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Posts in Technology & Innovation

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.

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.

DOJ Issues Revised Draft Joint Policy Statement on Remedies for SEPs Subject to FRAND

The U.S. Department of Justice – Antitrust Division (DOJ) is requesting public comment on a new iteration of the Joint DOJ-USPTO-NIST Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments. The announcement comes in response to President Joe Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which asked the three agencies to review the 2019 statement.

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.  

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.

Mechanisms, Governance, and Policy Impact of SEP Determination Approaches

Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) are on the rise; the number of newly declared patents per year has almost tripled over the past five years. There were 17,623 new declared patent families in 2020, compared to 6,457 in 2015 (see Figure 1). The 5G standard alone counts over 150,000 declared patents since 2015. Similarly, litigation around SEPs has increased. One of the driving factors of recent patent litigation is the shift in connectivity standards (eg, 4G/5G, Wi-Fi) that in the past were mostly used in computers, smartphones and tablets, but are now increasingly implemented in connected vehicles, smart homes, smart factories, smart energy and healthcare applications. Another reason why litigation may rise further is the belief that large SEP owners such as Huawei, ZTE or LG Electronics may soon sell parts of their SEP portfolios, which may likely end up in the hands of patent assertion entities (PAEs). One way or another, it is anticipated that the majority of patent holders will actively monetize their SEPs covering standards such as 5G, Wi-Fi 6 or VVC in this fast-moving, high-investment environment. Any company adopting these standards must decrease operational risk and expense exposure by taking a proactive strategy towards SEPs rather than a reactive one.

Tillis and Other Senate Republicans Bristle at Biden’s Nomination of Gigi Sohn to the FCC

On November 30, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) wrote a letter  addressed to President Joe Biden asking Biden to withdraw the nomination of Gigi Sohn, a co-founder of the open Internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, to serve as a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Tillis is one of a growing number of Republican lawmakers who are speaking out strongly against Biden’s nomination of Sohn, who previously served as a senior staffer to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during the Obama Administration. Tillis’ letter to President Biden certainly pulls no punches in assessing the likely impact of Sohn’s nomination on copyright owners especially. “[Sohn] is a radical open-content activist with no respect for intellectual property rights,” Tillis wrote. “As an activist, Ms. Sohn has consistently worked against commonsense measures that would crack down on illegal piracy. She has even testified before Congress that ‘piracy has absolutely no effect on [music] prices whatsoever.’”

Tillis Pushes Tai Again on TRIPS IP Waiver Proposal, as South Africa Asks to Delay Delivery of Vaccines

Yesterday, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), the Ranking Member on the Senate IP Subcommittee, wrote to Ambassador Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative who is responsible for negotiating an IP Waiver to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO). This TRIPS IP Waiver is generated by proposals submitted by South Africa and India and seeks the waiver patent and trade secret protections relating to COVID-19 innovations. This is the fifth such letter Tillis has sent Tai. As noted by Senator Tillis and many commentators, including here on IPWatchdog, the proposed TRIPS IP Waiver is nothing more than an attempt to steal intellectual property rights covering important innovations that took nearly a generation to bring to fruition. And now we have definitive proof.

Live, Work and Play in a Legal Metaverse: Preparing for a New Online Existence

Companies spend billions and invest heavily in technologies that offer greater telepresence and enable an individual’s digital life. Will humans interact with each other via avatars in a three-dimensional virtual space?  The “Metaverse” has ramifications for everything people do to live, work and play together digitally. The Metaverse is a digital shared space where everyone can seamlessly interact in a fully immersive, simulated experience. The Metaverse increases the permeability of the borders between various digital environments and the physical world. In the Metaverse, you can interact with virtual objects and real-time information. A place where people join together to create, work, and spend time together in an environment that mixes what is virtual and what is real.

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.

This is What’s at Stake if WTO Removes Protections for Lifesaving Medicines

Experts agree: The COVID-19 vaccines are one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The previous record for vaccine delivery was almost five years; today’s innovators delivered the COVID-19 vaccines in less than one. The achievement is a testament to the dedication of those innovators, as well as the strength of the policy framework that supports their work. Unfortunately, some people want to destroy that framework. Some nations are promoting a dangerous proposal, supported by the administration, to waive intellectual property (IP) protections – such as patents and trade secrets – for COVID-19 vaccines. At the end of November, at a World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting, they’ll present this proposal as the best way to defeat the pandemic. But what they won’t mention is that their approach will actually threaten ongoing vaccine production, hurt our successful health care innovators, patient safety, economic competitiveness, American leadership, and the discovery pipeline in the process. 

FDA Resists FOIA Request for Vaccine Approval Info as Biden Administration Offers to Share it with the World

From the “one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing” category, believe it or not, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is effectively refusing to release documents it possesses relating to the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. More precisely, Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency (PHMPT), a group of doctors and scientists, submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents relating to the approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. After the FDA denied a request by the PHMPT to expedite release of the documents, a lawsuit was filed. In response to that lawsuit, the FDA proposed to release 500 pages per month, which would allow the agency time to redact material as necessary. Given that there are 329,000 pages responsive to the PHMPT request, at the proposed FDA rate of 500 pages per month it would take 55 years for the FDA to fully release the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine documents.

Quantum Computing Takes Off: A Look at the Evolution of Quantum Technology and Patents

Towards the end of 2019, I was finishing a book, AI Concepts for Business Applications. The last chapter was titled, “The Future.” I wrote about quantum computing and a version of deep learning that was related: a “quantum walk neural network.”In 1980, the idea of a quantum processing unit was proposed. Such a processing unit doesn’t use the 1s and 0s with which we’re familiar. That “classical” way of thinking is the way we think, with a 1 for true and a 0 for false, and combinations—for example, a “false positive.” Quantum computing is based on a “superposition” of states called “quantum bits” or “qubits” for short. But there’s a big difference between the way we think and the way nature behaves. In 1981, the late Caltech professor, Richard Feynman (a Nobel Prize co-winner for his work with “quantum electrodynamics”) summed it up: “Nature isn’t classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look so easy.” Now, quantum computing is beginning to emerge.

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.”

The State of the SEP Ecosystem: Eight Takeaway Messages from SEP 2021

Last week, IPWatchdog hosted its annual SEP conference, which once again took place in virtual format. I either moderated or directed/produced all the panels, so I stayed busy throughout the week, but still managed to pay attention to what was being said by the panelists. For some panels I participated more, making it a bit more challenging to take notes, so when I say what follows are statements that particularly piqued my interest, I am by no means suggesting there weren’t many more golden nuggets of wisdom imparted to the over 900 registrants over our four-day program.