Guest Contributors


Franco Galbo

Law & Odor: Hasbro Sniffing Out the Opportunities for Trademark Registration

Posted 13 hours ago

The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) provides some guidance on what an aroma needs to demonstrate before being registered, asserting that “the amount of evidence required to establish that a scent or fragrance functions as a mark is substantial.” To overcome the “substantial” threshold, an applicant must satisfy two conditions by establishing that the mark is (1) nonfunctional and (2) distinctive. An aroma that meets both of these requirements is eligible for registration on the Principal Register under §2(f) of the Latham Act, or on the Supplemental Register if the scent is nonfunctional but has not yet acquired distinctiveness. Hasbro is hoping that the scent of Play-Doh can be a source identifier for its modeling compound in the noses of consumers.

Jianqing Wu, Ph.D.

PTAB Invalidation Affected by Random Errors, Legal Uncertainties and Judicial Bias

Posted 1 day ago

The PTAB invalidation procedure violates due process because it drags patent owners into endless assaults by patent infringers and patent thieves. Due process requires compliance with standard notions of fair play and justice, which is lacking at the PTAB. The PTAB invalidation process does not afford due process because it allows an unlimited number of infringers and patent thieves to shoot down a patent in a never ending series of challenges. If one challenge misses the target, the second and the third challenge will hit it, or ultimately it will be hit by the Nth challenger. When patents can be attacked repeatedly in such a bizarre way, the patent reward of an exclusive right is a meaningless promise.

Ravi Ranganath

Adjusting to patent litigation in the Northern District of California

Posted 3 days ago

My sense is that non-practicing entities had long ago eliminated the Northern District as a potential venue for patent cases. But if and when there is an influx of cases to the Northern District of California, litigators who predominantly practice in Texas will have to make adjustments. While perhaps not as regimented as some other districts, the Northern District expects litigants to know the local rules and strictly comply with them, particularly for things like sealing motions that can be complicated procedurally… Unlike in Texas, technology tutorials in the Northern District are expected to be live. Attorneys need to be prepared for the judge to ask questions. They also need to make sure that the members of the team most familiar with the technology are present and ready to address any issues that may come up.

Eva-Maria Strobel

The Trademark Management Process: Getting it Right in Challenging Times

Posted 4 days ago

The trademark landscape is evolving rapidly, with both brand owners and trademark professionals trying to keep up. The changes are mostly driven by the steep rise in trademark applications — there was a 13.7% increase in trademark filing activity in 2015, according to WIPO — and shrinking budgets as all involved are tasked with doing more with the same or fewer resources. Trademark professionals and brands alike need to be consistent in the way they approach search and make use of the same practices they have used in the past to avoid risk, while considering challenges they face and the way that the trademark landscape is evolving.

Robert Stoll

Questions Raised by the Lexmark Decision

Posted 4 days ago

Licensing a product instead of selling it may also be a tool for avoiding international patent exhaustion. It is common to distribute software via license, and this might avoid international exhaustion, although it will not work for all products. For example, licensing a drug makes little sense. However, re-importation of a drug would be regulated by the FDA, and the conditions and chain of control of drugs might mitigate some of the international exhaustion issues there. As such, many companies are evaluating the extent of the decision on international exhaustion and how it affects their industries. Since companies have thousands of contracts already in place and the parties will have to reevaluate their positions going forward, this is causing mass confusion and restructuring of contracts and relationships.

Neal Solomon

Patent Trial and Appeal Board Procedures for IPR Fail to Satisfy the Fifth Amendment

Posted 4 days ago

Due process is an essential condition for a fair proceeding involving a matter in which property rights are in dispute. Unfortunately, there is no interpretation of PTAB procedures under which due process applies. PTAB omits due process and is fundamentally unfair. As a consequence, the PTAB conclusions, and the structure and process of PTAB determinations, are unconstitutional.

James Pooley

The Most Dangerous Hire: Lessons from Waymo v. Uber

Posted 5 days ago

Every trade secret case is built around a story. Sure, the plaintiff’s story is different than the defendant’s, even though each draws on the same facts. For the rest of us that don’t have a dog in the fight, helpful lessons are available. But sometimes you have to look hard to find them. Here’s one. When Waymo, the Google self-driving car company, filed its lawsuit against Uber earlier this year, the story was remarkable enough… This case is instructive for any business considering hiring an executive from a competitor: be aware that the cost of this recruitment might include the legal fees, disruption and liability risk of a trade secret claim.

Jianqing Wu, Ph.D.

Tax Reform to Revive the American Innovation Culture

Posted 6 days ago

The U.S. patent promise of exclusivity has become nothing more than lip service with no credibility for more than half a century. A patent system maintained by offering lip service must fail over time. The American inventor population is vanishing rapidly as a result of the changed laws and anti-patent movement. If the patent reward fails, both those who are inventors and those who would be inventors will be influenced not to pursue innovating and society will see an era of slow progress. Bad policy advice has misled Congress into belief that inventing without the participation of inventors will be fine. Reality will soon prove it was a fatal mistake that the U.S. should not have made.

