SCOTUS Kicks Patent Eligibility Cases to the Curb in Last Move of the Term

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied certiorari in American Axle v. Neapco Holdings, Inc., leaving it up to Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to restore any semblance of clarity on U.S. patent eligibility law for now. Many expected that the Court would grant the petition after the U.S. Solicitor General in May recommended granting review. The SG’s brief said that inventions like the one at issue in American Axle have “[h]istorically…long been viewed as paradigmatic examples of the ‘arts’ or ‘processes’ that may receive patent protection if other statutory criteria are satisfied” and that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit “erred in reading this Court’s precedents to dictate a contrary conclusion.”

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.

Coca-Cola Win Reversed at CAFC in Case Over Indian Soda Trademarks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) today reversed a decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) that had canceled two marks for Thums Up cola and Limca lemon-lime soda owned by Meenaxi Enterprise, Inc. The CAFC held that Coca-Cola had not established a statutory cause of action based on lost sales or reputational injury under Section 14(3) of the Lanham Act and thus reversed the decision. Judge Reyna wrote separately in concurrence but said he would have focused the inquiry on the territoriality principle and the well-known mark exception, rather than lost sales and reputational injury among U.S. consumers, as the majority did.

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.

CAFC Reverses Contempt Finding for Disclosures of Confidential Discovery Information to Develop Joint Defense Strategy

On June 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential decision in Static Media LLC v. Leader Accessories LLC reversing a contempt finding entered in the Western District of Wisconsin over alleged violations of a protective order from a design patent infringement case between Static and Leader. Circuit Judge Jimmie Reyna authored a brief dissent from the majority opinion, arguing that Leader’s disclosure of certain confidential information with another company sued by Static for the development of a joint defense strategy was a violation of the district court’s protective order.

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