In February 1996, faced with increasing public concern about the availability of pornography on the internet, as well as recent court decisions that seem to deter efforts to filter out such content, Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). As part of the CDA, Congress granted immunity to internet service providers from liability for actions they took to help users block online content that a user found to be offensive or objectionable. Congress further declared its goals in enacting the CDA, and its immunity provision, were “to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control;” “to empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online content;” and “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the internet and other interactive computer services.” In 2009, the Ninth Circuit decided the case, Zango, Inc. v. Kaspersky Lab, Inc., 568 F.3d 1169, which held that the immunity provisions of the CDA applied to computer software developers whose programs were intended to help users filter out or block objectionable material. It is against the backdrop of the history of the CDA and its decision in the Zango case that the Ninth Circuit was called upon to explore the limits of the immunity provided by the CDA in the case, Enigma Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc., decided December 31, 2019. In essence, the Ninth Circuit was called upon to determine whether the immunity provisions of the CDA, specifically section 230(c)(2), immunizes a software company whose blocking and filtering decisions are driven “by anti-competitive animus,” i.e., to deter users from accessing or using a competitor’s software products. Continue Reading
The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) may reject a patent application on several different grounds. One of those grounds is obviousness. Under 35 U.S.C. § 103, if an invention is obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art, then it is not patentable.
In determining whether an invention is obvious, the PTO compares the invention to the “prior art” – all similar inventions that are publicly available at the time the application is filed. If the PTO rejects the invention as obvious, the applicant can respond by narrowing the invention or arguing that the PTO is wrong. In addition, the applicant can submit evidence of certain factors that the courts have held are relevant, objective indicia of nonobviousness. These factors are called “secondary considerations.” They include evidence of: unexpected results, commercial success, long-felt but unsolved needs, failure of others, skepticism of experts, and copying by competitors.
To use a textbook or other reference to challenge the validity of a patent in a petition for inter partes review (“IPR”), the textbook must have been “publicly accessible” prior to the date of the challenged patent to qualify as a printed publication. Is a copyright notice sufficient evidence that a textbook was publicly accessible? The short answer is no in most, if not all, cases. In Hulu, LLC v. Sound View Innovations, LLC, the PTAB denied Hulu’s IPR petition on the ground that Hulu had not provided sufficient evidence to show that a prior art textbook with copyright and ISBN dates was publicly available as of those dates. As a result, Hulu requested rehearing of the PTAB decision denying institution of inter partes review of the validity of Sound View’s patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,806,062. Hulu argued the decision was in conflict with other PTAB decisions “involving the public availability of an asserted ‘printed publication.’” Continue Reading
When Disney chose to delay the production and release of merchandise related to The Child—commonly referred to as Baby Yoda—from its hit series, The Mandalorian, it created a significant opportunity for unlicensed fans to create and sell such merchandise. According to statements released by the Walt Disney Company, it intentionally delayed the production of Baby Yoda merchandise to avoid any leaks about the character’s existence until The Mandalorian aired. Because the first episode of The Mandalorian was not released until November 12, 2019, the Walt Disney Company was left with minimal time to release related merchandise. In fact, the Walt Disney Company was only able to roll out limited merchandise in advance of the holiday season, presumably losing a substantial sum of money it would have earned if it had released its full assortment of Baby Yoda gear before the holidays. Of course, as is usually the case with Disney and Star Wars fans, when Disney and LucasFilms fail to deliver, the fans intervene—this is the way. Continue Reading
In the early 2000’s, an all-girl band called 3LW performed a song called “Playas Gon’ Play,” which was written by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler. “Playas Gon’ Play” was initially released in May, 2001 and rose to number 81 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The album on which “Playas Gon’ Play” appeared sold over One Million copies and 3LW performed the song numerous times on national television. The chorus of “Playas Gon’ Play” consists of the following lyrics:
Playas, they gonna play
And haters, they gonna hate
Ballers, they gonna ball
Shot callers, they gonna call
That ain’t got nothin’ to do
With me and you
That’s the way it is
That’s the way it is. Continue Reading
In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court in Peter v. NantKwest, case number 18-801, struck down the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) recent and often-criticized effort to recoup its legal fees – even in cases it loses – because it violates the so-called American Rule, which says U.S. litigants must typically pay for their own lawyers.
The Patent Act creates two mutually exclusive pathways to challenge an adverse decision by the USPTO. The first permits judicial review by direct appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. There is “no opportunity for the applicant to offer new evidence” in a §141 proceeding, and the Federal Circuit “must review the PTO’s decision on the same administrative record that was before the [agency].” Continue Reading
One of the most common forms of relief sought in trade secret litigation is an injunction preventing the defendants from using or disclosing the plaintiff’s trade secret information. Although temporary restraining orders and/or preliminary injunctions may be obtained that are in place during the lawsuit, a permanent injunction is entered after trial and typically has no set time period for expiration. There are various statutes that allow a defendant to seek to modify or dissolve a trade secret injunction at a later date, including a showing that the information that is the subject of the injunction is no longer entitled to trade secret protection. The recent decision in Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le (Cal. 6th App. Dist.) helps illustrate the high hurdle a defendant must clear in order to obtain such relief. Continue Reading
The priority date of a patent is an important aspect in protecting intellectual property. The priority date is the earliest possible filing date that a patent application is entitled to rely on; it is based on the filing dates of any related patent applications that were filed before the application (the priority chain). This date determines which prior art can be used by the Patent and Trademark Office to determine patentability of the invention and which prior art can be used by competitors to challenge the patent’s validity. Continue Reading
When sued for patent infringement, a defendant can still petition for inter partes review (“IPR”) of the asserted patent at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) if the petition is filed within one year of service of the complaint. But, as Game & Technology Co. v. Wargaming (Fed. Cir. 2019) reminds us, a plaintiff must properly serve the complaint to trigger the one-year deadline. Specifically, “[s[ection 315(b) states that ‘[a]n inter partes review may not be instituted if the petition requesting the proceeding is filed more than 1 year after the date on which the petitioner … is served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent.’” 35 U.S.C. § 315(b). Continue Reading
If you’re plugged into the digital world and its constantly emerging meme trends, you’ve probably encountered various “OK, Boomer” memes by now. If you’re unfamiliar with the trend, here is a brief synopsis. OK, Boomer is a phrase that is used in response to members of the baby-boomer generation who have, through their conduct, demonstrated that they are out of touch. For example, when a member of the baby-boomer generation harps on a member of the millennial generation or Generation Z for allegedly lacking the work ethic of the boomer generation, one might respond, “OK, Boomer.” There are various other situations where the phrase could be used, but as you can see, it is either a trendy insult, or an ageist slur, depending on your point of view. Continue Reading