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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Olga Slobodyanyuk

ICANN responds to terrorism victims by claiming domain names are not property

D.C. District Court rules that FOIA requests apply to officials’ personal email accounts

Class-action lawsuit brought against ExamSoft  in Illinois

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Federal Circuit Applies Alice to Deny Subject Matter Eligibility of Digital Imaging Patent

By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang

In Digitech Image Technologies, the Federal Circuit embraced the opportunity to apply the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice to resolve a question of subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. §101. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment on appeal, invalidating Digitech’s patent claims because they were directed to intangible information and abstract ideas.

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Unlocking Cell Phones Made Legal through Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act

By Kellen Wittkop – Edited by Insue Kim

Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act allows consumers to unlock their cell phones when changing service providers, but the underlying issue of “circumvention” may have broader implications for other consumer devices and industries that increasingly rely on software.

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SDNY Magistrate Grants Government Search Warrant for Full Access to Suspect’s Gmail Account in Criminal Investigation

By Kellen Wittkop – Edited by Travis West

In an opinion that conflicts with decisions from the DC District Court and the District of Kansas, a SDNY magistrate granted the government’s search warrant for full access to a criminal investigation suspect’s Gmail account.

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Creating full-text searchable database of copyrighted works is “fair use”
By Yixuan Long- Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

In a unanimous opinion delivered by Judge Parker, the Second Circuit held that under the fair use doctrine universities and research libraries are allowed to create full‐text searchable databases of copyrighted works and provide such works in formats accessible to those with disabilities. The court also decided that the evidence was insufficient to decide whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring a claim regarding storage of digital copies for preservation purposes.

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District Court Awards Damages for Tortious Interference of Trademark Holder’s Social Media Site Contracts
By Chinh Vo – Edited by Matt Gelfand

Ordonez v. Icon Sky Holdings LLC, 10-cv-60156-PAS (S.D. Fla. Aug. 30, 2011)
Slip Opinion (hosted by Justia.com)

The District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted the plaintiff’s motion for default judgment, awarding damages and a permanent injunction in a trademark hijacking suit between parties vying for control of an online presence.

The court held that the plaintiff was the senior user of the “Elizabeth Sky” trademark, and that the defendant used the mark in connection with similar goods and services in violation of trademark and unfair competition law. The court also found that the defendant tortiously interfered with the plaintiff’s contracts with various social media sites when the defendant contacted the sites and demanded they take down the plaintiff’s accounts, alleging trademark infringement. The plaintiff also prevailed on her libel per se claims by showing that the defendant had falsely accused her of identity theft on two third-party websites.

Eric Goldman’s Technology & Marketing Law Blog provides an overview and analysis of the case. Social Media, Esq. and everydaycounsel discuss the holding’s implications for social media contracts. (more…)

Posted On Dec - 6 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Ivar Hartmann

European Commission VP demands more revenue for artists

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Digital Agenda, publicly supported changes to the current copyright system in Europe. In a speech entitled “Who feeds the artist?” at the Forum D’Avignon on Nov. 19th, Kroes criticized the scarcity of revenue that copyright legislation and other areas of law reserve for artists. “Speaking of economic reward: if that is the aim of our current copyright system, we’re failing here”, stated Kroes. She cited examples of artists in the UK and Germany, the majority of which earn a “paltry payment” often lower than the minimum wage in those countries. She proposed a number of solutions including the use of information and communications technology and Cloud computing to find better ways to distribute creative content and connect artists with their consumers. She also supported adopting improved legislation that would better “feed art, and feed artists.”

ECJ rules against forced surveillance by ISPs

On Nov. 24th, the Court of Justice of the European Union announced in a press release that EU law precludes an injunction imposed by the Brussels First Instance Court, which ordered Scarlet Extended SA, an internet service provider (ISP) to install a system for monitoring its electronic communications to prevent illegal file-sharing. The Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM) had sued Scarlet, alleging that some of its users were using the ISP’s services to illegally download SABAM’s protected catalogs from the internet. After weighing the “right to intellectual property, on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the right to receive or impart information, on the other,” the Court of Justice held that forcing the ISP to monitor users in order to protect intellectual property was an unfair balance of the rights involved.

No Safe Harbor for Grooveshark

CNET reports that the Universal Music Group (UMG) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Grooveshark, a music streaming website, on Nov. 18th. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the grounds for the lawsuit “go[]further than most copyright complaints.” UMG alleges that Grooveshark’s own CEO and employees have committed the infringing activity. TIME reports that at least 1,791 songs were illicitly uploaded by Grooveshark. Despite accounts that the proof of such wrongdoing is somewhat shady, UMG is seeking the maximum compensation for each illegal upload ($150,000) and an injunction to shut down Grooveshark.

Two Wins for Net Neutrality

Within one week of each other, the U.S. Senate and the European Parliament voted in favor of adopting net neutrality regulations. CNET reports that the U.S. Senate voted in favor of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality regulations in a 52-46 vote. Similarly, Computing reports that the European Parliament adopted a resolution that promotes a broad concept of net neutrality. Unlike the FCC’s regulations, the EU’s resolution does not distinguish between mobile and fixed internet service providers (ISPs). But in line with the FCC’s open Internet rules, the EU’s resolution also calls on regulatory bodies to monitor the way ISP manage their traffic on the Internet.

