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Friday, 22 April 2016 21:38

Prince's Lasting Impact In Relation to Copyright Law

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As many fans remember the legendary artist Prince, they will discover that the task of finding his extensive musical catalog online is nearly impossible. In today's digital age dominated by music streaming services, many will be surprised to find a total lack of Prince's music on many of the top streaming services such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Apple Music.

In the 1990's Prince was involved in several legal disputes. It is well documented that he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in the 1990's during a contractual battle with his record label Warner Bros. After fulfilling his contract, reclaiming his name, and striking a landmark deal in 2014 to reclaim control over his back catalog, Prince intensified his attacks on those he felt were infringing on his music copyrights. In recent years, he had been involved in legal disputes with Facebook and YouTube users providing links to 'bootleg versions' of his music and he had refused to release his music on several of the biggest streaming services, because he claimed those services took advantage of the artists.

Prince's catalog can only be found online on a small number of platforms like Pandora and SiriusXM, which rely on compulsory licenses to perform music. The question now, is whether his music will see a wider release in the wake of his untimely death. Soon, the prolific artist's catalog could become more widely available on streaming services. The decision to release Prince's music more widely online, will depend on whoever is in charge of the administration of his estate and whether Prince had any provisions in his will regarding how his intellectual property may be used in the future. At this time this remains unknown.

The National Archives reports that the original patent documents for the Wright brothers' Flying Machine surfaced recently after having been mis-filed in 1979. The document was recovered after a targeted search of more than 269 Million documents maintained by the Archives. The discovery is timely, as the documents were due to be displayed next month during the 110th anniversary of the patent grant date. U.S. Patent No. 821,393 was filed in March of 1903, several months before the historic flight, which would have been good advice from the brothers' patent attorney. 

A U.S. District Court Judge in California, ruled there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial to decide whether Led Zeppelin and guitarist Jimmy Page unfairly appropriated the iconic opening guitar “riff” in “Stairway to Heaven,” from the Spirit song “Taurus,” which was recorded four years before the Led Zeppelin classic was released. The plaintiff alleges that members of Led Zeppelin, had opportunities to become familiar with Spirit’s music before the release of “Stairway to Heaven,” because the two bands “performed at the same venue on the same day at least three times between 1968 and 1970.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in a Philadelphia court back in 2014, was moved to California, to the same court that recently ruled in favor of the estate of Marvin Gaye in its copyright infringement lawsuit over the song “Blurred Lines” in 2013.

The trial over “Stairway to Heaven” is set to begin on May 10. A favorable verdict, could bring the plaintiff, the estate of Randy Wolfe, co-writing credits and a share of the song’s profits which by 2008, were reportedly in the range of $562 million.

This is not the first time Led Zeppelin has been accused of copyright infringement. A lawsuit was filed and subsequently dismissed, at the plaintiff’s request in 2012, over the recording “Dazed and Confused.” 

Today, the US PTO issued revisions to the Rules of Procedure for the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, at 81 Fed. Reg. 18750.  This Federal Register Notice includes various changes to the duty of candor, the rules on pleading page limits, as well as grounds for instituting IPR and PGR proceedings. 

Swedish furniture company IKEA has long maintained a portfolio of trademark registrations in Indonesia since at least as early as 2005. However, IKEA did not open its first store in the country until 2014. An applicant is not required to show use of the mark in Indonesia as a requirement for registration (in direct contrast to the United States requirements). However, the registration may be vulnerable to cancellation if the owner fails to make use of the mark for a three-year period after registration. 

In the unending saga of Samsung v. Apple, the Supreme Court has recently granted certiorari on a single question relating to damages in a case of design patent infringement, that is: where a design patent only covers a single component of an overall product, should a damages award be limited only to those profits attributed to that component?  For more on this case, head over to SCOTUSblog

In an ongoing dispute between VirnetX Inc. vs. Apple Inc., Apple Inc. had challenged the validity of two asserted VirnetX patents (US Patent Nos. 6,502,135 and 7,490,151).  Apple was initially unsuccessful in its IPR institution requests, because it was time barred under the IPR statute of limitations, which requires a PTAB IPR challenge to be brought within 1-year from the date that the complaint is served on the defendant.  After several failed attempts, Apple Inc. recently circumvented the IPR statute of limitations, via 35 U.S.C. 315(c) joinder to another petitioner, The Mangrove Partners Master Fund, Ltd.

In the perpetual Apple v. Samsung (and Samsung v. Apple) battles for patent dominance, the Federal Circuit's most recent decision invalidated two of Apple's asserted patents, notwithstanding a jury verdict finding the opposite.  The two claims were directed to Apple's mobile device patents, including automated spell corection, slide-to-unlock (found in the lower court to have been infringed by Samsung devices, and resulting in $119 million in damages).  The claimed features were invalidated on appeal to the Federal Circuit based on 35 U.S.C. 103, in that each of the "slide-to-unlock" and "spell correction" claims were obvious in view of the prior art.  In support of the patents, Apple presented evidence of copying, industry praise, long-felt but unsolved need, and commercial success all being secondary considerations of nonobvious.  The Federal Circuit reviewed Apple's presented evidence, and collectively found the secondary evidence to be too weak to overcome the evidence of obviousness based on the prior art, and reversed the lower court's jury verdict.

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