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The Court of Justice of the European Union Finds the Harbor No Longer Safe

Written by: Ann Kristin Glenster - Edited by: David Nathaniel Tan

This fall, the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered a landmark ruling,  holding that the Safe Harbor Agreement on the handling of personal data by U.S. companies in Europe was invalid. This article will give a brief overview of the case, and explore the salient issues to which the European Court took umbrage. Finally, it will attempt to sketch out some possible consequences of the ruling, and the options that now face E.U. and U.S. legislators.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Yiran Zhang – Edited by Olga Slobodyanyuk

Senators Introduce a Bill which Requires Social Media Companies to Report Terrorist Activity

New EU Copyright Rules Left Possibility for Google Tax

COP21 Reached an “Ambitious and Balanced” Deal on Climate Change

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By David Nathaniel Tan – Edited by Adi Kamdar

Software Pirate Settles Suit Via YouTube

After Paris Attacks, FCC Chairman Calls for Expanded Wiretap Laws

Hoverboards Declared Illegal in New York City

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Belgian Court Demands that Facebook Stop Tracking Non-Members

By Mila Owen – Edited by Kayla Haran

The Belgian Privacy Commission requested a cessation order against Facebook regarding their practice of placing “datr” cookies on devices of non-Facebook users to track activity on other Facebook pages or on pages containing the “like” or “share” button. The court ruled that this tracking violates the Belgian Privacy Act because it amounts to the collection and “processing of personal data.”

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Facebook not liable for discrimination against Sikhs in India

By Ann Kristin Glenster – Edited by Yaping Zhang

By dismissing Sikhs for Justice Inc.’s case against Facebook for discrimination by blocking the group’s page in India, the United District Court of Northern California maintains the neutrality of interactive online providers and exempts them from liability under Title II of the Civil Rights Act.

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By Simon Heimowitz

Icon-newsSeventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Copyright Infringement Suit Against Elton John

In Hobbs v. John, No. 12-3652  (7th Cir. July 17, 2013), the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois’ dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Sir Elton John, alleging that his hit song “Nikita” illegally borrowed numerous themes from “Natasha”, a song copyrighted by Guy Hobbs. Hobbs, slip op. at 15. Both songs describe a relationship between a westerner and a woman in Communist Russia. Id. at 2. In determining that there was no copyright infringement by Elton John, the court looked to “two well-established principles of copyright law.” Id. at 11. First, U.S. copyright law “does not protect general ideas, but only the particular expression of an idea.” Id. The court concluded that the expression of the themes in the two songs were not substantially similar. While both dealt with a romantic relationship during the Cold War, the court parsed the lyrics to determine that each song presented “different stories about impossible romances during the Cold War.” Id. at 12.  Secondly, “even at the level of particular expression, the Copyright Act does not protect ‘incidents, characters or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at least standard, in the treatment of a given topic.’” Id. at 11 (citations omitted). A number of other similarities between the two songs, including the names of the songs, both being Russian and beginning with the letter “N” and ending with the letter “A,” were not enough to establish infringement. Id. at 14. “[T]he United States Copyright Office’s Registered Works Database reveals that numerous works share the titles ‘Natasha’ and ‘Nikita’” Id. (citation omitted). As such, the court considered the songs’ similarities “commonplace in love songs” and not “substantially similar” enough to warrant a finding of infringement. Id. at 15. Hollywood Reporter and Radio.com provide commentary on the case.

Marvel Exempt from Paying Royalties for Spiderman Web Blaster after Patent Expiration

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona’s summary judgment that Marvel was no longer required to pay royalties to Stephen Kimble for his patented Spiderman web (foam)-shooting toy, a design that Kimble claimed he had created and pitched to Marvel in 1990. Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc., No. 11-15605 at 23 (9th Cir. July 16, 2013). In 2001, after a district court had found that Marvel had not infringed Kimble’s patent but had breached their contract, the parties had agreed to a settlement. Id. at 5–6.  Disagreement between the two parties concerning royalties instigated the current suit, with Marvel claiming that since the patent had expired, the settlement agreement was no longer enforceable. Id. at 8. The circuit court determined that, based on Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29 (1964), “a license for inseparable patent and non-patent rights involving royalty payments that extends beyond a patent term is unenforceable for the post-expiration period unless the agreement provides a discount for the non-patent rights from the patent-protected rate.” Id. at 16. In this case, the court found that no discount was provided, and thus Marvel was no longer required to pay royalty fees to Kimble for its Spiderman Web Blaster. Id. at 17. Patently-O describes the holding of the case and its implications, and azstarnet.com provides commentary.

