Today the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning how costs are awarded under the Copyright Act. The Copyright Act provides that a court “in its discretion may allow the recovery of full costs” to a prevailing party under 17 U.S.C. § 505. Currently, there is a circuit split over what costs are recoverable. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eighth and Eleventh Circuits have held that the Copyright Act’s allowance of “full costs” is limited to taxable costs under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1920 and 1821. On the other hand, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that the Copyright Act also authorizes non-taxable costs.
The case is Rimini Street Inc. v. Oracle USA Inc., 17-1625, out of the Ninth Circuit.
An original work of authorship is accorded copyright protection when the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (17 U.S.C. §102). However, a copyright owner cannot sue for infringement of the copyrighted work until either 1) “registration has been made” of the work to the Copyright Office, or 2) the work is refused registration by the Copyright Office and the required deposit, application, and fee have been delivered to the Copyright Office in proper form (17 U.S.C. §411).
The phrase “registration has been made” has been interpreted differently by different federal appeals courts. Some courts have ruled the phrase means that the application has been accepted and registered by the Copyright Office. Other courts have ruled the phrase means that a properly filed application for copyright has been received by the Copyright Office. These other courts find support in their interpretation from other statutes where the same phrase is understood to mean properly applying for registration. Supporters of both interpretations point to part 2) of the statute for support of their respective interpretation.
This conflict among federal appeals courts has been recognized in the highest courts, and now the Supreme Court has agreed to settle the dispute in the case, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC, et al. Does the phrase “copyright registration being made” require only a properly filed application to be received by the Copyright Office? Or does that phrase require an action to be taken by the Copyright Office—either acceptance or refusal—in response to receipt of a properly filed application? The Supreme Court will soon answer that question.
The standard for willful patent infringement will be reviewed this term by the Supreme Court of the United States, as reported by SCOTUSblog. The Court agreed to accept two cases that involve the issue of enchanced damages in patent infringement litigation, Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics, and Stryker Corp v. Zimmer. Under the Patent Act, the owner of a patent may seek triple damages where willful infringement has been proven. The Supreme Court is expected to consider the proper framework for determining whether infringement in a particular case is willful. A decision in these consolidated cases will be rendered by June 2016.
The Supreme Court today ruled unanimously that the burden of proving patent infringement rests with the patent holder, even in cases where the parties had agreed upon a licensing deal in the past.
The case at issue, Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, involved implantable heart stimulation devices (pacemakers) which were licensed by Mirowski to Medtronic in 1991. In late 2007, Medtronic filed an action with the U.S. District Court of Delaware seeking declaratory relief that its new line of devices did not infringe upon the Mirowski patents. The trial court entered a judgment of non-infringement in Medtronic's favor, which was reversed in 2012 by the Federal Circuit, based on a holding that the trial court did not properly allocate the burden of proof in the initial proceedings.
The Supreme Court has granted cert on several new cases today including four relating to intellectual property issues, including a copyright case, a trademark case, as well as two patent cases. Lyle Denniston of the Scotus Blog reports that the new cases will probably be argued in April, the last sitting of the term.
One of a handful of patent cases accepted by the Supreme Court this term, Icon Fitness v. Octane Health and Fitness presents the question of whether Brooks Mfg. v. Dutailier, Inc., 393 F.3d 1378 (Fed. Cir. 2005) should be overturned to the extent that it “shoehorned” the rigid, two-part test for sham litigation into the Patent Act’s test for fee shifting. The petitioner, Octane Fitness, LLC, recently filed its brief arguing that the standard should be relaxed and raises several notable points.