A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Privacy Concerns in the Sharing Economy: The Case of Uber 

By Sabreena Khalid – Edited by Insue Kim

Recent revelations about Uber’s disconcerting use of personal user information have exposed the numerous weaknesses in Uber’s Privacy Policy. The lack of regulation in the area, coupled with the sensitive nature of personal information gathered by Uber, makes the issue one requiring immediate attention of policy makers.

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San Francisco Court Considers Google’s Search and Ad Services Free Speech

By Jens Frankenreiter – Edited by Henry Thomas

A San Francisco court dismissed a lawsuit against Google, treating Google’s search and advertisement services as constitutionally protected free speech. The lawsuit alleged an antitrust violation based on unfavorable treatment of a website in Google’s search results, and on the withdrawal of third-party advertisement from the website. In throwing out the lawsuit, the court applied California’s “anti-SLAPP” law, which allows quick dismissal of lawsuits against acts protected as free speech.

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EU Unitary Patent System Challenge Unsustainable: Advocate General

By Saukshmya Trichi – Edited by Ashish Bakshi

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has rendered an opinion on Spain’s challenges to regulations implementing the European Unitary Patent System. The Advocate General opines that the challenges must be dismissed as the system is intended to provide genuine benefit in terms of uniformity and integration, and safeguard the principle of legal certainty, while the choice of languages reduces translation costs considerably.

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California Sex Offender Internet Identification Law Held Unenforceable

By Jesse Goodwin – Edited by Michael Shammas

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court ruling granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (“CASE”) Act. In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel held that requiring sex offenders provide written notice of “any and all Internet identifiers” within 24 hours to the police likely imposed an unconstitutional burden on protected speech.

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Congress Fails to Pass Act Limiting Collection of Phone Metadata

By Henry Thomas – Edited by Paulius Jurcys

The Senate failed to reach closure and bring the USA FREEDOM Act to a vote. The Act would have extended provisions of the Patriot Act, but would have sharply curtailed the executive’s authority to collect phone conversation metadata. While the bill had broad popular support, the vote failed largely along party lines, passing the onus of drafting and approving a new bill onto the next congressional session.

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By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Insue Kim

Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l et al., No. 13-298 (783 U.S. ____ June 19, 2014)

Slip Opinion

Intellectual property practitioners and technology companies anxiously awaiting clarification on the patentability of software will find little guidance in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice. In the highly anticipated decision, the Court declined to articulate a definitive test for when software may be patented, instead relying on the precedent established in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories Inc., 566 U.S. ____ (2012) and Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010) to invalidate the software patents at issue.

The dispute involved four patents held by Alice Corporation (“Alice”) related to a computer-implemented method for reducing “settlement risk” in financial transactions (U.S. Patent #5,970,479, #6,912,510, #7,149,720, and #7,725,375). Alice, slip op. at 1. CLS Bank, operator of a global currency transaction network, brought suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that Alice’s patent claims were invalid and unenforceable. Id. at 3. Following Bilski, the District Court held that the claims were ineligible for patent protection because they were drawn to a patent-ineligible abstract idea. Id. at 34. On appeal, the Federal Circuit sitting en banc affirmed the District Court’s decision. Alice filed for certiorari. Id. at 45.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether Alice’s claims were patentable under §101 of the U.S. Patent Act, or whether they were directed to a patent-ineligible abstract idea. Id. at 1. The Court unanimously affirmed the Federal Circuit’s decision, holding that Alice’s claims were directed to an abstract idea and contained no inventive concept, thereby rendering them patent-ineligible. (more…)

Posted On Jun - 28 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Kyle Pietari – Edited by Suzanne Van Arsdale

Photo By: Marc SmithCC BY 2.0

Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., et al., No. 12-786 (U.S. June 2, 2014)

Slip Opinion

A unanimous Supreme Court reversed the en banc United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which had found that Limelight Networks, Inc. (“Limelight”) could be liable for inducing infringement of a method patent licensed to Akamai Technologies, Inc. (“Akamai”) by performing several of the method’s claimed steps, and then encouraging its customers to complete a final step.

The Supreme Court held that there can be no liability for induced infringement of a method patent under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) unless direct infringement has occurred under § 271(a) or another statutory provision. Akamai, slip op. at 1. Under Federal Circuit case law, direct infringement liability under § 271(a) requires that a single party perform all steps of the claimed method. Muniauction, Inc. v. Thomson Corp., 532 F. 3d 1318, 1329. In Muniauction, the Federal Circuit clarified that this requirement is satisfied even if multiple parties perform the steps, so long as one defendant  “exercises ‘control or direction’ over the entire process such that every step is attributable to the controlling party.” Id. Limelight argued and the Supreme Court agreed that, because Limelight did not control its customers’ performance of a step in the claimed method, but merely helped them independently perform that step, direct infringement never occurred under § 271(a). Akamai, slip op. at 2, 5–6. The Supreme Court further ruled that, absent direct infringement, there could be no inducement of infringement under § 271(b), and it rejected the Federal Circuit’s reasoning that induced infringement liability could be predicated on a direct infringement that occurred outside of any statutory provisions. Id. at 4–6.

