It’s tough to describe what access to the Internet has meant to our contemporary society, especially in terms of technological progress in our country and across the world. It can easily be said that the spread of Internet-based technologies has revolutionized our society and brought about the birth of what many consider to be the Information Age. Free and open access to a wide array of informational resources and software application through the Internet is now widely used in corporate, governmental and private individual situations to connect people and organizations to valuable communication networks.
It’s this incredible value intrinsic to the Internet that has been central to the debate over net neutrality. What was a fairly esoteric term just a few months ago has lately jumped to the forefront of the American political debate, thanks to newly proposed regulations set forward by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Just several days ago Tech Crunch reported that the FCC had received some 647,000 comments relating to its activities associated with net neutrality, a staggering sum. And thanks to glitches with the comment system, the announced yesterday that it would be extending the deadline to provide comments until midnight on Friday, July 18.
With all this in mind we wanted to take some time to look at this issue, which could affect all users of the Internet, from various angles to give our readers an opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of what’s at stake. At the core of the debate is government oversight of private Internet networks, and whether free access to all online resources is a basic right of all Internet users.
Amazon.com, Inc. has billed parents and other account holders for millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children, according to a Federal Trade Commission complaint filed today in federal court.
The FTC’s lawsuit seeks a court order requiring refunds to consumers for the unauthorized charges and permanently banning the company from billing parents and other account holders for in-app charges without their consent. According to the complaint, Amazon keeps 30 percent of all in-app charges.
Amazon offers many children’s apps in its appstore for download to mobile devices such as the Kindle Fire. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Amazon violated the FTC Act by billing parents and other Amazon account holders for charges incurred by their children without the permission of the parent or other account holder. Amazon’s setup allowed children playing these kids’ games to spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items within the apps such as “coins,” “stars,” and “acorns” without parental involvement.
Earlier today the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., a case that required the Court to determine whether Aereo infringed copyrights of the plaintiffs by selling its subscribers a service that allowed them to watch television programs over the Internet at about the same time as the programs broadcasted the programs over the air. In a 6 to 3 decision authored by Justice Stephen Breyer the Court found that Aereo’s actions did constitute copyright infringement. A dissent was written by Justice Scalia and joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.
Using an all too familiar “logical” construct, the Supreme Court determined that what Aereo did was not a public performance within the meaning of the Copyright Act, but was still infringement because it was a public performance. This construct, which often appears in patent cases, is logically absurd, but without anyone to review the Court’s decisions they seem completely comfortable rendering internally inconsistent and logically flawed decisions, particularly when dealing with intellectual property.
The Supreme Court likely struggles with intellectual property because the Court is simply not comfortable with technology. In the past I have made much of the fact that the Supreme Court does not use e-mail, I’ve also pointed to the fact that during the KSR oral arguments Justice Scalia called the entire area of patent law “gobbledegook.” But we don’t even need to go beyond the text of the written decision to understand the Court’s true naiveté. Indeed, at one point in his opinion Justice Breyer asked why the facts actually matter.
Breyer asked: “why should any of these technological differences matter?” Aside from the fact that intellectual property issues are by their very nature extraordinarily dependent upon technology, technological reality matters because under our system of law cases are supposed to be decided based on fact, not myth or superstition.
The United States Federal District Court for the District of Nevada has dismissed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a foreign Internet poker site in a ruling that signals a rather substantial win for Internet businesses at large. The decision narrows the types of contacts that would confer general jurisdiction against foreign companies. The case is Best Odds Corp. vs iBus Media Limited, docket number 2:13-cv-020080RCJ-VCF.
Nevada-based online poker news site Best Odds Corp. sued the Isle of Man-based iBus Media Holdings for infringement of its MacPoker ® trademark, claiming that the Nevada courts had general jurisdiction over iBus Media’s poker news sites. Best Odds pointed to the defendants’ media kit, which alleged a significant U.S. presence. The court disagreed that these promotional statements conferred general jurisdiction over iBus Media.
