Guest Contributors


Peter Steinmeyer

Developing a Plan for Employee Departures in California

Posted 18 hours ago

As discussed elsewhere in this Take 5, although California employers generally cannot restrict an employee’s ability to work elsewhere, California employers can protect their trade secrets and confidential information. One pillar of a successful plan to do so is having an employee departure protocol.

Armen N. Nercessian

Supreme Court Rocks the Trademark Office in ‘Slants’ Case

Posted 2 days ago

After a streak of six patent decisions uniformly overruling the Federal Circuit, and for the first time all term, the Supreme Court finally handed the Federal Circuit a win this week. In its landmark ruling in Matal v. Tam (formerly Lee v. Tam), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the restriction on the registration of marks that “disparage” under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a). Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote unanimously for the eight justices in holding that Section 2(a)’s prohibition on disparaging registrations violates “a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

Ken Stanwood

TC Heartland Requires Standardized Local Rules and Demand Letter Reform

Posted 2 days ago

In their recent TC Heartland decision, SCOTUS created unequal protection against patent infringers based on geographical incorporation decisions. They added uncertainty in time, cost, and outcome in patent litigation. Standardized local rules and demand letter reform at the federal level would help mitigate this unfortunate situation… Unless Congress acts to change venue laws, patent owners are now severely restricted in the choice of venue. And, if proposed legislation like S.2733 and the corresponding portion of H.R.9 are any indication, action by Congress may not change much regarding venue. So for now, patent owners must live with the restrictions resulting from TC Heartland.

Jason German

Prepare for More Estoppel if the Supreme Court Reverses Federal Circuit on Partial IPR Institutions

Posted 3 days ago

Partial institutions lessen the value of estoppel because the petitioner avoids estoppel on claims that were challenged but not instituted. The PTAB never issues a final written decision for these challenged-but-not-instituted claims. And because estoppel only applies to claims receiving a final written decision, these non-instituted claims escape the estoppel statute See, e.g., Shaw Industries Group v. Automated Creed Systems, 817 F.3d 1293, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2016). In effect, the PTAB’s current practice saves a petitioner from estoppel on claims it had little chance of invalidating. Thus, under the current practice, a petitioner currently only risks estoppel on claims that it stands a good chance of invalidating. But if the Supreme Court decides as expected, estoppel will attach to all challenged claims of an instituted IPR. Final written decisions will more often include claims found valid, and a petitioner will no longer be able to avoid estoppel for some claims by relying on the PTAB to sort strong challenges from weak ones at the institution stage.

Matthias Weiden

Germany Suspends Requirement of Presidential Signature for Formal Ratification of UPC Agreement

Posted 5 days ago

Effective June 11, 2017, the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany has agreed to suspend the Presidential signature required for formal ratification of the UPC Agreement. This suspension will remain in place until the German Federal Constitutional Court (“Bundesverfassungsgericht”) has reached a decision in the ongoing expedited proceedings relating to an action (“Verfassungsbeschwerde”) challenging the ratification.

Damian R LaPlaca

Diverging Viewpoints on Venue Change Following T.C. Heartland

Posted 6 days ago

In two recent decisions following T. C. Heartland, district courts have applied two different methodologies in resolving motions to change venue… In the first decision a trial judge in the Eastern District of Virginia denied the venue motion, filed three days after T.C. Heartland but also on the eve of trial.  Cobalt Boats, LLC v. Sea Ray Boats, Inc. (June 7, 2017)… In the second decision, a district court in the Southern District of Ohio applied the standards in § 1400(b) and transferred the action because neither of two defendants resided in the district and neither had a permanent and continuous presence in Ohio.

Brian Pomper

Senators Coons and Cotton introduce STRONGER Patents Act of 2017

Posted 6 days ago

This comprehensive legislation is exactly what is needed to strengthen our patent system, which will promote American innovation, competitiveness and job creation. For roughly a decade now, we have seen a steady weakening of patent rights in the U.S., undermining the ability of inventors to protect their innovations from infringement from large corporations and foreign entities. The STRONGER Patents Act says ‘enough is enough’ and ensures that patent rights are protected as a fundamental underpinning of our innovation economy.  

