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Tag Archives: WSJ Law Blog

Bislki: More of the Same

Posted in Legal News

This post comes more than a week after the Supreme Court decided Bilski.  Last Monday when the decision came down I was struggling with what value I could add to the many reports that would fill the intellectual property blogosphere, and was leaning towards waiting a few days (which also allowed me to deal with various client commitments and new opportunities).  Then a good friend praised me for being the lone IP blog who had not said a word about Bilski on the day of the decision, after receiving an email of the blog’s content for the day.  That comment cemented it for me.  I decided to give myself some time to think about the decision before posting here.  Of course, that means that much of what can be said already has been.  So, links to many excellent commentaries are below. 

At its heart, the Bilski decision continues the Supreme Court’s patent law trend moving away from bright line rules and allowing the flexibility to adapt the law to future situations.  The business method in Bilski was struck down, but the Court did not strike down all business methods.  And the justices made clear that the machine-or-transformation test was not the only option for determining patentability, increasing the law’s flexibility even more.  Having preserved at least some business methods, the Court obviously left software patents intact as well.  So, Bilski was not the death of business methods or software.  And just as after KSR (obviousness) and eBay (injunction standard), the decision injects uncertainty into the law that will take 18 – 24 months to sort out, first in the district courts and then more slowly in the Federal Circuit.  The one thing you can be sure of is that you will see lots of Bilski-based motions over the next year.  And I am sure I will be writing about Northern District Bilski decisions during that time.

Here is some of the commentary from across the blogosphere:

Bilski: Reading the Tea Leaves

Posted in Legal News

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Bilski case Monday afternoon.  Click here for a transcript of the arguments.  Here are a few of the highlights from Bilski’s argument:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But you say you would say tax avoidance methods are covered, just as the process here is covered. So an estate plan, tax avoidance, how to resist a corporate takeover, how to choose a jury, all of those are patentable?

MR. JAKES: They are eligible for patenting as processes, assuming they meet the other statutory requirements.

JUSTICE BREYER: So that would mean that every — every businessman — perhaps not every, but every successful businessman typically has something. His firm wouldn’t be successful if he didn’t have anything that others didn’t have. He thinks of a new way to organize. He thinks of a new thing to say on the telephone. He thinks of something. That’s how he made his money.

And your view would be — and it’s new, too, and it’s useful, made him a fortune — anything that helps any businessman succeed is patentable because we reduce it to a number of steps, explain it in general terms, file our application, granted?

MR. JAKES: It is potentially patentable, yes.

* * *

JUSTICE BREYER: So you are going to answer this question yes. You know, I have a great, wonderful, really original method of teaching antitrust law, and it kept 80 percent of the students awake. They learned things – (Laughter.)

JUSTICE BREYER: It was fabulous. And I could probably have reduced it to a set of steps and other teachers could have followed it. That you are going to say is patentable, too?

MR. JAKES:  Potentially.

And here are some of the highlights from the government’s argument:

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: No ruling in this case is going to change State Street. It wasn’t looking at process or the meaning of "process." It was looking at something else.

* * *

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Mr. Stewart, I thought I understood your argument up until the very last footnote in your brief. And you say this is not –simply the method isn’t patentable because it doesn’t involve a machine. But then you say but it might be if you use a computer to identify the parties that you are setting a price between and if you used a microprocessor to calculate the price. That’s like saying if you use a typewriter to type out the — the process then it is patentable. I — I — it — that takes away everything that you spent 53 pages establishing.

* * *

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: But if you look at your footnote, that involves the most tangential and insignificant use of a machine. And yet you say that might be enough to take something from patentability to not patentable.

MR. STEWART: And all we’ve said is that it might be enough; that is, hard questions will arise down the road as to where do you draw the line, to what extent must the machine or the transformation be central –

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So you think it’s a hard question. If you develop a process that says look to the historical averages of oil consumption over a certain period and divide it by 2, that process would not be patentable. But if you say use a calculator, then it — then it is?