In a June 4, 2014, ruling Judge Robert C. Jones granted iBus Media Holdings’ motion for dismissal of Best Odds Corp.’s trademark infringement lawsuit. Judge Jones said the plaintiff failed to make a case that Nevada courts had general jurisdiction over the foreign-based iBus Media, citing the Supreme Court’s recent Daimler AG v. Bauman decision, which Jones said “clarified that the reach of general jurisdiction is narrower than had been supposed in lower courts for many years.”
Yahoo! Inc., headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, is one of the most recognizable names in the area of American computing corporations. The company’s flagship website, with its various search engine, mapping, news, finance and social media software tools, services millions of Internet users every day. This summer, the company may be looking to ramp up its activity in video sharing services; there has been a lot of talk in various technology publications surrounding the company’s plans to unveil an online video service to rival YouTube in terms of better ad rates and contracts for content creators. The upcoming IPO for Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, of which Yahoo! owns a minority stake, may net the corporation $10 billion to $15 billion.
The Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog has focused on this multinational corporation a couple of times in the past, and we’re returning again for another look at some intriguing developments in Internet-based technologies. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is regularly issuing patents to as well as publishing patent applications filed by Yahoo! every week. What we found in our most recent search includes some incredible innovations which a variety of businesses and individuals will likely soon be able to use through Yahoo!’s online website.
We start today’s check into Yahoo!’s innovations with an in-depth look at one patent application describing an online marketplace for advertising services which can be bought for business purposes. This marketplace enables advertising services to bid for rates and can analyze consumer interactions with a business website to suggest effecting online marketing tools. Other patent applications describe various other software tools for business purposes, including one system for providing advertisements which are optimized for mobile device screens.
As more devices are networked via wireless Internet, the complexity of managing such devices over the air has increased. This Mformation patent portfolio, which will be auctioned at the end of July 2014, addresses the challenges of managing the enormous amount of communication and interactions of mobile devices over wireless networks.
The portfolio to be auctioned includes 12 issued U.S. patents, 12 currently pending U.S. patent applications, 5 issued foreign patents and 43 currently pending foreign patent applications. It should be noted, however, that this portfolio does not include the patent asserted by Mformation against RIM – U.S. Patent No. 6,970,917.
Google is one of the stalwarts that we feature regularly on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, and our research into Google’s innovations always manage to unveil a great crop of unique inventions. The recently published patent applications and issued patents assigned to Google by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cover a vast field of innovation involving computing technologies, many of which improve systems of providing meaningful data to end users for various means.
A specialized type of content management system for brokering knowledge between experts and individuals who need various kinds of technical help is the focus of today’s featured patent application. Google is trying to protect a system for requesting know-how from an expert in return for virtual credits. Other patent applications have been filed to protect systems for better ranking of news stories as well as methods for providing contextual definitions of selected text within a document.
Washington– The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force will host roundtable discussions in cities around the country on several copyright Internet policy topics, as part of the work envisioned in the Green Paper. The purpose of the roundtables is to engage further with members of the public on the following issues: (1) the legal framework for the creation of remixes; (2) the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; and (3) the appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and of secondary liability for large-scale infringement. The roundtables, which will be led by USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will be held in Nashville, TN on May 21, 2014, Cambridge, MA on June 25, 2014, Los Angeles, CA on July 29, 2014, and Berkeley, CA on July 30, 2014. The meetings were called for in the Task Force’s Green Paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economyreleased last year.
In the Green Paper and subsequent requests for public comments on October 3, 2013, the Task Force stated its intention to hold roundtable discussions on these issues. On December 12, 2013, the Task Force held a day-long public meeting to discuss the issues identified for its further work in the Green Paper, which included panel discussions on remixes, the first sale doctrine, and statutory damages, as well as other topics. The purpose of the planned roundtables is to seek additional input from the public in different parts of the country in order for the Task Force to have a complete and thorough record upon which to make recommendations.