President Bush Signs PRO-IP Act
On Monday, October 14, President Bush signed into law the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, also known as the PRO-IP Act, S. 3325. The PRO-IP Act steepens penalties for IP infringement and increases resources to the DOJ to coordinate state and federal efforts against counterfeiting and piracy.
Although opposed by the DOJ, the Act also provides for a “U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator” position within the Executive Office of the President, which commentators are referring to as a “Copyright Czar.” However, another controversial provision, which would have authorized the Attorney General to seek civil copyright infringement remedies for private copyright owners, was removed from the final bill.
5th Circuit Ruling May Endanger Patent “Rocket Docket” in the Eastern District of Texas
In Re: Volkswagen of America Inc.
5th Circuit, October 10, 2008, No. 07-40058
In a 10-7 en banc decision, the Fifth Circuit issued a writ of mandamus ordering the transfer of a product liability case from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The court held that the district court judge John Ward had abused his discretion when he denied a motion to transfer from the Eastern District, which had no connection to the parties, witnesses, or facts of the case, to the Northern District, which had extensive connections to the parties, witnesses, and facts of the case. The dissent argued that the majority was misusing mandamus in violation of Supreme Court precedent, characterizing the district court judge’s order as nonappealable.
Commentators note the ramification of the court’s order on the common practice of filing patent suits in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly “rocket docket” Eastern District. Under the majority’s reasoning, it may become easier for defendants to seek changes of venue.
German Courts Rule That Google Image Thumbnails Infringe on Copyright
Google has recently lost two copyright suits in Germany, where the courts have ruled that Google’s use of thumbnails of copyrighted images in its image search engine constitutes infringement. Google plans to appeal.
These rulings stand in contrast to U.S. precedent, such as the Ninth Circuit’s holding, in Perfect 10 v. Amazon, that Google’s use of image thumbnails was a fair use. Similarly, eBay has seen divergent international outcomes with respect to trademark infringement claims. The S.D.N.Y. ruling in Tiffany v. eBay held that eBay did not have to increase its efforts to police trademark infringers, while courts in Germany and France instead ruled in favor of luxury brands Rolex and Louis Vuitton.