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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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

By Jennifer Wong

Twitter Ordered to Release Information in WikiLeaks Case

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has ordered Twitter to release information about three of its users who have possible ties to the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks, the New York Times reports. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) sought the information last year, but not with a search warrant. Rather, they ordered the information be revealed pursuant to the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701 (2006). The information includes Internet Protocol (“IP”) addresses, which can be used to identify and discern the location of a computer used to log on to the internet. The three account holders argued in court that their IP addresses should be considered private, that the order suppressed their right to free speech and that the information was irrelevant to WikiLeaks. However, the court did not agree. In his judicial opinion, Judge Liam O’Grady expressed that the information was material to the DOJ’s investigation of WikiLeaks and that the users “voluntarily” revealed their IP addresses when they signed up for a Twitter account. The court also dismissed a petition to have the DOJ reveal its rationale for why it wanted the information. According to the Guardian, one of the users, Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir, plans to bring her case to the Council of Europe. 

AOL to Pay $10 Million in Patent Infringement Suit

Forbes reports that a federal court jury has returned a verdict of 10 million dollars in favor of BASCOM Global Internet Services in its lawsuit against AOL. The $10 million is intended to cover unpaid royalties for AOL’s infringement of one of BASCOM’s patents. BASCOM is a Long Island-based company that creates Internet filtering software that is heavily used by educational institutions. In 2008, BASCOM brought suit against both AOL and Yahoo for patent infringement. While Yahoo settled with BASCOM, AOL decided to go to trial. According to Long Island Business News, BASCOM’s president testified that he had tried to negotiate licenses for the patent with several industry giants, but they declined because they did not think he had the means to enforce the patent. AOL has indicated that it will appeal the decision. 

Court Blocks FDA Requirement of Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packaging

According to a federal court judge, new FDA requirements for cigarette packaging may violate the First Amendment by compelling speech, Reuters reports. The proposed requirements would have tobacco companies place large graphic images of adverse, smoking-related health consequences on cigarette packets. The graphic images include a man smoking out of a hole in his throat and a mouth covered in diseased lesions. Several tobacco companies are currently suing the FDA over the new requirements. Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a temporary injunction allowing the companies not to comply with the requirements until after the resolution of the lawsuit. According to CBS, Leon expressed in his opinion that the graphic depictions went beyond mere warnings of the health risks of smoking and acted more like anti-smoking advocacy. He said that the new requirements were like advertising for the FDA’s “obvious anti-smoking agenda” and that the companies would likely prevail in their lawsuit.
Posted On Nov - 15 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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U.S. Marshals Servic

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Silk Road 2.0 Takedo

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