MR. STEWART: I think if it’s simply using a calculator for its preexisting functionality to crunch numbers, very likely that would not be enough. But what we see in some analogous areas is that the computer will be programmed with new software, it will be given functionality it didn’t have before in order to allow it to perform a series of calculations, and that gets closer to the line. And again –

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, your footnote — I don’t mean to dwell on it — it says to identify counterparties to the transactions. So that if what you’re trying to get is the — the baker who sells bread, because you are going to hook him up with the grocer who sells, you know, in the grocery store, if you punched in in your search station, you know, give me all the bakers in Washington, that would make it patentable?

MR. STEWART: Again, we are — we are not saying it would be patent eligible. We would have to review those facts, and the PTO would have to review those facts in the context of an actual application.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is simply that we don’t want the Court, for instance, in the area of software innovations or medical diagnostic techniques to be trying to use this case as the vehicle for identifying the circumstances in which innovations of that sort would and would not be patent eligible, because the case really doesn’t present any — any question regarding those technologies. And therefore, we –

If those highlights, left you wanting more, check out the following posts that give some additional context to the cold transcript or read the tea leaves, as we all wait for a decision, likely this spring:

Supreme Court Grants Cert in BIlski

Posted in Legal News

Earlier today, the Supreme Court granted cert in Bilski, the Federal Circuit’s en banc decision limiting the patentability of business method and software patents.  Many commentators are predicting that the Supreme Court will further restrict business method and software claims through the machine or transformation test, although it is hard to imagine that either type of claim will be completely eliminated.  Of course, the Supreme Court could also move the law back toward the  State Street decision allowing business methods and software to be patented more freely.  The questions presented are:

Whether the Federal Circuit erred by holding that a “process” must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (“machine-or-transformation” test), to be eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. § 101, despite this Court’s precedent declining to limit the broad statutory grant of patent eligibility for “any” new and useful process beyond excluding patents for “laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.”

Whether the Federal Circuit’s “machine-or-transformation” test for patent eligibility, which effectively forecloses meaningful patent protection to many business methods, contradicts the clear Congressional intent that patents protect “method[s] of doing or conducting business.” 35 U.S.C. § 273.

For more takes on the cert decision and its implications, check out:

Dig the Suits Out of Your Closet Counselor

Posted in Legal News

It appears that some lawyers are trying to bring their business casual office style into the courtroom, and Illinois judges do not like it.  Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that a panel of Illinois judges, including Northern District Judges, at the Seventh Circuit Bar conference agreed that attorneys are appearing in court wearing inappropriate clothing, including themed-ties and clothes that would be appropriate for the gym — click here to read the story.

Many will dismiss this story as fluff, but it is not.  How you dress is an important element of your first impression on the court, just like it is in any social interaction.  As a federal law clerk, I learned three things about the impact of a lawyer’s clothing choices:  1) judges care how you dress; 2) jurors care also; and 3) simple things go a long way.  One of the first insights I received from my judge was to always button your coat when you stand up in court.*  I confess that I thought it was a minor point and I could not imagine that anyone noticed an unbuttoned coat.  But that changed when we spoke with a jury after a case weeks later, and one of the jurors mentioned that it bothered him that one of the trial attorneys did not button his coat.  He felt it was sloppy and disrespectful.

Finally, in defense of Chicago lawyers this Chicago lawyer is in the running for Esquire’s best dressed man of 2009.  And if this post makes you think about a new suit, I highly recommend Richard Bennett Custom Tailors.

Northern District Pioneers Full Online Attorney Registration

Posted in Legal News

Last week the Northern District of Illinois became the first federal court to allow complete online registration and payment for attorney admission — click here to read the Clerk’s press release.  You can now register for both the general and trial bars online and pay the registration fees by credit card.  This is another step toward getting the federal courts fully online, now if they could only end PACER access fees.

