Although the technology transfer system of research universities and related institutions has been long-established in the United States, it has been picking up even more steam recently, which in turn has generated some interesting legal issues with lessons to be learned.
By way of background, a recent Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) report underscores the economic importance and scope of university tech transfer, including the following statistics for 2012: over 22,000 total U.S. patent applications filed, total licensing revenue of $2.6 Billion, and over 700 startup companies formed, the majority remaining based in the university’s home state.
The New York Attorney General's office recently levied $350,000 in penalties against 19 companies for astroturfing and false endorsements. Dubbed "Operation Clean Turf," the year long investigation into the reputation management industry found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites including Yelp, Google, and CitySearch. Throughout the investigation, the Attorney General's office found that many companies, including those in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry, used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake profiles on review websites and paying copywriters from around the world for $1 to $10 per review.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review three intellectual property cases. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog reported that “[t]he Tuesday grants represent a strong focus on issues related to intellectual property law.” The Court granted petitions to review two patent cases and one copyright case during the upcoming term. The two patent cases both concern standards for awards of fees in patent litigation, and the copyright case pertains to the timeliness of the action.
Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D Printing, has long been relegated to the manufacturing industry as a method of rapid prototyping. More recently though, advances in technology and enthusiasm from the open-source and do-it-yourself crowds have catapulted 3D Printers into the mainstream. Aiming to make them mass-market items, companies like Makerbot produce desktop-sized printers that can be had for a few thousand dollars. The rise in ubiquity of these machines has also led to a rise in concern over copying and distribution of copyrighted works. Never before has the common consumer been able to so easily replicate such a wide variety of possibly copyrighted designs.
In the event of a general government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is expected to remain open, using reserve funds to operate as usual for approximately four weeks. Should the USPTO exhaust its reserve funds before a general government shutdown comes to an end, the USPTO would shut down at that time, except for minimum activity to accept new applications and maintain IT infrastructure, etc. The USPTO's website will provide updates on the situation as it develops. In the meantime, details for an orderly shutdown are available on page 78 of the United States Department of Commerce’s shutdown plan.
The Federal Trade Commission announced today a proposal to target about 25 patent assertion entities ("PAEs") with a series of inquiries aimed at forming a better understanding of the entities' impact on innovation and competition.
California is preparing to adopt several additional privacy and data breach notification laws this month. These include S.B. 46, a notification requirement for breaches of an individual's user name or email address; SB 568, which extends the federal COPPA rules to all children under 18 years of age; and A.B. 370, a do-not-track disclosure law requiring disclosure about behavioral tracking. These laws affect not only companies based in the state, but all companies that do business within the state.
The 2013 Ig Nobel Prizes Ceremony was held at Harvard University last night. Established in 1991, the Ceremony allows Nobel laureates to present ten awards for odd and unusual research projects. This marks the 23rd year of the awards, which continues the tradition of honoring scientific achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think."