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Now that we too are tweeting it is time we blog about Twitter. As some of you may know, the Pew Internet Project report recently found that 19 percent of all US Internet users are using Twitter or similar services to share social updates, a number which is an 8 percent increase from last year.  Not surprisingly the increase is mainly attributed to three groups: (1) young Internet users 18-44, (2) mobile users and (3) those who already utilize social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace.  The survey results were based on 2,253 phone responses from U.S. consumers 18 and older between Aug. 18 and Sept. 14. The 18-44 demographic can be broken down further. Specifically, usage nearly doubled from 19 percent in December 2008 to 37 percent in the 18 to 24 age group. Those 25-35 were not far behind they were up 20 points to 31 percent.  While users 35-44s went up 10 points to 19 percent. 

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Many cases have been filed around the country, based on the offering for sale, or using of keywords, in connection with search engine-driven internet advertising.  One such case, which I wrote about in an article that was published recently, and which can be found here, involved American Airlines and Yahoo!, the popular internet search engine. 

In that case, American Airlines alleged that Yahoo’s practice of offering its trademarks and brand names as keywords to advertisers, including to the airline’s competitors, amounted to trademark infringement.  However, the lawsuit was recently settled before a decision could be reached in the case.   


Yesterday the Washington Redskins beat the Oakland Raiders and broke the Redskins’ nine game losing streak. And while everyone is talking about their win and ability to keep their fourth quarter lead, we would like to discuss their other big win. Specifically, we are referring to the Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal from a Native American group who challenged the team’s trademarks as disparaging. 
The lawsuit was first filed in 1992 and sought to cancel the Redskins’ name and logo which was adopted in 1933 when the team was in Boston. The United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the registration in 1967. Not surprisingly, the issue before the court was laches and the interpretation of the federal statute that allows the cancellation of a registration “at any time” if the trademark contains “matter which disparage . . .  persons, living or dead . . . or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”


 As we say farewell to 2009, we must recognize that even in its final hours this year continues to provide vivid examples of the value of intellectual property rights. 

Specifically, this New Year’s Eve, Tavern on the Green will close its doors after 75 years in New York City’s Central Park.  And while many question how this landmark that declared $38 million in gross revenue in 2007, making it the second highest grossing restaurant in the US, now finds itself in bankruptcy, we want you to consider that despite the Baccarat and Waterford Chandeliers, the restaurant’s most valuable asset may be its trademark. 

After the final service at the Tavern this evening, the Bankruptcy Court must decide if this $19 million asset belongs to the City of New York and is therefore outside the proceeding, or if it belongs to the LeRoys personally, also arguably putting it outside of bankruptcy, or if it is owned by the bankruptcy estate and should be liquidated.   To Read More Click Here


As some of you may know, Facebook changed its privacy settings on Wednesday, December 16, 2009. However, the new “easy to use settings wizard” has not be well received. Among one of the issues, is that as a result of the change a user who did not adjust his/her privacy settings has been publishing his/her status updates and photos to the entire internet as of Wednesday. And while Facebook claims that only forty percent of its 220 million users have opted for their old privacy setting while the rest have embraced the change, critics argue that the settings wizard distorts the facts and that many users are not even aware of the true implications of the switch. Many critics have gone on to add that the change is really a deliberate attempt by Facebook to compete with other micro-publishing sites like Twitter who have capitalized on the public aspect of social networking sites.
So it came as no surprise this morning when the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a coalition of privacy groups, asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Facebook’s recent privacy changes and how the social networking site treats customer data which they claim is in violation of federal consumer protection laws.  The FTC has yet to comment on if and when it will investigate.


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) has announced a pilot program to grant special status to patent applications directed to green technologies for the reduction of greenhouse gas. The program is available to applicants with currently pending patent applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources or greenhouse gas emission reduction.
Significantly, the PTO will accept petitions under this pilot program without requiring applicants to comply with the rigorous procedural hurdles normally associated with petitions to make special on the basis of the underlying technology including, among other things, an extensive (and expensive) review and analysis of the relevant prior art which must be presented to the PTO in an examination support document. As a further incentive, the PTO has waived the petition fee for qualifying applicants.


Perhaps signaling that the clock may soon run out on pure ‘Business Method’ patents, several of the Supreme Court Justices, during oral arguments in Bilski and Warsaw v. Kappos last monthjoked whether patents should be permitted for innovations such as methods of horse whispering, methods of speed dating, or a method of teaching antitrust law. Although the exchange took on an air of judicial levity, the underlying message seems to point towards a decision invalidating an entire segment of already issued patents. This type of exchange ratchets up the anticipation and angst already being felt by a patent and corporate world that anxiously awaits the determination of whether “Business Method” patents will be dumped or stay the current bell of the ball. For more on this click here


The federal false patent marking statute, 35 U.S.C. § 292, prohibits the false marking of “any unpatented article” with the word “patent” or other suggestions, such as advertising, that would indicate that the article is patented.  The goal of the statute is to avoid public deception as to whether a particular good is in fact patented. 

Several qui tam lawsuits, which are generally lawsuits brought by private individuals on behalf of the government, have been filed based on alleged violations of the false marking statute, and seek to impose up to a $500 penalty for each article that has been falsely marked.  For example, some of these lawsuits have been brought by consumers who have noticed expired patent numbers or false patent markings on everyday products, including paper cups and plastic utensils.     

There has been much debate over the appropriate penalty for falsely marking a patent number on a manufactured article.  On the one side of the debate are those, such as the consumers that filed the above-mentioned lawsuits, who contend that a penalty should be assessed for each and every manufactured article that bears the false marking.  They contend that, if a manufacturer decides to mark 1,000 products with a false patent marking, then the maximum penalty under the statute should be $500,000, or $500 per article, for each of the 1,000 items marked.   

On the other side of the debate are those, accused of false marking, that contend that the penalty should be imposed for each decision to mark a quantity of manufactured articles.  According to their contention, the statute should be interpreted such that, if a manufacturer were to decide to mark 1,000 items with a patent number, and the marking was later ruled to be a false marking, then the maximum penalty would be $500, based on the one decision to mark the articles. 

Earlier today, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a ruling that should clear up much of the debate.  In today’s decision, the appellate court interpeted the false patent marking statute, 35 U.S.C. § 292, to require a penalty for each article or good that is falsely marked with a patent number, and not for each decision to mark a number of goods, as suggested by one of the parties.  The appellate court did note, however, that $500 is the maximum penalty for each falsely marked article, and that judges will continue to have discretion to assess a lower penalty, according to the circumstances of a given case.  

You can read the Federal Circuit’s decision in Forest Group, Inc. v. Bon Tool Company et.