IP News & Advice — Thanksgiving Edition

Posted in Legal News

Here are several IP posts that you should check out:

  • The MTTLR Blog’s Lauren Strandbergh has an interesting post (click here for it) about the implications of the Google Book’s settlement and how the Book Rights Registry — a Copyright Clearance Center or ASCAP-like entity that will, among other things, distribute proceeds from out-of-print books to the authors or rights holders  — will change the publishing industry.  Strandbergh raises the right questions, but we will only get answers as we ee how the system works.
  • [UPDATE:]  Speaking of the Copyright Clearance Center and ASCAP, the WSJ Law Blog has a post today (click here to read it) based upon this WSJ story (subscription required for the full text) about two new companies that are aggregating patents and guaranteeing never to assert those patents against their members.  It is not clear from the story if they plan to assert them against non-members, but it is an interesting move in the struggle between non-practicing entities and corporations that feel targeted by patent litigation.  I believe there have been industry-specific versions of these companies in Europe for some time.  As I understand some of those entities, the do assert their patents against non-members to help fund operations.
  • Victoria Pynchon offers advice for dealing with those uncomfortable Thanksgiving political conversations with family and friends at her Settle It Now Negotiation blog — click here to read it.  The advice translates well for unwinable conversations with opposing counsel.
  • This week’s Blawg Review is up at LawyerCastingclick here to read it.  It provides lots of advice for lawyers dealing with the tough economic times.

IP Legal News

Posted in Legal News

Here are some IP stories that will give you weekend reading and viewing:

  • UCLA Professor Doug Lichtman launched the IP Colloquium, a series of podcasts focused on the most pressing IP issues of the day.  Lichtman tells me he aspires for the IP Colloquium to become National Public Radio for IP lawyers.  Lichtman is well on his way.  In his first episode, Lichtman discusses copyright issue with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Fred von Lohmann.  And if the content is not enough, Lichtman has also secured CLE credit in several states.
  • IPTABlog has a comprehensive post — click here to read it — on Google’s settlement with the Association of American Publishers over the Google Book Search.  The post links to much of the media coverage, as well as the settlement agreement.  Also, check out the WSJ Law Blog’s post on the settlement’s impact on related cases (click here to read it) and Madisonian’s take on the issues springing from the settlement (click here to read that post).

Bilski: Some Business Method & Software Patents Survive

Posted in Legal News

In re Bilski, __ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2008) (en banc).*

Chief Judge Michel, writing for a nine judge majority, affirmed the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences’ finding that Bilski’s invention — a commodities trading method for hedging risks — did not meet the 35 U.S.C. § 101 patentable subject matter requirement.  The Federal Circuit held that State Street’s "useful, concrete, and tangible result" test was insufficient to determine patentability — disagreements have already started regarding whether State Street was narrowed or overturned.  The Federal Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s "machine-or-transformation" test was the only test for determining patentability:

A claimed process is surely patent-eligible under § 101 if: (1) it is tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing.

I found Judge Dyk’s concurrence tracing the history of the "machine-or-transformation" test back to the Patent Act of 1793 especially interesting:

In fact, the unpatentability of processes not involving manufactures, machines, or compositions of matter has been firmly embedded in the statute since the time of the Patent Act of 1793, ch. 11, 1 Stat. 318 (1793).

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Nike v. Wal-Mart: Complaint May Show Future of Twombly Pleading

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Nike, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 08 C 5840 (N.D. Ill.) (Hibbler, J.).

As I have said before, I generally do not discuss complaints, but Nike’s design patent suit against Wal-Mart last week has drawn significant blog coverage  — click here for the complaint.  And most of that coverage has missed the most interesting element of the complaint, from a legal procedure perspective (and yes, legal procedure is interesting, at least to me):  Nike’s detailed pleadings.  Instead of simply identifying its design patents (related to its Nike Shox product line) and Wal-Mart’s allegedly infringing shoes, Nike put detailed design patent claim charts in its complaint showing an accused product from the same angle as each figure in the design patent.  Here is a portion of one of the charts:

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IP Legal News

Posted in Legal News

Here are several stories worth checking out, but that did not warrant a separate post:

  • PA Tracer’s monthly patent filings report is out.  The Northern District had nine new cases filed in July.  That is reasonably busy for the deep summer, but nothing compared to the Eastern District of Texas’s 25 new patent cases — click here to read PA Tracer’s post.
  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story recently about Judge St. Eve — click here to read it.*  The story discusses many traits that are obvious to those who have practiced before her.  Judge St. Eve is very punctual and efficient, and she has absolute control of her courtroom, which she maintains with a civility and kindness that are impressive.  The article also speculates, using unnamed colleagues and media as sources, that Judge St. Eve will eventually be on Supreme Court short lists.  Here’s hoping she stays in the Northern District a long time before getting called up to One First Street.
  • Chicago Lawyer Magazine did a nice profile on Chicago IP lawyer Carol Genis of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd.  Click here to read it.  The article largely focuses on how Genis develops strong bonds of trust and friendship with clients.
  • Duane Valz, Vice President & Associate General Counsel of Yahoo!’s Global Patent Strategy, is discussing approaches for patenting Internet-related ideas in a webinar on Wednesday, September 3 from 1:30 – 3:00 CT — click here for more information.

