A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Daniel Etcovitch – Edited by Emily Chan

Florida Judge Rules Bitcoin Is Not Equivalent to Money

Illinois Governor Signs Bill Restricting Use of Stingrays

DMCA DRM Circumvention Provision’s Constitutionality Being Challenged

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest

By Yuan Cao – Edited by Frederick Ding

Mere Commercial Benefit Not Enough to Trigger The On-Sale Bar

Technology-Based Software Solution Can Be Patentable 

Patent Disputes about Siri, iTunes, Notification Push, and Location

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Sixth Circuit Finds Privacy Interest in Mugshots under FOIA

By Filippo Raso – Edited by Ariane Moss

A split en banc Sixth Circuit reversed the lower courts’ ruling, holding individuals have a privacy interest in their booking photos for the purposes of Exemption 7(C) of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. In so doing, the Court overruled Circuit precedent established two decades ago. The case was remanded with instructions to balance the public interests against the individual’s privacy interest.

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The EFF Challenges the DMCA Anti-Circumvention Provision: A First Amendment Fight

By Priyanka Nawathe – Edited by Kayla Haran

On July 21, 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the United States government to overturn DMCA Section 1201, commonly referred to as the anti-circumvention provision. The EFF argues that this provision, designed to prevent circumvention of “technological protection measures,” actually chills research and free speech, and thus is a violation of the First Amendment.

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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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By Elise Young – Edited by Geng Chen

Solvay S.A. v. Honeywell Int’l Inc., No. 12-1660 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 12, 2014)
Slip Opinion

The Federal Circuit affirmed the ruling of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware that one claim in Solvay S.A.’s (“Solvay”) patent was invalid because actions taken by Honeywell International, Inc. (“Honeywell”) qualified as prior art.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, despite conception of the invention in Russia, because Honeywell had reduced the invention to practice in the United States. Solvay, slip op. at 2. Under pre-America Invents Act law, foreign invention and reduction to practice would not invalidate a patent as prior art. Id. at 3. However, if the invention was “made in [the United States],” then it could qualify as prior art. Id. In so holding, the court clarified that the inurement doctrine — which, if applied in this case to Honeywell’s activity, would set the timing of prior art to the date that the Russian invention was reduced to practice in the United States — did not require an explicit order to reduce the invention to practice, but rather, could be implicit in an agreement. Id. at 16.

The Patent Law Practice Center provides an overview of the case.

Solvay patented an improvement on the method for making a hydroflourocarbon, HFC-245fa, used primarily in preparing insulation materials. Id. at 4–5. A year before Solvay’s priority date, Honeywell and Russian engineers entered into a research contract for the development of a substantially similar method. Id. at 5. Honeywell personell in the United States ran that process before the priority date. Id. After Solvay sued for infringement, Honeywell argued that, because it had reduced the method to practice in the United States prior to Solvay’s application, Honeywell’s engineers were inventors under § 102(g)(2) (note that § 102(g) was removed via the America Invents Act), and thus independent claim one, the only one at issue on appeal, was invalid. Id. at 5­–6.

The key point of contention was whether the activities of Honeywell could inure to the Russian engineers. Id. at 8–9, 14. If inurement did not apply, then Honeywell’s reduction to practice prior to the patent’s priority date could not be attributed to the Russian inventors and Solvay’s patent would be valid. Id. at 8. Significantly, the court determined that the inurement doctrine — “defining when the activities of others inure to the benefit of the inventor” — does not require that the inventor, in this case the Russian engineers, direct the non-inventor to reduce the invention to practice. Id. at 14. The court emphasized that “inurement exists if the inventor authorizes another to reduce this invention to practice.” Id. at 16 (emphasis added). It cited a number of cases where an inventor’s idea was reduced to practice seemingly with his implied authorization but absent any express request, involvement, or at times, even his knowledge. Id. at 14–16. Thus, the court found that the research agreement between Honeywell and the Russian engineers was sufficient to establish inurement, thus cementing reduction to practice prior to Solvay’s application, invalidating the first claim of the patent. Id. at 17.

Judge Newman criticized the holding in his dissent, stating that the court was creating “a new class of secret prior art . . . .” Id. at 1 (Newman, J., dissenting). Newman emphasized that the Russian invention was disclosed in an unpublished application and that Honeywell had only tested the invention. He criticized the majority’s reliance on inurement doctrine, pointing out that inurement is limited to interference contests, where a foreign inventor receives the benefit of a earlier reduction to practice on his behalf in the United States in establishing his priority date.  Inurement, however, “has no relation to whether that activity is prior art against the world.” Id. at 6 (emphasis added). Recognizing Honeywell’s activity as prior art “contravenes the policy and the letter of patent law,” id. at 1, and “[i]t is as unnecessary as it is inappropriate to so enlarge the scope of secret prior art,” id. at 8–9.

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

By Amy Zhang

Icon-newsSamsung Sues Dyson for Damages to Its Reputation

Last August, the well-known vacuum maker Dyson sued Samsung for patent infringement in the United Kingdom, where Dyson is based. Dyson alleged that Samsung’s MotionSync vacuums used technology that violated patents Dyson holds for technology in its MotoSync vacuums. According to Ars Technica, Dyson dropped the suit for unknown reasons, citing “loopholes in the patent system.”

Now, Samsung has filed a 10 billion won (about $9.43 million) lawsuit in South Korea, claiming damages from Dyson for hurting Samsung’s public image by portraying Samsung as a “repeat patent violator or copycat.” Samsung has previously engaged in legal battles with Apple over patent infringement.

