A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Aereo Struggles as Supreme Court Finds It Violated Copyright Law
By Jenny Choi – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

On June 25, 2014, in its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Aereo, Inc.  The U.S. Supreme Court held that Aereo violated the Copyright Act of 1976 for streaming TV shows shortly after they were broadcast without paying for the copyrighted works.  As a result, Aereo suspended its service and has struggled to find a way to re-operate its business. This decision has not come without criticism, however, as some warn this ad hoc decision could lead to uncertainty in the courts.

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DRIP Bill Expands UK’s Data Surveillance Power

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Insue Kim

House of Lords passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”) on July 17, 2014. DRIP empowers the UK government to require all companies providing internet-based services to UK customers to retain customer metadata for 12 months. It also expands the government’s ability to directly intercept phone calls and digital communications from any remote storage. Critics claim the bill goes far beyond what is necessary and its fast-track timeframe prevents meaningful discussion.

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Federal Circuit Grants Stay of Patent Infringement Litigation Until PTAB Can Complete a Post-Grant Review

By Kyle Pietari – Edited by Insue Kim

Reversing the district court’s decision, the Federal Circuit granted a stay of patent infringement litigation proceedings until the PTAB can complete a post-grant patent validity review. This was the court’s first ruling on a stay when the suit and review process were happening concurrently.

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Ninth Circuit Rejects Fox’s Request to Shut Down Dish Services, Despite Aereo Decision

By Sheri Pan – Edited by Insue Kim

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Fox’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  Fox argued that the technologies would irreparably harm Fox because they violate copyright laws, but the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court did not err in finding that the harm alleged by Fox was speculative, noting that Fox had failed to present evidence documenting such harm.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Patrick Gutierrez

Senate passes bill to make cell phone unlocking legal

ABA urges lawyers to stop pursuing file sharing lawsuits

FBI cautions that driverless cars may be used to assist criminal behavior

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By Kathleen McGuinness

Flash DigestSupreme Court of Canada Rules That Text Message Monitoring Requires Warrant

On Saturday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-2 that the real-time police monitoring of text messages was an interception of private communications and required a hard-to-obtain wiretap authorization. R. v. TELUS Communications Co., 2013 SCC 16 (Can.). As the Globe and Mail describes, these authorizations are limited to certain serious crimes and to situations where other investigative techniques have been ineffective. Ars Technica contrasts this privacy-protective holding with the law in the United States, where courts have split over the legal protections afforded to text messaging.

Google Announces Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge

To encourage the development of open source software, Google recently announced its new Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge (OPN). Under this framework, Google has promised not to assert ten of its patents against open source software, subject to “defensive termination” if another entity sues them. The EFF describes the importance of these patents, one of which had already raised worries among open source developers, and discusses Google’s future proposals for similar licensing agreements designed to promote innovation. Google expects the OPN to have several benefits, including transparency, broad protection, and durability; Forbes describes these benefits in detail.

Legal Challenges to “Stingray” Surveillance Devices Continue to Grow

According to emails published on Wednesday, federal investigators have used “stingray” devices, a form of electronic surveillance, without explaining the method clearly to the judges issuing warrants. Ars Technica reports the story. As the EFF reports, “stingrays” can locate a cell phone by mimicking a phone tower, but gather large amounts of information from non-targeted users in the process. Because of this indiscriminant data gathering and the lack of effective judicial oversight, privacy organizations are concerned about the use of the devices. One case, United States v. Rigmaiden, No 08-814, 2012 WL 1038817 (D. Ariz. Mar. 28, 2012), has become the center of this legal controversy, with involvement from privacy organizations including the ACLU and EPIC. The Wall Street Journal describes the case’s history.

Posted On Apr - 2 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

UMG v. Veoh
by Pio Szamel ­– Edited by Jacob Rogers

UMG Recordings, Inc. v Veoh Networks, Inc., Nos. 09–55902, 09–56777, 10–55732 (9th Cir. Mar. 14, 2013)
Slip opinion

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Federal District Court for the Central District of California, which had granted summary judgment finding that the streaming-video host Veoh was protected by the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and dismissed additional infringement claims against Veoh’s investors.

On March 14, the Ninth Circuit handed down a much-delayed opinion in UMG v Veoh, rejecting Universal Music Group’s contentions that the streaming-video host Veoh was not protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provision for online hosting providers, 17 U.S.C. §512(c). While UMG had argued that Veoh was outside the scope of the DMCA because it went beyond simple “storage at the direction of a user” by transcoding videos into common streaming formats and facilitating access to them, the court found that enabling access in this way is an essential part of web-hosting. UMG at 24-25. It also affirmed that the safe-harbor exception for actual or red-flag knowledge of infringement, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(1)(A), requires knowledge of specific infringing or likely infringing content, not just suspicious categories of content. Id. at 31-34.  Finally it found that Veoh did not have the “right and ability to control” infringing activity, as required by another exception to the safe harbor provisions, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(1)(B), rejecting Viacom’s contention that this exception should be interpreted in line with the common law definition of vicarious liability. Id. at 40, 42.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had filed an amicus brief in support of Veoh, hails the decision as a victory for hosts of user-generated content, while TechCrunch provides a primer on the state of DMCA safe-harbor law in its wake. The Copyright Alliance, a content industry trade group, argues that the 9th Circuit opinion still leaves open a few possible lines of attack against hosting providers. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 1 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
By Sarah Jeong – Edited by Alex Shank

