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Posts in Europe

Green Light for Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court

The countdown to the launch of the EU Unitary Patent has begun, with the new system expected to start before the end of this year. The final legal step took place on January 19, when Austria deposited its instrument of accession to the Protocol on Provisional Application of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement. It is the 13th country to take this step, meaning that the provisional application period has now entered into force. In practice, this means that UPC judges and other staff can now be recruited, IT systems set up and budget confirmed. The provisional period is expected to last at least eight months, i.e. until late September 2022, although it could be as long as 12 months.

INTA Weighs in at CJEU on EU Parallel Imports Case

The International Trademark Association (INTA) has made an amicus submission before the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) in a case concerning parallel imports and EU trademark law. (Case C-175/21 Harman International Industries, Inc. v. AB SA.) In the case at hand, Harman, which makes audiovisual equipment, brought trademark infringement proceedings in Poland against AB, a distributor. AB had put on the market goods featuring Harman’s trademarks, which it had obtained from a third party. Europe operates a system of regional exhaustion, as set out in Article 15(1) of the EUTM Regulation, and in parallel imports cases national courts have referred to “goods which have not been put on the market within the European Economic Area (EEA) by the right holder or with his consent.” (Gender-neutral language has not yet become established in EU jurisprudence). In this case, Harman argued that the goods had been imported into Poland and had not been put on the market within the EEA by Harman or with its consent. AB claimed it had received assurances when it bought the goods that the trademark rights were exhausted.

IFI CLAIMS Rankings Show Increasing Role of Chinese Entities in U.S., Global Patent Ownership

Today, patent data analytics firm IFI CLAIMS released its annual report of the top U.S. patent recipients and active patent family owners, providing the IP world with a look at the patent ownership landscape that developed throughout the course of 2021. For yet another year, information technology R&D giant International Business Machines (IBM) earned the top spot among entities obtaining patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), while South Korean tech conglomerate Samsung Electronics enjoys the largest portfolio of global active patent families.

SEPs in Europe and Beyond: Highlights From 2021

Even as Europe and the rest of the world continued to face the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the development of 5G and other Standard Essential Patent (SEP)-enabled technology standards has continued at an unabated pace. While the year has not yet ended, more than 100,000 technical contributions have already been submitted at 3GPP meetings for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in 2021 – a near-record yearly contribution count. The invention and standardization of massive, complex communication technologies continues to generate significant numbers of SEPs. According to IPlytics data, the cumulative number of self-declared SEP families has surpassed 72,000 in 2021, indicating a five-fold increase in just 10 years.

Trademark, Design and Copyright Landmarks in Europe During 2021

Last week, IPWatchdog selected five significant patent developments in Europe, examining what has happened this year and what can be expected in 2022. Here, we review five of the top trademark and copyright decisions and legislative changes across Europe and what’s coming up in the new year. One of the most significant trademark decisions of 2021 came in a case over Hasbro’s EUTM registration for MONOPOLY. The registration, for goods and services in classes 9, 16, 28 and 41, was declared invalid by the EUIPO Second Board of Appeal on the basis that Hasbro had acted in bad faith. On April 21, the EU General Court upheld that decision.

Five Key Patent Developments in Europe for 2021

As part of its review of 2021, IPWatchdog takes a look back on five patent stories from the past year in Europe, and highlights what further developments to expect in 2022. In 2021, Europe took a giant leap towards the implementation of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC). After years of delays arising from disputes over rules and language, the U.K. signing up and then withdrawing, and constitutional objections filed in Germany, it now seems highly likely that the new system will launch in late 2022. The pivotal step in this process was the decision by Germany’s Federal Constitutional on July 9 to reject as inadmissible two applications seeking to prevent the country from ratifying the UPC Agreement. (BVerfG, Beschluss des Zweiten Senats vom 23. Juni 2021- 2 BvR 2216/20 -, Rn. 1-81.) Following the decision, reported on IPWatchdog here, Germany ratified the Protocol on the Provisional Application of the UPCA, and Slovenia also did so in October.

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,…

Could Description Amendments Made During Prosecution at the European Patent Office Affect U.S. Litigation?

Earlier this year, the European Patent Office (EPO) updated some of its Guidelines for Examination in a way that potentially could affect U.S. patent litigation. These Guidelines instruct European patent examiners (and the public) on how the patent prosecution process works—much like the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. For example, the Guidelines detail what form a patent application must be in, what happens during a prior art search, and perhaps most importantly, what should be included in an application. Guideline F-IV 4.3 particularly focuses on the form, contents, and clarity of the claims.

