A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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By Jaehwan Park – Edited by Kayla Haran

Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Bill Encouraging U.S. Government Agencies to Use the Cloud as a Secure Alternative to Legacy Systems

Snapchat Accused of Violating Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Announces New Policy Group to Promote Global Digital Trade

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Second Circuit Prohibits Extraterritorial Application of Stored Communication Act’s Warrant Provision

The Second Circuit reversed a U.S. Magistrate Judge’s warrant ordering Microsoft to produce customer content stored in Ireland. The Second Circuit held that the warrant provisions in § 2703 of the Stored Communications Act, 18 USC §§2701-2712 (1986) (“SCA”), cannot be used to compel a service provider to disclose user e-mail content stored exclusively on a foreign server.

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U.S. District Court Denied TC Heartland’s Writ of Mandamus to Transfer Patent Infringement Suit

 

In April 2016, the Federal Circuit denied TC Heartland LLC’s writ of mandamus. Hartland requested the court order the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware to dismiss or transfer the patent infringement suit initiated by Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC. In rejecting Hartland’s request, the court explained that a writ of mandamus is an “extraordinary remedy appropriate only in exceptional circumstances” and Hartland did not meet this bar.

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Congresswoman Speier’s Revenge Pornography Bill: Crossing the First Amendment Line?

On July 14, 2016, Congresswoman Speier proposed the Intimate Privacy Protection Act, a bill designed to make revenge pornography a federal crime punishable with up to five years in prison. Although the current version is narrower in scope than previous iterations, there are still some concerns that this bill violates the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

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Following an unfavorable verdict from a second jury and the Court’s denial of the first motion for judgment as a matter of law (“JMOL”), Oracle America, Inc. (“Oracle”) filed a renewed motion for JMOL pursuant to FRCP Rule 50(b). Oracle’s second motion, filed July 6, 2016, claimed that “no reasonable jury” could find that Google’s “verbatim [and] entirely commercial” copying of Oracle’s code, in order to compete with Oracle, was fair use.[1] The motion will be heard on August 18, 2016.

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By Steven Wilfong — Edited by Travis West

Benthall Complaint, U.S. v. Benthal (S.D.N.Y. October 29, 2014).  Complaint hosted by the Department of Justice.

Blake Benthall, the alleged operator of the popular drug market website Silk Road 2.0, was arrested last week as part of a law enforcement operation that successfully shut down Silk Road 2.0, as well as several other online dark markets. The complaint filed in the case alleged that Benthall ran the site under the alias “Defcon,” and charges him with narcotics trafficking, conspiracy to aid and abet computer hacking, conspiracy to transfer fraudulent identification documents, and money laundering. Benthall Compl. 1–4.

Benthall’s arrest and the seizure of Silk Road 2.0 were part of “Operation Onymous,” a coordinated action involving multiple agencies, including Europol, the FBI, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Over 27 websites were shut down as part of the operation.

The complaint describes several methods used to gain information about Silk Road 2.0 and ascertain the identity of “Defcon.” Law enforcement officials used the site to buy illegal drugs anonymously, Benthall Compl. at 12, and an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent successfully infiltrated the website’s support staff, id. at 6. However, the most surprising aspect of the investigation is that the FBI was able to identify a foreign server hosting the Silk Road 2.0 website. Id. at 21. Because the site was hidden with Tor anonymity software, identifying the website’s location should have been very difficult. Officials involved in the investigation have been reluctant to reveal how the server was located, leading to speculation about how Tor was compromised.

Although law enforcement agencies are optimistic about the ability to shut down other black market websites in the future, the possibility that Tor users’ anonymity may be compromised has also led to concerns about the potential impact on legitimate users. Wired and Ars Technica provide further discussion of the issue.

While law enforcement agencies are reluctant to divulge the method that was used to locate Silk Road 2.0, the Tor blog advances several possible explanations, including the use of SQL injections (a common web bug), Bitcoin deanonymization, or Denial of Service attacks against the Tor network itself. Regardless of how law enforcement agencies identified the server hosting Silk Road 2.0, the Benthall Complaint indicates that identification was a critical step in the investigation, as it allowed officials to access the server, at which point it was determined to be controlled and maintained by a person using the email address “blake@benthall.net.” Benthall Compl. at 23. Subsequent surveillance activities confirmed that Benthall used this address. Id. at 28.

