A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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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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Eighth Circuit Holds that Use of Public Domain Material Infringes Film Copyright
By Michael Hoven – Edited by Esther Kang

Warner Bros. Entm’t v. X One X Productions, No. 10-1743 (8th Cir. July 5, 2011)
Slip Opinion

The Eighth Circuit unanimously affirmed in part and reversed in part a decision by the Eastern District of Missouri, which had granted summary judgment to Warner Bros. on its copyright infringement claim and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting defendants (collectively “AVELA”) from licensing images from publicity materials for The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and short films featuring Tom & Jerry. The Eight Circuit remanded the case for modification of the injunction in light of their decision.

The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Warner Bros. with regard to AVELA’s reproduction of publicity images, holding that the publicity materials were in the public domain. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to Warner Bros. and the permanent injunction prohibiting AVELA’s production of items that evoked copyrightable aspects of the film characters, even when the products featured only images and text extracted from the public domain. In so holding, the court noted that the public’s right to use and modify public domain materials ends when it conflicts with an existing copyright. Because the “increments of expression” that a film adds to a public domain character are copyrightable, a combination of materials that do not independently infringe copyright—such as public domain extracts—may nonetheless infringe on an expressive element of that character that is protected under the film’s copyright.

PIT IP Tech Blog provides an overview of the case. Techdirt criticizes the decision for its expansion of copyright protection at the expense of the public domain. Copyright Litigation Blog questions whether other circuits or the Supreme Court will follow the Eighth Circuit’s reasoning and asserts that modifications of public domain material will fuel litigation in coming years. (more…)

Posted On Jul - 12 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Daniel Robinson

Wikileaks Plans to Sue Credit Card Companies for Blocking Payments

Wikileaks intends to sue Visa and Mastercard for blocking payments to the site, CBS News reports. The credit card companies have blocked all donations and payments to WikiLeaks since last December, allegedly in response to pressure by the United States government. Wikileaks claims that the companies’ actions violated the Competition Rules of the European Union, and it intends to file a complaint with the European Commission and file suit in Denmark, according to its press release.

Google Fails to Acquire Nortel Patent Portfolio

Reuters reports a consortium of technology companies acquired the patent portfolio of Nortel Networks, the bankrupt Canadian telecom, last week in an auction. The portfolio contains more than 6,000 patents, many of which concern mobile technology, and was sold for $4.5 billion. Google, which had mystified onlookers by bidding approximations of mathematical constants such as pi, had been expected to win after placing a $900 million “stalking horse” bid in April. According to CNN Money, the winning consortium contained several of Google’s major competitors, including Apple, Microsoft, Ericsson, and RIM, and the winning bid was the largest sum ever paid for an intellectual property portfolio.

Judge Rules Wiretapping Case Against Google Street View Can Go Forward

A federal judge in Silicon Valley has denied Google’s motion to dismiss a wiretapping claim against it, Wired reports. The plaintiffs claim that Google’s Street View vehicles, which travel across public streets recording images to improve Google’s Street View service, intercepted and stored communications from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Google has claimed that the vehicles, which record the locations of Wi-Fi networks to improve Google’s location services, only stored communications gathered from those networks by mistake, and had further argued that because the networks were not password-protected, intercepting them did not constitute wiretapping.

Amazon Terminates Associates Program in California in Response to Sales Tax Bill

A new California law will, for the first time, require online retailers with no physical stores in the state to collect sales tax on purchases by California residents, Ars Technica reports. In order to avoid being subject to the law, Amazon has sought to reduce its contacts with the state by eliminating its affiliate program in California. According to the Los Angeles Times, online purchases have always been subject to sales tax in California, but consumers, rather than retailers, have previously been responsible for paying it, which has made collection difficult. Amazon has argued that the law is unconstitutional, and is currently fighting a similar New York law in court

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

Supreme Court Holds California Ban on Violent Video Games Violates First Amendment
By Raquel Acosta – Edited by Dorothy Du

Brown v. EMA, No. 08-1448 (June 27, 2011)
Slip Opinion via supremecourt.gov

The Supreme Court affirmed a Ninth Circuit decision that had found that a California law that restricted the sale or rental of violent video games to minors did not comport with the First Amendment and permanently enjoined its enforcement.

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.  In a 7-2 decision, the Court upheld the lower court decisions and repealed California Assembly Bill 1179 (2005), Cal. Civ. Code Ann. §§1746-1746.5 (West 2009) (“the Act”) (a law passed in 2005 by the California State Legislature which required more stringent rating standards on video games), banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18, and imposed a maximum $1000 per violation.  The Supreme Court held that video games were afforded the same First Amendment protections as other forms of communication.  Areas in which restrictions on free speech are allowed are limited to obscenity, incitement, and fighting words.  In so holding, the Court rejected the Government’s argument that a balancing test may be used to justify restrictions, holding that a legislature may not add new categories of unprotected speech.

