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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DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures Corp.
By Dorothy Du – Edited by Daniella Adler

DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures Corp., No. CV 10-3633 ODW (RZx), (C.D. Cal. Oct. 17, 2012)
Slip opinion

The District Court for the Central District of California ruled that the heirs of Joseph Shuster, the first illustrator of Superman, signed away their right to reclaim Superman copyrights in an agreement with DC Comics (“DC”). The court granted plaintiff DC’s motion for partial summary judgment.

The court held that a 1992 agreement between the Shusters and DC barred the Shusters from terminating copyright grants to DC. DC Comics, slip. op. at 7. The court also found that section 304(d) of the Copyright Act of 1976, which provides former copyright owners a termination right, did not apply. Id. at 5.

Ars Technica explains copyright termination doctrine and points out that Pacific Pictures Corporation is a joint venture owned by the defendants and their attorney in the case, Toberoff. The Los Angeles Times highlights the importance of the victory to Warner Bros., DC’s parent company. If DC had lost the case, the studio, which is releasing the movie Man of Steel next June, would have been unable to continue using certain elements of the Superman mythos.

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Posted On Oct - 24 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co.
By David LeRay – Edited by Michael Hoven

Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., No. 2012-1507 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 11, 2012)
Slip opinion

The Federal Circuit reversed the Northern District of California, which had granted a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The case was decided by Judges Prost, Moore, and Reyna, who acted unanimously.

The Federal Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion in finding that Apple established it was at risk of irreparable harm, one of the necessary factors under the eBay test elaborated by the Supreme Court to determine whether to grant a preliminary injunction. See Apple, No. 2012-1507, slip op. at 5 (citing eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006)). Specifically, Apple did not prove that a “sufficiently strong causal nexus relates the alleged harm to the alleged infringement.” Id. at 6.

Patently-O provides an overview of the case and argues that the decision elevates the preliminary injunction standard and thus makes it more difficult for patentees to obtain injunctive relief. Reuters states that the case is an implicit endorsement of Judge Richard Posner’s skepticism regarding remedies in the context of smartphone feature patents and that the case is a “palpable blow” to Apple’s smartphone legal strategy.

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Posted On Oct - 22 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Senior Exec. Ass’n v. United States
By Mary Grinman – Edited by Charlie Stiernberg

Senior Exec. Ass’n v. United States, No. 8:12-cv-02297-AW (S.D. Md. Sept. 13, 2012)
Slip opinion

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Maryland granted a motion for a temporary preliminary injunction, enjoining the United States from executing any part of Section 11 of the Stock Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (“STOCK Act” or “Act”), and from obliging federal employees to divulge any financial information that is subject to Internet publication by federal agencies.

Judge Williams ruled that the plaintiffs’ interests in protecting their privacy are more likely than not to outweigh the government’s interest in disclosing their financial information. Senior Exec. Ass’n, slip op. at 16. The court noted that privacy interests have become more significant in light of the “Information Age,” which makes it possible to rapidly assemble and spread immense quantities of information. Id. at 9.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog provides a brief overview of the case. Corporate Counsel provides additional background information on the STOCK Act. Joe Davidson of the Washington Post criticizes the Act as “rushed,” and discusses the impact of the Act and the court’s ruling on individual federal employees.

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Posted On Oct - 19 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust
By Natalie Kim – Edited by Laura Fishwick

Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust, 11-CV-06351-HB (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 10, 2012)
Slip opinion

On Wednesday the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted HathiTrust’s motion for summary judgment on the copyright infringement claims, dismissing the claims brought by the Authors Guild. The HathiTrust Digital Library (“HDL”) is a massive, Google-affiliated book-digitization project led by academic institutions such as the University of California and Indiana University; it had scanned and placed books in the HDL without consulting rights holders. The Authors Guild claimed this violated § 106 and § 108, and sought an injunction against further distribution of the works and impoundment of already scanned works.

The district court held that HathiTrust’s digitization constituted fair use. HDL provides full-text search for copyrighted works for which the rights holder has granted permission and for works in the public domain; 73 percent of the trust’s 10 million books are copyrighted. The affiliated universities have been using HDL for full-text searches, preservation, and access for people with certified print disabilities. Four universities also created full-text access for “orphan works,” which are in-copyright works for which the rights holders are unavailable or otherwise unidentifiable. Google has scanned the books for HDL as part of its Google Books project; a separate litigation between the Authors Guild and Google is stalled on appeal.

Publishers Weekly provides an overview of the case. At Laboratorium, James Grimmelmann predicts the Authors Guild has little chance of a successful appeal due to what he views as the clear victory awarded to HathiTrust and print-disabled codefendants.

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Posted On Oct - 15 - 2012 1 Comment READ FULL POST

By Evelyn Chang

Presidential Commission Calls for Privacy Protections in Genome Sequencing

Science Insider reports that the Presidential Commission on Bioethics has issued a new report on privacy issues associated with whole genome sequencing of patients.  The cost to sequence the entire genome of an individual is dropping rapidly, and genome sequencing is predicted to one day become common practice in medical treatment and research.  However, current guidelines and policies vary by state and do not provide consistent protection against misuse of genomic data.  The report outlines several steps to protect individuals’ private genetic information while encouraging data sharing and research access.

Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Seed Patent Case

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case of Bowman v. Monsanto Co., reports Wired. The case was originally brought as a patent infringement suit by Monsanto against Bowman, a farmer in Indiana. Bowman had purchased commodity soybeans from a grain elevator for planting, which contained Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready soybeans. The District Court of the Southern District Indiana granted summary judgment for Monsanto, and the Federal Circuit affirmed. In their petition for certiorari (hosted by SCOTUSblog), Bowman argues that the doctrine of patent exhaustion should apply, or that there should be an exception for self-replicating technologies, such as seeds.

Federal Circuit Ends Injunction Against Samsung Galaxy Nexus

On October 11, the Federal Circuit reversed a preliminary sales injunction on Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, reports Reuters. In February 2012, Apple brought suit against Samsung in the Northern District of California, alleging that the Galaxy Nexus infringes eight Apple patents. The preliminary injunction was granted based on one of those eight patents, U.S. Patent No. 8,086,604, which is directed towards an apparatus for unified search. Earlier this month, the San Jose Mercury News reported that U.S. District Judge Koh also dissolved an injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.

Patentability of Software to be Reconsidered En Banc by Federal Circuit

The Federal Circuit has ordered an en banc rehearing to consider the patentability of software in CLS Bank Int’l. v. Alice Corp., App. No. 2011-1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012). PatentlyO reports that the Federal Circuit has reformulated the questions presented to consider how to determine when a computer-implemented invention is an unpatentable abstract idea, and whether method, systems, and storage medium claims for software should be considered equivalent.  The court has also invited the USPTO to file an amicus curiae brief. In the original decision (previously covered by the Digest), now vacated, the court held two to one that computer programs are patentable post-Prometheus.

Posted On Oct - 14 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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