The possibility that government agencies may be able to identify Tor users has significant implications for online privacy and anonymity. The Tor software is widely used as a method of protecting anonymity, and prior to Operation Onymous, was considered to be very secure. While Tor software is used to conduct illegal activities, it also has a number of legitimate uses. “[W]histle-blowers, political activists and dissidents, [and] journalists” use anonymized sites to communicate securely and in private. The Tor Blog raises concerns that governments could use weaknesses in the Tor software to identify and silence political dissidents.

Posted On Nov - 19 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Ken Winterbottom

Motion to Dismiss in Hulu Patent Infringement Suit Affirmed

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a grant of a motion to dismiss in Ultramercial, Inc. and Ultramercial, LLC v. Hulu, LLC and Wildtangent, Inc., 2010-1544 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 14, 2014), on the grounds that the patent at issue did not claim patent-eligible subject matter. In 2010, Ultramercial sued YouTube, Hulu, and Wildtangent for infringement of its patent on a method of distributing products over the internet whereby an advertiser pays for a consumer’s right to view copyrighted material on the condition that the consumer watch a paid advertisement. Wildtangent responded with a motion to dismiss, arguing that the subject of the patent was too abstract a concept and therefore not eligible for protection.

On two prior occasions, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of the motion to dismiss, and in both cases the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and remanded. The most recent remand was ordered in light of the 2014 decision in Alice Corp. v.CLS Bank International, in which the Supreme Court stressed that merely requiring computer implementation does not make an abstract idea patentable. Now, after examining the case for the third time, the Federal Circuit at last affirmed the district court’s decision. Patently-O provides analysis and suggests that the decision represents “a strong signal from the Federal Circuit that the court is now understanding what the Supreme Court meant in [Alice Corp. and its predecessors].”

“Virtual Classroom” Patent Infringement Case Remanded for Further Determination

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s judgment of noninfringement in Williamson v. Citric Online, LLC et al., 2013-1130 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 5, 2014). The plaintiff, Richard Williamson, sued Citrix Online, LLC and seven other corporate defendants — including Microsoft and Adobe — for infringement of his patent for a method of virtually connecting a presenter to a geographically remote audience. (The court described it as a “‘virtual classroom’ environment.”) The district court interpreted the terms of Williamson’s patent such that its constituent claims were unenforcably indefinite, or in any event, had not been infringed in this case.

In a 2-1 decision, the Federal Circuit remanded the case for a further determination of whether Williamson’s patent had been infringed. The majority determined that “the [defendants] have failed to overcome the strong presumption” that 35 U.S.C. § 112 does not apply absent language expressly referencing “means . . . for performing a specified function.”  The dissenting judge, however, took the position that § 112 could be triggered by other generic language, and that the word “module” in Williamson’s patent was sufficient to trigger it. The Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Association provides commentary on this disagreement.

Attorney Publicly Reprimanded for Circulating Email from Judge

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit formally reprimanded Weil Gotshal partner Edward Reines in In Re Reines, 14-MA004 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 5, 2014). The case arose from a scandal which prompted Randall Rader, the former Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, to resign in May. Judge Rader wrote a letter to Reines praising his performance in an oral argument and expressing that he was “really proud to be [Reines’] friend.” Reines evidently circulated the letter to prospective clients, which the Federal Circuit found to be in violation of the American Bar Association’s rules of professional conduct.

In a per curiam opinion, eleven Federal Circuit Court of Appeals judges chastised Reines, rejecting his First Amendment challenge and “conclud[ing] that a public reprimand is the appropriate discipline.” The Recorder, Technethics, and Above the Law provide further commentary on the case and its aftermath.

Posted On Nov - 19 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Michael Shammas — Edited by Yixuan Long

Amendments to the Intellectual Property Law (B.O.E. 1996) and the Code of Civil Procedure (L.E. Civ. 2000) (Spain).

GOOGLE_APTHDVR_1268416fOn November 4, 2014, Spain amended its Intellectual Property Law and Code of Civil Procedure. The new text includes a provision levying fees on aggregators, like Google News, that collect snippets of other webpages. This practice is often labeled a “Google tax” because of the disproportionate impact such laws have on the search giant. In addition, the Spanish law allows sanctions of up to $758,000 for websites that link to copyright infringing content. Spain is at least the third European government fining search aggregators to support their traditional print publishing industries, following Germany and Belgium. Germany stopped its “Google tax” earlier this year. Belgium gave up in 2011(more…)

Posted On Nov - 18 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Kathleen McGuinness – Edited by Sabreena Khalid

Azure Networks, LLC v. CSR PLC, 2013-1459 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 6, 2014).