The Virtual World Law Blog provides an overview of the case.  David Kopel, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy, examines the “the weapons effect” (the theory that being exposed to aggressive stimuli will make ordinary individuals more inclined towards aggressive behavior) and uses the Brown decision in his critique of legislative anti-gun laws. Wikipedia provides a thorough analysis of the case and is informative as to the case history and the context in which Brown arises. SCOTUSblog contains an interesting commentary on the litigation strategies used.

(more…)

Posted On Jul - 5 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

House Passes Patent Reform – Keeps Senate’s “First-To-File”, Differs on PTO Funding
By Albert Wang – Edited by Matt Gelfand

H.R. 1249 – Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Bill

Govtrack.us Summary

On June 23, 2011, the House passed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and passed by a vote of 304 to 117, the legislation implements a first-to-file system, a post-grant review system, and a fund for PTO fees, among other procedural changes. Smith promised in a statement that the bill would help “to encourage innovation, job creation and economic growth” by reducing the application backlog and attacking frivolous patent litigation. The Act’s purpose is to “promote industries to continue to develop new technologies that spur growth and create jobs across the country which includes protecting the rights of small businesses and investors from predatory behavior that could result in the cutting off of innovation.”

Originally passed in the Senate by a vote of 95 to 5 (previous Digest coverage), H.R. 1249 includes a number of changes relative to its Senate counterpart, S. 23. Of note, H.R. 1249 retains the Senate bill’s first-to-file regime, which makes the “effective filing date” of a claimed invention the actual filing date, thus dismantling the existing first-to-invent regime. First-to-file has been criticized by the Inventors Network of the Capital Area and Tea Party politicians like Phyllis Schlafly for unfairly advantaging large companies, foreign actors, and other parties with the resources to file patents quickly, according to Mother Jones. Your Patent Guy argues in contrast that resource advantages already work to bias interference proceedings, and that the bill gives institutional actors no advantage that they did not already enjoy under the existing system. (more…)

Posted On Jul - 5 - 2011 1 Comment READ FULL POST

by Vivian Tao

House Passes Patent Reform Bill; Senate and House Versions To Be Reconciled

A few months after the American Invents Act had passed in the Senate, the House voted to pass its version of the bill this week. The controversial bill would overhaul certain areas of the patent system, such as switching from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system. However, according to Patent Docs, the ACLU and other groups are more concerned that passage of the bill could signal Congressional approval of gene patenting, which could preclude individuals from seeking a second opinion for genetic evaluations. The Hill also notes that there is controversy on whether the bill’s streamlining of the patent process would lead to “efficient infringement” or truly better protection. Despite these issues, Patently O reports that the House and the Senate will likely work together to reconcile differences in their separate versions of the bill and vote on a final version soon. The Digest will have more in-depth coverage of the bill this week.

Oracle Seeks Billions in Damages from Google; Another Oracle Patent Is Severely Narrowed in Rexam

The U.S. Patent Office’s latest findings have helped Google’s case in the latest chapter of Oracle’s ongoing lawsuit against Google for alleged patent infringement regarding the Android operating system. According to Groklaw, the U.S. Patent Office rejected 17 of Oracle’s 21 claims on one of Oracle’s asserted patents. Search Engine Watch reports that this comes on the heels of Google’s motion to place the case under seal to protect confidential information and shareholder confidence, which may have already started to suffer. However, the crux of the case may lie in the damages figure. PCWorld reports that arguments revolve around the damages that Oracle has claimed, between $1.4 and $6.1 billion, which Google says is a gross overestimate. Among the many counterarguments advanced by Google, the Wall Street Journal notes the figure takes Google’s Android advertising revenue into account, but could be disputed since the advertisements and software at issue can run independently. Trial is set to begin in October.

Supreme Court To Hear Prometheus Again

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Prometheus Laboratories v. Mayo Clinic, a multi-year suit involving the patentability of medical diagnostic tests (the Digest covered the original Federal Circuit ruling). The Supreme Court vacated the Federal Circuit’s original ruling in light of their ruling in In re Bilski, but the Federal Circuit affirmed its original ruling of validity, according to Courthouse News Service. As Techdirt notes, opponents of patenting such tests argue those patents threaten the right to observe natural phenomena, and issuing such patents would also drive up costs and make bedside diagnoses difficult to administer. However, Prometheus asserts that their test “transforms” a blood sample into something that is no longer human and is thus protected by the machine-or-transformation test of patentability. Prometheus also argues that a holding for Mayo might be broad enough to eliminate all diagnostic and therapeutic patents. The Wall Street Journal notes that this could damage the incentives for private investment into therapeutic medicine. Ultimately, when the case is decided, it will have an effect on a range of other patented medical tests that currently exist.

Posted On Jun - 27 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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