The IP Law Blog

Focusing on legal trends in data security, cloud computing, data privacy, and anything E

PTAB May Decide Patentability Under Section 101 in Inter Partes Reviews

Posted in IP, Patent Law

An inter partes review (IPR) is a procedure to challenge a patent in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The IPR procedure was established by the American Invents Act, and was intended to be an improvement on the existing inter partes reexamination procedure. An IPR is brought before the PTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which handles the proceeding and decides the outcome.

Any person can file a petition requesting an IPR of an issued patent. The petition must show that at least one claim of the patent is unpatentable on the grounds of anticipation (35 U.S.C. §102) or obviousness (35 U.S.C. §103). The petitioner must prove unpatentability by a preponderance of the evidence. The PTO decides whether to grant the petition. Continue Reading

Dogs, Whiskey, and Intellectual Property: Need I Say More?

Posted in Intellectual Property Litigation, IP, Trademark Law

Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari following an unfavorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit in the matter of VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. In that case, VIP Products sued Jack Daniel’s after receiving a cease-and-desist letter concerning its Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker dog toy. The toy is intentionally similar to the famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey bottle, but is clearly intended to be a joke.

Instead of saying Jack Daniels, the bottle says Bad Spaniels and includes a cartoonish cocker spaniel. Below that, where the Jack Daniel’s bottle usually says “Old No. 7,” the toy says “The Old No. 2” above “on your Tennessee Carpet” where the real bottle says Tennessee Whiskey. The squeaky toy is clearly intended as joke for dog owners, and I don’t believe it would confuse consumers into believing the product is actually associated with Jack Daniel’s. Jack Daniel’s apparently felt differently.

The district court agreed with Jack Daniel’s. While ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the district court held that the Rogers test, which is used to balance the interests between trademark law and the First Amendment, was inapplicable because the toy is not an expressive work. Later, after a four-day bench trial, the District Court ruled against VIP Products and found it had infringed Jack Daniel’s IP. Continue Reading

9th Circuit Provides Clear Copyright Guidance for Producers of Bio Pics

Posted in Copyright Law, IP

In this episode of The Briefing by the IP Law Blog, Weintraub Tobin attorneys Scott Hervey and Josh Escovedo discuss copyright litigation around the “Jersey Boys” — a musical and movie about The Four Seasons– involving an unpublished biography by one of the band members.

The Intellectual Property Law Blog provides insight in connection with copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, false advertising, licensing and promotions, and sweepstakes. The blog’s objective is to serve as a forum to discuss IP strategies that provide protection to a business’ or persons’ intangible assets. The blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

The Courts Step in to Protect TikTok from the Trump Administration

Posted in IP

In a dramatic Sunday morning hearing (conducted remotely via telephone), lawyers for TikTok and the Trump Administration battled over whether the government’s order banning TikTok from the Apple and Google app stores would take effect that night.

The Trump Administration has argued for months that TikTok is a threat to national security because its corporate owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese company. Most recently, the Commerce Department issued rules, which were to take effect on September 27 at 11:59pm, banning the app from U.S. app stores and prevented any further software updates. TikTok filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging the Trump Administration’s actions. On September 23, it filed a motion for preliminary injunction, essentially asking the Court to stop the Commerce Department’s ban from taking effect. Continue Reading

Football, Beer, and Court Fights

Posted in Entertainment Law, IP

When it comes to football, I am a huge fan and love watching games on TV.  However, I do not typically pay attention to the commercials during games, with one major exception:  the Super Bowl.  Like most everyone, I am always curious to see which company will have the best and the worst Super Bowl commercials.  We always expect Anheuser-Busch (maker of Bud Light) and Molson Coors (maker of Miller Lite and Coors Lite) to bring out big gun ads.  After all, for many football fans, a game day means grabbing a beer (or several), so companies spend a lot of money to convince fans to grab their brands over others.  The competition rose to a new level in Super Bowl LIII when Anheuser-Busch introduced its ad campaign mocking Molson Coors’ use of corn syrup in brewing Miller Lite and Coors Lite.  These ads not only triggered a social media battle but also a battle in the courtroom over whether the Bud Lite ads constituted false or misleading advertising.

