The Supreme Court unanimously held in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com that copyright litigation may not begin until after the Copyright Office has acted upon a registration application. Specifically, a copyright holder may commence an infringement suit when “registration … has been made”, that is, when the Copyright Office registers a copyright.
In an unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court held in Helsinn Healthcare S. A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. that the America Invents Act did not change the on-sale bar as it applies to confidential sales – “a commercial sale to a third party who is required to keep the invention confidential may place the invention ‘on sale’ under the AIA.” Simply put, a confidential sale more than one year before a patent application is filed can invalidate the patent.
The Federal Circuit held in In re Marco Guldenaar Holding B.V. that claims for a dice game were ineligible for patent protection. The court affirmed rejection of claims “directed to the abstract idea of ‘rules for playing a dice game,’ which fell within the realm of ‘methods of organizing human activities.’” Although the claimed dice had non-conventional markings, the court concluded that such markings simply constitute “printed matter” that falls outside the scope of patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
Just in case you were wondering … the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was busy and issued 339,995 patents last year. Happy New Year!
Names are not always the best option for a trademark – it can be difficult to prove the name has acquired distinctiveness as a trademark. For example, some of L.L. Bean’s wordmarks were in use 35 and 57 years before they were registered. However, in Bruce Schlafly v. St. Louis Brewery the Federal Circuit did acknowledge that “[n]o law or precedent suggests that surnames cannot be registered as trademarks if they have acquired distinctiveness in trademark use.” But it’s not easy – the St. Louis Brewery was able to register SCHLAFLY – with sales of 75 million beers, media coverage in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and more than 25 years of continuous use.
The USPTO routinely rejected design applications having two-dimensional views that could be interpreted by examiners as covering different three-dimensional embodiments. This likely changes with In re Maatita. The Federal Circuit recently held “… the fact that shoe bottoms can have three-dimensional aspects does not change the fact that their ornamental design is capable of being disclosed and judged from a two-dimensional … perspective.”
In Polara Engineering Inc. v. Campbell Company, the Federal Circuit reversed an enhanced damages award despite affirming a jury finding of willfulness. Although the Federal Circuit found substantial evidence supported the jury’s finding of willfulness, it found the district court’s basis for awarding nearly the maximum amount of enhanced damages was not adequately explained, noting that the district court failed to even mention a public use defense. The takeaway – district courts must fully explain their decision to enhance damages.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in WesternGeco LLC v. ION GeoPhysical Corp. that 35 U.S.C. § 284 allows patent owners to damages that “can include lost foreign profits when the patent owner proves infringement under §271(f)(2).” Justice Thomas clearly answers the question whether these statues allow a patent owner to recover for lost foreign profits – “We hold that they do.”
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued it’s opinion in Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, et. al. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has reviewed patent validity with various proceedings for decades, with ex parte reexamination since 1980 and inter parties reexaminations since 1999. More recently, various parties had questioned the constitutionally of the new inter parties review (IPR) authorized by Congress with the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011. In today’s 7-2 decision, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the IPR.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed dismissal of the of the “monkey selfie” case. In their opinion, the panel concluded that “this monkey-and all animals, since they are not human-lacks statutory standing under the Copyright Act.” In other words, animals can’t sue for copyright infringement.