The world of intellectual property is massive and it’s incredibly difficult to find the proper amount of time to explore patents for innovative technologies, trademarks which can indicate a company’s growing business interests, the litigation pursued by companies protecting their intellectual property and the goings-on in D.C. that will have major impacts on our country’s IP system. Without reneging on our commitment to in-depth coverage of the IP world, we wanted to add a new element to our coverage and today we’re introducing what we hope will become a regular news “roundup” of some of the more interesting and important headlines from the world of intellectual property. Something of a best of the rest that we haven’t written about in an in-depth way.
One interesting dilemma we’ve faced in developing this concept, however, is what we should name the new feature of our coverage. “Roundup” is a fairly staid holdover from Wild West themes, which have long been out of vogue. And every brainstorm we’ve had on the subject has failed to yield a suitable candidate for a neat title that fits the IPWatchdog motif all that well. The Chowdown was vetoed down. The Morning Walk might be good if we were attempting this every day, but for now this will be a once a week endeavor. Hump Day News & Notes was interesting, but we are IPWatchdog, not IPWatchCamel. Reshares & Developments just didn’t inspire anyone. These and other thoughts that we’ve been coming up with have been less than satisfactory, to say the least.
So we’d like to get our readership involved, if you feel so inclined to participate. It’s certainly true that the Internet has a habit of turning such efforts for audience engagement into major pranks. Examples of such Internet mutinies abound, such as journeyman enforcer John Scott being voted by fans to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game (of which he was voted MVP, by the way), or Britain’s federal government naming a research vessel after English naturalist Sir David Attenborough despite the Internet’s popular vote in favor of “Boaty McBoatface”. But we are cautiously optimistic that giving our readers some say in shaping this new aspect of our coverage will help us out in a productive way.
Feel free to send along any ideas in the comments below, and we’ll credit anyone whose idea we use (assuming you want credit). And we’re not afraid of jokes; we do have a sense of humor. We hope you enjoy this maiden voyage of the USS IP Watchy McDogface (so named to catch your attention more than anything and as an nod to the aforementioned Boaty McBoatface naming fiasco), and we pray that we have a better title for this feature by the time we run it again next week.
Without further ado… onto the news…
- This Week on Capitol Hill – Congress regularly holds hearings on issues affecting the worlds of technology and intellectual property. On Tuesday, January 10th, a permanent subcommittee on investigations for the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs held a 10 AM hearing on the knowing facilitation of online sex trafficking by Backpage.com. A slew of hearings on President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees are happening this week. Of particular interest to the IP world will be a hearing this Thursday, Jan. 12th, by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation on the nomination of billionaire investor and corporate restructuring guru Wilbur Ross as Trump’s Secretary of the Department of Commerce. The next commerce secretary will have direct control over the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which some consider the crown jewel of the Commerce Department portfolio.
- Marissa Mayer is leaving Yahoo! Before It’s Renamed as Altaba – An 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) dated January 9th indicates big changes at Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) before it becomes a division of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ). The filing identifies the departure of multiple board members including CEO Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! co-founder David Filo, media executive Eddy Hartenstein, former integrated circuit and semiconductor CEO Richard Hill, former Aerogen CEO Jane E. Shaw and Yahoo! Chairman Maynard Webb. The filing also notes that a board vote decided that the company’s name will be changed to Altaba Inc. (Link to official 8-K filing with the SEC by Yahoo!)
- Amazon Invents the “Death Star” of Flying Warehouses – The top patenting companies receive dozens of patents each week from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and, every now and again, one of these goes viral in the media. One recent example is the “Death Star” blimp warehouse developed by Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). Amazon received a U.S. patent last April protecting a “computer implemented method” which fulfills an order placed by a customer by navigating a drone towards an “aerial fulfillment center” (AFC) to pick up an item which is delivered within a metropolitan area. The AFC, which patent diagrams depict as being held aloft via blimp, could fly at altitudes of 45,000 feet, a full 5,000 feet above most commercial aircraft. Although the patent was issued a full nine months ago, the recent news comes courtesy of a CB Insights blog post on the subject. (Link to U.S. Patent No. 9305280, Airborne Fulfillment Center Utilizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Item Delivery)
- S.D. Fla. Rejects All Equitable Defenses from La-Z-Boy in $5.7 Million Patent Verdict – On Wednesday, January 4th, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (S.D. Fla.) issued a ruling rejecting five different equitable defenses raised by La-Z-Boy Inc. (NYSE:LZB) of Monroe, MI, to overturn a $5.7 million jury verdict over La-Z-Boy’s breach of a 2002 licensing agreement with Megdal Associates LLC of Boca Raton, FL. La-Z-Boy was found guilty of patent infringement for not paying royalties on three successful product lines covered by Megdal’s patents. Megdal was represented in the case by litigation firm Robins Kaplan LLP. (Link to original lawsuit filed in S.D. Fla. in November 2014).
