As we slip into the start of the second month of 2017, the world of intellectual property continues to percolate, brewing up a vast array of headlines from the patent, copyright and trademark sectors. This week, a patent battle between two American tech giants expands its scope to China, patents covering a well-known multiple sclerosis treatment were invalidated in U.S. district court and Trumpcare emerges as a possible trademarked moniker for the next incarnation of the country’s healthcare system, Disney files a patent application on evaluating human emotions while on amusement park rides, Ajit Pai holds his first open FCC meeting as Chairman and not surprisingly says he wants to reduce regulations, plus a whole lot more.
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- This Week on Capitol Hill – The nation’s capital continues to roil with activity in the earliest days of the Trump Administration. The U.S. Senate’s schedule is packed with nomination hearings to consider President Trump’s cabinet nominations. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation will convene for a 10 AM hearing that will look at options for encouraging the country’s economic growth by reducing regulations. At 10:30 AM, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will reconvene a business meeting which will, among other things, consider the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Next Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services will hold a closed hearing at 9:30 AM to receive a briefing on cyber threats. Over in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing today at 10:15 AM to explore how the electricity sector is responding to cybersecurity threats. On Thursday, that same committee will hold a 10:45 AM hearing on the reauthorization of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
- Apple Expands Patent Dispute Against Qualcomm to China – Last Wednesday, January 25th, multiple news outlets were reporting that consumer tech giant Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) had filed lawsuits in Chinese courts against Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) One suit seeks 1 billion yuan (about $145 million USD) for Qualcomm’s violations of China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, while the other suit seeks to put into place a licensing agreement involving Qualcomm’s mobile patents. Apple’s suits in China come days after the company filed suit against Qualcomm in U.S. district court over Qualcomm’s patent licensing activities.
- D. Del. Invalidates Teva Patents Covering Copaxone – In late January, separate press releases from Teva Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:TEVA) and Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:MNTA) announced that a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (D. Del.) had invalidated claims from four Teva patents covering the multiple sclerosis treatment Copaxone. Three of those patents had already been ruled invalid in light of obviousness as a result of inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Teva stock was down nearly 8 percent in the days after the ruling.
- Disney Files Patent Application for Analyzing Human Emotions on Rides – On Thursday, January 26th, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a patent application which would cover a technology providing interactive amusement park ride experiences. The patent application, assigned to the Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), discloses a sensor that senses passenger data for determining a passenger’s emotional state and adjusting a ride vehicle’s track based on the emotional state. The emotional state data could also inform the scenery displayed on a ride or address motion sickness issues while a ride is in progress. (Link to U.S. Patent Application No. 20170021282, titled Sensing and Managing Vehicle Behavior Based on Occupant Awareness.) (Image: managing vehicle.jpg)
- Lex Machina Releases Two New Legal Data Analytics Apps – On Thursday, January 26th, legal data analytics firm Lex Machina released two new software applications giving the company’s subscribers additional tools for deriving meaningful conclusions on legal strategies involving IP cases. Damages Explorer gives users the opportunity to search and compare damages on all types of cases decided in U.S. district courts going back to 2009, including damages for patent, copyright and trademark cases. Parties Comparator lets users compare the litigation strategies and outcomes of different legal parties, including litigation volumes, timing to judgement and findings won and lost. (Link to Lex Machina press release on the release of the new apps)
- South Carolina Health Insurance Provider Files Application for Trumpcare Trademark – On January 19th, South Carolina-based insurance provider Hibbits Insurance, Inc. filed a trademark application with the USPTO which has created some media headlines recently. The company is seeking to protect the standard character mark “Trumpcare” for commercial use in offering insurance lead collection and matching services as well as health insurance underwriting. The filing is interesting given the nature of President Trump’s stance on repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but Hibbits could have issues obtaining this mark given provisions of the Lanham Act which prohibit any entity from obtaining a trademark referring to a living person without getting that person’s written consent. (U.S. Trademark Serial No. 87307598 can be found via the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System)
- TrademarkVision Developing Reverse Image Search for Design Patents – Reverse image search provider TrademarkVision is hoping to unveil an image search function that will help design patent professionals search prior art more effectively. The company, which has secured multi-million dollar contracts from intellectual property offices in Australia and the European Union, already offers a prior art search for trademark professionals which queries a database of 19.8 million indexed images. TrademarkVision is also developing an enterprise application known as LogoSeer which will be able to spot logos in larger images, aiding legal teams who are responsible for licensing and anti-counterfeiting activities on behalf of trademark owners; according to the firm, LogoSeer will be available by the end of 2017, likely by the fall of this year.
