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 Insue Kim – Edited by Elise Young

Elcommerce.com, Inc. v. SAP AG, No. 2011-1369 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 24, 2014)
Slip opinion

In re Barnes & Noble, Inc., No. 13-162 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 27, 2014)
Slip opinion

In re Apple Inc., No. 13-156 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 27, 2014)
Slip opinion

Federal CircuitThe United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the transfer of venue of Elcommerce, Inc. v. SAP AG, from the Eastern District of Texas to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In response to Elcommerce’s claim that the declaratory counterclaims could not be transferred to the Pennsylvania court without voluntary or personal jurisdiction, the court emphasized that there is “‘no requirement under § 1404(a) that a transferee court have jurisdiction over the plaintiff . . . [as long as] the transferee court ha[s] jurisdiction over the defendants in the transferred complaint.’” Elcommerce.com, slip op. at 10 (quoting In re Genentech, 566 F.3d 1338, 1346 (Fed. Cir. 2009)). As plaintiff, Elcommerce was subject to the declaratory counterclaims filed by SAP in Texas, and “jurisdiction was preserved when the entire action was transferred to Pennsylvania . . . .” Id. at 9.

The case was one of many “patent troll” cases regularly filed in the District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. Because of the treatment plaintiffs receive in the Eastern District of Texas, many defendants attempt to transfer their cases to another district. This has made procedural decisions from the Federal Circuit increasingly significant. ArsTechnica discusses why the Eastern District of Texas is such a popular venue for patent trolls. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 11 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Gizem Orbey – Edited by David Curtis

DSC_4000“Internet access feels like clean water and energy, but it is treated like a luxury, and the whole country is forced towards a giant buffet,” explained Susan Crawford, the John A. Reilly Visiting Professor in Intellectual Property at Harvard Law School, at a JOLT talk on March 4, 2014.

Professor Crawford, who is also a Co-Director of the Berkman Center and a former White House Special Assistant, spoke about the significance of Comcast’s recent bid to buy Time Warner Cable (“Time Warner”) for $45 billion. The proposed merger would consolidate a third of the nation’s cable marketplace into Comcast’s hands. Lawmakers, consumer advocates, and academics worry that the merger would create monopoly conditions, giving Comcast enormous bargaining power with edge providers and electronic, mobile and broadcast device companies. Comcast and Time Warner currently do not complete directly. Through the proposed merger, Comcast seeks access to New York City, Texas, and other markets currently dominated by Time Warner. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 11 - 2014 1 Comment READ FULL POST

By Zoe Bedell – Edited by Corey Omer

Commonwealth v. Shabazz Augustine, SJC-11482 (Sup. Jud. Ct. Suffolk Feb. 18, 2014).
Slip opinion hosted by Universal Hub

Photo By: Jeff RuaneCC BY 2.0

On February 18, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) agreed with a Superior Court ruling that the Commonwealth must seek a warrant in most cases before obtaining cell phone records that track an individual’s location. The SJC nevertheless vacated the lower court’s order granting the defendant’s motion to suppress the records and remanded the case for a hearing on whether the Commonwealth had met the higher ‘probable cause’ standard required for the issuance of a warrant. Slip op. at 1–2, 13.

In a 5-2 decision, the SJC held that the Commonwealth obtaining this tracking information — called historical cell site location information (“CSLI”) — from a cellular service provider constitutes a search within the meaning of art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and therefore requires a search warrant supported by probable cause. The Commonwealth had previously obtained such information by applying for an order under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d) of the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), which requires only proof of reasonable suspicion. So, this case joins an earlier SJC decision, Commonwealth v. Rousseau, 465 Mass. 372 (2013), opinion hosted by Justia.com, in increasing privacy protections under the Massachusetts Constitution. Jacob Gershman of the Wall Street Journal summarizes the opinion. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 10 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Gea Kang

Icon-newsFacebook looks to provide Internet access viadrones

In the wake of last month’s WhatsApp acquisition, Facebook may be adding Titan Aerospace to its arsenal for another $60 million.  Titan, a privately held company based in New Mexico, produces unmanned “atmospheric satellites.”  These satellites are solar-powered and can stay airborne for five years without refueling.  Titan unveiled the prototypes last year.

Facebook’s interest in this area stems from its work with Internet.org, which aims to provide Internet connectivity to those who currently lack access around the world.  Facebook is reportedly looking at 11,000 Titan satellites to help bridge this digital divide.  Google has been working toward the same goal with its balloon-powered wireless network, Project Loon.

Although the Titan satellites are ultimately slated to fly above the Federal Aviation Administration’s jurisdiction, regulatory constraints on the climb up to that altitude must still be addressed. TechCrunch first released news of the potential acquisition on Monday.

Michael Jordan emerges victorious in commercial speech case

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sided with Michael Jordan in a dispute that could have important implications for commercial speech allowances under the First Amendment.  Michael Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc. and SuperValu Inc., No.12-1992 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2014).  In its opinion reversing and remanding the case, the court held that grocery chain Jewel Food Stores, Inc.’s unendorsed use of Jordan’s trademark in an advertisement constituted commercial speech.  A federal district court had previously accepted Jewel’s argument that the advertisement was not commercial in nature and was thereby protected by the First Amendment.

