US High Court Removes Economics From Patent Law

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Economics be damned. So said the US Supreme Court on 22 June, when it reaffirmed a 50 year-old ruling that limits how patent owners can license their patents. The court conceded the limit does not make economic sense, but asserted that patent law has its own logic. That could change many aspects of patent law, according to experts.

US Approves New Loophole In Patent Protection

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The US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals clearly likes patents. Over the years, the court has issued a long string of rulings that greatly strengthened the rights of patent owners. But several weeks ago, in Akamai Technologies v. Limelight Networks, the court reluctantly created a major loophole in patent protection.

US Ponders New Trademark Rights For Racial Slurs

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Some words are too offensive to be registered trademarks. Racial slurs, derogatory names for ethnic groups, and other terms that disparage people can be denied registration, according to the vast majority of countries. The US, however, might soon back away from this anti-bigotry stance. The nation’s courts may be on the verge of ruling that the registration of derogatory terms is protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech.

The Shaky Rationale For TPP’s Copyright Term

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is supposed to be a free trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But the TPP also includes some contentious intellectual property provisions, including a requirement that all member states have a minimum copyright term of life plus 70 years – thus forcing six nations to increase their copyright terms by 20 years. This copyright term extension is strongly criticised by some experts, who claim it is antithetical to the goals of copyright law. Moreover, this copyright term extension runs counter to the stance of the US Copyright Office, which has been trying to weaken the current US copyright term of life-plus-70. [Note: Part 2 of 2 articles]

TPP’s Copyright Term Benefits US, Burdens Others

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The US got its way. The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) will require all member nations to have a minimum copyright term of life plus 70 years. As a result, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and three other nations will have to increase the duration of copyright by 20 years. This copyright term extension will benefit powerful interests in the US, but will hurt consumers and creators in six other nations that are part of the TPP.

US Congress Reconsiders Anti-Patent Troll Law

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It happened again on 5 February. The powerful chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte introduced the Innovation Act for a second time. This bill, aimed at hurting patent trolls by making a plethora of changes in US patent law, easily passed the House of Representatives last term. It subsequently bogged down in a Democrat-controlled Senate. However, now that the GOP controls both wings of Congress, many observers predict the bill will have soon become law. Other experts aren’t so sure, noting that the Innovation Act is drawing some powerful opposition – and not just from patent trolls.

ISPs In US Face New Copyright Attack

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It is a novel way to attack online copyright infringement. Two music companies have sued an internet service provider, alleging that because the ISP failed to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers, the ISP is guilty of secondary infringement. This lawsuit troubles many copyright experts and its success is far from certain, but the music companies may achieve their aims regardless.

US Courts Recognise New Performers’ Rights

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For performers and record labels in the United States, it is terrific news. They possess previously unrecognised rights in audio recordings, according to three recent court rulings. But not everyone is pleased about this. The decisions not only upend 75 years of US copyright law, they create big problems for broadcasters, webcasters and many other internet firms, all of whom now face hefty liability for copyright infringement.

Little-Known Case May Dramatically Change US Patent System

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The patent case recently argued before the US Supreme Court is relatively unknown, and for good reason. It involves no exciting new technology. It has no controversial patent claims (e.g., covering human genes). However, Teva Pharms. USA v. Sandoz, Inc. could produce major changes in America’s patent system.

US Cracking Down On Software Patents

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The US courts are aggressively applying the ruling. So is the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Thanks to their common interpretation of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, it is now open season on software patents.