*  Hat tip to the WSJ Law Blog for pointing out the story here.

Blawg Review #173

Posted in Legal News

Last week’s Olympic edition Blawg Review focused on the medals. Building on that, this week I discuss the elements of a world record swim. If you were watching last week, instead of blogging, you saw 20 of them in the Olympic pool; seven by Mr. Phelps.

 

Practice

Nothing is more critical than preparation. A big part of preparation is tightening your stroke and cutting out unnecessary motion. Reese Morrison, at the Law Department Management blog, discusses blunt suggestions for trimming legal bills.

 

Endless hours in the pool alone are not enough, you need a good coach. Business development coach Cordell Parvin provides an excellent three part series at his Law Consulting Blogone, two, and three – on persistence, an important element of any Olympic training program. In an Olympic caliber display of persistence, Drug & Device Law had an exhaustive post discussing and classifying each medical device preemption case since the landmark Supreme Court decision in Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 999 (2008).

 

You also need a support network to help you get through all of the pool time. Bruce Allen, at Marketing Catalyst, teaches us how to avoid the cocktail conversation you cannot escape from at a networking event. At Copyblogger, John Morrow explains that content is no longer king in the blogosphere, you need friends. And he teaches you how to get them. At BlawgIT, Brett Trout – who is a fighter, not a swimmer – has an interesting post about how to work together as a community to thwart webjackings (the hijacking of a website). And Mediation Channel’s Diane Levin discusses the social side of blogging, and reading blogs.

 

Of course, if you do not have time to practice you will never set the record. So, you need a job, or at least some cash. On that note, Harmful Error posts the great news that loan forgiveness programs were expanded this week for legal aid lawyers, state prosecutors and public defenders. 

 

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Google Ordered to Produce YouTube Information

Posted in Discovery

The Chicago Tribune’s Jessica Guynn reported last week (click here to read the article) that a Southern District of New York judge ordered Google to produce information about YouTube user’s viewing habits.  Viacom sued YouTube and its parent Google, alleging copyright infringement based upon the alleged infringing posting of Viacom’s copyrighted content on YouTube.  Guynn reports that privacy advocates are concerned about the ruling.  But Guynn also quotes Viacom’s General Counsel Michael Fricklas saying that "unequivocally that this information will not be used" outside of the lawsuit.

The WSJ Law Blog also has a great post about the order — click here for the post — explaining the type of information that Google was ordered to disclose:

Viacom wants records from a YouTube database that records each time a video is watched and pairs that with two kinds of information about people who viewed it: log-in names (for YouTube users that have accounts), and IP addresses (for YouTube users without accounts).

For those concerned about the production, there is nothing to be worried about.  Virtually every federal case involving sensitive information is governed by a protective order preventing use or disclosure of the information outside of the litigation.  And in virtually all of those cases the parties honor the protective order and the information is not disclosed or used besides in the litigation.

[UPDATE:]  Randy Picker at the University of Chicago Faculty Law Blog has an interesting post questioning how the information could be kept or produced by Google differently to avoid disclosing identities along with the viewing information, and whether the information is covered by the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (enacted after Judge Bork’s video rental records were obtained during Senate confirmation hearings):

So Viacom has a legitimate interest in seeing YouTube’s viewing records. But of course viewers have a privacy interest in those records as well. Exactly how many views have I contributed to The Evolution of Dance, the, I gather, most-viewed video on YouTube (currently at 91,619,702 views)? (I have watched only because I teach copyright, not because it is quite funny.)

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Quanta v. LG: Patent Exhaustion

Posted in Legal News

Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Elecs., No. 06-937, 553 U.S. ___ (2008).

