signing an unconditional covenant not to sue and releasing all existing claims.

The suit here was initiated several years later.  TransCore sued Electronic Transaction Consultants (ETC) for patent infringement based on ETC’s use of a system sold by Mark IV.  Three of the allegedly infringed patents were subject to the covenant not to sue with Mark IV; the fourth patent was related but had not been issued when the covenant was signed.  The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas granted summary judgment against TransCore.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the grounds of patent exhaustion (with respect to the three patents listed in the covenant not to sue) and legal estoppel (with respect to the newly-issued patent).  The Federal Circuit agreed with the district court that Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 2109 (2008), compelled the conclusion that “an unconditional covenant not to sue authorizes sales by the covenantee for purposes of patent exhaustion.”

(more…)

Posted On Apr - 19 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Holds That Later-Developed Alternative Manufacturing Processes May Be “Patentably Distinct” from Their Related Products

By Tyler Lacey – Edited by Evan Kubota
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. v. Doll, April 10, 2009, No. 2008-1131
Opinion

On April 10th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, holding that manufacturing processes developed after a product is patented may be “patentably distinct” from their related products.

In a non-unanimous opinion written by Circuit Judge Rader, the Federal Circuit held that “the relevant time frame for determining whether a product and process are ‘patentably distinct’ should be at the filing date of the [process] application.”  If there exists only one process to manufacture a product, the process cannot be patented separately from the product because the two are substantially co-extensive.  However, if multiple, materially different processes for making a product existed at the time of the product’s invention, then those processes are distinct from the product and can therefore be patented separately. See Manual of Patent Examining Procedure §806.05.  This decision now allows for processes discovered after the product’s invention to be considered “patentably distinct,” defeating any patent invalidity claim based on the double patent doctrine.  The double patent doctrine prevents a patentee from obtaining extra exclusivity time for a single invention by obtaining two patents for it. 

Peter Zura of the 271 Patent Blog summarizes the opinion. The Patent Prospector criticizes the decision arguing that the double patent issue was “resolved badly” and asserting that the court did not “[think] through the implications of its ruling.”  Patently-O provides a summary of the original district court opinion. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 18 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Caity Ross

British Web Tracking Tool Violates European Union Privacy Laws

This Tuesday, the European Union issued a legal warning against Britain for not applying EU data privacy rules to Phorm, a new advertising technology that tracks the Web movements of internet users. BT, Britain’s largest service provider, used Phorm without its customers’ consent during 2006 and 2007. As reported in the New York Times, the European telecommunications commissioner stated that the “European privacy rules are crystal clear: a person’s information can only be used with their prior consent.” The Associated Press describes further actions the European Commission may take if Britain does not adequately enforce European privacy laws.

Proposed Bill Would Remove Sales Tax “Loophole” for Online Purchases

CNET News reports that a congressional bill expected to be introduced early next week “would rewrite the ground rules for mail order and Internet sales.” Under existing law, consumers are responsible for reporting and paying the amount owed for online and mail order purchases under their home state’s sales tax. According to CNET, “California’s Board of Equalization estimates the state lost $1.34 billion in 2003 because residents aren’t paying use taxes–and attributes $208 million of that to online purchases.” The proposed bill could incorporate the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement, which encourages states to simplify their sales tax codes in order to help online retailers collect sales taxes more easily.

Swedish Anti-File Sharing Law Decreases Traffic, Increases Legal Downloads

Enforcement of Sweden’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) law began on April 1, 2009. The Local notes that the law resulted in a 30% decrease in online traffic, as well as a doubling of legal music downloads. T3 reports that the in response to the IPRED enforcement, The Pirate Bay plans to offer a Virtual Private Network service that will make internet users more anonymous.

Posted On Apr - 17 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

District Court Upholds First Amendment Challenge to the URAA
By Caitlyn Ross – Edited by Stephanie Weiner

Golan v. Holder
D. of Colorado, April 3, 2009, No. 01-cv-01854-LTB
Memorandum Opinion (hosted by the Stanford Fair Use Project)

On April 3rd, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, upholding the First Amendment challenge to Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), codified in 17 U.S.C. §104A. The case was on remand from Golan v. Gonzales (10th Cir.), which instructed the District Court to evaluate the First Amendment implications of restoration.  Judge Lewis T. Babcock held that §104A, which restored copyright in certain foreign works that had previously fallen into the public domain, cannot survive First Amendment scrutiny.

The URAA restored the US copyrights of foreign authors whose works entered the public domain for any reason other than the expiration of a copyright term in the work’s country of origin. The Tenth Circuit determined that the law “altered the traditional contours of copyright protection” by restoring copyrights in works of foreign origin that were previously in the public domain in the United States and therefore the law was subject to First Amendment scrutiny. The court held that once the works entered the public domain, the plaintiffs acquired a vested interest in the speech. On remand, the District Court – which had previously upheld § 104A – held that this provision of the URAA violates the First Amendment insofar as it suppresses parties’ rights to continue using works they had exploited when those works were in the public domain.

According to Anthony Falzone of the Stanford Fair Use Project, which is litigating the dispute, this is “the first time a court has held any part of the Copyright Act violates the First Amendment.” The Technology & Marketing Law Blog provides an overview of the case. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 13 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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