Bernard Knight

Reasons Why IP Lawyers Need Emotional Intelligence Skills

Posted 7 days ago

Patent lawyers are labeled as science geeks and somehow that has been associated with us having less interest in the emotional side of things.   As a former USPTO general counsel, I have seen more than a few patent lawyers get emotional about topics ranging from the meaning of inequitable conduct to the ability of the USPTO Director to raise fees.   However, in interactions with other people or in responses at meetings or public events we all need a healthy dose of emotional intelligence to be persuasive.

Amanda G. Ciccatelli

Is There Such a Thing as “Entertainment Law”?

Posted 7 days ago

A lot of law students and young attorneys aim to get into the field of “entertainment law.” Today, entertainment law is more of a combination of contract law, intellectual property law, accounting and just about every other area of law for which an individual or company requires legal services. So, if someone wants to work specifically in entertainment law, there are a few things he or she needs to do. 

Joan Porta

IP Rights strategies for preventing and handling infringements in China

Posted 7 days ago

Securing IP rights in China has been a priority for companies selling or manufacturing in China due to the country’s singular attitude to intellectual property, which has been much abused. Today 84.5% of counterfeits originate in either China or Hong Kong, and as the world becomes progressively more connected alongside the rise of e-commerce and cross-border exportation capabilities, increasingly there is a need for IP protection strategies of all companies to be adapted to Chinese policies.

Joseph Allen

Academic Patent Licensing Helps Drive the U.S. Economy

Posted 7 days ago

What’s even more impressive is the impacts on gross industry output and GDP are up 14% while  the number of U.S. jobs supported rose 12% since the previous report issued two years ago. That’s remarkable at a time when the overall U.S. economy has been treading water… While the attacks on Bayh-Dole (and the patent system) are largely driven by emotion, here’s some additional data BIO cited that’s worth considering: over the past 25 years academic inventions led to the formation of 11,000 startups and the commercialization of more than 10,000 new products.

James Skyles

Apple is Holding Companies and Innovation Hostage

Posted 8 days ago

These companies are examples of potential victims of Apple’s singular focus on profit. However, what’s at stake is much larger than Apple’s bottom line. While Apple is breaking market cap records, it is systematically devaluing innovation and technology. If these bullying tactics are not kept in check, Apple’s own partners will lack the resources needed to invest in new developments and better ideas. Further, the precedent will be established that the largest technology company in the world can take and use intellectual property owned by others, whether legally allowed or not, ultimately stifling innovation and creativity.

Gene Quinn

Industry Reaction to SCOTUS First Amendment Decision in Matal v. Tam

Posted 8 days ago

Lauren Emerson, Baker Botts, LLP: “Today’s decision, while not surprising, is momentous, as any decision striking a longstanding legislative provision based on freedom of speech would be.  From a trademark practitioner’s perspective, Matal v. Tam is also remarkable in that it is the second decision in just over two years in which the Supreme Court specifically has taken note of the importance and value of trademark registration.   The decision has drawn additional attention as it undoubtedly marks the end of Pro-Football, Inc. (“PFI”)’s longstanding battle over its REDSKINS marks, as 2(a) will no longer bar registration of those marks either.   I have little doubt that in the weeks and months to come, we will see many new filings that will be more challenging to celebrate than Simon Tam’s hard-won victory.”

Ryan Cook

End of Laches Might Increase Declaratory Judgment Actions

Posted 9 days ago

Without laches, accused infringers might more frequently invoke declaratory judgment to clear their products and services upfront rather than tolerate a looming threat of suit for years…. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC (Mar. 21, 2017) eliminated the equitable defense of laches in patent cases.  While time will reveal the impact of the SCA decision, elimination of laches, an equitable defense against “unreasonable, prejudicial delay in commencing suit,” Id. at 3 (citing Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.(2014), provides greater security to patent owners who assert claims several years after discovering potential infringement.  Conversely, the decision removes one shield—albeit a relatively modest shield—from the accused infringer’s armament of potential defenses. 

Stephen Gardner

Sovereign Immunity of Patents: While a Strong Benefit to Patent Owners, These Patents Remain Subject to Traditional Challenges

Posted 9 days ago

The United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) recently dismissed another inter partes review (“IPR”) based on an assertion of 11th Amendment sovereign immunity.  This decision demonstrates the willingness of the PTAB to permit State agencies (such as public universities, medical schools, and research centers) to effectively shield their patents from the threat of post-grant proceedings at the PTAB.  While this is certainly a benefit to entities that can take advantage of sovereign immunity, it does not completely insulate government-held patents from any validity challenge, as more traditional approaches of invalidating patents still remain viable avenues for those accused of infringement.