The Supreme Court concluded its latest review of the patent laws Monday when Justice Thomas delivered the Court’s succinct, unanimous decision in Quanta v. LG.  Client obligations this week prevent me from providing a detailed analysis today.  But, no surprise, there is plenty of commentary out there already.  For more about decision, check out:

Northern District & IP News: Pro Bono & Patent Reform

Posted in Legal News

Tomorrow I will be back to case analysis, but there is some Northern District news and some excellent IP and litigation blog posts worth reading, here they are:

  • Ninth Annual Pro Bono and Public Interest Awards – The Northern District and the Federal Bar Association are seeking nominations for excellence in pro bono and public interest work. Nominations should be based upon work performed in civil cases before the Northern District which are no longer pending. Send nominations by March 28 to:

Amy Rettberg, Executive Law Clerk

Email: amy_rettberg@ilnd.uscourts.gov

Chambers of the Chief Judge James F. Holderman

219 South Dearborn Street, Suite 2548

Chicago, Illinois 60604

  • Patent Reform is Moving Forward — The Senate is preparing to vote on the Patent Reform Act after its spring recess (yes, it is spring already in DC).  Here is some additional coverage of the Act’s status:

271 Patent Blog — looking at the latest amendments to the Act.

Maryland Intellectual Property Blog — looking at the latest amendments and questioning whether proponents have the sixty votes necessary for cloture, thereby avoiding a filibuster.

Patent Docs – taking sides, but asking you to call your Senators regardless of which side you take.

  • Check out the newest entry to Chicago’s law blog scene, the Lean & Mean Litigation Blog.  It is not IP-focused, but it is an interesting read for any commercial litigator or litigant.
  • William Patry at Patry on Copyright has an interesting post about the difficulties of serving corporate entities based upon a District of the District of Columbia case involving a pro se plaintiff.  The best advice, of course, is to hire counsel because if you do not get the party served properly, you have no case.
  • The Seventh Circuit affirmed Judge St. Eve’s ground breaking opinion in the CLC v. Craigslist case.  The Seventh Circuit held that an ISP is exempt from cases based upon user content when the case attempts to treat the ISP as a publisher of the content.  This is considerably narrower than most of the other circuits, which have held that Section 230 exempts ISPs from essentially all suits based upon user content.  For more coverage, check out the WSJ Law Blog (which erroneously elevates Judge St. Eve to the Seventh Circuit), Internet Cases, and the Technology & Marketing Law Blog (very detailed analysis of Judge Easterbrook’s opinion).

Anonymous Bloggers Carry on Tradition of the Federalist Papers

Posted in Legal News

There has been a lot of coverage of Troll Tracker’s recently disclosed identity.* Troll Tracker ended his anonymity a few weeks ago and now faces a libel law suit along with his employer, Cisco, based upon statements he made about a case involving Cisco — this is one of the many reasons I do not write about cases that my firm or I are involved in.

I did not intend to weigh in on this story because there was not much to add (see below for links to some of the best coverage). But then I read Joe Hosteny’s March 2008 IP Today article – click here for the article — about anonymous blogging and anonymous commenting. Hosteny is a partner in the Niro Scavone firm, a firm that was often a focus of Troll Tracker’s posts. I have not always seen eye to eye with Hosteny in the courtroom, but I found his article both very good and thought provoking.

Hosteny raises real concerns about how the anger surrounding the non-practicing entity dispute has gotten out of hand. Death threats over patent litigation (even assuming they are idle threats) cannot be tolerated. These threats make me question whether the patent litigation bar is maintaining the levels of civility and sanity required by our professional standards.

Violent threats and, more broadly, incivility have no more place in the realm of legal blogs than in the legal system. But it does not follow that anonymous blogging and commenting are inherently bad – the issue is more complex than that. Lots of electrons have been spilled over the pros and cons of anonymous blogging – blog guru Kevin O’Keefe is no fan of anonymous blogging, whereas the anonymous editor of Blawg Review provides a great service to both the legal and the blogging communities with the weekly Blawg Review, despite his anonymity.

