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Canada Extends Term of Copyright Protection by Twenty Years

The term of copyright protection in Canada was recently extended from fifty (50) years after the life of the author to seventy (70) years after the life of the author. This significant change went into effect on December 30, 2022, as part of Canada’s Budget Implementation Act of 2022. Now, the term of copyright protection in Canada mirrors that of the United States and many other countries. The new law is not retroactive, however, meaning that works in the public domain as of December 31, 2021, do not receive the benefit of the additional twenty (20) years. On the other hand, works that would have entered the public domain at the end of 2022 are benefitted by the change.

Trademark ID Manual is Updated to Include Green Technology

As part of the effort among federal agencies to reduce the impacts of climate change, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is adding new terms to the Trademark ID Manual.  Those new terms will cover goods and services in connection with climate change, including green technology.  Trademark applicants offering green technology will be able to file their application using TEAS Plus, which provides for a reduced application fee.  Thus far, the updated list includes 75 new terms.

FTC Proposes Ban on Non-Competes

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has proposed a new rule which would prevent employers from placing employees under non-compete restrictions. Introduced on January 5, 2023, the proposed rule defines a non-compete as “a contractual term between an employer and a worker that prevents the worker from seeking or accepting employment with a person, or operating a business, after the conclusion of the worker’s employment with the employer.”‎ Such provisions, often coupled with confidentiality clauses in standard employment agreements, are considered to be instrumental in protecting intellectual property, particularly an array of trade secrets from customer lists to manufacturing processes, to prevent employees from transferring proprietary knowledge to a competing business. While several states have already banned non-compete restrictions, they remain legal under Florida law if reasonable in accordance with various guidelines from the statute and case law. The FTC rule would supersede state statutes to the contrary.

The FTC has initiated a 60-day period to receive comments before the final version of the rule is published. The proposal can be found here. While the rule may be implemented in the near future, the scope of the FTC’s authority to regulate in this area remains uncertain. Legal challenges are expected that may delay active enforcement.

USPTO Patent Fees Reduced for Small and Micro Entities

On December 29, 2022, the Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2022 (the “Act”) was signed into law by President Biden. The Act provides an additional discount on patent fees for small and micro entities at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

A small entity is a business with less than 500 employees (including affiliates), a qualifying non-profit organization, or an individual who has not assigned, licensed, or otherwise conveyed or promised to convey an interest in the invention to a non-small entity. A micro entity is one that qualifies as a small entity while simultaneously meeting micro entity criteria, based on either a gross income basis (with the additional requirement that neither the applicant nor the inventor has been named as an inventor on more than four (4)  previously filed patent applications) or on a basis of higher education (for which the majority of the applicant’s income must be obtained from an institution of higher education in the United States).

The small entity discount increased by 10% to a total of 60%, and the same for micro entities went up by 5% for a total discount of 80%. USPTO Director Kathi Vidal stated that the Act will help “support small inventors, start-ups, and those traditionally underrepresented in the innovation ecosystem.”