During the 2019 Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch started its “corn syrup” ad campaign with an ad featuring the Bud Light King and his subjects trying to return a barrel of corn syrup, which they had received by mistake, to the Miller Light and Coors Light castles.  The ad effectively told a story that Anheuser-Busch does not use corn syrup to make Bud Light, but Molson Coors uses it to make Miller Lite and Coors Lite. Continue Reading

No Judicial Estoppel in the Case of the On-Again, Off-Again Patent Inventor

Posted in IP, Patent Law

The case of Egenera, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc. raised the question of whether inventors named on a patent can be repeatedly changed as litigation strategy changes. Because of judicial estoppel, the district court said no way.  But, on appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said no problem—at least no problem in this case.

Mr. Shulter was listed as an inventor on Egenera, Inc.’s (“Egenera”) patent application and the resulting patent, U.S. Patent No. 7,231,430 (the “’430 Patent”).  The ‘430 patent relates to “a platform for automatically deploying a scalable and reconfigurable virtual network” of processors.  The claimed approach alleviates the need for physical reconfiguration of processors by allowing “processing resources [to] be deployed rapidly and easily through software.” Continue Reading

New Fast Track for Patent Appeals

Posted in IP, Patent Law

A new temporary pilot program in the US PTO will speed up appeals in patent applications before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The program, which went into effect on July 2, 2020, is called the “Fast Track Appeals Pilot Program.” The program is limited to 125 appeals per quarter.

The PTO instituted the pilot program because of the popularity of its Track I Prioritized Examination Program for patent applications. Under that program, an applicant can petition the PTO for expedited prosecution when filing a new application by paying an extra fee and limiting the number of claims. The Track I program is limited to 12,000 applications per year, and has been very successful. In 2019, 2.7% of the applications filed were under the Track I program. Continue Reading

District Court Applies Different Requirement for Similarity of Accused and Asserted Works Under DMCA Versus the Copyright Act

Posted in Copyright Law, IP

In Kirk Kara Corp. v. Western Stone & Metal Corp. et al, 2-20-cv-01931 (CDCA 2020-08-14, Order) (Dolly M. Gee), the Central District of California denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for copyright infringement, finding sufficient substantial similarity between the copyrighted works and the accused works had been alleged. However, the Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s DMCA § 1202 claim because plaintiff failed to allege Defendant’s works were exact copies of Plaintiff’s, thus reasoning substantial similarity was not sufficient under the DMCA because DMCA violations exist only where the works are identical.

In the case, Plaintiff Kirk Kara Corp. asserts it is the owner of three registered copyrights for jewelry designs (“Subject Designs”), and alleges they were widely disseminated in the jewelry industry. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Western Stone and Metal Corp., doing business as Shane Co., distributed and/or sold four engagement rings (“Subject Products”) that are substantially similar to Plaintiff’s copyrighted jewelry designs. Plaintiff alleged copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), 17 U.S.C. § 1202 against Defendant. Defendant moved to dismiss all claims. Continue Reading

The Second Circuit Vacates Tiffany & Co.’s $21 Million Judgment for Trademark Infringement and Counterfeiting Against Costco

Posted in IP, Trademark Law

Almost five years ago, I wrote an article published in the Daily Recorder about a ruling in the Tiffany & Co. v. Costco Wholesale Corporation case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Specifically, I wrote about the Court granting Tiffany’s motion for summary judgment on liability, permitting Tiffany to proceed to trial on the issue of damages. Tiffany eventually did exactly that and obtained a $21 million judgment against Costco for selling unbranded engagement rings as “Tiffany” diamond engagement rings. But just over a week ago, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the District Court and remanded the case for trial.

To recap, Tiffany sued Costco for selling other rings and using the word Tiffany on nearby signage to describe those rings, claiming trademark infringement and unfair business practices. Costco responded to the allegations by claiming that “Tiffany” is a word used throughout the industry to refer to a particular style of setting–a diamond solitaire in a six-prong setting. Costco argued that consumers are aware of this use of “Tiffany” and that its use was therefore unlikely to cause consumer confusion. Costco also argued that Tiffany is not a legally protected trademark because the mark is descriptive or generic for that style of setting. For that reason, Costco requested that the Court cancel Tiffany’s trademark. Continue Reading