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

By Steven Wilfong

Multimedia car system patents ruled as unenforceable based on inequitable conduct

ITC’s ruling that uPI violated Consent Order affirmed

Court rules that VeriFone devices did not infringe on payment terminal software patents

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Viviana Ruiz

Converse attempts to protect iconic Chuck Taylor All Star design

French Court rules that shoe design copyright was not infringed

Oklahoma Court rules that Facebook notifications do not satisfy notice requirement

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Silk Road Founder Loses Argument That the FBI Illegally Hacked Servers to Find Evidence against Him

By Travis West  — Edited by Mengyi Wang

The alleged Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was denied the motion to suppress evidence in his case. Ulbricht argued that the FBI illegally hacked the Silk Road servers to search for evidence to use in search warrants for the server. The judge denied the motion because Ulbricht failed to establish he had any privacy interest in the server.

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Trademark Infringement or First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech?

By Yunnan Jiang – Edited by Paulius Jurcys

On October 11, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Inc. (“ACLU”) filed a joint brief in the U.S. Court Of Appeals, urging  that “trademark laws should not be used to impinge the First Amendment rights of critics and commentators”. The brief argues that the use of the names of organizations to comment, critique, and parody, is constitutionally protected by the speaker’s First Amendment right of freedom of expression.

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Twitter goes to court over government restrictions limiting reporting on surveillance requests

By Jens Frankenreiter – Edited by Michael Shammas

Twitter on Oct. 7 sued the government, asking a federal district court to rule that it was allowed to reveal the numbers of surveillance requests it receives in greater detail. Twitter opposes complying with the rules agreed upon by the government and other tech companies in a settlement earlier this year, and argues that the rules violated its rights under the First Amendment.

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By Geng Chen

Violent Video Game Fight Ends Not With a Bang, But With an Invoice

The Sacramento Bee had the last word in the California violent video games saga. California taxpayers will end up bearing the $1.8 million bill for legal services related to defending the controversial state statute, struck down by a 7-2 vote in the Supreme Court last year in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n. It would have prevented retailers from selling video games depicting killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexual assault to minors. No child was ever prohibited from purchasing these games, however, as lower courts had blocked implementation of the law since the initial preemptive challenge by industry representatives. The $1.8 million includes the legal fees borne by the video game industry, totaling $1.3 million. The remaining $500,000 represents the hours spent by the state attorney general’s office in defending the case.

FCC Tightens Regulations on Telemarketing Robocalls

The LA Times describes the Federal Communications Commission’s newly revised telemarketing regulations on robo-calls. These automated, pre-recorded marketing messages will be prohibited unless the telemarketer obtains prior written consent. The exemption for companies with an “established business relationship” with consumers will be eliminated. According to the FCC, such a relationship can form when the consumer contacts the business to ask a question or makes a purchase. Furthermore, ABC News reports that a consumer will also have the power to opt out from future calls within the first two seconds of the message. According to the Wall Street Journal, the telemarketer would then have to hang up and add that number to the company’s do-not-call list. However, certain organizations, including nonprofits such as local schools and churches, or political groups and pollsters, may still make these calls. The new rules are expected to take effect after review by the Office of Management and Budget.

European Right to Be Forgotten Raises Questions About Free Speech

The European Commission’s proposed online privacy rules create a new “right to be forgotten,” reports Time. An individual would be able to demand that online companies delete information about him or her, unless the company can demonstrate a legitimate reason not to. The stated intent behind the new rules is to protect the future employment prospects of young people from the consequences of damaging photos or information on social network sites. However, some commentators have expressed concern over the potential impacts on free speech. In the Stanford Law Review Online, George Washington Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen cautioned against a broad application of the new rules, in particular applying the right to be forgotten to truthful information posted by third parties. Even though the new regulations allow companies to retain the information if the need to do so is legitimate, shifting this legal burden of proof to the company may cause it to take a conservative approach and comply with all complaints. Although the European Commissioner Viviane Reding has made reassurances that the right to be forgotten will not “take precedence over freedom of expression or freedom of the media” (as reported by the Wall Street Journal), Rosen contends that the law, currently written to include “any information related to a data subject,” is uncomfortably broad.

 

Posted On Mar - 2 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

A book launch at the MIT Media Lab on February 2, 2012

By Elettra Bietti – Edited by Andrew Segna

On the sixth floor of the MIT Media Lab, Rebecca MacKinnon started the presentation of her new book Consent of the Networked: The World Struggle for Internet Freedom by warning us about the threats around the Internet’s future. Are we going toward democracy or toward its opposite? How do we make sure that the Internet evolves in a democratic way? The Internet, according to Ms. MacKinnon, must not be taken for granted.

Ms. MacKinnon argued that state laws will never provide sufficient protection for the Internet as foreign laws systematically undermine their effects. After mentioning multi-jurisdictional issues, she went on to discuss the more abstract relationship between citizens and government. Companies are increasingly crucial in the Internet’s eco-system. She asked the audience how we can make sure that government actually represents the people when it regulates companies and whether it should regulate at all. The relationship between the State and its citizens appears to have eroded, and its erosion begs the question of what new form regulation of the online realm should take. The Magna Carta and John Locke’s ideas about government and property are no longer a persuasive guide for regulators, who must find inspiration elsewhere.