Senator Leahy Suggests that the NIH “March-In” on Myriad’s Patent Rights

As reported by JDSupra, Senator Patrick Leahy wrote a letter earlier this month to the NIH, requesting that the agency exercise its right to “march-in” and demand that Myriad license its patented diagnostic testing kits. Letter from Patrick Leahy, Senator (D-VT), to Francis Collins, Director, NIH (July 12, 2013) (“Letter”). The Supreme Court recently ruled unpatentable Myriad’s claims to isolated DNA encoding the BRCA genes, mutations of which correlate strongly with the development of breast and ovarian cancer. Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., No. 12-398 at 1 (569 U.S. ___ June 13, 2013). However, the court found patentable Myriad’s claims to complementary DNA (“cDNA”) encoding the same genes. Id. Under the Bayh-Dole Act, 35 U.S.C. § 203(a)(2) (2006), a federal agency may require a “small business firm or nonprofit organization” that received funding from the agency to license its patent rights if “action is necessary to alleviate health or safety needs which are not reasonably satisfied by the [patent] contractor, assignee, or their licensees . . . .” Myriad received federal funding in developing its diagnostic tests, which it now markets for between $3,000 and $4,000. In his letter, Senator Leahy expressed concern “that the health needs of the public are not reasonably satisfied by the patentee in this situation because . . . many women are not able to afford the testing,” Letter at 2, which would justify the NIH’s use of march-in rights to force Myriad to license the patents.

Posted On Jul - 24 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Microsoft Corp. v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec.
By Katherine Walecka – Edited by Kathleen McGuinness

Complaint, Microsoft Corp. v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., No. 1:13-cv-01063-RWR (D.D.C. July 12, 2013)
Complaint hosted by PriorSmart.com

Microsoft filed a complaint against Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), among others, alleging that CBP failed to implement a May 2012 International Trade Commission (“ITC”) exclusion order blocking the importation of Motorola cell phones and other mobile devices that were found to infringe Microsoft’s patent rights. Complaint, Microsoft Corp. v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., No. 1:13-cv-01063-RWR at 2–3 (D.D.C. July 12, 2013).

Reuters provides a summary of the case. Bloomberg discusses the DHS’s possible motivations in the case. Wall St. Cheat Sheet has information about the business implications of the CBP’s policies. (more…)

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

By Michelle Sohn – Edited by Katie Mullen

Photo By: mkhmarketingCC BY 2.0

Last week, Twitter, traditionally a stalwart opponent of government surveillance requests, released to French prosecutors the identities of users who had tweeted anti-Semitic comments in violation of France’s hate speech laws. The social media giant’s capitulation follows a series of legal battles over the issue, including a $50 million lawsuit for failing to provide the information.

Boing Boing provides a brief overview of the controversy. The New York Times offers a more thorough analysis, noting that Twitter’s legal battles and its final acquiescence to the French government reveal the balancing act Silicon Valley companies must often perform in championing free speech while complying with various countries’ laws. Ars Technica summarizes the hate speech incident and legal arguments both sides made. (more…)

Posted On Jul - 21 - 2013 1 Comment READ FULL POST

United States v. Apple
By Elise Young – Edited by Gillian Kassner

United States v. Apple, No. 1:12-cv-2826 (DLC) (S.D.N.Y. July 10, 2013)
Slip Opinion hosted by justice.gov

On July 10, 2013, the Southern District of New York held that Apple conspired to raise e-book prices by playing a central role in “facilitating and executing [a] conspiracy” among five major book publishers to “eliminate retail price competition” in the e-book market. Apple, at 9. The court ruled that Apple was per se liable for violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act, finding “overwhelming evidence that the Publisher Defendants joined with each other in a horizontal price-fixing conspiracy” in which “Apple was a knowing and active member.” Id. at 113.

Ars Technica provides an overview of the facts behind the case. Forbes criticizes the decision, arguing that it is another example of the Department of Justice’s misuse of Antitrust law to the detriment of consumers. The Wall Street Journal features an analysis of the decision and the next steps. (more…)

Posted On Jul - 21 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Fresenius USA, Inc. v. Baxter International, Inc.
By Simon Heimowitz ­– Edited by Jennifer Wong

Fresenius USA, Inc. v. Baxter International, Inc., Nos. 2012- 1334, -1335 (Fed. Cir. July 2, 2013)
Slip Opinion

On July 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss the judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which had entered judgment against Fresenius in infringement proceedings brought by Baxter concerning a kidney hemodialysis machine. Fresenius USA, Inc. v. Baxter International, Inc., Nos. 2012- 1334, -1335, slip op. at 31 (Fed. Cir. July 2, 2013)

In a 2-1 opinion, the Federal Circuit held that a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) reexamination decision, which had invalidated a number of the patent claims in question, had to be given effect in the infringement litigation, effectively leaving Baxter without a cause of action. Id.

Patently-O and PharmaPatents provide overviews of the court’s decision. (more…)

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