On October 13th, a bill increasing protection of intellectual property, namely, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007 (the “PRO-IP Act”) was signed into law by President Bush.    

The Act increases civil and criminal penalties for piracy and counterfeiting and creates a national "IP czar” who will be appointed by the Senate.  The Act also enhances the Department of Justice's ("DOJ") power to enforce IP rights by authorizing law enforcement agents to seize property from copyright infringers. 

Tuesday, 09 September 2008 17:52

PATENTS - "PAGE DOWN" TO FIND THEIR TRUE MEANING

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Microsoft was recently awarded U.S. Patent  7,415,666 for a Method and System for navigating paginated content in page-based increments which has some up in arms at the notion that Microsoft could patent 'Page-Up' and 'Page-Down'  keystrokes. (link)  However, as you consider the outrage, remember that patents are much more than what is set forth in their titles and abstracts, and a true understanding of what is covered can only result from 'paging down' through the text of the patent to the claims.  They are the starting point for revealing the true scope of a patent, which in most cases is much more nuanced than what may originally be thought. 

Monday, 08 September 2008 17:51

HARRY POTTER AND THE IRREPARABLE HARM

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J.K Rowling emerged victorious in a copyright decision that was announced earlier today by the Southern District of New York.  The work at issue?  A Harry Potter encyclopedia written by a librarian and rabid Harry Potter fan.  In permanently blocking publication of the work, the court rejected the defendant's "fair use" defense, finding that the encyclopedia incorporated "too much of Rowling's creative work" and would cause J.K Rowling "irreparable harm" as a writer.  

Obviously, a guide to a "fictional universe" must necessarily incorporate lengthy references and passages of the underlying fictional work.   However, today's decision highlights the limited applicability of the "fair use" defense to such works (which are not, in a strict sense, academic.)   Accordingly, future authors of such literary guides may want to consider seeking a copyright holder's consent prior to beginning any such endeavor.  Otherwise, they too will risk having their book tossed into a 'goblet of fire' (or 'chamber of secrets') by an adverse copyright ruling.

Find the story here.

Find an explanation of the "fair use" defense here.

Thursday, 07 August 2008 17:50

SOUTHERN CAL BEATS SOUTH CAROLINA

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In a battle of Division I-A Schools, the University of Southern California prevailed over the University of South Carolina in a decision from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board concerning the use of the mark "SC" on various goods.  Read the decision here.

This is a highly publicized copyright case that touches on numerous issues, many of which have yet to be decided.

NEWS ARTICLE:  HERE

Sunday, 27 July 2008 17:20

COPYRIGHTING MOTHER NATURE'S IMAGES

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 "One of California's most popular specialty license plates — depicting the tail of a Pacific humpback whale rising out of misty waters — could soon become endangered itself.  Robert Wyland, the artist who created the pale blue image and gave it to the state more than a decade ago to help it raise money for marine programs, is now demanding 20 percent of any future revenue for his art foundation." 

STORY LINK:  HERE 

THE LICENSE PLATE IN QUESTION:  HERE

Considering the number of works of art that incorporate images found in nature, it's worth taking a moment to consider the extent to which such works should be protected.   While works of art that depict animals or plants in their natural state likely fall within the public domain; works taking more artistic liberties will likely be accorded more protection.   An interesting article discussing the issue in more detail is available HERE.  

In an en banc decision, the Eleventh Circuit issued a ruling in the case of Greenberg v. National Geographic Society, holding that National Geographic was privileged, under the Copyright Act, to reproduce its print magazine issues on a digital CD-ROM format, without compensating a freelance photographer who had contributed items to the print magazine issues.  The Court, relying heavily on a United States Supreme Court named New York Times v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001), reasoned that the addition of a montage to the CD-ROM did not make it "new" under copyright law, sufficient to require National Geographic to compensate the freelance photographer for publication of the photographs in the CD-ROM format.  Instead, the Court held that the changes contained in the CD-ROM constituted a revision to a collective work, which fell squarely within a privilege contained in the Copyright Act.  The complete decision is available HERE.

New rules concerning ex parte patent appeals are set to take effect Dec. 10, 2008.  In response to their publication in June 2008, many in the field are characterizing them as making the process more costly and cumbersome, while proponents claim they provide much needed standardization to the process.  (Article Here)

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