Most commentators agree that Google v. Oracle is the most important copyright decision of the last 25 years (since Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music). But what if the Court got it wrong? The Court has not always done well with issues of technology (the Sony v. Universal “Betamax” case being an exception), and the majority decision in Google v. Oracle appears to be more of the same. For many reasons, the powerful dissent from Justices Thomas and Alito may be the better opinion.
Though the parties have quickly settled their case, the question remains open: was Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoe” an exercise of free speech or a trademark violation? What we do know is that sneaker giant Nike’s complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York on March 29, 2021 alleged a dispute of biblical proportions against Brooklyn art collective MSCHF Product Studio, Inc. Nike targeted its own Air Max 97 shoe, which it claimed MSCHF and its collaborator Lil Nas X (who was not named in the lawsuit) materially altered to feature an upside down cross, a pentagram, and an injection of human blood into the sole to create the “Satan Shoe” – 666 of them to be exact. The Satan Shoe still displays Nike’s famous Swoosh, which inspired calls to boycott the brand for its alleged association with the controversial shoes. Nike asserted claims of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false designation of origin, and unfair competition, and sought a temporary restraining order, a permanent injunction, and damages.
Shortly after we posted about Moderna, Inc.’s October 2020 pledge not to enforce its COVID-19-related patents during the pandemic, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency regulatory approval for two COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna and BioNTech (with Pfizer), making these groups the first to ever enter the commercial market with mRNA-based therapies. This little-known and never-before-approved mRNA technology has since been widely administered and represents a primary weapon being used to defeat the pandemic. While this effort carries on, market players are confident that COVID-19 is but one of many indications that the mRNA technology platform might be utilized for, and that approval of the mRNA vaccines could open the door for the approval of other mRNA-based medicines, creating a wide range of new markets. With the anticipated increase in market activity and competition, we will provide an overview of the mRNA IP and competitive landscape in a series of three posts in the context of certain key players’ patent positions, drug pipelines, strategic relationships, and other attributes. These posts are based on publicly available information, are non-exhaustive, and do not identify all market players or potential market players in this space.
Patent Filings Roundup: Acacia Gets Another Fintiv Boost; More Vape IPRs Filed; Adenovirus PGR Challenge; IP Edge Files Dozens of New Complaints
District court complaints rose to 93 this week, while Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) cases fell to 28 (27 inter partes reviews [IPRs] and a post grant review [PGR]), a number propped up in part by Google filing a number of petitions against serial assertor Express Mobile, LLC and ZTE filing a few more against the perennial WSOU. Additional Facebook petitions were denied against Western District of Texas assertor, Onstream Media Corporation; Google filed a spate of petitions against longtime serial assertor Express Mobile; and there were a not-surprising-but-still-remarkable number of IP Edge complaints filed last week, as seen below, from a wide range of subsidiaries.
It’s hard to believe that, not too long ago, alliances between the public and private sectors were unheard of unless the government was picking up the entire tab. After World War II, the policy was that if the government funded even a small percentage of the research, it would take any resulting inventions away from those who created them to make the discovery readily available to anyone and everyone. While that might sound noble, it was a death knell for commercialization because then, like now, these discoveries required significant private sector effort and investment to turn into commercial products. The result was that not only were few government funded inventions ever developed, but even worse, companies avoided alliances with government funded institutions.
Computer boilerplate – such as including “a processor and a memory” in claims – is commonplace in patent applications. However, the recent case of In re Stanford shows that this can be a double-edged sword, having the potential to both undermine an application and to ruin an opinion that could otherwise have shed light on several of the thorniest open questions in patent eligibility jurisprudence. Skeptical that such a common practice could be so counterproductive? Read on.
Much has been said about how 5G will better use the airwaves, giving wings to new communications between people and between devices. Little has been said though about how 5G could change markets and industries. The equipment market for the radio access network (RAN) is a good example of just one market that is now caught in the updraft of such change. Another market bound to rise is the market for patent licensing—and, in particular, standard essential patent licensing for 5G RAN. To help make sense of the 5G patent licensing market, we have developed an AI-based 5G landscaping tool to help identify and weigh the relative patent portfolios (OPAL) and an indexed repository of all technical contributions made to 3GPP 2G-5G standardization work (OPEN).
