Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Supreme Court rules that the "commercial" First Amendment protects "disparaging" trademarks in "Slants" case (also would apply to Redskins football)


The Supreme Court ruled, 8-0 (Gorsuch was not yet seated) that the USPTO cannot refuse to register trademarks just because a minority group (or suspect class) finds it disparaging.

Robert Barnes has a detailed analysis in the Washington Post today here.
 
The case is about an Asian-American rock group called the “Slants” that tried to trademark its name, bringing back stereotyped slurs from the days of the Vietnam war. The case is named Matal v. Tan.

Some sources criticize the opinion as saying that the “Bill of Rights is about making money”.  Maybe trademark law really is. That idea could put domain names for efforts not sufficiently commercial at risk, if challenged by others who think that the same wordmarks could make money, employ people, and even pay for health insurance (the Trump effect).


This would mean that the Washington Redskins will be able to trademark their team name (again) and probably won’t do a name change.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Patent claims on notification of customers of delivery


Electronic Frontier Foundation reports on a case “Triple7Vaping.com” against “Shipping & Transit LLC” in a news story here.

The plaintiff claims a patent relating to the reporting of the status of delivery vehicles.  This would seem to jeopardize the normal online access to information on packages you have ordered, at least to a home (maybe not to a UPS store).
 
It’s hard to see how this could be a real patent unless it is a specific smartphone or web application.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SCOTUS: First sale doctrine applies to patents, too. It's about time!


Apparently the “first sale” doctrine does apply in trademark cases, since the Supreme Court has ruled that Lexmark can’t require customers to return print cartridges or prohibit them from disabling a microschip that allows resale.  Jess Bravin writes on the ruling for the Wall Street Journal.

The opinion is here.  The case is Impression Products vs Lexmark International.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Uber, Lyft hit by patent troll


Electronic Frontier Foundation has an interesting “stupid patent of the month” story, this time about litigation against Uber and Lyft.  This matters to me as a consumer, as I do depend on Uber to get around DC Metro’s shrinking of weekend hours.  The story is by Vera Raineri, link.
 
The patent  in question is an “automated dispatch and payment honoring system: for taxis, and now for ride hailings services, link here from a company named Hailo.  The patent dates back to 1997, when the Internet was just getting going.  EFF says that the dispatching technology existed before.  It is very expensive to litigate questionable patents in court, but it is sometimes possible to get USPTO to review them.

Monday, April 03, 2017

"Storing files in folders" becomes a patent and is trollable


Daniel Nazer of Electronic Frontier Foundation has a brief article on one of the stupidest patent concepts ever for trolling, “storing files in folders” (patent text ).  

I do that every day when I copy pictures from my camera to folders on my computer with the command prompt or with Windows Explorer.
 
This time the patent is owned by Micoba, having been sold by Louisiana Tech

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Supreme Court could outrun Federal Circuit on patent trolls' forum shopping


Robert Barnes of the Washington Post is reporting on the Supreme Court’s consideration of the practice of forum shopping by patent trolls, as in this story March 27

Many cases wind up a federal court in Marshall, Texas (east of Dallas), or in Delaware, both jurisdictions favorable to plaintiffs, because of Federal Circuit rules that allow filing of suits against plaintiffs that have any business at all in any circuit, which Congress may not have intended.

 Defendants claim that they must be filed in an area where there is a preponderance of business.
 

 
I’m not aware that this affects trademark or domain names.  If it did, since any resident of Marshall could access any domain online, it could matter.


I recently saw a woman on the DC Metro carrying a bag that had lettering to the effect of "Federal Circuit Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia" over near Judiciary Square.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

At ICANN, commercial lobbies are getting more aggressive in preventing accidental amateur use of domain names resembling their marks.


Jeremy Malcolm of Electronic Frontier Foundation has an important story on the aggressive behavior of the “commercial lobby”, so-to-speak, about influencing ICANN not to allow registration of domain names remotely resembling established brands, even when based on common words (even “The”), and even when other lines of business.  The article also notes the lack of any way to check for international trademarks online (unlike the case in the U.S., where USPTO seems to be reasonably up to date).

It does seem legitimate to me to want to stop misspellings of company names from being registered, as this is how malware is often propagated.