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., No. 11-697 (U.S. Mar. 19, 2013)
Slip opinion

 

The Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the “first sale” doctrine applies to copies of copyrighted work lawfully made abroad, reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The case involved the resale in the United States of approximately 600 copies of textbooks that originally had been bought in Thailand at relatively inexpensive prices. On remand, the Supreme Court ordered that the Second Circuit conduct further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

The unauthorized importation of copyrighted material is barred by § 602 of the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. § 602), and John Wiley & Sons’ (“Wiley”) right to distribute is protected by § 106(3). However, the first sale doctrine of § 109(a) extinguishes the copyright owner’s interest in a particular copy after the first sale to a consumer. At issue in Kirtsaeng was whether § 109(a) applies to goods of “foreign manufacture”—more specifically, whether the phrase “lawfully made under this title” applied to goods like the Asian editions of the Wiley textbooks. In holding that the first sale doctrine also extends to these goods, the Supreme Court removed the geographical limitations to the first sale doctrine placed by the Ninth Circuit in Omega S. A. v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 541 F.3d 982 (9th Cir. 2008). Furthermore, the holding undercuts distributors’ attempts to divide regional markets and practice economically efficient price discrimination.

The Los Angeles Times provides an overview of the case. Professor James Grimmelmann of New York Law School discusses the case in Publishers Weekly, calling the issues in the case “significant.” Ars Technica also comments on the decision, celebrating it as a “vindication” of the first sale doctrine. JOLT Digest previously reported on the Second Circuit’s holding in favor of Wiley, affirming the decision of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. JOLT Digest also previously commented on the future of the first sale doctrine after Quality King, a case heavily relied on by the Supreme Court in Kirtsaeng. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 30 - 2013 1 Comment READ FULL POST

BASF v. Makhteshim Agan
By David LeRay – Edited by Ashish Bakshi

BASF Agro B.V., Arnhem (NL), Wadenswil Branch v. Makhteshim Agan of North America, Inc., No. 2012-1206 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 20, 2013)
Slip opinion

BASF Agro B.V. (“BASF”), the world’s largest chemical manufacturer, suffered a setback in its patent litigation against Makhteshim Agan of North America (“Makhteshim”), the world’s largest generic agrochemical maker.The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Middle District of North Carolina’s grant of summary judgment of non-infringement for the defendants. The suit focuses on patents covering BASF’s termite-killing pesticide, Termidor, which is the United States’ top-selling pesticide. BASF commenced litigation in 2010 after Makhteshim began selling a competing product, Taurus SC.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the lower court’s claim construction, which was largely based on the doctrine of prosecution disclaimer, as applied to BASF’s actions during patent prosecution. Under that claim construction, the issue of non-infringement was easily decided as a matter of law; thus, summary judgment of non-infringement for the defendants was appropriate. Specifically, the court found that BASF had disclaimed so-called “barrier” techniques of pesticide application—which aim to surround buildings with a complete polygon of pesticide—in favor of deploying pesticide at discrete locations around the building boundary. Since Makhteshim’s products use the polygonal barrier method, they did not infringe BASF’s patents.

Bloomberg gives a brief overview of the case and discusses the relevant pesticides. Croplife provides commentary from business leaders on both sides of the case. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 29 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Alex Shank – Edited by Michael Hoven
Editorial Policy

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”) introduced substantial changes to the U.S. patent system, among them the transition to the first-inventor-to-file priority system. Parties whose patent applications have been rejected by a PTO examiner and the newly formed Patent Trial and Appeals Board (“PTAB”) also have a new venue in which to appeal their rejections—the District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia (“EDVA”). Patent litigators, enticed by the “Rocket Docket” EDVA and its recently relaxed evidentiary standards, may spur a spike in granted patents, compounding the defects of already over-patented system. However, other AIA reforms, including expanded post-grant review and the opening of PTO satellite offices, as well as PTO appeals of EDVA decisions, will likely temper the spike. Ultimately, opening the EDVA may figure most prominently in heightening the scrutiny of potentially cursory PTO examiner decisions.

As described by Damon W. D. Wright and Matthew R. Farley at IPFrontline, the availability of the EDVA may inspire prospective patentees to refrain from bringing appeals directly to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) and instead to seek review in the EDVA. Prior to the enactment of the AIA, parties seeking review of patents rejected by the PTO could bring a civil suit to obtain a patent—commonly called a “Section 145 action”—but only in the District Court of the District of Columbia. Most applicants avoided the relatively sluggish DC District Court and appealed directly to the CAFC. The “Rocket Docket” EDVA’s reputation for efficiently processing suits may reverse this practice. As Wright and Farley note, the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Kappos v. Hyatt, 132 S.Ct. 1690 (2012), further enhances the appeal of a Section 145 action. In Kappos, the Supreme Court held that district courts hearing patent appeals can admit new evidence, bound only by the standards published in the Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure, and, if new evidence is admitted, the court must apply a de novo standard of review to both new and previously admitted evidence. In contrast, the CAFC examines only the evidence contained in the PTO record and does so with a deferential standard of review. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 25 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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