Patent Docs provides a thorough summary of the case. IPcopy provides commentary about the case’s potential relevance for patent attorneys. PatentlyO analyzes the Federal Circuit’s motivations behind its decision, concluding that it has a “fundamental discomfort with strict liability.” (more…)

Posted On Jun - 24 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Eleventh Circuit Finds Cell Site Location Data Requires Warrant
By Sheri Pan – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

United States v. Quartavious Davis, No. 12-12928 (11th Cir. 2014) Slip Opinion hosted by American Civil Liberties Union

Photo By: Kai Hendry - CC BY 2.0

Photo By: Kai HendryCC BY 2.0

On June 11, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reached a decision in United States v. Quartavious Davis, affirming in part and vacating in part a February 2011 grand jury indictment of Quartavious Davis and five co-defendants for participating and conspiring in several robberies.  During the pre-trial and trial proceedings, Davis moved to suppress cell site information, location data from cellphone service providers that indicate the cell towers near which an individual placed and received phone calls.  The specific cell site data in question showed Davis near the crime scenes of six out of the seven robberies.  Both the pre-trial and trial courts denied his motions, and the jury convicted him on all counts.

On appeal, Davis argued that the court erroneously admitted the cell site location information because the government obtained the data through a court order, not a search warrant. The Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), the statute under which a government entity can obtain subscriber information from electronic communications providers, requires probable cause for a warrant, but only “reasonable grounds to believe that  . . . the records are relevant and material” for a court order.  § 2703(c)–(d).

The question was one of first impression for the court.  Reviewing past search and seizure cases, the court concluded that the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures of electronic communications.  Next, it analyzed the Supreme Court’s opinion in United States v. Jones, where the government had installed a GPS device on the defendant’s vehicle to capture location data.  While Jones involved physical trespass and thus could not conclusively determine the case at hand, the appellate court relied on the Supreme Court’s majority and concurring opinions to determine that the idea that the Fourth Amendment protects a person’s privacy rights regardless of whether a trespass has occurred, is “alive and well.”  Because a person carries his cellphone into private spaces, even one point of cell site information is within a subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy.  Further, that expectation does not diminish when a subscriber shares the information with a third party such as a communications provider, because most customers are likely unaware that their providers are collecting such information.  Consequently, the government cannot obtain cell site location data without a search warrant.  Despite the court’s finding, however, it ruled that the district court did not commit reversible error under the Leon Exception because the officers acted in good faith in obtaining the court order.

Jennifer Granick, a Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, in a blog post for Just Security argued that Davis may help undermine legal support for the NSA’s bulk metadata collection by asserting that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy to records kept by a third party communications provider.  On the other hand, Orin Kerr, writing for the Washington Post, critiqued the decision, arguing that a reasonable expectation of privacy is based not on the information involved, but the means through which the government obtains the information.  He also questioned the court’s conclusion that most people are unaware that they are sending their information to the provider of their services.

Just Security and Washington Post provide commentary.

Posted On Jun - 24 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Icon-newsBy Patrick Gutierrez

6th Circuit holds TheDirty.com immune to suit for defamatory comments made on its website

Earlier this week the Sixth Circuit held that a gossip site, www.TheDirty.com, was not responsible for a defamatory post made by a third party on its website, reversing the lower court’s decision. Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t Recordings, LLP, No. 13-5946 (6th Cir. June 16, 2014). Although an editorial note made by the defendant was appended to the posting on the website, the appeals court ruled that the defendant’s actions were immune to suit under the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), 47 U.S. Code § 230, which provides that no “provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The Sixth Circuit reasoned that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the CDA since the website “did not author” or “materially contribute to the illegality” of the third party postings. Jones at 22. Evan Brown provides commentary. (more…)

Posted On Jun - 23 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Written by: Christopher A. Crawford 

Edited by: Loly Sosa

INTRODUCTION

Since 9/11, Congress has expanded the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (“FISA”) several times in order to meet the needs of agencies tasked with defending the U.S. against terrorist attacks. Notable expansions include the PATRIOT Act of 2001, but much of the recent controversy surrounds the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (“FAA”). In 2008, Congress passed the FAA to expand the legal foundation for more systematic surveillance, “establish[ing] a new and independent source of intelligence collection authority, beyond that granted in traditional FISA.” Title VII, § 702 of the FAA is cited by the government as permitting so-called “warrantless wiretaps” on foreign citizens for intelligence-gathering purposes. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), however, this law allows the National Security Agency (“NSA”) “access to [American citizens’] international communications without warrants, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and without ever identifying the targets of its surveillance to a court.”

However, the ACLU’s challenge to the FAA last year in Clapper v. Amnesty International failed because plaintiffs, who were American citizens, had no standing; in other words, they could not prove that they had been injured by the law. Plaintiffs had alleged that the FAA’s § 702 surveillance powers were too broad and too vulnerable to abuse against people like themselves who might communicate with a targeted foreign citizen. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, found that the plaintiffs were being overly paranoid and that there was no evidence of the law’s misuse—in other words, plaintiffs needed a “smoking gun” that their privacy had been violated before they could gain standing. (more…)

Posted On Jun - 14 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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