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Upcoming USPTO Fee Changes

A number of patent fee changes will go in effect January 1, 2014.  Notably, the issue fees of all applications will decrease dramatically. Small and micro entity fees will now be available for a number of PCT fees. The assignment recordation fee has also been eliminated if filing electronically.

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NY Attorney General Fines 19 Companies $350,000 for Astroturfing

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.

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3D Printing Presents New Battleground for Copyright Enforcers

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.

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Supreme Court Grants Cert in Three I.P. Cases

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.

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University Tech Transfer in the Legal Spotlight

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.

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Patent Legislative Forecast: Innovation Act of 2013

In an all-too-rare showing of bipartisan cooperation, ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives came together in support of a patent reform bill introduced Monday by Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

Titled the “Innovation Act,” (H.R. 3309) the bill proposes some significant changes to the way patents would be procured and enforced.

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USPTO Operation Status During Government Shutdown

During the general government shutdown that began October 1, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will remain open, using prior year reserve funds to operate for approximately four weeks.  Should the reserve funds be exhausted before the general government shutdown ends, the USPTO would shut down at that time, although a very small staff would continue to work to accept new applications and maintain IT infrastructure, among other functions.  Updated information relating to USPTO operations during the government shutdown will be available at http://www.uspto.gov/news/2013ops.jsp.