- N.D. Ga. Judge Dismisses Copyright Case Involving Right to Publish State Regulations – On Thursday, January 26th, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (N.D. Ga.) dismissed a case involving competitors in the legal research services market. A judge ruled that Fastcase, Inc., which has a contract from Georgia’s state government to publish state administrative rules and regulations, cannot claim federal copyright protections covering the publication of those regulations. Fastcase tried to argue that its contract with Georgia gave it the legal right to prohibit Lawriter LLC from offering fee-based subscription access to electronic files including the Georgia state regulations. Although Fastcase brought forward federal claims for copyright, the judge ruled that the material in question wasn’t registered for copyright. (Link to N.D. Ga.’s court order dismissing Fastcase’s lawsuit)
- Copyright Alert System Shuts Down After Four Years – On Friday, January 27th, the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) published a statement announcing the conclusion of the Copyright Alert System (CAS). CAS was an initiative which involved copyright alerts sent by Internet service providers (ISPs) on behalf of recording studios, both for movies and songs, to Internet users who might be violating copyright protections through the use of peer-to-peer applications. (Link to CCI statement on the conclusion of CAS)
- Ajit Pai Holds First Open FCC Meeting as Chairman, Wants to Reduce Regulation – On Tuesday, January 31st, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai held an open meeting of the FCC, his first as the director of the agency. According to The Hill, FCC commissioners voted to eliminate a public filing regulation requiring TV and broadcast stations to keep physical copies of letters from media consumers and make them publicly available and another regulation requiring cable operators to maintain and allow inspection of headend facilities for cable systems. The meeting comes after media reports that Pai has already done away with a proposal to enable third-party competition in the cable set-top box market. Quotes from Pai published by The Hill indicate that Pai favors an open Internet but isn’t in favor of the Title II reclassification of ISPs which occurred during the tenure of Tom Wheeler.
- Ford Named Defendant in Patent Lawsuit Involving Collision Avoidance Tech – On Thursday, January 26th, American automaker Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) was named a defendant in a patent infringement suit filed by Collision Avoidance Technologies, Inc., a firm located in Costa Mesa, CA. The plaintiff alleges that Ford and Lincoln vehicles which practice collision avoidance technologies providing object detection around the vehicle infringe upon a patent held by the plaintiff. The suit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (E.D. Tex.). (Link to Collision Avoidance Technologies’ lawsuit filed in E.D. Tex.) (Link to U.S. Patent No. 6268803, titled System and Method of Avoiding Collisions, asserted in case)
- This Week on Wall Street – This Tuesday saw the kickoff of a series of earnings releases from some of the more important players in the high tech industry. After the closing bell, Apple posted a 15 cent beat on earnings per share (EPS) and higher than expected revenues for the first quarter of its 2016 fiscal year. American drugmaker Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), an important player in the pharmaceutical sector, released its 2016 fourth quarter earnings which showed a 3 cent miss on expected EPS of 50 cents. Other tech firms which are active in filing patent applications scheduled to release earnings on Tuesday include Japanese multifunction device developer Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ), Japanese imaging company Fujifilm Corp. (TYO:4901) and Japanese manufacturer Ricoh Co (TYO:7752). Today, social media giant Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) will report earnings for 2016’s fourth quarter while Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, Ltd. (TYO:6501) will report its earnings for 2016’s third quarter. American e-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) will report fourth quarter earnings on Thursday, the same day that Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) plans to report its earnings for 2016’s third quarter. Friday will see earnings reports from Asian automakers Honda Motor Co. (NYSE:HMC) for 2016’s third quarter and Hyundai Motor Co. (KRX:005380) for 2016’s fourth quarter.
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