Anonymous blogging is not the problem. The problem is with anonymous bloggers who believe that anonymity allows them to comment on cases involving themselves or their clients , or to post threatening comments (Troll Tracker, of course, never posted any threats that I am aware of). If Troll Tracker had not blogged about his client’s case and if he had stuck to the verifiable facts, he likely would not have gotten sued.

Similarly, anonymous commenting is not the problem if legal bloggers, including Troll Tracker, monitored and approved comments before** they went live, the death threats against Niro never would have been published. I moderate the comments to this Blog and, as a result, angry rants against a judge or an attorney (none have been violent) do not make it on the Blog. And that anonymity may have provided the writer with false courage. But I prevent that, and so can any blogger, by acting as a gatekeeper.

Hosteny argued that anonymity is cowardly and not in the tradition of the First Amendment because the Declaration of Independence was signed by the Continental Congress. But he leaves out that the Federalist Papers were signed with aliases. Anonymity can be useful in that it can provide courage to voice ideas that otherwise might not be interjected into public discourse. For that reason, I think there is a place for anonymous blogging and commenting, as long as anonymous bloggers do not use anonymity as an excuse to avoid the rules of our profession and of common sense.

As promised above, for more coverage of Troll Tracker and the defamation suit, see:

E.D. Texas Blog

IP Law360 (subscription required, but a very thorough history)

Patently O — discussing a related federal suit filed in the District of Arkansas, including a link to the complaint.

Prior Art Blog — detailing the history of the suit and here and here on other aspects of the story as well.

WSJ Law Blog

[Update]:  Blawg Review #151 at Lex Ferenda was just updated discussing this post.

* There are no Troll Tracker links because the site is currently either down or subscriber only.

**  Troll Tracker did remove violent and offensive comments, but only after they were posted and he became aware of them.

Northern District Judge Filip Nominated to be Deputy Attorney General

Posted in Legal News

New Attorney General Michael Mukasey has nominated Northern District Judge Mark Filip to be his Deputy Attorney General (the #2 position at the Department of Justice), replacing acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford.  Judge Filip clerked for Justice Scalia and served as a Northern District Assistant United States Attorney for five years, before briefly entering private practice and then taking the bench.  Here is what the Chicago Tribune (via the Associated Press) had to say about Judge Filip’s sterling reputation as a judge:

Filip was nominated for the federal bench in November 2003, and he is widely viewed as a smart and down-to-earth jurist. He was ranked first among federal judges in terms of integrity and professionalism in a 2006 poll of Chicago-area attorneys.

Congratulations Judge Filip.  You will be missed in the Northern District.

I will keep you updated on the confirmation process and the efforts to fill the vacancy that Judge Filip’s confirmation will create.

*  A hat tip to the WSJ Law Blog for the fast post regarding Judge Filip’s nomination.

Free Pacer Access Available in the Northern District

Posted in Legal News

As part of a Federal Courts pilot project, free online Pacer* access and printing has been made available to the general public at sixteen libraries, including the Seventh Circuit’s William J. Campbell Library on the 17th floor of the Dirksen Building.  So, you can avoid the $.08 per page charges online with a trip to the courthouse.

A hat tip to the WSJ Law Blog for alerting me to the free Pacer access.

*  Pacer provides access to the dockets from each case in the federal court system, including links to pdf versions of all publicly available documents.

State Immunity’s Impact on Northern District Patent Suits

Posted in Legal News

There is a debate brewing in the patent litigation community over the correct scope of a state institution’s waiver of 11th Amendment immunity when that institution asserts its patents. In Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999), the Supreme Court held that state institutions were immune from patent infringement suits. Of course, if a state institution asserts a patent claim against a party, immunity is generally waived as to that party for counterclaims. But the Federal Circuit recently held in BPMC v. California Dept. of Health (Fed. Cir. 2007), that when the California Department of Health (“Cal. DoH”) intervened as a plaintiff in a patent suit (which is considered a waiver of immunity), it is only a waiver as to that suit. So, when the original suit was dismissed because of improper venue, the waiver was rescinded. As a result, the defendant in the first case, BPMC, could not bring a declaratory judgment suit that mirrored the original suit because of the Cal. DoH’s 11th Amendment immunity. 

