By Gea Kang
In the wake of last month’s WhatsApp acquisition, Facebook may be adding Titan Aerospace to its arsenal for another $60 million. Titan, a privately held company based in New Mexico, produces unmanned “atmospheric satellites.” These satellites are solar-powered and can stay airborne for five years without refueling. Titan unveiled the prototypes last year.
Facebook’s interest in this area stems from its work with Internet.org, which aims to provide Internet connectivity to those who currently lack access around the world. Facebook is reportedly looking at 11,000 Titan satellites to help bridge this digital divide. Google has been working toward the same goal with its balloon-powered wireless network, Project Loon.
Although the Titan satellites are ultimately slated to fly above the Federal Aviation Administration’s jurisdiction, regulatory constraints on the climb up to that altitude must still be addressed. TechCrunch first released news of the potential acquisition on Monday.
Michael Jordan emerges victorious in commercial speech case
Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sided with Michael Jordan in a dispute that could have important implications for commercial speech allowances under the First Amendment. Michael Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc. and SuperValu Inc., No.12-1992 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2014). In its opinion reversing and remanding the case, the court held that grocery chain Jewel Food Stores, Inc.’s unendorsed use of Jordan’s trademark in an advertisement constituted commercial speech. A federal district court had previously accepted Jewel’s argument that the advertisement was not commercial in nature and was thereby protected by the First Amendment.
The case centers on a one-page advertisement published in an October 2009 commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated. The advertisement congratulated Jordan for his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame and included Jewel’s logo and motto along with Jordan’s name, number, and shoes. However, the ad did not name any specific Jewel products or depict Jordan himself. Jordan sued, emphasizing the alleged misappropriation of his identity. The Seventh Circuit agreed with Jordan, finding that “Jewel’s ad had an unmistakable commercial function: enhancing the Jewel-Osco brand in the minds of consumers.” Jordan, slip op. at 16.
ESPN provides details of the case and its precedential implications.
Apple wins patent for transparent wraparound phone screen
Apple won 36 patent grants last Tuesday. Of these, U.S. Patent No. 8,665,236 has generated particular interest. The patent, originally filed in September 2011, discloses a transparent wraparound screen made of flexible glass—essentially, a reversible phone with no permanent front or back. Multiple cameras and facial recognition would facilitate the user interface, and the phone would be completely touchscreen. Despite the suggestion that a double-sided screen would accommodate more icons for users’ convenience, some commentators are concerned that consumers will not welcome the lack of physical buttons, such as for volume control. Patently Apple provides further details and graphics.