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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 Dorothy Du

Song Wins Contest to Circumvent “Happy Birthday to You” Copyright

For those unaware, the song “Happy Birthday to You” remains under copyright until 2030. The copyright, as Bloomberg Law and Gizmodo report, has been owned by Time Warner since 1998, and the corporation has made more than $2 million per year from licensing the song. Professor Robert Brauneis of George Washington University Law School says the copyright over the song is weak, as Slate explains, “due to lack of evidence about who wrote the words; defective copyright notice; and failure to file a proper renewal.” WFMU, an independent radio station in New Jersey, through its podsafe online music library Free Music Archive, decided to do something about it. Rather than challenge the copyright through a lawsuit, WFMU held a contest to replace the song with “a melody that children can sing without fear of being served.” The winner, “It’s Your Birthday!” by Monk Turner and Fascinoma, was selected by such judges as Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan. Not everyone, including Above The Law, is confident the song will accomplish its goal of replacing the original, however.

Privacy Concerns to Temper Excitement over Google Glass

Since April 2012, tech aficionados have been eagerly awaiting the latest news about Project Glass, Google’s project to create an “augmented reality” system. Google Glass comprises glasses-like headgear on which audio and visual information can be transmitted to and from a wearer, as Wired explains. A Google patent filed in April 2011 reveals that different embodiments of the device can utilize display lens or even a laser to display images directly on the user’s retina. According to First Post, Google Glass is supposed to perform much of the same functions as a smartphone, but without the hassle of a handheld device. Google has just opened up the project, giving U.S.-based developers until February 27 to apply to be a “Glass Explorer,” explains iProgrammer. However, with Google Glass comes some serious legal issues that have not yet received much attention. If it proliferates, Google Glass could run amok of distracted driver laws and creates privacy concerns over hidden cameras in places from locker rooms to board meetings, says Investors.com. CounterPunch has also expressed concern that the government and corporations may abuse the technology to get ahold of a “veritable gold mine of information.”

3-D Printing Gets Shout-Out in State of Union, but Copyright Concerns Growing

3-D printing is still in its infancy, but it is no longer merely an innovator’s dream. President Obama mentioned 3-D printing in the State of the Union less than two weeks ago as a potential way to bring manufacturing back to the United States. As NPR explains, however, the emerging technology may be significantly hindered by intellectual property disputes. A Note by Davis Doherty, a Harvard Journal of Law and Technology alumnus, has highlighted the potential for 3-D printing to run afoul of patent law by making it easy for the public to replicate designs that may infringe an existing patent on an unprecedented scale. NPR’s story focuses on copyright, stating that the problem arises from the fact that people are sharing their designs on websites like Makerbot’s Thingiverse, designs that are frequently protected by copyright. Moulinsart, the owner of the “Tintin” franchise, recently served Thingiverse with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice, with which it complied. This follows Thingiverse’s first takedown notice back in 2011, reported on by Ars Technica, which prompted Thingiverse to add copyright language to its Terms of Use.

 

Posted On Feb - 25 - 2013 1 Comment READ FULL POST

Executive Order on Cybersecurity
By Jessica Vosgerchian — Edited by Ashish Bakshi

Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, 78 Fed. Reg. 11739 (February 19, 2013)
Order; Press Release

Photo By: Mark SkrobolaCC BY 2.0

On February 12, President Obama signed an Executive Order to increase information sharing between government agencies and private companies regarding cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructure.

The order, titled “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” mandates the delivery of classified reports to infrastructure companies that are likely targets of cyber attacks. The Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence will develop a process for tracking the dissemination of the reports. Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, sec. 4(b), 78 Fed. Reg. at 11739.

The New York Times provides an overview of the order and reactions to it. The Huffington Post notes that the order safeguards personal privacy, a feature that the ACLU applauds and contrasts favorably with CISPA, the cybersecurity legislation reintroduced in the House of Representatives. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 22 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. v. Nagata
By Erica Larson – Edited by Suzanne Van Arsdale

Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. v. Nagata, No. 2012-1245 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 11, 2013)
Slip opinion

Photo By: Derek GaveyCC BY 2.0

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of the Northern District of California, which ruled that plaintiff Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Co. (“SEL”) could not establish federal jurisdiction over defendant Dr. Yujiro Nagata. The courts rejected a novel offensive application of assignor estoppel, traditionally a defense, which bars the previous holder of a patent from attacking the patent’s validity when sued for infringement by the assignee.