The case centers on a one-page advertisement published in an October 2009 commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated. The advertisement congratulated Jordan for his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame and included Jewel’s logo and motto along with Jordan’s name, number, and shoes. However, the ad did not name any specific Jewel products or depict Jordan himself.  Jordan sued, emphasizing the alleged misappropriation of his identity.  The Seventh Circuit agreed with Jordan, finding that “Jewel’s ad had an unmistakable commercial function: enhancing the Jewel-Osco brand in the minds of consumers.” Jordan, slip op. at 16.

ESPN provides details of the case and its precedential implications.

Apple wins patent for transparent wraparound phone screen

Apple won 36 patent grants last Tuesday. Of these, U.S. Patent No. 8,665,236 has generated particular interest. The patent, originally filed in September 2011, discloses a transparent wraparound screen made of flexible glass—essentially, a reversible phone with no permanent front or back. Multiple cameras and facial recognition would facilitate the user interface, and the phone would be completely touchscreen. Despite the suggestion that a double-sided screen would accommodate more icons for users’ convenience, some commentators are concerned that consumers will not welcome the lack of physical buttons, such as for volume control. Patently Apple provides further details and graphics.

Posted On Mar - 9 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Ken Winterbottom

Theft drives former Bitcoin giant Mt. Gox into bankruptcy

Icon-newsMt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange based in Japan, filed for bankruptcy last week after the theft of 850,000 of its Bitcoins. The company, which started as an online Magic: The Gathering marketplace, once oversaw 70% of all Bitcoin trades, though its prominence had fallen significantly even before the theft.

Despite CEO Mark Karpeles offering a glimmer of hope for victimized customers in a Tokyo press conference, investors say that the lost Bitcoins, worth about $473 million and representing about 7% of the estimated global Bitcoin total, likely cannot be recovered. A class action lawsuit has already been filed against Mt. Gox in Illinois, alleging consumer fraud and negligence.

Bitcoin, the first of a growing number of unregulated digital cryptocurrencies, was originally lauded as a currency immune to theft, corruption, and counterfeiting. However, faith in the currency has been shaken by a series of setbacks, from the FBI shutdown of the Silk Road, an online Bitcoin-only black market, to reports of Bitcoin counterfeiting. Cryptocurrency supporters view events like these, including the Mt. Gox bankruptcy, as illustrating the importance of stronger security measures going forward, but remain confident in Bitcoin and in the cryptocurrency movement.

Lessig v. Liberation Music Settlement

Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig claimed a victory last week in his ongoing fight for fair use in copyright practices. Last summer, Professor Lessig used a snippet from the song “Lisztomania” by the French band Phoenix in a lecture video that he uploaded online. While the band itself came out strongly in support of Professor Lessig’s use of the song, Liberation Music, the Australian music label that owns the rights to “Lisztomania,” had the video forcibly removed. Not one to be bullied into submission, Professor Lessig decided to fight back. In collaboration with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”), a digital civil rights group, he successfully challenged the takedown in federal court, arguing that he was well within his rights to use Phoenix’s music under fair use policies. Complaint, Lessig v. Liberation Music Pty Ltd, No. 13-cv-12028 (D. Mass. Aug. 22, 2013) hosted by EFF.

Although the full terms of the settlement agreement remain confidential, Liberation Music admitted that the use of the song was permissible under both U.S. and Australian law, and it agreed to update its copyright policies to respect fair use. The music label will also pay Professor Lessig an undisclosed amount of money, which will go toward supporting the work of the EFF. Professor Lessig, a co-founder of the Creative Commons, is a longtime supporter of open access software, the public domain, and reduced restrictions on copyright and trademark use. His book Republic, Lost, is available for free online. In a statement about the settlement, Professor Lessig said:

“Too often copyright is used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech. . . . Hopefully, this lawsuit will send a message to copyright owners to adopt fair takedown practices – or face the consequences.”

“Google Tax” scrapped in Italy

In December of last year, the Italian Parliament passed a law which would impose a de facto tax on web advertisements. The law arose in response to a widespread practice among web giants that run on advertising revenue – including Google, Yahoo, and Amazon – of transferring corporate taxable earnings to foreign havens, such as Ireland, Luxembourg, and Bermuda, allegedly costing Europe and the U.S. over $100 billion annually. The Parliament postponed enacting the law until July 2014.

Now, the government of new Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, sworn in last weekend, has decided to cancel the so-called “Google Tax,” which many predicted would be found to violate European Union laws.

The idea of a “Google Tax” is not new: Israel has been considering a similar law for some time. The proposed Israeli law would apply specifically to search engines and would assess a straightforward 7% royalty. The Italian law, by contrast, required web giants to use Italian companies as middlemen in setting up advertisements. Meanwhile, Germany passed a law last year that would permit publishers to charge search engines royalties for using their news snippets.

Posted On Mar - 3 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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U.S. Marshals Servic

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By Michael Shammas — Edited by Yixuan Long Amendments to the ...