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Posts in US Supreme Court

SCOTUS, Vaccine Mandates and Patent Law: God Help Us

Is the Supreme Court competent to handle issues dealing with technology? The question is often discussed in private among patent attorneys who find themselves completely befuddled by the wanton disregard and open duplicitous handling of patent laws by the Nation’s High Court. In one decision, the Supreme Court will wax poetically about the need to adhere to precedent, and citing stare decisis, and then overrule well-established, 30-year-old Supreme Court precedent. The whim and fancy – and intellectual dishonesty – of the Supreme Court knows no bounds when it comes to patent law. But now, just how little at least some of the Justices know about basic science – and logic — has become glaringly and unmistakably obvious to everyone, thanks to the recent oral argument held regarding vaccine mandates.

High Court Asks U.S. Government for Input on Petition Accusing CAFC of Violating Seventh Amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday asked the Solicitor General of the United States to weigh in on a petition for writ of certiorari that claims the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) is depriving litigants of their right to trial by jury under the Seventh Amendment. The petition, filed in September by Olaf Sööt Design, LLC (OSD), asks the Court to take up the following question: “Whether the Seventh Amendment allows the Federal Circuit to reverse a jury verdict based on a sua sponte new claim construction of a term the district court concluded was not a term of art and construed to have its plain and ordinary meaning; where the Federal Circuit’s sua sponte claim construction essentially recasts a specific infringement factual question, previously decided by the jury, as a claim construction issue, to be decided de novo by the appellate court.”

Amici for Apple Tell SCOTUS Federal Circuit’s Article III Standing Ruling Violates Precedent, Upsets Congressional Intent in Enacting AIA Trials

In mid-November, consumer tech giant Apple filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Federal Circuit’s decision to dismiss Apple’s appeal of unsuccessful inter partes review (IPR) challenges to the validity of several patents owned by Qualcomm. In that ruling, the Federal Circuit found that Apple’s choice to enter a patent licensing agreement with Qualcomm covering the patents-at-issue extinguished Article III standing as to Apple’s appeals from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The question presented by Apple’s petition is: “Whether a licensee has Article III standing to challenge the validity of a patent covered by a license agreement that covers multiple patents.”

New Vision Gaming’s Motion for Reconsideration Highlights Issues with Arthrex USPTO Director Review Mandate

In the last few weeks of 2021, patent owner New Vision Gaming & Development filed a motion for reconsideration  of a remand order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. That ruling, entered in early December, remanded New Vision Gaming’s appeal of covered business method (CBM) review proceedings back to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) “for the limited purpose” of requesting Director review of the CBM review decisions under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Arthrex standard. New Vision Gaming’s recent motion for reconsideration raises several issues regarding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) implementation of Director reviews under Arthrex, making this particular case an important one to follow through at least early 2022.

Two Supreme Court IP Cases to Watch in 2022

As of today, the 2022 Supreme Court docket is light on intellectual property cases, with the Court having granted review of only one copyright case. However, one other major case lurks in the background on an issue—patent ineligibility—upon which the Supreme Court has already demonstrated its interest. These two cases are examined in greater detail below.

The Year in Copyright: From Google v. Oracle to the Takings Clause

One of the greatest attributes of copyright law is the never-ending abundance of exciting new developments, including those in Congress, the courts, and at the Copyright Office. On the surface, copyright seems straightforward in that it advances the public good by securing property rights to authors. But underneath this simple veneer lies centuries of debate about how best to balance the rights of authors with the public interest, where each distinct issue presents a veritable rabbit hole of metaphysical distinctions. For the copyright connoisseur, keeping up with the latest events can be an exhausting endeavor, though the thrill of solving new puzzles makes it intellectually rewarding. Thankfully, one need not be a member of the copyright cognoscenti to appreciate the major developments in copyright law this past year. From the Supreme Court’s decision in Google v. Oracle to the implementation of a small copyright claims tribunal to attempts to rein in state infringements, 2021 has certainly provided many wonderful events worth highlighting.

Trademarks in 2021: Recounting the Most High-Profile Trademark Developments of the Year

The past year has seen the implementation of brand-new trademark legislation, significant analysis of trademark liability for new technologies, renewed focus on the doctrine of initial interest confusion, the transformation of Nikes into “Satan Shoes,” the functionality of chocolate dipped cookies, and the end to a long-running case involving two multi-million dollar jury awards for willful infringement. As 2021 comes to an end, we look forward to what 2022 has in store.