The Federal Circuit’s decision has ignited substantial controversy (click here for the WSJ Law Blog’s article on the subject and click here for IP Biz’s responsive blog post) and some are predicting that this will be the next patent case that the Supreme Court takes on cert. It is an interesting issue, but not one that we see often in the Northern District, which caused me to investigate whether Chicago-area colleges are prolific patentees. None makes the top ten, like my alma mater the University of Michigan – Go Blue! But there is some substantial patenting going on at Chicago-area universities. The following chart show the number of patents assigned to the identified universities or their related entities between 1969 and 2005:

Chicago-Area University Utility Patents 1969-2005
School Patents
U of Chicago 309
IIT 59
ISU 4
Loyola, Chicago 33
Northwestern 370
U of Illinois 552

As you can see from the chart, this issue has significant consequences for Chicago-area schools. I will keep you posted as the case develops.

Blawg Review #133

Posted in Legal News

Last week the intellectual property world obsessed over injunctions – specifically, a preliminary injunction hearing in the Eastern District of Virginia resulting in an injunction against the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s (“PTO”) new continuation rules. There was a lot of analysis about the injunction, including live blogging by Patent Practice Center Patent Blog and a lot of post-injunction analysis by, among others: 271 Patent Blog; FileWrapper; Patent Baristas; Patent Docs (and here); Patent Prospector; PHOSITA; Patently-O; WSJ Law Blog; and Washington State Patent Law Blog. For those of you who have no idea what a continuation is or just do not care about the particulars of the rules, I promise that I am done with patent continuations for this post. Honestly, I find the rules rather tedious myself. I prefer to focus on litigating patents, rather than the PTO’s prosecution rules. So, today we talk about injunctions:

According to TechCrunch, Patent Monkey received a permanent injunction when it was sold to the Internet Real Estate Group. But Patent Monkey’s patent search technology will see its injunction lifted when it is used on www.patents.com. Hopefully, for those like me who enjoyed it, Patent Monkey’s Infinite Monkey Theorem Blog will also see its injunction lifted.

Virtually Blind has an interesting report on Second Life’s* new Patent & Trademark Office, the SLPTO. No word on whether the SLPTO and the Second Life legal system generally will allow for any permanent injunctions. Right now it appears that the SLPTO will be heavily skewed toward copyright and trademark, which makes sense in a virtual world. And before we learn whether the SLPTO has any enforcement mechanisms, Blawg IT is offering to represent virtual clients before the SLPTO. I would get a retainer up front Brett – virtual clients can be difficult to track down when the bills are due.

The Patry Copyright Blog shows why Second Life injunctions may be necessary. Six Second Life players have sued a Queens man in the Eastern District of New York for trademark and copyright infringement based upon sales of goods in Second Life. I wonder if the trademarks and copyrights were registered with the SLPTO or the US PTO/Copyright Office. And does the E.D.N.Y. have authority to issue cyber-injunctions?

Promote the Progress provides an interesting piece on the long-term effects of last week’s injunction against the PTO on shaping patent reform.

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Continuation Rules Would Cause GSK Irreparable Harm

Posted in Legal News

Yesterday, I blogged briefly about the Eastern District of Virginia’s injunction preventing the PTO’s new continuation rules from taking effect today, November 1st.  But the Court’s order was not available yet.  The order has been issued — click here for a copy — and it is very interesting.  The Court held that plaintiff GSK had shown a likelihood of success on the merits regarding several issues:

  • That limiting the number of continuations a party can file violates 35 U.S.C. Section 120, which states that later filed applications have the same effect as their parent applications.
  • That the new rules are impermissably retroactive because the limits on numbers of claims and continuations will change the terms of the bargain struck between inventors currently prosecuting their applications and the PTO when those inventors filed their applications, prior to the new rules going into effect.
  • That the requirements for Examination Support Documents ("ESD") are impermissably vague because they do not sufficiently define the paramters of the search required.

The Court also held that GSK would be irreparably harmed by implementation of the rules because GSK has about 2,000 pending applications and GSK’s rights in each of those applications would be materially altered by the new rules. 

[Updated with more links after the jump.]