Peloton Wants to Cancel the Mark SPINNING for Being Generic – the TTAB Has Rarely Granted Such a Petition
Peloton’s petitions to cancel Mad Dogg’s registered trademarks for SPIN and SPINNING (in Classes 41 and 28) for genericism ask the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to do what it has rarely done before – cancel marks that were distinctive at the time of filing for losing distinctiveness due to the public’s overuse of the terms. While the TTAB has refused to register or cancel registered marks that were generic terms at the time the trademark applications were filed, the TTAB has rarely cancelled a mark that was distinctive when registered, but over time, became a generic term and lost its distinctiveness, as Peloton argues in its petitions. For example, “Kleenex” is often referenced when discussing generic brands, and while Kimberly-Clark Corporation has faced petitions for cancellation of its “Kleenex” mark, “Kleenex” has remained a registered mark of Kimberly-Clark Corporation since 1924.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in how IP professionals manage their patent and trademark portfolios. Fortunately, many IP law firms and corporate IP departments have survived and managed well in this new environment. They are even showing great optimism as the industry trends toward greater consolidation and tighter global integration. Nonetheless, major concerns remain, challenging both IP owners and their advisers to find more effective ways to solve their portfolio management challenges while focusing on the long-term strategic value of IP.
Cryptocurrencies are virtual currencies based on blockchain technology that uses a network of computers to keep a public ledger of past transactions. The most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which some believe could replace bonds and serve as a reserve currency in the future. The value of Bitcoin has skyrocketed over recent years, as major companies are buying into it. In February 2021, Tesla Inc. bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin and announced plans to start accepting the currency as payment for its electric vehicles. Since Bitcoin has the potential to be used directly in commercial transactions, fintech companies are developing and patenting related technologies.
Patent Filings Roundup: No Fracking IPRs; New Magnetar NPE Identified; Board Rules on Scope of Adverse Judgment
With a pretty-standard 30 Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) petitions and 70+ district court complaints filed this week, it’s worth noting that the steady stream of IP Edge and Rothschild suits hasn’t let up, that the WSOU matters continue to bump up the numbers in both, and that Magentar Capital-related petitions and cases continue to flourish. To wit, ZTE pulled the trigger on a few inter partes reviews (IPRs) against some of the WSOU patents asserted against them, showing a little backbone against the frequent assertor; Verizon has continued to trickle out the IPRs against Huawei; Gree earned another few denials under the Board’s discretion (and have now on a per-named-entity basis probably the biggest beneficiaries of it). New NPE of unknown origin Sidekick Technology, LLC was DJ’d by a band of online car sales sites in 2:21-cv-06737 over 12 patents; and the same time that Samsung won some IPRs against Solas OLED, the Magnetar-backed entity hit them back (again) in District court.
Two organizations with which I work have filed comments with NIST on its Bayh-Dole regulatory proposals. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, approaches completion of its two-and-a-half-year effort known as the Return on Investment Initiative, as the regulatory revision stage nears its close. NIST has conducted a commendable process and proposed mostly constructive or reasonable updating to rules associated with the Bayh-Dole Act. But one proposal puts at risk the continued success of the storied law for democratizing technology transfer and commercializing inventions coming from federally sponsored research. That is, this law facilitates bringing to practical use inventions that otherwise would sit on shelves.
Though it is not over, it seems that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic may be in sight. A select group of countries has managed to bring vaccines to the market in record time. Take the United States, for example. At the time of this writing, three U.S. companies have managed to produce vaccines that received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The intellectual property that underlies these products quite literally has life-saving potential. This achievement no doubt represents a significant feat in human ingenuity, but it also presents a ripe issue in the intellectual property space — namely, compulsory licensing and intellectual property (IP) waivers. Some feel that the cost of sharing this information represents a bold degradation of the intellectual property system. In developing countries, however, the lack of vaccine availability is proving particularly difficult to manage.
In over 40 years of handling trade secret disputes, I have seen plenty of “successful” results, but never a time when my client said, “Gee that was fun; let’s do it again!” They may tell me they’re happy with the outcome, but hey, I know that it also feels good to stop hitting yourself with a hammer. It’s a fact that more than 90% of trade secret cases settle without a trial. But too often those settlements only happen after years of litigation. There are ways to make that process less painful, and in an earlier article we looked at the advantages and limitations of arbitration and private judging as means to recapture some amount of control over the dispute. But unless the parties already had an arbitration agreement before the problem arose, one of them will probably see an advantage to playing it out in court….This is precisely why that other form of alternative dispute resolution, mediation, is the perfect method for resolving trade secret disputes.
Buffalo is a small Texas town of less than 2,000 people. On the way into town, school zone signs flank both sides of a speed limit sign. I drove through on a Sunday, when school zones do not apply, so I didn’t slow down. Almost immediately, the police lights lit up and I was awarded a speeding ticket. When I started to fight the ticket, I was met with resistance at every level of city government. It quickly became clear that the speed trap was a significant source of revenue for the small town and that the judge, mayor, city employees and even the officer who pulled me over all benefited from that revenue. So, I just paid the ticket and walked away. It is the very definition of a corrupt system when those who make the rules and decisions receive financial benefit from the results of their rules and decisions. New Vision Gaming v. SG Gaming, Inc. (Federal Circuit No. 2020-1399) illustrates this phenomenon as it applies to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).