A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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By Ellora Israni – Edited by Filippo Raso

IMDb is challenging the constitutionality of Assembly Bill 1687 (“AB 1687”), a California law requiring IMDb to remove ages from its website upon request from paid subscribers, claiming that the law violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

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Facebook Blocks British Insurance Company from Basing Premiums on Posts and Likes

By Javier Careaga– Edited by Mila Owen

Admiral Insurance has created an initiative called firstcarquote, which analyzes Facebook activity of first-time car owners. The firstcarquote algorithm determines risk based on personality traits and habits that are linked to safe driving. Firstcarquote was recalled two hours before its official launch and then was launched with reduced functionality after Facebook denied authorization, stating that the initiative breaches Facebook’s platform policy.

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Airbnb challenges New York law regulating short-term rentals

By Daisy Joo – Edited by Nehaa Chaudhari

Airbnb filed a complaint in the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York seeking to “enjoin and declare unlawful the enforcement against Airbnb” of the recent law that prohibits  the advertising of short-term rentals on Airbnb and other similar websites.  Airbnb argued that the new law violated its rights to free speech and due process, and that it was inconsistent with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online intermediaries that host or republish speech from a range of liabilities.

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Medtronic v. Bosch post-Cuozzo: PTAB continues to have the final say on inter partes review

By Nehaa Chaudhari – Edited by Grace Truong

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“the Federal Circuit”) reaffirmed its earlier order, dismissing Medtronic’s appeal against a decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”). The PTAB had dismissed Medtronic’s petition for inter partes review of Bosch’s patents, since Medtronic had failed to disclose all real parties in interest, as required by 35 U.S.C. §312(a)(2).

 

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California DMV Discuss Rules on Autonomous Vehicles

DOJ Release Guidelines on CFAA Prosecutions

Illinois Supreme Court Rule in Favor of State Provisions Requiring Disclosure of Online Identities of Sex Offenders

Research Shows Concerns for Crucial Infrastructure Information Leaks

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By Mark Verstraete – Edited by Michael Shammas

Photo By: Nate GriggCC BY 2.0

On February 12, 2014, Senators Rockefeller (D-WV) and Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill that would require data brokers—companies that collect and sell consumer information to third parties—to be more transparent about their practices. The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act, S. __, 113th Cong. (Feb. 12, 2014) (“DATA Act“), represents an attempt to empower consumers to regain some control over their personal information.

In reality, the transparency and control offered by the DATA Act is limited. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 27 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Zoe Bedell – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

Brief for Appellants, Fraley v. Facebook, Inc., o. 13-16918 (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2014)
Schachter Objector Appeal hosted by Citizen.org

Photo By: mkhmarketingCC BY 2.0

In 2011, a group of Facebook users filed a class action lawsuit against the company seeking relief from Facebook’s practice of using the names and images of its users in sponsor advertisements without those users’ consent. On February 13, objectors to the proposed settlement in Fraley v. Facebook, led by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen, appealed the district court’s decision, arguing that the approved settlement violated the law of multiple states in allowing Facebook to use images of minors without their parents’ consent.

Ars Technica provides an overview of the lawsuit, settlement, and appeal. The Washington Post’s analysis provides perspective on the legal issues involved. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 26 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Corey Omer

Icon-newsFacebook Acquires WhatsApp for $19 Billion

In a bold deal that Rob Lever at ABS-CBNnews.com has praised as a “savvy strategic move” and Peter Schiff at Business Insider has decried as evidence of “how dysfunctional and distorted our economy is,” Facebook acquired the instant messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash, stocks, and restricted stock units, totaling approximately 9.2% of Facebook’s net worth.

Posterity will tell whether the acquisition was brilliant or moronic but, in the mean time, Information Week provides some numbers to consider:

  • As of December 2013, WhatsApp boasted 450 million users, 72% of which are active daily.
  • Facebook is estimated to have paid $345 million per WhatsApp employee (there are only 55) or $42 per user.
  • The messaging app is presently growing at a rate of 1 million users a day. Since its founding five years ago, WhatsApp has gained users faster than any other social media site in history, including Facebook. To put this in perspective, since you started reading this post 350 new users joined WhatsApp.

Winkdex: The Bitcoin Price Index

The Winklevoss brothers, famous for their legal battle with Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook, have released a financial index—known as the Winkdex—providing a regularly updated price for Bitcoin. The shortage of stabilizing governance mechanisms and transparency tools applicable to the volatile cryptocurrency has led some, like Jeff John Roberts at GigaOm to welcome the index. Others, including Paul Vigna at the Wall Street Journal, question whether there is a real need for the Winkdex.

Nathaniel Popper at The New York Times speculates that rollout of the index indicates that the brothers’ proposed Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, is moving closer to regulatory approval. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently reviewing the fund, the first of its kind. Release of the index is also consistent with Bitcoin’s shift into the mainstream—GigaOm reports that Bitcoin ATMs will be arriving in certain U.S. cities this month.

The FCC’s New Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has promised to issue a new set of rules aimed at keeping the web free and open, one month after the United States Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the agency’s prior net neutrality rules for illegally treating Internet service providers (ISPs) as regulated utilities. Verizon v. Fed. Commc’ns. Comm’n., No. 11-1355 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 14, 2014), hosted by Scribd.

Although the FCC has decided to not reclassify broadband as a public utility, the agency remains committed to deterring ISPs from charging companies (such as Amazon or Netflix) to stream their content through an Internet “express lane.” As reported by The New York Times, those championing net neutrality contend that such preferential treatment would harm smaller companies and prevent new players from competing with large and established content providers.

Relying on section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104, 110 Stat. 56 (1996) the new rules would, among other things, significantly expand the “Open Internet rules” and provide for greater case-by-case enforcement. The FCC will also closely consider preempting state laws that prevent cities and towns from offering broadband service to residents.

Posted On Feb - 24 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Insue Kim – Edited by Suzanne Van Arsdale

Memorandum from David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President of Comcast, Comcast/Time Warner Cable Announcement (Feb. 13, 2014)
Memorandum

Comcast has proposed to acquire Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion in stock, in a merger that could have far-reaching implications for the media and communications industry. Comcast hopes that the merger will further its longstanding strategy of growing into a broadband and media powerhouse. The merger is also expected to produce synergies, reducing costs by approximately $1.5 billion a year.

The Washington Post provides context for the merger, along with voices from both sides. Wired reviews Comcast’s previous merger with NBC and discusses the potential implications of the merger, while Ars Technica looks at Comcast’s and the FCC’s options. Above The Law criticizes the merger as attempting to consolidate power to control both content and conduit across the majority of the country. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 23 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

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
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