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Trick or Treat: Have a Preliminary Injunction to Eat

Posted in Legal News

Usually I post a holiday-related patent on major holidays (which Halloween is in my house).  But in light of today’s Eastern District of Virginia preliminary injunction hearing regarding whether to allow the PTO’s new continuation rules to take effect tomorrow, November 1, as planned, I thought a post on the continuation rules was more appropriate.  The patent world, and more particularly the patent prosecution world, has been busy analyzing and preparing for the new continuation rules for several months.  For analysis of the new rules check out the Maryland Intellectual Property Law Blog (click here and here) and the 271 Patent Blog (click here).

While most were just probing the rules for loopholes or preparing to comply with them, two also filed suits in the Eastern District of Virginia seeking to enjoin enactment of the new rules — Triantafyllos Tafas v. Dudas, No. 07 C 846 (E.D. Va.) and SmithKline Beecham Corp./GSK v. Dudas, No 07 C 1008.  Click here for Patent Docs’ excellent coverage of the SmithKline/GSK suit.

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Patent Reform Enters the Spotlight

Posted in Legal News

Wednesday, the Senate held its first hearings regarding the Patent Reform Act.  Both the main stream media and the legal blogs are busy handicapping the battle over the legislation and the Act’s chances of success.  Here are some of the highlights:

The WSJ Law Blog handicaps the big players in Patent Reform’s Battle Royale

The WSJ print edition featured the Senate hearings in a page-one story (subscription required).

FileWrapper provides a nice summary of each witness’s positions.

The New York Times also ran a Business section story.

Patent Prospector takes a very strong position

The thankful result of today’s Senate hearing is watching the Patent Reform Act of 2007 appear the statutory tub of lard that it is.

Taking IP Defense to the Court of Public Opinion

Posted in Legal News

The Wall Street Journal print edition had an interesting article about a new trend in defending lawsuits that focused on an IP dispute — A Growing Dispute:  Fertilizer Start-Up Uses Web as Defense (subscription required).  The article discusses TerraCycle Inc.’s use of a website (www.suedbyscotts.com) to bolster its defense of a lawsuit Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. filed against TerraCycle alleging trade dress infringement and false advertising.*  According to the article, TerraCycle has not raised much money from its online solicitation for defense fund donations.  But during the first four weeks of its online defense, TerraCycle’s sales jumped 122%, as opposed to 31% during the same period last year.  TerraCycle also saw a corresponding spike in visits to its primary website.  The WSJ Law Blog picked up on the story and developed it further, identifying several other defendants that have used websites as an aspect of their defense strategies, including Vonage’s site (www.freetocompete.com) developed in connection with its prominent patent dispute.

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A Different Style of Legal Writing

Posted in Legal News

Funny Cide Ventures, LLC v. Miami Herald Publishing Co., No. 4D06-2347, Slip Op. (Fla. 4th Dist. May 16, 2007).

Funny Cide Ventures is not a Northern District opinion, nor is it about intellectual property, but it is worth reading.  In a two-page per curiam opinion, the appellate panel dismissed Funny Cide Venture’s ("FCV") claims of injurious falsehood against defendants the Miami Herald and Knight-Ridder.  FCV’s horse Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby in 2003.  After the race, the Miami Herald falsely reported that Funny Cide’s jockey admitted carrying something during the race and implied that the jockey had cheated by carrying an illegal, battery-operated device perhaps to shock Funny Cide.  Funny Cide and his jockey went on to win the Preakness Stakes with a substantial lead over the field, completing two-thirds of the Triple Crown.  But they lost the final race at Belmont and, with it, the Triple Crown.  FCV filed suit against defendants claiming that the Miami Herald’s erroneous story caused the jockey to run Funny Cide too hard at the Preakness in an effort to prove his and Funny Cide’s superiority and, therefore,  their innocence.  As a result of that effort, Funny Cide lost at Belmont and, therefore, lost the revenue generated by a Triple Crown winner.  The Court held that despite the "novelty and creativity" of the claims, the loss was not a direct result of defendants’ article.

While the opinion is timely (the Preakness was run last weekend), what is most interesting about it is Judge Farmer’s concurring opinion.  His concurrence does not make any novel legal arguments or take issue with the substance of the per curiam decision.  Instead, it leads with an argument against "dreary," "tedious" and unnecessarily long judicial opinions.

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