Thursday, June 19, 2014

Supreme Court, in Alice case, holds that a mere "abstract algorithm" is not patentable

The Supreme Court has upheld a full DC Federal Circuit  appeals court ruling, in the case of Alice Corp, v CLS Bank, that the “invention” claimed (an algorithm for estimating financial settlement risk) is not by itself eligible for patent protection.  The algorithm, while implemented in a computer system, was essentially like a mathematical theorem and proof, that is, a law of nature.   The opinion (link here) suggests that Alice did not add “anything of substance to an underlying abstract idea”.   Justice Thomas wrote the opinion for a unanimous court, and Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion with Breyer and Ginsburg.  Their opinion seemed to be even more concerned with the underlying abstract nature of the process, as if the petitioner wanted to patent an alternate proof to the Pythagorean Theorem!   

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

USPTO cancels NFL Washington Redskins's team name trademark registration

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued an administrative decision canceling the legal force of the trademarks and wordmarks for the Washington Redskins NFL professional football team.  The team says it will appeal.  The text of the opinion is here.

Although the team can still continue to use the name, it can no longer bring legal action against others who try to use it.  There would be no conceivable action against domain names based on the Redskins, for example.
The USPTO says it did research and claims that the name has been understood as a racial slur against native Americans.
One wonders about some other sports teams names, like Cleveland Indians and particularly Atlanta Braves (MLB), or even Kansas City Chiefs (NFL).
The Redskins’s play has been on a slide ever since losing the playoff game at home to Seattle in January 2013 when then coach Shannihan failed to remove the charismatic and superstar quarterback Robert Griffin III after an injury.  The team finished a pathetic 3-13 in 2013, and seems distracted by the name controversy.   (If they had put Cousins in immediately, they would have won that game.)  You could tell that with the first home game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It would be better to change the name now and put this behind them.  Even so, the city of Richmond VA (picture above) made a big deal of hosting the teams training camp and opening practice sessions to the public in late July 2013.  

Friday, June 06, 2014

LDS church pursue dating site for using name "Mormon" in trademark claim

Here’s a good example of a potentially frivolous trademark claim.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made trademark complaints against a site called “Mormon Match”, according to an Electronic Frontier Foundation story, here. The domain name is “Date Mormon”, link here. The Huffington Post has a similar story here. Trademark is supposed to be used to brand products and services in actual commerce, not to stifle speech associated with a religious concept. 
The formal complaint has been made by "Intellectual Reserves" (link) which handles intellectual property issues for the LDS church. 
There are companies around named after religious groups.  “Lutheran Brotherhood” (insurance) in downtown Minneapolis comes to mind.  

Monday, June 02, 2014

Supreme Court overrules federal circuit, limits "indirect infringement" liability exposure

Electronic Frontier Foundation informs us that the Supreme Court has overruled the 'technocratic" federal circuit (the DC Circuit Court of Appeals) in two critical patent cases. The EFF article is by Cera Raineri, here.
In Limelight Networks v. Akami Technologies, the Supreme Court has overruled the federal circuit and ruled that the liability of an end or intermediate user to patent must be clearly related to the innovation involved.  The Court seems to be headed toward a "reasonable certainty" test that will be disfavorable to patent trolls. And the influence of the gurus in the federal circuit may be waning.