Intellectual Property Law Blog

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The current COVID-19 environment has disrupted standard operations in nearly every industry and created fertile grounds for innovation. This is the first of a series of blog posts that will look at how industries have enabled technologies at lightning speed, in an effort to pay homage to the wonders of science innovation in view of COVID-19.…
On May 4, the USPTO made available a new web-based intellectual property (IP) platform, Patents 4 Partnerships, to provide the public with a user-friendly, searchable repository of patents and published patent applications related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To be included in the repository, the patentee or patent applicant must indicate that the patent or patent application is available for licensing. The platform can help entities find collaborations to encourage voluntary licensing and commercialization of key innovations by helping to bring to the marketplace new products and technologies for the prevention, treatment, and diagnosis of COVID-19.…
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced a new Prioritized Examination Pilot Program for qualified patent applications relating to COVID-19.  This program is available without the usual prioritized-examination fees and the USPTO’s goal under the program is to reach final disposition of applications in the program within twelve months from the date prioritized status is granted.  However, the USPTO notes that it may be able to reach final disposition in six months if applicants provide more timely responses to notices and actions from the USPTO.  This pilot program is limited to a total of 500 accepted requests,…
On March 31, 2020, the USPTO announced that it is permitting applicants, for delays that are based on the ongoing COVID-19 emergency in the United States, to request a 30-day extension of the time allowed to file certain documents and to pay certain fees. We provided an explanation of this announcement when it was published. Since then, the USPTO provided a form to be used for the “statement of delay” required in claiming a COVID-19-related filing extension. Extensions were originally applicable to due dates falling between March 27 and April 30. The USPTO, on April 28, 2020, extended the applicable…
Imagine a scenario where the International Trade Commission (ITC) finds a respondent infringes a standard essential patent (SEP).  An SEP that was included in a standard based on a voluntary promise to license it on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.  What happens when the complainant has breached its FRAND obligation, and at the same time demands that the ITC exclude the alleged infringing product from the United States market?  Does the Commission need to consider the circumstances surrounding the FRAND obligation when reviewing the public’s interest in excluding the product?  The decade-old debate will endure on for now, but…
At the beginning of April, 3M, the nation’s largest producer of the now infamous N95 mask, filed two lawsuits against companies it claimed were confusing and deceiving buyers by falsely associating 3M with the defendants and re-selling its N95 masks at “grossly inflated”[1] prices. Such behavior, according to 3M, violates federal trademark law. The lawsuits, which were filed in the Southern District of New York[2] and the Eastern District of California[3], were some of the first major trademark lawsuits to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the same day, 3M also filed suit against a
As the world grapples with its response to COVID-19, the availability and nature of intellectual property protection afforded for diagnostic tests, treatments, vaccines, and accompanying data is likely to have a significant impact on whether and how that information is shared—and therefore necessarily will implicate the response time for containing the virus and resolving the pandemic.  This article explores those available protections, and how they may enhance or impede innovation.  This article also discusses several alternative approaches that could be used during these extraordinary times to incentivize swift collaboration while still protecting the financial interests of the innovators.…
For the first time, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The Court’s initial review of the CFAA comes in the wake of a federal circuit split as to whether the statute can only be deployed against hackers and unauthorized users of electronic systems, or also against authorized users who use the information for unauthorized purposes. The Court’s decision may significantly affect not only how law enforcement uses the CFAA, but also whether civil litigants, such as employers, may use the CFAA to defend against unauthorized employee activities.…
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held today (April 23, 2020) that a brand owner is not required to prove a defendant’s trademark infringement was willful as a precondition to an award of the defendant’s profits. The Court’s decision – Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil Group, Inc.[1] – vacated the decision of the Federal Circuit, which held that, under Second Circuit law, an award of profits could not be sustained for Romag’s failure to establish Fossil’s infringement was willful.[2]  The Court’s decision resolves a Circuit split regarding the interpretation of Section 1117(a) of the Lanham Act, which states…
Many life sciences contracts, including intellectual property licensing agreements, development agreements and supply agreements, contain force majeure clauses.  Depending upon the language of these clauses, the COVID-19 pandemic may be an event that triggers these clauses and provides a defense to nonperformance of the contract.  Companies that are experiencing difficulties complying with or enforcing compliance with their contracts should carefully examine their contracts to determine if a force majeure clause may excuse performance.…
On April 8, 2020, in In re: Forney Industries, Inc.,[1] the Federal Circuit reversed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s finding that a color mark can never be inherently distinctive.  By so holding, the Federal Circuit controverts what had become conventional wisdom since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prod. Co., 514 U.S. 159 (1995) and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205 (2000).…
The Open COVID Coalition, comprising an international group of scientists and attorneys, has published the Open COVID Pledge, which calls upon organizations worldwide to make their patents and copyrights freely available to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.  The steering committee of the Open COVID Coalition includes such legal luminaries as Mark Lemley of Stanford Law School and Diane Peters of Creative Commons.…
Over the past few years, it has been common to see inconsistent approaches and analysis for 35 U.S.C. § 101 challenges, particularly those at the pleading stage.  Aatrix, Berkheimer, and subsequent decisions appear to have only led to more inconsistent approaches among district court judges, revealing the glaring flaws of 101 analysis, particularly without more Federal Circuit or Supreme Court guidance.…
Companies routinely use Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to protect confidential information shared with potential acquirers, consultants, and other third parties.  But companies cannot merely rely on stock NDAs to protect that information.  They should understand each NDA’s procedures for designating information as “Confidential” (and ensure compliance with them), and grasp the interplay between NDAs and state trade secret laws in terms of imputing duties of confidentiality.…