Slip Opinion.

radio-wireless-tower-clip-art_resizedOn November 6th, the Federal Circuit issued its decision in Azure Networks, LLC v. CSR PLC. Plaintiffs Azure Networks, LLC (Azure) and Tri-County Excelsior Foundation (Tri-County) sued CSR PLC and its co-defendants for alleged infringement of Tri-County’s patent – U.S. Patent No. 7,756,129 (“the ’129 patent”) – describing a network for wireless communications between a central “hub” and several devices in close proximity. Slip op. at 3. The appeal involved two major issues.

The first issue was with regard to standing to sue; the defendants had successfully moved to dismiss Tri-County for lack of standing in the district court, arguing that Tri-County had effectively assigned Azure the patent in suit. The Federal Circuit decided the issue de novo, and upheld the dismissal.

The issue of standing turned on the assignment and licensing of the patent: The ’129 patent was acquired by Azure, a Texas limited liability company. Azure partnered with Tri-County, a Texas non-profit organization, to join in patent enforcement activities. Azure donated the ’129 patent to Tri-County in 2010; a few weeks later, Tri-County and Azure entered into a licensing agreement which granted Azure the exclusive, worldwide, transferrable right to practice the ’129 patent, as well as the “full right to enforce or and/or sublicense” the ’129 patent” and various other rights. Id. At 6. Azure’s enforcement rights included the right to reach settlements without Tri-County’s consent. Id. At 7. (more…)

Posted On Nov - 18 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Viviana Ruiz

Russia’s Intellectual Property Court affirms denial of Ford’s trademark application

Ford Motor Company’s (“FMC”) application to protect its company name and blue oval logo was rejected by Russia’s IP Office and affirmed by Russia’s Intellectual Property Court. Even though “FORD” was ranked as the 44th most valuable global brand last year by Forbes Magazine, the company failed to comply with Russia’s procedural requirements to obtain the requested protection. FMC failed to provide evidence of the company’s extensive use of the logo in Russia. FMC tried to prove extensive use through documentation of its joint venture with Russia’s car maker Sollers; however, since the documentation was provided by Ford Sollers Limited, it could not serve as evidence for FMC’s extensive use of its marks in Russia. The IP Office also held that the evidence provided did not show “consistent” use of the mark to qualify for well-known trademark protection. While this rejection may seem like a political move by Russia to challenge the enforcement of American company’s intellectual property rights, it may very well be true that FMC simply failed to comply with the requirements established by Russia’s IP Office. Nonetheless, FMC can reapply to obtain the well-known status of its marks.

Contrary to its advertising efforts, Red Bull does not give you wings

Red Bull GmbH (“Red Bull”) agreed to pay $13 million dollars to settle two class action law suits  Benjamin Careathers v. Red Bull North America Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-00369, and David Wolf et al. v. Red Bull GmbH, Case No. 1:13-cv-08008, both in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Benjamin Careathers, the plaintiff in one of the suits, argued that he did not grow wings and that his mental and physical development was not enhanced even after ten years of drinking Red Bull. $6.5 million dollars from the settlement will go into a fund that will be paid out to consumers who have been drinking Red Bull since 2002. Consumers do not need to prove purchase in order to get a $10 cash refund or get, in the alternative, $15 worth of Red Bull products. But since over 2 million people have requested for a refund, it is likely that consumers will receive much less than $10. A hearing has been schedule for May 1, 2015 to decide whether the settlement will be approved by Court. Consumers will receive their refund or products within 150 days of the settlement’s approval. Red Bull authorities have expressed that they reached a settlement in order to avoid further litigation, denying claims of liability.

Federal Court rules that food flavors are not trademarkable

In New York Pizzeria, Inc. v. Syal, 3:13-CV-335 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 20, 2014), Federal Court ruled that “food flavors” are not trademarkable given their functional purpose. Russo’s New York Pizzeria sued Gina’s Italian Kitchen for taste infringement, claiming trademark rights in the taste of their food. The court ruled that it is not possible to grant trademark protection to food flavors due to the “functionality” of flavors.

Posted On Nov - 17 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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