“Samsung has the right to assess the damage the lawsuit has caused. Samsung is going to take a hard-line stance against patent trolls that use litigations as a marketing tool,” said a Samsung executive to The Korean Times via telephone last Sunday.

Maker of Candy Crush Saga Files for an IPO

King Digital Entertainment, maker of the smash hit mobile game Candy Crush Saga, filed papers for an initial public offering (“IPO”) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week on Tuesday. The company has set $500 million as the fundraising goal for its IPO. The company would become the biggest publicly held company in the casual gaming industry.

Candy Crush Saga has been a huge source of profit for King Digital Entertainment. The game debuted in summer 2012. Since then, the company’s profits jumped from $7.8 million in 2012 to $567.6 million in 2013. Candy Crush has an average of 93 million users per day and is the second most popular game in Apple’s App Store.

Venture Beat has pointed out one potential problem with the filing. King’s revenues declined from $621 million in the third quarter of last year to $602 million in the fourth quarter. Moreover, in its IPO filing, King acknowledges that “a small number of games currently generate a substantial majority of our revenue,” but emphasizes that it is attempting to diversify its line up of games beyond Candy Crush.

AT&T Releases First Transparency Report

On Tuesday, AT&T published its first transparency report, revealing that it received nearly 302,000 data requests in 2013 relating to criminal and civil cases. The requests included more than 248,000 subpoenas, close to 37,000 court orders, and more than 16,000 search warrants. AT&T says it has rejected the requests in 3,756 cases and only provided partial data in 13,707 cases.

In addition, AT&T was also asked nearly 38,000 times last year to disclose information relating to the real-time and historic locations of its customers.

In its report, AT&T revealed that it received between 2,000 and 2,999 National Security Letters in 2013 (the Department of Justice limits how specific AT&T can be in this context). In the first half of 2013, AT&T received between 0 to 999 requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for user data that impacted between 35,000 and 35,999 customer accounts.

AT&T’s report comes after Verizon’s release of a transparency report in January, both reports possibly responding to shareholder proposals filed by the ACLU and other investors. Verizon received about 320,000 data requests, including 164,000 subpoena requests, and between 1000 to 1999 National Security Letters.

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

By Albert Chen – Edited by Andrew Spore

S.B. 962, 2014 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Cal. 2014)
Bill

On February 6, 2014, California State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 962. The bill would mandate that all smartphones sold in California must be equipped with a “kill switch,” allowing consumers to disable a lost or stolen phone. S.B. 962 at 1. The bill aims to deter phone thefts, which account for one in three robberies in the United States. Id. at 2. California State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said she will carry the bill, if it clears the Senate, reports SFGate.

According to Mashable, if the bill passes, California would lead the nation in requiring anti-theft technology for smart phones. Ars Technica speculates that, due to California’s size, this may lead to a de facto standard nationwide.

(more…)

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

By Mengyi Wang – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

Photo By: C DCC BY 2.0

Last weekend, Los Angeles residents stood in line to taste free coffee at a new coffee shop in town: “Dumb Starbucks.” The stunt was later discovered to have been orchestrated by Comedy Central comedian Nathan Fielder, Quartz reports. Although short-lived—the shop was shut down by the Los Angeles Health Department for operating without a health permit— Dumb Starbucks drew considerable attention and raised an array of legal issues.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Dumb Starbucks opened on Friday, February 7. The shop was identical to a real Starbucks shop except that the word “dumb” affixed to everything in sight. The shop offered, for free, items including “Dumb Vanilla Blonde Roast,” “Dumb Chai Tea Latte,” and “Dumb Caramel Macchiato” in sizes “Dumb Venti,” “Dumb Grande,” and “Dumb Tall.” The CDs sitting on a shelf by the cash register included “Dumb Jazz Standards,” “Dumb Norah Jones Duets”, and “A Dumb Taste of Cuba.” The “dumb” theme also extended to its logo, with “dumb” inserted into the outer ring of the Starbucks logo, reports Time. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 15 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Aditya Gupta – Edited by Kathleen McGuinness

Professors’ Letter In Support of Patent Reform Legislation (Nov. 25, 2013), letter hosted by PatentlyO.com
Statement from the Higher Education Community on H.R. 3309, The Innovation Act (Nov. 8, 2013), statement hosted by
Statement from the Higher Education Community on Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 3309 (Nov. 19, 2013), statement hosted by aamc.org

Photo By: Kate Ter HaarCC BY 2.0

The Innovation Act, a legislation that received bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee and more recently the House of Representatives, has also received support from a group of sixty professors teaching intellectual property law at universities across the United States. The professors have addressed a letter to Congress expressing strong support for the patent reform legislation, citing the “abusive practices” adopted by patent trolls and the negative impact of such practices on small companies and large manufacturers. In contrast, a group of six major education organizations have issued two statements, dated November 8 and 19, 2013 raising concerns over the draft of the Innovation Act and claiming that, in its current form, the provisions of the Act raise a “specter of unintended problems.”

PatentlyO reports the letter by the law professors stating that the professors’ case has merit but contains certain broad – brush statements and is overtly in favor of large corporate entities. Timothy Lee of The Washington Post is surprised by the stance taken by the university organizations, though he suggests that the unintended effects of the legislation may be beneficial, since they could rein in aggressive patent licensing efforts by universities. (more…)

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