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Posts in Guest Contributors

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.

Machine Learning Models and the Legal Need for Editability: Surveying the Pitfalls (Part II)

In Part I of this series, we discussed the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) case against Everalbum as just one example where companies may be required to remove data from their machine learning models (or shut down if unable to do so). Following are some additional pitfalls to note. A. Evolving privacy and data usage restrictions Legislators at the international, federal,…

What You Need to Know About Trade Secrets in 2021

Last year at this time we thought we had been through the worst of it and, with the new vaccines arriving, that life would return to normal in 2021. Hahaha, how naïve we were! But take heart; some things hold steady through the storm, such as the popular sport of trade secret litigation. Unlike most patent and copyright cases, every dispute is guaranteed to unfold as a morality play—a story of good guys and bad guys. Let’s now look back on the year when remote work dug in to become a permanent fixture, and remind ourselves of the broad sweep of trade secret law by looking at some of the more instructive and interesting opinions issued by the courts – and one inexplicable decision by our government.

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.

As Policymakers Say They Want to Rein in Big Tech, Others Seek to Give It Even More Power

Over the past several years, Congress has raised a long overdue microscope to Big Tech and its worst practices and as a result, the relationship between Washington, DC and Silicon Valley has changed tremendously. Rather than being feted by policymakers, Big Tech is now being forced to answer tough questions. Elected officials are now more aware of Big Tech’s reach and impact on our elections, security, and data collection – and they are not liking what they see.  These companies have intruded on nearly every aspect of American lives and have avoided any responsibility or accountability.

Patent Trends in Stem Cell, Robot and Edge Computing Technologies

Previously, I’ve written about patent trends for the emerging technologies of deep learning, blockchain, and quantum computing. This article shifts the focus to the realms of biology (“stem cells”), machinery (“robot”), and then back to computing, and specifically to a topic suggested by a reader (with the handle “Primary Examiner”), “edge computing.” In each instance, the bar chart tells the same story.

Patent Filings Roundup: Cal Tech Sues Samsung After $1 Billion Apple Verdict; Joao Entity Sues UT’s Health System; Intel Loses Six Against Bill Chu’s Acqis LLC

Another 82 district court terminations this week was again high, though careful analysis has revealed that many of those cases were terminated voluntarily and refiled elsewhere. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw just 22 inter partes reviews (IPRs) this week; a few parties walked away from their patents, including Litl LLC [TRI Ventures, Inc.], after a challenge by Microsoft. District court was up this week to 94 patent filings, and the year looks poised to end with filings up substantially over years past. The Board again exercised its Fintiv muscles in an IPR with a case pending in the International Trade Commission (ITC), this one an entity funded by Techquity Captial Management. Other semiconductor patents asserted by NPEs went down on Final Written Decision in IPR, including one of the patents asserted by Vector Capital’s Monterey Research; it’s worth noting that the semiconductor companies have collectively spent a lot of time before the Board this year after the increase in NPE suits there this year.

One Thumb Up for the New Draft Administration Statement on FRAND Licensing

On December 6, the Department of Justice – Antitrust Division (DOJ), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued for public comment a “draft revised statement on remedies for the infringement of standards-essential patents (or SEPs) that are subject to a RAND or F/RAND licensing commitment, which also provides guidance on what demonstrates good-faith negotiation in this context.” The 2021 SEP Licensing Draft Statement responds to President Biden’s Executive Order on Competition, which called on the agencies to review the 2019 Trump Administration Statement dealing with SEP infringement remedies. The 2019 Statement in turn excised the anti-IP language from a 2013 Obama Administration Statement on this topic.

When Your Trademark Licensor is in Financial Distress

Your company and its business have been built around the strength of a trademark license from a third-party licensor. You have invested heavily in the brand. Now, however, your trademark licensor is in financial distress. Bankruptcy is not beyond the realm of possibility. Perhaps the licensor has asked to renegotiate the terms of the trademark license or threatened to terminate the license once a chapter 11 bankruptcy case is filed. What are the respective rights of the distressed trademark licensor and your company, as trademark licensee, in this situation? Is your company at risk of losing everything invested in reliance on the license?

Machine Learning Models: The Legal Need for Editability (Part I)

A widespread concern with many machine learning models is the inability to remove the traces of training data that are legally tainted. That is, after training a machine learning model, it may be determined that some of the underlying data that was used to develop the model may have been wrongfully obtained or processed. The ingested data may include files that an employee took from a former company, thus tainted with misappropriated trade secrets. Or the data may have been lawfully obtained, but without the adequate permissions to process the data. With the constantly and rapidly evolving landscape of data usage restrictions at the international, federal, state, and even municipal levels, companies having troves of lawfully-obtained data may find that the usage of that data in their machine learning models becomes illegal.

Good Sports: Cleveland MLB and Roller Derby Teams Share GUARDIANS Name

The MLB baseball team formerly known as the Cleveland Indians has a new name that pays homage to the history of Cleveland. The team last rebranded in 1915, when it left behind its former name, the “Naps” (short for “Napoleons”) in favor of the “Indians.” Now, over a century later, the team has joined other sports franchises in retiring Native American names, mascots, and imagery imbued with negative and racist connotations. With the help of actor and Cleveland Indians fan Tom Hanks, the baseball team announced on July 23, 2021 that it would adopt a new name: the Cleveland Guardians.

Examining the Moderna-NIH COVID-19 Vaccine Debate in the Context of Bayh-Dole

In the wake of the development of COVID-19 vaccines, the Biden-Harris Administration has suggested major shifts in U.S. policy concerning patent protection. In May of this year, Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced the Administration’s support for waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. Most recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins accused Moderna of excluding three NIH scientists as co-inventors of a key patent for the COVID-19 vaccine. This article explores an alternative possibility of the Administration exercising certain rights in the COVID-19 vaccine invention under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act—one day after the bill’s co-sponsor, Senator Bob Dole, passed away—and whether such an exercise of rights is in line with past precedent or would be a violent disruption to the status quo.  

Senator Bob Dole: A Staunch Defender of His Country, and Our Patent System

If you’re going into a desperate fight, there are some people that you want on your side. One was Robert Dole, who passed away yesterday, December 5, at 98 years old….. It was characteristic of his generation—and of Bob Dole—to honor his fallen colleagues, even when he was bound in a wheelchair. Few who saw it will ever forget Senator Dole insisting on getting up and walking to the coffin of his friend, Senator Daniel Inouye, who lost an arm fighting in Italy, close to where Dole was wounded. Even though his health was deteriorating last year when we honored Bayh-Dole’s 40th anniversary, Senator Dole made a very gracious video tribute to his former colleague, Senator Birch Bayh. That Birch Bayh and Daniel Inouye were Democrats made no difference to Bob Dole.

Inventing Chaos with the Moderna/NIH Dispute

Moderna and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are poised for a legal battle over inventorship of a vaccine for COVID-19. While a court may resolve the dispute over inventorship for the patent application, court review of current inventorship rules could be a slippery slope to chaos. Moderna and NIH collaborated on developing a functional vaccine for COVID-19, which is not in dispute. As a result of the collaboration, a vaccine labeled “mRNA-1273” was created and a U.S. patent application was filed by Moderna, with no NIH scientists listed as inventors. Moderna has commented that, after an internal review, no NIH scientists designed the actual vaccine claimed in the U.S. patent application. NIH has commented that it believes three scientists should be included in the U.S. patent application as co-inventors with the Moderna scientists.