Posts in Technology & Innovation

Hermès’ Challenge of ‘MetaBirkin’ NFTs Foretells Future Trademark Litigation Trends

There are not many trademark cases that are of equal interest to high fashion, the art world and cutting-edge tech. The ongoing “MetaBirkin” lawsuit is unusual, however, in that it involves a designer brand and two of the latest, trending topics – non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse. In a case that has bagged global attention, luxury design house Hermès is suing artist Mason Rothschild in New York for trademark infringement and dilution, misappropriation of its BIRKIN trademark, cybersquatting, false designation of origin and description, and injury to business reputation.

Patent Litigation Financing: Fighting Efficient Infringement with Funding

Today, many companies make the business decision to infringe patented technology instead of paying a royalty to license it—so called efficient infringement. The calculation is that it will ultimately be less expensive to ignore the patent rights of innovations than to take a license in an arm’s length negotiation. Over the last 15 years, that calculus has largely proven correct, with changes to numerous laws and the introduction of additional administrative processes all conspiring to make it easier to challenge issued patents. This means that litigation is often the only way for an innovator to protect valuable intellectual property and to stop infringement. Unfortunately, lacking leverage and financial resources, many patent owners cannot stop infringement—in some instances, even after a jury trial.

USPTO Expedited Processes for Examination and the New Petition to Make Special for Climate Change Inventions

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a massive backlog of patent applications (typically in the hundreds of thousands). Indeed, the average wait for patent applicants to receive any substantive response from the USPTO is 19.4 months, and the wait is growing. (See chart below). Because of this situation, there has been a need for patent applicants to accelerate the process. The USPTO has obliged and provides several options discussed here for patent applicants to consider.

USPTO Report Underscores Split on State of U.S. Patent Eligibility Jurisprudence

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published its study on patent eligibility jurisprudence in response to a March 2021 request from Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chris Coons (D-DE). The study, titled “Patent eligible subject matter: Public views on the current jurisprudence in the United States,” is based on more than 140 comments received following a USPTO request of July 9, 2021, and unsurprisingly concluded that many (mostly larger) high-tech and computer-related companies like the current state of the law; life sciences, startups and SMEs do not; but everyone agrees that consistency, clarity and predictability are needed. The study did not make any recommendations, and indicated that the Office will be continuing to solicit feedback via listening sessions and written comments and that it is also broadening the scope of stakeholders it reaches out to.

The TRIPS Waiver: What Does it Mean to Change the Rules of the Game?

A terrible idea – wayward and ill-conceived, criticized by all economic, political and geopolitical fronts – has come to fruition. The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) TRIPs waiver on patents related to COVID-19 vaccines will disincentivize the entire industry from investing in vaccine production. To understand what happens next, let’s understand history first.

WTO Announces COVID Vaccine Waiver Deal That Virtually No One Wants

Following a week of round-the-clock deliberations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) this morning announced a deal on waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 vaccine technologies under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The final text has made almost no one happy and largely mirrors the draft text going into negotiations, with a few key changes. With respect to open questions in the draft text, the final agreement indicates that all developing country WTO Members will be considered eligible to take advantage of the waiver, but that those with “existing capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines are encouraged to make a binding commitment not to avail themselves of this Decision.” This language is primarily targeted at China, which has publicly stated that it would not use the waiver provision but had objected to language based on percentage of global vaccine exports that would have categorically excluded it. The draft text had encouraged members with vaccine export capabilities to opt out rather than to make a binding commitment.

Kudos to USPTO, DOJ, NIST for Abandoning a Bad Draft, but Future Remains Murky for SEP Holders

In a recent surprise decision, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology officially withdrew their 2019 Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments and declined to advance an alternative policy statement as a replacement. While the withdrawal of the 2019 policy statement was seen as a foregone conclusion (given the far more SEP-restrictive nature of a December 2021 draft policy statement (DPS) circulated by the agencies), moving forward without any guidance was not on anyone’s DOJ policy bingo card for 2022. The slim guidance that this withdrawal announcement does provide, however, paints a murky picture for the ability of SEP holders to obtain injunctive relief.

The Bayh-Dole System Just Keeps Rollin’ Along – Despite Attempts to Throw it Off Track

How about some good economic news? That’s in short supply these days as the nation teeters on the brink of recession, driven by raging inflation and skyrocketing gas prices. But in good times and bad, our technology transfer system created by the Bayh-Dole Act just keeps chugging along. A just released study by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and AUTM, which represents the academic technology management profession, shows that academic patent licensing contributed up to $1.9 trillion to the U.S. economy while supporting 6.5 million jobs between 1996 – 2020. Even more impressively, this impact increased substantially since the last survey was released three years ago. That showed an economic impact of $1.7 trillion with 5.9 million jobs supported.

