Tafas and the Future of Patent Administrative Law

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My colleague Kali Murray has a new working paper on SSRN, First Things, First: A Principled Approach to Patent Administrative Law. Kali analyzes a controversial recent decision from the Eastern District of Virginia in Tafas v. Dudas. In the Tafas decision, currently on appeal in the Federal Circuit, the lower court rejected new rules adopted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that limit the ability of patent applicants to file continuation applications. As Kali demonstrates, Tafas opens up deep questions about the extent to which the PTO is subject to normal principles of administrative law. Kali thinks it is indeed time to engage in a fundamental reconsideration of the relationship between patent law and administrative law. Her paper concludes with some helpful suggested principles to guide such a reconsideration.

Copyright Catch-22

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With the closing of Bill Patry’s Copyright Blog, there’s a distinct absence of copyright wonkery on the web. So I will occasionally do my best to chip in. Today’s case raises the following possibility: Suppose you run a business heavily dependent on a certain software program. And suppose the owner of that program keeps writing you cease and desist letters, saying that your copy is infringing and that each passing day accumulates more actual damages, as well as your profits attributable to the infringement. You want to clear this cloud from your business, and heaven forfend, if you are found to be infringing, put a cap on the damages. But let’s suppose the owner hasn’t gotten around to actually registering the copyright yet. Can you sue for a declaratory judgement action?

In Weitzman v. Microcomputer Resources, the Eleventh Circuit said no. That intolerable situation can persist until the owner finally decides to sue you instead.

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Breaking News: Harry Potter Lexicon Found Infringing

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Judge Patterson in the Southern District of New York issued his opinion today in the Harry Potter Lexicon case, which involved an attempt by the defendants to convert their very popular website into print form and sell it. J.K. Rowling and the studio behind the Harry Potter films sued, and the court held that the Lexicon was not protected by fair use.

I’ve only had time to skim the decision, but my quick take is that a district court in the same circuit that decided the Seinfeld Aptitude Test case (Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Publishing Group, 150 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 1998)) would have had a hard time finding fair use here. If multiple choice questions based on “Seinfeld” infringe on the show, then encyclopedia entries based on Harry Potter probably do, too. That’s not an endorsement, just a syllogism.

I.P. Licensing After Quanta Computer: A Podcast

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My colleagues Nadelle Grossman and Kali Murray have recently prepared this informative podcast regarding the implications for I.P. licensing of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Quanta Computer, Inc., v. LG Electronics, 128 S.Ct. 2109, 170 L.Ed. 2d 996, 76 USLW 4375 (June 9, 2008). I understand that this will be the first in an occasional series of podcasts on current issues in intellectual property prepared by Marquette’s I.P. professors. This is an exciting new venture, and I look forward to hearing their future productions.