SEL asserted the doctrine offensively, arguing that Nagata had violated assignor estoppel in a previous lawsuit by testifying against SEL, giving rise to a federal cause of action under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a). Like the district court before it, the Federal Circuit did not reward plaintiff’s legal creativity. Instead the court held that the argument lacked precedent or strong supporting authority and declined to extend the doctrine. Semiconductor Energy Laboratory at 6–7.

Property, intangible provides an overview of the decision and prior events. Dennis Crouch, writing for Patently-O, speculates that the Federal Circuit would have affirmed without opinion were the Supreme Court not presently considering Gunn v. Minton, a case which questions the extent of federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(b). Minton v. Gunn, 355 S.W.3d 634 (Tex. 2011) cert. granted, 133 S.Ct. 420 (2012) (focusing on whether the state law attorney malpractice case raises a federal cause of action under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(b)). (more…)

Posted On Feb - 19 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Andrew Crocker

DHS Civil Liberties Office Validates Suspicionless Border Searches of Electronics

Wired reports that the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has released an “Impact Assessment” regarding the authority of customs and border agents to conduct warrantless, suspicionless searches of electronic devices. In its executive summary, the CRCL concluded that the 2009 executive directives allowing such suspicionless searches comply with the Fourth Amendment and that a heightened reasonable suspicion requirement “would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.” Because the CRCL publicly released only the executive summary of the assessment, the American Civil Liberties Organization (ACLU) reports it has filed a FOIA request for the full findings. The ACLU has long been critical of the suspicionless search policy and is representing a plaintiff who alleges his constitutional rights were violated during a 2010 border search that resulted in the 11-day seizure of his laptop.

Obama Criticizes Patent Trolls

Mashable reports that this week, during a technology-focused Google+ Hangout following his State of the Union address, President Obama discussed patent reform and singled out so-called “patent trolls,” businesses that acquire broad patents and use them to sue other inventors. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a video of the Hangout, in which Obama responded to a question about patent trolls by saying, “They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They are essentially trying to leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.” GigaOm praises the President’s stance but suggests that the administration’s past efforts on patent reform, including the 2011 America Invents Act, have not done enough to protect legitimate innovators from suits by patent trolls.

Python Software Foundation Fights Competing Trademark in Europe

Ars Technica reports that the Python Software Foundation (PSF) is fighting an a trademark application in the European Union by a British company, POBox Hosting. PSF, which manages the open source Python programming language community and holds a registered US trademark in the name “Python,” argued in a blog post that POBox’s attempt to trademark the term “Python” in conjunction with its computing services will lead to customer confusion because of the similarity of the organization’s market areas. In the post, PSF’s chairman seeks testimony about the recognizability of the Python trademark from European companies using the programming language. The Guardian notes that the dispute has the potential to mobilize the open source community because of Python’s popularity with developers.

Posted On Feb - 18 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

United States v. Howley
By Ron Gonski – Edited by Daniella Adler

United States v. Howley, Nos. 11–6040, 11–6071, 11–6194 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2013)
Slip Opinion

The Sixth Circuit unanimously affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part a ruling by the Eastern District of Tennessee, which found that defendants Howley and Roberts stole trade secrets and committed wire fraud in connection with Goodyear’s tire-manufacturing technology.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the defendants’ convictions but, in response to the government’s cross-appeal, vacated the sentences imposed by the District Court and remanded for resentencing. In so ruling, the Sixth Circuit indicated that the District Court did not supply an estimate of the economic loss from the theft of a trade secret and the reasons for that estimate, as it is obligated to do.

FindLaw provides an overview of the case. The Non-Competes blog notes that the Sixth Circuit opinion appears to open the door for a trial judge, when determining the economic loss due to the theft of a trade secret, to consider evidence that might be inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 15 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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