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IP-Watch Summer Interns

IP-Watch interns talk about their Geneva experience in summer 2013. 2:42.

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Analysis: Monkey In The Middle Of Selfie Copyright Dispute

The recent case of a monkey selfie that went viral on the web raised thorny issues of ownership between a (human) photographer and Wikimedia. Two attorneys from Morrison & Foerster sort out the relevant copyright law.

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    Perspectives on the US
    By Steven Seidenberg for Intellectual Property Watch
    - N e w s

    Patentees Suffer Double Loss At US Supreme Court Available for IP-Watch Subscribers

    The United States Supreme Court issued two important patent law decisions recently. Both unanimous rulings provided bad news to patentees, particularly patent trolls (patent assertion entities).  Read More…

    US High Court Opens Door To More (And Older) Copyright Suits Available for IP-Watch Subscribers

    Music, movie, and television companies suffered a major defeat on 19 May, when the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The ruling will lead to a flood of new copyright infringement suits against these content companies, according to many experts. And content companies may not be the only losers. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    Copyright Ruling In US May Impair Free Speech Available for IP-Watch Subscribers

    The 9th Circuit’s recent decision in Garcia v. Google has sparked outrage among many internet businesses, media organisations, civil rights groups, and copyright experts. They assert the ruling significantly alters US law in a manner that will greatly restrict free speech. But a minority of experts say there is nothing to fear. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    “Innocence of Muslims” Creates Copyright Controversy In US Available for IP-Watch Subscribers

    When “Innocence of Muslims” first appeared online, the video provoked outrage among millions of Muslims around the world. Now the consternation has spread to many copyright experts, internet firms, news organisations, and entertainment companies, who assert that a recent 9th Circuit decision about the movie makes a major change in US copyright law, with terrible consequences for the internet, media, and free speech. Others state that the ruling makes no change at all in US law. Read More…

    Novel Legal Attack On Patent Trolls Falters In US Available for IP-Watch Subscribers

    It began last May, when a tiny state in the United States launched a novel legal attack against a notorious patent troll. Other states and the federal government soon followed, all asserting that the troll’s efforts to licence its patents violated consumer protection laws. At first, this new legal strategy produced some significant victories. Many experts and government officials embraced consumer protection law as an important new tool against patent trolls. But a recent court ruling has cast doubt on the future of this once-promising strategy. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    Once More, US Supreme Court Will Review Software Patents

    When it comes to software-related inventions, US patent law is a confused mess. So it was no surprise that, in early December, the United States Supreme Court announced it would weigh in on the matter. The court granted certiorari in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank in order to decide when software-related inventions are patentable subject matter. But given the complicated technology and the high court’s confusing precedents in this area, many experts fear that the ruling in Alice will bring little clarity to this area of the law. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    US Supreme Court Questions America’s Power To Carry Out Treaties

    On 5 November, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could undermine America’s ability to carry out its treaty obligations. The case casts a shadow over the country’s power to implement a wide variety of international agreements, including trade and intellectual property agreements. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    As US Government Shutdown Continues, Effects On IP System Grow

    The US government shutdown is now in its second week, causing more and more of the country’s intellectual property regime to grind to a halt. The shutdown’s effects also are rippling overseas, hindering US efforts to negotiate two major international trade deals containing significant IP provisions. Read More…

    Study: Patent Trolls In US Use Business Method Patents To Target More Firms

    Patent assertion entities in the United States have done well from software patents. These companies, which some call “patent trolls,” have garnered a clear majority of their revenues by licensing software patents and suing those who refuse to purchase licences. But these companies’ reliance on software patents may be coming to an end. In recent years, these companies are increasingly exploiting business method patents, and by doing so are targeting a much larger range of businesses, according to a recently released study. Read More…

    United States Confounded By Standard-Essential Patents

    The United States is in a muddle over standard-essential patents. The nation’s courts and its executive agencies all agree that these patents play vital roles in the economy, but they disagree about what remedies are available when these patents are infringed. A recent decision by the US International Trade Commission has added to the confusion. Read More…

    US Supreme Court Restricts Gene Patents … A Little

    On 13 June, the United States Supreme Court overturned more than 30 years of precedents and ruled that isolated genes cannot be patented. They are products of nature and thus not patent-eligible subject matter, the court unanimously held in Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. This ruling puts the US at odds with most other nations, which allow genes to be patented. But because other major nations grant narrower gene patents, the net effect of Myriad will be to shift the US position on gene patents closer to that of other nations. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    After Court Ruling, US Still In Disarray On Software Patents

    What inventions are eligible for patent protection? That question has roiled the US legal system for the last decade. But the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (often called the nation’s patent court) was supposedly riding to the rescue. The court’s eagerly-awaited en banc decision in CLS Bank Int’l v. Alice Corp. [pdf] was widely expected to clarify the patentability of computer-related inventions, which play a vital role in the US economy. Unfortunately, instead of clarifying the law, the court’s 10 May ruling increased the confusion, casting doubt on more than 300,000 patents - including one-fifth of all patents issued last year. Read More…

    US Supreme Court May Invalidate Gene Patents, But Create Little Change

    Prior to 15 April, most experts had expected the United States Supreme Court to rule in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics that genes cannot be patented. The oral argument on that date strengthened this consensus opinion, but also suggested that the court would issue a narrow decision which would allow many types of gene-related patents. Should this happen, the US would move significantly closer to other countries’ rules for gene patents, but the US would continue to have problems limiting patent rights in order to protect the public interest. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    US Perspectives: US Tries Gentler Copyright Enforcement