Hindsight Bias: An Ovine Survey

The arrival of a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) office action citing no less than six earlier patents directed to various sub-combinations in the features of the main independent claim in an application which I was handling prompted the present note. Readers may recall the decision of Judge Rich In re Winslow 365 F.2d 1017 (C.C.P.A. 1966): “We think the proper way to apply the 103-obviousness test to a case like this is to first picture the inventor as working in his shop with the prior art references — which he is presumed to know — hanging on the walls around him.” However, Boltzmann’s entropy formula S = k log W where S represents entropy, a concept associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty, and W represents the number of possible states in the relevant system, leaves an unforgettable impression on those who have studied it. Even if the fields from which the earlier patents might be selected are restricted to relevant general classifications, the number of combinations of six references which might have been collected together from the body of prior art in the relevant technical field randomly and without knowledge of the invention is mind-boggling.

Is Europe Running Out of Trademarks? Professor Beebe Talks EU Trade Mark Depletion

Is the European trademark system a victim of its own success? This was the question posed by Professor Barton Beebe of NYU School of Law at the Annual Sir Hugh Laddie Lecture at UCL-IBIL on November 9. Beebe argued that “trademark depletion is the most significant challenge the trademark system will face this century” and that, contrary to conventional wisdom,…

Iancu, Locke and Kappos Slam Biden Administration’s Support for COVID IP Waiver in New White Paper

Former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Directors Andrei Iancu and David Kappos, and former Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, today released a White Paper calling the Biden Administration’s decision to support a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19-related technologies under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) “strategic folly.” The report was produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In the paper, titled “The Shot Heard around the World”, the three officials, two of whom served under the Obama Administration, explained that the United States must indeed ramp up its efforts to improve vaccine diplomacy and to distribute more vaccines globally, but that “[w]aiving IP protections would not lead to the manufacture of a single additional dose of a vaccine.” Instead, they proposed a number of alternative solutions to solve the “real problems.”

Judge Upholds UK Power to Set FRAND Terms

A judge has affirmed the ability of the UK courts to settle FRAND terms of a patent license covering foreign patents, despite the defendants challenging the court’s jurisdiction. But in his judgment, published on November 4 20201, His Honour Judge Hacon noted that the current framework for settling a global license between owners of standard essential patents (SEPs) and implementers “is plainly not satisfactory.” He explained: “[I]t does encourage expensive parallel litigation in several jurisdictions and more uncertainty than is necessary. I doubt that it can be sustained in the long term.” The case is one of many that SEP owners have brought before the courts since the UK Supreme Court judgment in the Unwired Planet and Conversant litigation established English courts’ jurisdiction to set global FRAND terms in August 2020.

EUIPO Report Reveals More Than 90% of Online Counterfeit Sales are Sent to EU Through Postal Services

On October 25, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) issued a study exploring the growing misuse of e-commerce channels for trade in counterfeits. The report provides a quantitative review of both the expansion of Internet commerce as well as a growing number of counterfeit seizures by border officials in recent years. The EUIPO’s report also profiles common aspects of counterfeit supply chains, as well as regulatory frameworks established to reduce the spread of counterfeits online.

COVID IP Waiver Attempts are Becoming Harder to Justify

Last week, at a meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), World Trade Organization (WTO) members had an opportunity to engage in small group and bilateral meetings to discuss the proposals by South Africa and India to waive patent and trade secret protections relative to COVID-19 innovations, as well as the proposal from the European Union regarding the use of current TRIPS compulsory licensing provisions during a pandemic. Some delegations believed the discussions were encouraging, while others expressed more skepticism, pointing out that a deal will not be achieved “unless delegations are able to make some real compromises.” See Members pursue convergence for IP COVID-19 response.

Where We Are on AI Inventorship and Where We Should be Heading

The past few years saw a meteoric rise of artificial intelligence (AI) products, services, and applications. AI has evolved from merely a buzzword or a cool new idea to a substantively used tool in a variety of applications, including autonomous driving, natural language processing, drug development, finance and cybersecurity among others. Companies, universities, and inventors world-wide noted the importance of AI and began seeking to patent various aspects of AI technology. Until 2018, these patent applications identified a human inventor who invented a particular aspect of the AI technology. Then, Dr. Stephen Thaler filed a patent application for a food container and a light emitting device that identified an AI, known as DABUS, as an inventor.