If the pre-Internet period can be metaphorically represented as a time of scarcity, a desert of ideas, the Internet revolution can instead be represented as a tropical storm, the implications of which we, as inhabitants of the desert, are still unequipped to face and fully understand. According to Ms. MacKinnon, although we are far from knowing the values we will need to promote or the ways in which we will want to promote them, we are aware that something important has changed in our current social structure. She mentioned a few ideas and solutions discussed in her book for implementing openness online: open digital commons, multi-stakeholder Internet governance, development of declarations of the rights of Netizens, the Global Network Initiative which promotes online accountability for businesses, and other efforts of transparency including the Google Transparency Report, as well as forms of dialogue and consultation with users. The ultimate goal, Ms. MacKinnon pointed out, is to preserve liberty online. As the fight for the Internet’s ecology becomes fiercer, we are increasingly responsible for the preservation of our online liberties. Given the number of players and the interests at stake, maintaining the Internet as a free space for online public discussions is and will be a challenge, as the SOPA legislation showed.

Overall, the event was greatly inspirational and reminded us that the Internet is not a given and that we need to act to make sure the Internet becomes what we want it to be.

The event is available online on the Berkman Center’s YouTube channel on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpUQDeSgp8A.

Elettra Bietti is a LL.M. student at Harvard Law School.

Posted On Mar - 1 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Clarifies the Fame Standard for Trade Dilution
By Sonal Mittal – Edited by Laura Fishwick

Coach Servs., Inc., v. Triumph Learning L.L.C., No. 2011-1129 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 21, 2012)
Slip Opinion

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part the decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”), which had dismissed the notice of  opposition filed by Coach Services, Inc. (“CSI”) opposing the registration of the COACH mark by Triumph Learning L.L.C. (“Triumph”). The Federal Circuit upheld the Board’s holding that CSI failed to prove that Triumph’s educational materials were likely to dilute CSI’s luxury travel brand. In so holding, the court provided an example of a level of fame that is insufficient to qualify for protection from brand dilution under the Lanham Act.

PatentlyO provides an overview of the case. TrademarkAttorneys praises the decision as a just response to major luxury label’s attempt to enforce a trademark without any legitimate economic need to do so. The TTABlog concurs that the case provides an interesting benchmark for the level of fame required to achieve trade dilution in the context of two disparate market sectors—luxury travel goods and educational services.  (more…)

Posted On Feb - 28 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

District court holds that an advertisement-like salute to Michael Jordan is constitutionally protected free speech
By Abby Lauer – Edited by Laura Fishwick

Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., 2012 WL 512584 (N.D. Ill., Feb. 15, 2012)
Slip Opinion (hosted by Justia.com)

The Northern District of Illinois has ruled that a national grocery store chain’s reference to basketball superstar Michael Jordan in a page published in a commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated is constitutionally protected free speech. The court has accordingly granted defendant Jewel Food Store’s motion for summary judgment as far as the First Amendment issue is concerned.

The district court held that Jewel’s page constituted noncommercial speech because it did not propose a commercial transaction. Instead, the page merely congratulated Jordan on his accomplishments, and Jewel’s logo and slogan were used “to ensure that the congratulatory message sounded like it was coming from Jewel and not from any other person or entity.” Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., 2012 WL 512584, at *4. In addition to the general noncommercial speech inquiry, the Northern District of Illinois also applied the Supreme Court’s subsidiary three-factor test to determine whether speech is commercial, and the court found that the test favored finding Jewel’s page to be noncommercial speech.

ESPN Chicago provides an overview of the case. Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log offers a detailed description of the district court’s holding and analysis.  (more…)

Posted On Feb - 26 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Justice Department Approves Google/Motorola Merger and Other Patent Acquisitions
By Jacob Rogers – Edited by Jonathan Allred

Investigations of Google Inc.’s Acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and the Acquisitions of Certain Patents by Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Research in Motion Ltd. (Feb. 13 2012).
Decision

On Monday, February 13, 2012, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice approved the merger between Google Inc. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. as well as the acquisition of additional patents by Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Research in Motion Ltd.

The Dept. of Justice’s decision allows the acquisitions, which concentrates technology patents in fewer hands, to go forward. Google, once it completes its merger, will acquire approximately 17,000 patents from Motorola as well as an additional 6,800 pending patents. Microsoft, Apple, RIM and others organized as a group under the name Rockstar Bidco will be able to complete their acquisition of approximately 6,000 patents and patent applications that they purchased from the Nortel bankruptcy auction. In addition, Apple will be able to separately acquire an undisclosed number of patents from CPTN Holdings, LLC, which were formerly owned by Novell.

After the purchases, Microsoft and Apple committed to supporting the existing licensing commitments made by Nortel and Novell. However, Google has not made a similar firm commitment with regard to the Motorola patents.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, blogging for ZDnet, suggests that the Motorola merger is a move by Google to constrain Apple’s ability to initiate future lawsuits without needing to enforce its patents. According to Vaughan-Nicols, by agreeing to license its patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms, Google is making a gesture of peace that Apple will reciprocate, rather than risk injunctions against its next generation of iPhone and iPad releases. PC Magazine suggests that Google’s purchase of Motorola may have been motivated by its inability to acquire any of the Nortel patents. However, the Antitrust Division Report notes that Google’s commitment to the FRAND standard is less clear than the commitments made by Microsoft and Apple. (more…)

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