Posted On Nov - 30 - 2011 2 Comments READ FULL POST

By Geng Chen

DOJ Defends Expansive Interpretation of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

NPR reports that Richard Downing, deputy chief of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Department of Justice, testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee on the DOJ’s proposal to broaden its reading of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”). An advance copy of Downing’s written statement, obtained by CNET, advocated for criminal prosecutions based on violations of Web sites’ “terms of service” policies or any “similar contractual agreement with an employer or provider.” As reported by the WSJ, at the hearing, Professor Orin Kerr of George Washington Law School criticized the vague and broad statutory language of the CFAA that would permit such prosecutions and expressed concern that the DOJ’s new interpretation would criminalize routine violations such as lying about one’s physical attributes on Internet dating sites. Though Downing verbally reassured lawmakers that these were “unsubstantiated fears”, given the government’s limited time and resources, he did not repudiate the government’s authority to pursue such cases.

Rambus Loses Antitrust Case Against Micron and Hynix

The Washington Post reports that after five months of deliberations, a California jury has found against Rambus in its antitrust case against Micron and Hynix for conspiracy to fix memory chip prices and interference with its business relationship with Intel. As reported by Bloomberg, though Intel initially collaborated with Rambus to implement its proprietary RDRAM technology, Rambus alleged that Micron and Hynix conspired to artificially raise prices of chips incorporating RDRAM and drove Intel away from adopting RDRAM as an industry standard. A Reuters article, relying on an anonymous source within the jury, indicates that the jury was not convinced that a lone Micron email adequately proved conspiracy and was swayed by the testimony of a former Intel executive that described the souring of the Rambus-Intel relationship as unrelated to pricing. Rambus is considering an appeal, based on grounds that the judge disallowed from evidence certain facts from a Department of Justice price-fixing investigation in 2005.

PhoneDog Sues Former Employee for His Twitter Account

Ars Technica reports developments in the case of a former employee of PhoneDog, an “interactive mobile news and reviews web resource,” who was sued for misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with economic advantage, and conversion over his Twitter account. Noah Kravitz amassed 17,000 followers as “@PhoneDog_Noah” but changed his handle to “@noahkravitz” after leaving the company. The trial judge dismissed PhoneDog’s interference claim but allowed the trade secrets and conversion claims to go forward. According to Forbes, Kravitz says that his employer never asked him to create the account and that he always used it for personal as well as business purposes. The damages of $2.50 per follower claimed by PhoneDog may be complicated by the additional 4,000 followers that Kravitz has accumulated since his resignation. An official statement by PhoneDog, as reported by Computerworld, argues that the company’s Twitter account naming convention establishes company ownership of the account, but does not mention any implied or express contract with Kravitz specifically regarding this particular account.

Posted On Nov - 21 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Holds that Typhoon’s Patents Are Valid, but Not Infringed
By Marsha Sukach – Edited by Andrew Crocker

Typhoon Touch Techs. v. Dell, Inc., No. 2009-1589 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 4, 2011)
Slip Opinion

The Federal Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the ruling of the U. S.District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which held that Typhoon’s patents that cover its “keyboardless” touch-screen computing system are invalid and not infringed.

Judge Newman, joined by Chief Judge Rader and Judge Prost, affirmed the district court’s judgment of noninfringement and upheld its interpretation of Typhoon’s U.S. Patents No. 5,379,057 and No. 5,675,362. The district court construed Typhoon’s patent claim for a portable, keyboardless computer as “requiring that a device, to be covered by the claim, actually performs, or is configured or programmed to perform, each of the functions stated in the claim.” Slip op. at 9. In so holding, the court disagreed with Typhoon’s argument that a device need only be capable of performing the stated function in order to meet the requirement.

However, the Federal Circuit reversed the summary judgment of invalidity on the ground of claim indefiniteness, saying that the claim term “means for cross-referencing” is supported by a description of the cross-referencing algorithm in the specification. Id. at 19.

PatentlyO provides an overview of the case. The Patent Prospector criticizes the decision, saying that it creates conflicting precedents. (more…)

Posted On Nov - 19 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on GPS Tracking Case
By Amara Osisioma – Edited by Andrew Crocker

U.S. v. Jones, 10-1259 (2011)
Transcript of Oral Arguments

On Tuesday, November 8th, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in U.S. v. Jones to determine whether the police had violated Antoine Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights when they attached a GPS to his car without a warrant and tracked his movements. Though the police initially obtained a warrant for the investigation, it had expired when they placed the GPS on Jones’ car. Under the standard first developed in Katz. v. United States, Fourth Amendment protection extends to an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

In applying this standard, the Court must determine whether and how warrantless GPS tracking differs from police tailing an individual by sight in public, which is not subject to Fourth Amendment protection. U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, on behalf of the government, argued that regardless of the method used, police tracking of individuals in public places is constitutional. Yet, despite questioning from several justices suggesting that use of a GPS might constitute a search under the Fourth Amendment, Jones’ attorney, Stephen Leckar, instead tried to propose a narrow rule that the installation of the GPS was itself a search or seizure requiring a warrant.

Commentaries by the Center for Democracy & Technology and Professor Orin Kerr for The Volokh Conspiracy highlight the justices’ discomfort with the idea that evolving technology might render current constitutional protections insufficient, a scenario they repeatedly compared to George Orwell’s 1984. At the same time, SCOTUSblog notes that both parties’ inability at oral argument to suggest clear rules for guiding law enforcement’s use of surveillance technology frustrated the justices, leaving the outcome uncertain. The Wall Street Journal suggests that even a decision by the Court requiring a warrant in order to use a GPS tracking device may not change the limits of police surveillance because law enforcement authorities in most states can instead request access to a customer’s cell phone records for tracking purposes without a warrant and without the customer’s knowledge.

(more…)

Posted On Nov - 18 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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Flash Digest: News i

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