The USPTO Must Allow Director’s Review of PTAB Decisions on Institution of AIA Trials

Since the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Arthrex, Inc., 141 S. Ct. 1970 (2021), there has been much discussion about the Court’s ruling mandating an option for users to request that the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) review Final Written Decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) rendered in trials under the America Invents Act (AIA) on the validity of issued patents. But there has been little or no discussion on such Director’s review of PTAB decisions on institution of AIA trials.

Warhol Foundation Tells SCOTUS Second Circuit’s Fair Use Ruling ‘Threatens a Sea-Change’ in Copyright Law

The Andy Warhol Foundation has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding  that Andy Warhol’s Prince Series did not constitute fair use of Lynn Goldsmith’s photograph. The Second Circuit held in March that “the district court erred in its assessment and application of the fair-use factors and the works in question do not qualify as fair use.” The Court of Appeals further concluded that the Prince Series works were substantially similar to the Goldsmith Photograph “as a matter of law.” The Supreme Court petition argues that “the Second Circuit’s decision…creates a circuit split and casts a cloud of legal uncertainty over an entire genre of visual art.”

The U.S. Patent System is Still Worth Saving

Much deserved criticism has been leveled at the U.S. patent system in the last decade or so, from all sides. No one branch of the system seems to much appreciate what the other branches are doing. The Supreme Court and Federal Circuit are issuing decisions that seem innocuous at first, but then inevitably snowball into wrecking balls. Regulatory policies, guidelines and statutory prescriptions that are well intended when the ink dries turn lethal to patents—witness the creation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). But, despite this situation, in the late summer/early fall of this year, in a brief burst of face-to-face patent events, I began to re-appreciate the value of the system and what it means to the country and our collective future.

Alice-Insanity (Part Three): How the Star Chamber of Madison Place Violates Basic Principles of Collateral Estoppel

As stated in Part One of this series, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees, inter alia, that no person shall be deprived of property (including intellectual property), without due process of law. However, the Supreme Court has never held that a single appellate court must comply with Fifth Amendment due process of law. The closest the Supreme Court ever came to such a radical idea as requiring any appellate court in the nation to comply with due process of law was at a time when “Three’s Company” and “The Muppet Show” dominated the 7PM-9PM Nielsen’s ratings. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106 (1976) (warning the Eighth Circuit that “injustice was more likely to be caused than avoided by deciding the issue without petitioner’s having had an opportunity to be heard,” but not actually requiring the Eighth Circuit to comply with Fifth Amendment due process). In contrast, the Supreme Court has held that even a man classified as an “enemy combatant” by the U.S. government is entitled to at least some measure of due process. See Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004).

Photographer’s SCOTUS Petition Argues State School Liable Under Takings Clause for Copyright Infringement

On November 15, Houston-area aerial photographer Jim Olive Photography filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an appeal from the Texas Supreme Court, which had denied Olive’s copyright claims against the University of Houston System on sovereign immunity grounds. In the petition, Olive requests that the Supreme Court simply grant certiorari, vacate the lower decision and remand for reconsideration of the issues in light of the Court’s decision this summer in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, which was issued just a few days after the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Olive.

Transformation or Derivation: Modern Trends in the Fair Use Doctrine from Software to Photography

“Fair Use” is a flexible defense to claims of copyright infringement. It is a doctrine that evolves as technology and the way in which people use copyrighted works advance. As an exception to the general law prohibiting copying others’ works, it permits copying for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as commentary, criticism, teaching, news reporting, scholarship, or research. Naturally, the way courts analyze the “fair use” defense must adapt as technology advances and the way in which creative content is developed evolves. Earlier this year, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a landmark fair use case involving the “copying” of an Application Programming Interface (API).

J.E.M.: The Supreme Court’s Last Expansion of Patent Protection, 20 Years Ago

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time that plants could be protected with utility patents. J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc., v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. 534 U.S. 124. This landmark decision, originating in the agricultural heartland of Iowa, was the last time the Supreme Court effectively increased patent protection for inventors and patent owners. Most, if not all, of the Supreme Court’s patent rulings in the past two decades have not been favorable to patent owners. Rather, these “recent” decisions have restricted patent rights and made it more difficult to enforce these rights against infringers.

Justices Express Frustration Over Question Presented in Unicolors v. H&M, But Lean Toward Preserving Copyright Registrations

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Unicolors v. H&M. The case asks the Court to decide whether the Ninth Circuit properly construed the language of 17 U.S.C. § 411 relating to whether courts must have evidence of intent to defraud before referring copyright registration validity questions to the Copyright Office. While the questioning seemed to favor Unicolors overall, at least one Justice today asked why a change in the question presented at the merits stage of the briefing shouldn’t result in the case being dismissed as having been “improvidently granted.”