- MediaTek is Latest Partner in Via Licensing’s LTE Patent Pool – On Tuesday, January 10th, it was announced that Taiwan-based semiconductor and wireless tech developer MediaTek (TPE:2454) agreed to participate in a patent licensing pool managed by San Francisco-based Via Licensing. The pool includes patents containing Long Term Evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced patents covering technologies for high-speed wireless communications. Other companies participating in the pool include Google, AT&T (NYSE:T), HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ), ZTE Corporation (SHE:000063) and Deutsche Telekom (ETR:DTE). (Link to BusinessWire press release on MediaTek joining Via’s pool)
- USITC Institutes Section 337 Investigation of Chinese LCD Tech Firms – On January 9th, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted to open a Section 337 investigation into liquid crystal eWriters and displays marketed in the U.S. by a pair of Chinese firms: Shenzhen Howshow Tech and Shenzhen SUNstone Tech. The investigation follows a Section 337 complaint for patent infringement filed by Kent Displays of Kent, OH, which seeks a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders. (Link to ITC announcement of Section 337 investigation into LCD displays)
- Fed. Cir. Tells USPTO That “DOTBLOG” is Trademarkable – On January 4th, a judicial panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Fed. Cir.) overturned a decision by the USPTO to deny a trademark for the standard character “DOTBLOG” being sought by Driven Innovations Inc., which has been pursuing the mark since September 2006 to use “DOTBLOG” to provide specific information requested by customers via the Internet. USPTO denied the mark because it was descriptive and not suggestive. Fed. Cir. accepted Driven Innovations’ argument that the mark was suggestive and not merely descriptive because there was no instantaneous mental leap from “DOTBLOG” to the services proffered by Driven Innovations. (Link to Fed. Cir.’s decision dated January 4th)
- E.D. Va. Dismisses Multi-Million Copyright Suit Against Justin Bieber, Usher – On January 5th, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (E.D. Va.) approved a motion for voluntary dismissal with prejudice in a suit involving claims of copyright infringement against Justin Bieber, Universal Music Corporation and Def Jam Recordings. The suit, originally filed in March 2014 by plaintiffs Devin Copeland and Mareio Overton, sought $10 million in actual and profit damages over “Somebody to Love,” a Bieber song co-written with Usher Raymond. The motion for voluntary dismissal follows a judicial recommendation last November that the case should be dismissed. (Link to WIPR article including Jan. 5th order for dismissal in E.D. Va.) (Link to original lawsuit filed March 2014 in E.D. Va.)
- This Week on Wall Street – Each week, at least a few intriguing tech developers announce earnings reports. This week kicked off with a preliminary 2016 unaudited financial results release from Summit, NJ-based biotech firm Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) which forecast an 18 percent year-over-year increase in total revenues for 2017. Today, NYC-based online and satellite radio broadcast firm Sirius XM Holdings (NASDAQ:SIRI) is reportedly set to report earnings after the market closes. Thursday will see earnings reports released by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE:TSM), the world’s largest semiconductor fabricator which received 2,288 U.S. patents in 2016, the ninth-most U.S. patents earned by a single entity last year according to IFI CLAIMS. The week ends with a trio of major financial institutions reporting earnings, including San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE:WFC), NYC-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) of Charlotte, NC. None of these companies show up in IFI CLAIMS’ recent list of the top 25 patenting firms of 2016, but Bank of America was 145th overall in 2015 among the Intellectual Property Owners Association’s (IPO) list of the top 300 patenting firms that year.
- Custom Code a Work for Hire, Copyright Infringement Dismissed – A Federal District Court in Boston recently ruled that defendant, Chicago-based trading company NFSx9, LLC, is not liable on copyright infringement claims asserted by Boston software company Sedosoft, Inc. In 2010, NFSx9 (and its predecessor) hired Sedosoft, Inc. to write custom computer code for a trading platform. The court found that Sedosoft had represented from the outset that the work on the custom code was a “work for hire.” Sedosoft delivered a zip file containing source code in September of 2012. In February 6, 2015, Sedosoft registered the same code at the Copyright Office and asserted a claim for copyright infringement. The summary judgment decision held that Sedosoft is estopped from asserting copyright infringement claims because Sedosoft, expressly and by its conduct, permitted defendants to use the source code. NFSx9 is represented by Arthur A. Gasey & Oliver D. Yang of Niro Law, Ltd.
Do you have news that you think should go in next week’s IP Watchy McDogface (or whatever we end up naming our new project)? CLICK HERE to send us your news or press release.