Vaccine Access Advocacy Groups Speak Out as COVID IP Waiver Talks Heat Up

The People’s Vaccine Alliance issued a statement today, one day before the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference is set to end, accusing the United Kingdom and Switzerland of being “major blockers of the TRIPS waiver for twenty months while millions have died without access to COVID-19 vaccines.” Anna Marriott, Policy Lead at the People’s Vaccine Alliance and Health Policy Manager at Oxfam, said the two countries “have repeatedly disrupted negotiations using the amendment process to ensure that any text is difficult to use or implement” and added: “It would be totally false for rich countries to shift the blame for the current state of TRIPS negotiations onto anybody else.”

Announcements on Withdrawal of SEP Policy Statements Lack Clarity and Leave Patent Owners Guessing

As was recently reported by IPWatchdog (here and here), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST), and the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (DOJ) issued a statement on June 8 withdrawing the December 19, 2019 Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (2019 Policy Statement). A footnote to the statement further provides that “the agencies do not reinstate the January 8, 2013, Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments issued by the DOJ and the USPTO.” Curiously, this statement makes no mention of the 2021 Draft Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (2021 Draft Policy Statement), which draft statement was criticized by a broad cross-section of industry participants for a variety of different reasons. Regardless, our question is simply this: why did the 2019 Policy Statement need to be withdrawn instead of simply not proceeding with the 2021 Draft Policy Statement or, alternatively, modifying those portions of the 2019 Policy Statement that the agencies did not agree with? By throwing the baby out with the bath water, patent owners are now left to guess where the agencies stand on such issues.

WTO Conference Could End with Agreement on COVID Vaccine IP Waiver This Week

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 12th Ministerial Conference is set to take place this week, June 12-15, at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. As part of the four-day meeting, discussions around the latest text of the proposal to waive intellectual property (IP) rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19 vaccine technology will take place around the clock, and it is expected that some agreement will be reached. TRIPS Council Chair, Ambassador Lansana Gberie of Sierra Leone, said on June 7 that “delegations have entered into real negotiation mode in the last 24 hours,” and that she is “feeling cautiously optimistic now that we will get this text ready for adoption by ministers in time for the coming weekend.”

Senators Push for Vote on American Innovation and Choice Online Act Despite Criticisms on Bill’s Regulatory Enforcement Mechanisms

On June 8, news reports indicated that U.S. Senators from both sides of the political aisle were confident that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee this January, has the necessary votes to pass the Senate and move on to the U.S. House of Representatives. While several top Senate lawmakers continue to argue that the bill will enact much needed antitrust enforcement mechanisms against Big Tech, the bill has several critics and has raised midterm election concerns for some Senators facing tough re-election cycles.

Examining the Confounding Public Interest Statement by the FTC in a Recent ITC Investigation

On May 17, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) submitted to Lisa Barton, Secretary of the International Trade Commission (ITC), a statement they believed was relevant to the public interest considerations before the Commission in a matter involving certain UMTS and LTE cellular communication modules (337-TA-1240). The ITC in many cases will invite statements on the Public Interest, and the FTC is often invited to make a submission. It should be noted, however,  “Public Interest” in the ITC is a matter of statute, and there are four public interest factors which are statutory. Any statement in the Public Interest must address one or more of those factors. Other matters not within the statute are not public interest factors.

More Bipartisan Support from Congress for Restoring 2019 SEP Policy Statement

Two bipartisan members of congress, Representative Scott Peters (D-CA) and Representative Bill Posey (R-FL), sent a letter yesterday to President Joe Biden urging him to maintain the 2019 version of the  Joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)-National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments. A comment period on the latest iteration, which was issued in 2021, ended on February 4. The new version of the Statement came on the heels of President Joe Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which asked the three agencies to review the 2019 statement.

Another Peculiar Anti-Patent Court Decision in ParkerVision v. Qualcomm

Infringing patented inventions feels like stealing, from the innovator’s perspective, much like a smash and grab at a jewelry store. Politicians refuse to fix the gutted patent system so it can protect U.S. startups and small inventors. The American Dream is slipping away, as it consolidates into the hands of just a few tech giants and sending whatever is left to China. Case in point, ParkerVision v. Qualcomm, which illustrates just how anti-patent some courts have become. In this case the importance of ParkerVision’s seminal semiconductor chip technology that helped to transform cellphones into smartphones is at issue. ParkerVision invested tens of millions in R&D, but the courts have allowed it to be taken from them and transferred to a multinational corporation free of charge.