Neal Solomon

McCormick and the Separation of Powers Constraints of Patent Invalidation

Posted 6 days ago

The argument that patents are private rights is supported by over two centuries of jurisprudence. Patent rights derive from Article I, section 8, clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which empowers Congress to promote progress by creating laws involving patents and copyrights. The patent bargain exchanges disclosure of new and useful inventions for a limited term exclusive right. The public benefits from the patent bargain in two ways. First, the disclosure enables others to build on the invention. Second, after a twenty year period, the public receives the benefits of the invention for free as the rights flow to the public domain. The patent bargain stimulates incentives to invent, to invest in innovation and to take ex ante risks.

Dr. Kristina Lybecker

Renegotiate NAFTA to Make it the Gold Standard in IP Protection

Posted 7 days ago

As President Trump embarks on the renegotiation of NAFTA, it is critical that we seize the opportunity to make it the gold standard in intellectual property rights protections… The stakes are tremendous and cannot be ignored.  In total, it is estimated that intellectual-property theft costs the United States approximately $600 billion per year.  A recent New York Times article notes that this is the “greatest transfer of wealth in history”.

Michael Goldberg

Protecting Branded Apparel IP Assets: Pursuing Counterfeiters and Their Profits

Posted 7 days ago

Branded apparel companies face many challenges in protecting their IP assets, including the unavailability of copyright protection for fashion designs, the length of time necessary to secure a design patent, the challenge of securing secondary meaning required for a trade dress claim before the market is flooded with knock-offs, and the geographic and practical impediments to pursuing counterfeiters, who are often foreign-based and/or judgment proof.  Perhaps mindful of the limited statutory protections for IP assets and the significant damages being incurred at the hands of infringers, various courts, particularly in the Second and Ninth Circuits, have in recent years taken steps to enhance the alternatives available to apparel companies confronted by the scourge of knockoffs.  Specifically, such court decisions have (1) expanded the scope of potential contributorily liable actors, and (2) broadened the means of freezing and attaching assets of foreign counterfeiters.

Randy Landreneau

Acting PTO Director Joseph Matal Speaks to Independent Inventors

Posted 9 days ago

Mr. Matal opened his discussion stating his belief that independent inventors are the lifeblood of American innovation. He said that a patent is a property right and that whether an inventor actually manufactures the invention or seeks to license it, the rights provided by the patent should be the same. Having said this, he still believes that the PTAB should be able to invalidate a patent, but he did say that it is definitely time to look at the PTAB closely and see what can be done to make it operate more fairly. While he reiterated several times he is only acting and a permanent replacement has been nominated, he said that he would be surprised if this didn’t happen.

Alison McGreary

Federal Circuit says inequitable conduct can be inferred from activities in a later patent litigation?

Posted 10 days ago

Although the patent prosecution process is adversarial in nature, patent practitioners must be keenly aware of their duty to maintain the integrity of any subsequently issued patent by supplying the patent examiner with all prior art that is believed to be relevant and also avoiding any misrepresentations of the prior art.  Patent litigators have long been aware of the potential pitfall of having a patent invalidated based on inequitable conduct due to activities of a patent prosecutor carried out months or years prior to the litigation proceedings.  In light of a recent decision by the Federal Circuit in Regeneron Pharmaceuticals v. Merus, however, it now appears that inequitable conduct by a patent prosecutor may be inferred due to activities of a patent litigator carried out month or years after patent prosecution has concluded.

Neal Solomon

Private Rights and the Sanctity of an Independent Judiciary

Posted 11 days ago

There appears to be a consistent pattern of public rights cases from Murray’s Lessee to Stern. Congress may establish a public right, separate from actions that affect the federal government, that involves an action related to protection of the public, such as health or welfare, and may establish an executive tribunal in which to adjudicate these rights. An Article I tribunal may adjudicate these public rights, primarily by advancing a fact-finding role, but within the constraints of consent, due process and review by an Article III court. On the other hand, private rights or rights involving matters between private parties that have been adjudicated in common law in Article III courts will continue to be resolved only in the federal courts. A right to a jury to hear facts in federal courts will be maintained in those disputes between private rights involving private parties.

Michael Salzman

Qualcomm’s Antitrust War and The Patent Licensing Issues

Posted 12 days ago

Even at ground level, where American courts in San Diego and San Jose are now being called on to apply the law laid out in prior court decisions to the particular facts of the smartphone chip market, the multipronged attack on Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices offers an unusually rich platter of meaty issues to feast upon for those who advise patent licensors and licensees. Leaving aside the implications for the smartphone industry and the market for cellular baseband processors that Qualcomm now dominates, the new precedents that will be set in court—if the parties don’t settle or a Republican-controlled FTC doesn’t withdraw its case—will have broad and deep implications for patent owners and users—much as the US v. Microsoft case has had since it was decided almost two decades ago.