Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. File Preemptive Lawsuit Over “Blurred Lines” Copyright DisputeWritten by Meredith Frank Mendez
Recording artists Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Defendants, Marvin Gaye's family and Bridgeport Music, the owner of some of Funkadelic's musical compositions. The lawsuit seeks a declaration from the court that their hit single “Blurred Lines” does not infringe Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up” or Funkadelic's “Sexy Ways” and that the Gayes do not have an interest in the copyright to the composition "Got To Give It Up" sufficient to confer standing on them to pursue claims of infringement of that composition. The lawsuit was filed because the trio received continued threats from the Defendants that they would commence their own lawsuit if the trio did not pay a monetary settlement of Defendants’ claims of copyright infringement and the Plaintiffs believe that the songs at issue are “starkly different.”
It was, perhaps illy established, that transitory signal claims are per se unpatentable under Section 101 of the U.S. patent laws. This was established by in re Nuijten, a Federal Circuit decision dating back to 2007. Recently, in Ex Parte Mewherter, the USPTO has went a step further to hold that a standard Beauregard claim (a computer program on a computer readable medium) is not patent eligible, simply because it could encompass transitory signals. The case has recently been designated by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as a precedential decision.
On July 31, 2013, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a green paper entitled "Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy." The green paper discusses the goals of maintaining an appropriate balance between rights and exceptions under U.S. copyright law, particularly in the context of the Internet and in view of the substantial economic impact of copyright-intensive industries. The report was issued by the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
As written earlier in our blog, the CLS Bank decision left many guessing as to what might be considered patent eligible subject matter under § 101 of the U.S. patent laws. In a more recent and less known opinion, Ultramercial, Inc. v. Hulu, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2013), a three judge panel attempted to provide some additional guidance in light of the CLS Bank indecision. Of note is that the panel included the authors of the two main opposing opinions in CLS Bank, Chief Judge Rader and Judge Lourie. However, rather than authoring different holdings, the panel agreed that the claims at issue in this case met the requirements of § 101.
The White House has officially overturned a pending ban by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) that would have prohibited sales and imports of the AT&T versions of the iPhones and iPads under U.S. Patent No. 7,706,348. The move, which was thought to have little chance of success, represents the first veto of a USITC decision since 1987. The decision to veto the exclusion of Apple products "in the public interest" was made pursuant to Presidential authority under the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. 1337(j), which has been exercised only on five prior occasions.
As noted earlier on the Malloy & Malloy IP Blog, a national discussion has emerged on what many perceive as increasingly widespread and over-aggressive tactics by “patent trolls.” Patent trolls, which are less pejoratively known as patent assertion entities (PAEs) or non-practicing entities (NPEs), are persons or companies who legitimately obtain patent rights and then enforce the patents against alleged infringers, without actually making or using the patented inventions themselves (which is perfectly legal).
As noted earlier on the Malloy & Malloy IP Blog, even the White House has recently joined the national discussion on what many perceive as increasingly widespread and over-aggressive tactics by “patent trolls.” Patent trolls, which are less pejoratively known as patent assertion entities (PAEs) or non-practicing entities (NPEs), are persons or companies who legitimately obtain patent rights and then enforce the patents against alleged infringers, without actually making or using the patented inventions themselves (which is perfectly legal). There has traditionally not been a great degree of public concern about such practices other than by those on the receiving end of patent enforcements, although public sentiment has been building over the past several years in reaction to a substantial increase in more aggressive activities of this kind.
Those of us who have been waiting with bated breath for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on gene patents in the case of Myriad can now exhale. The Court issued its opinion this morning, in which, as we predicted, they held that cDNA is patentable subject matter, but “isolated DNA” derived from genomic DNA is not patentable.