    On 25 February, the US opened a new front in its war against online copyright infringement. Five of the nation’s biggest internet service providers (ISPs) joined with the movie and music industries to launch the Copyright Alert System, a new means of attacking unauthorised file-sharing. This ISP-based enforcement system is similar to efforts in at least seven other industrialised countries. Some of these efforts have apparently slashed unauthorised file-sharing, which suggests the US system will be similarly successful. It is unclear, however, if the US system (or any of the other countries’ systems) will succeed in their ultimate goalboosting revenues for the movie and music industries. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    Patent Outsourcing May Harm US Economy

    It has become routine for companies to outsource many business functions. Human resources, customer service, accounting, manufacturing of components – all have been outsourced. Now, however, a growing number of US businesses are outsourcing something new: patent licensing. And this outsourcing may hurt both the US economy and its patent system. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    After A Tough 2012, IP Owners In US Face An Uncertain 2013

    Intellectual property owners in the United States may be happy to see the end of 2012. Among the notable setbacks they suffered last year: Congress refused to expand remedies against online infringement, the Supreme Court raised the bar for patentable inventions, and lower courts repeatedly denied injunctions against patent infringement. It is unclear, however, if IP owners will fare better in 2013. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    US Supreme Court Poised To Rule Human Genes Are Not Patentable

    For decades, the United States has pioneered the patenting of human genes, and other countries have followed this lead. But the US will soon perform an abrupt about-face, most experts predict. When the US Supreme Court hands down its decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the justices appear likely to rule that human genes are not patentable subject matter. And the ruling may go even farther, holding that other forms of human DNA are not patentable. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    Overseas Manufacturing Creates Copyright Dilemma For US Supreme Court

    Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons presents the United States Supreme Court with a stark and weighty choice. In the 29 October oral argument [pdf], Supap Kirtsaeng urged the court to uphold purchasers’ right to freely dispose of copyrighted works they have purchased, even when those works are made overseas. If this right is struck down, Kirtsaeng warned, museums in the US may be unable to borrow works of art created overseas, consumers may be unable to sell their used books and CDs, and many companies engaged in secondary markets, such as eBay and used car dealers, may be put out of business. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    New USPTO Post-Grant Review A Small Step For Patent Harmonisation

    On 16 September, the United States made its patent system more like everyone else’s. The country began implementing a new patent office procedure for challenging the validity of recently issued patents. This was, however, only a modest step towards harmonisation because the US version of post-grant patent review has little in common with the corresponding processes available in other countries, according to experts. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    US And UN Consider New Limits On Patent Wars

    The patent wars have produced many casualties around the world. Companies that make and sell smartphones and tablet computers, courts, consumers and the economy – all have suffered, according to many experts.

    “I couldn’t come up with a worse system” for handling patent disputes, said Erich Spangenberg, chairman of IP Navigation Group, a consultancy. But significant reforms may be on the way, thanks to the US government and a United Nations agency. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    Innovation And The Law: Some Lessons From The Patent Wars

    They’ve been at each other’s throats for three years, and there’s no end in sight. Over two dozen businesses involved with smartphones and tablet computers are suing one another for patent infringement in numerous lawsuits around the world. These patent wars have cost the companies billions of dollars, clogged the courts, and prevented consumers from buying some devices they want with features they prefer. Is this really the best way to promote innovation and competition? Read More…

    A Bigger, Meaner Patent War

    Why today’s patent war is worse than past wars – and what this heralds for the future.

    It’s been called a patent war, and it’s raging over much of the globe. In at least ten countries – including the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and South Korea – Apple is locked in ferocious legal battles against Google, Samsung and HTC over whose smartphones and tablets infringe whose patents.

    There’s a lot a stake: Damages could run into billions of dollars. Even worse, the loser could wind up being forbidden to sell its products in various markets.

    This costly, high-stakes global patent war may seem unprecedented. But according to many experts, that’s only partly true. In many ways, this patent war is similar to major patent disputes in the past. And it is likely a foretaste of more patent wars in the future. Read More…

    - F e a t u r e s

    Viacom v. YouTube: Chipping Away At The DMCA

    It was a major legal battle between copyright owners and online businesses. Then, on 5 April, online businesses won. Mostly. The US appellate court ruling in Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. basically upheld the legal protection that a key US statute grants to online firms. However, the ruling also opened several holes in that protection. Read More…

    US Supreme Court Edges Toward Reviewing Extent Of GMO Patents

    It’s unclear if the US Supreme Court wants to address yet another controversial issue in patent law, but on 2 April, the court took a small step in that direction. That’s when the court formally asked [pdf] the US Justice Department to opine on whether the high court should grant certiorari in Bowman v. Monsanto Co. Read More…

    After Mayo, Is Patent Law More Restrictive In US Than Europe?

    The United States is known for taking an unusually expansive approach towards patentable subject matter. Compared with Western Europe, for instance, the US has been far readier to grant patents on business methods, medical diagnostic processes, and human genes. Read More…

    More Foreigners Find Themselves Targets Of US Copyright Law

    All the experts agree: US copyright law doesn’t apply outside US borders. But try telling that to Kim Dotcom, Aubrey Canning, or the growing number of other foreigners whose activities outside the United States have resulted in sanctions under US copyright law. Read More…

    US Aims To Boost Its Efforts Against Overseas Infringers

    US President Barack Obama wants the country’s Justice Department to get by with a bit less money next fiscal year – but not when it comes to prosecuting overseas infringers of American IP rights. Read More…

    Steven Seidenberg is a freelance reporter and attorney who has been covering intellectual property developments in the US for more than 15 years. He is based in the greater New York City area and may be reached at

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