Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Software patents in the USA

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument on the question of the patentability of Alice Corporation’s software system for a method of payment, in denying the validity of which 10 judges of the Federal Circuit famously came up with 7 different opinions.

Several patents and claims are in issue, all relating to a computerized trading platform used for conducting financial transactions in which a third party settles obligations between a first and a second party so as to eliminate “counterparty” or “settlement” risk.

The question presented:

Whether claims to computer-implemented inventions-including claims to systems and machines, processes, and items of manufacture-are directed to patent-eligible subject matter within the meaning of 35 U.S.C. § 101 as interpreted by this Court?

As petitioner, the patentee (Alice Corp) will argue first. Respondent’s time will be split between CLS Bank and the US Government who has filed an amicus brief highlighting a misguided argument that “the abstract idea exception is patent law’s sole mechanism for excluding claims directed to manipulation of non-technological concepts and relationships.”

Transcript here. Some extracts here

One interesting point: the questioning of the advocates about which of the competing options proposed by the amici they preferred as solutions to the issue.

Summary of briefs with links to the briefs

Washington Post preview

Our own battles in this front are still proceeding with a decision awaited in the Research Affiliates appeal and RPL Central.

Meanwhile the USPTO has issued revised guidelines: 2014 Procedure For Subject Matter Eligibility Analysis Of Claims Reciting Or Involving
Laws Of Nature/Natural Principles, Natural Phenomena, And/Or Natural Products
.

Alice corp

Monday, December 9th, 2013

The Full Federal Court has reserved its decision in Research Affiliates’ appeal; the Commissioner’s appeal in RPL Central is still pending.[1]

In the USA, Alice Corp. had a patent for a computerised method of reducing “settlement risk”, a type of escrow arrangement: the 10 judges in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals came up with 5 different opinions of which Justice Newman memorably said:

[The 5 judgments have] propounded at least three incompatible standards, devoid of consensus, serving simply to add to the unreliability and cost of the system of patents as an incentive for innovation. With today’s judicial deadlock, the only assurance is that any successful innovation is likely to be challenged in opportunistic litigation, whose result will depend on the random selection of the panel.

Now, the US Supreme Court has agreed to try to sort it out.

ALICE CORPORATION PTY. LTD. V. CLS BANK INTERNATIONAL, ET AL., Docket No. 13–298 (Supreme Court 2013) via Patently-O


  1. The Full Court has also reserved in Cancer Voices re isolated DNA (although one might think there’s little scope for that to get up after Apotex v Sanofi.  ?

Apple and that ITC ban

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Well written piece in The New Yorker outlining the role of the US International Trade Commission in patent disputes and President Obama’s veto of the ITC’s order to block imports of “older” Apple products.

Mind you, make sure you are not eating your cornflakes over breakfast or sipping your decaf skinny latte when you get to the paragraph:

Samsung’s lawyers may take their talents to Seoul, Tokyo, London, or other venues in which home-court advantage is increasingly important ….

Prof. Wegner apparently saw it differently.

Lid dip: Miguel Belmar

More ‘fun’ with initial interest confusion

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Following last week’s post where Arnold J found Marks & Spencer liable for buying ads on the keyword INTERFLORA because of the initial interest confusion, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the USA has heavily qualified when (perhaps that should be “if” or “if ever”) initial interest confusion can constitute trade mark infringement in the USA.

The case is 1-800 Contacts, Inc. v. Lens.com, Inc., 2013 WL 3665627 (10th Cir. July 16, 2013).

It involved Lens.com buying ads on the keyword, 1800contacts, for contact lenses.

The 10th Circuit  upheld the trial judge’s exclusion of a consumer survey proferred by 1-800 Contacts to establish confusion. There were a number of reasons for its rejection including its flawed methodology. The 10th Circuit went on to conclude that the approximately 7% confusion shown by the survey would be insufficient to rise to trade mark infringement under US law. Accepting that each case depended on its own facts, the 10th Circuit endorsed the general proposition that:

The great weight of authority appears to be that “[w]hen the percentage results of a confusion survey dip below 10%, they can become evidence which will indicate that confusion is not likely.” 6 McCarthy § 32:189 at 32-440 (emphasis added by 10th Circuit).

One wonders whether an Australian court, which must ascertain whether a [substantial][OR a significant] number of the relevant audience might be caused to wonder, would be so robust as to conclude that 5% or 7% of the market was not a substantial (or significant) number?

Professors Goldman and Tushnet identify a range of reasons to regret the 10th Circuit’s decision not to drive a stake through the heart of initial interest confusion. Prof. Goldman does speculate, in particular, whether measuring “click-throughs” as a proxy for confusion could ever cross the 10% threshold.

Patent trolls

Friday, July 5th, 2013

are in the news.

The This American Life podcast did a fascinating exposé on Intellectual Ventures, including that good old Current Affair/Today Tonight ambush attempt.

But seriously:

According to the website:

Two years ago, we did a program about a mysterious business in Texas that threatens companies with lawsuits for violating its patents. But the world of patent lawsuits is so secretive, there were basic questions we could not answer. Now we can. And we get a glimpse why people say our patent system may be discouraging, not encouraging, innovation.

There’s a fascinating visit (for those of us that don’t get to go there) to the Eastern District of Texas.

Even more interesting, despite the patent searcher’s report that there were more than 5,000 patents pending at the time the “poster patent” under investigation was filed, the invalidity argument that got up was the entitlement issue.

Wonder what would happen under our new rules if the true inventors came along to  join in with the patentee?

Download or listen from itunes or  the website

Lid dip: Andrew Woods

p.s. Patentology wonders if a patent “troll” lurks in a sunburnt country

The price of digital downloads in Australia

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Big week for parallel imports last week:

(1) the US Supreme Court declared US law applies a doctrine of international exhaustion for copyright material

(2) Adobe, Apple and Microsoft fronted the Australian Parliament to explain why digital “things” cost so much more in Australia than elsewhere (i.e., the USA).

Apple’s defence said, amongst other things, it was the price it had to pay to the owners of Australian copyright – lovely chart here. Other reports (with more analysis) here and here (which may be challenges Apple’s explanation a bit for its own products).

That didn’t really work as an explanation for Adobe, which gets lambasted here.

Perhaps, just maybe, treating digital downloads as a single global market might lead to some lowering of prices, but the beauty of digital delivery (from the content owner’s perspective) is that you can set your price and the customer can buy or not.

Is there a link between (1) and (2)?

In his analysis, Prof. Goldman sets out a number of reasons why he thinks Kirtsaeng, while it may provide some good news in terms of lower prices, will have only a short term effect.

(I suppose we can trumpet the fact that our technological protection measure protections don’t extend to protecting region coding (here and here), although I do wonder how one would prove that was the purpose of the (ac)tpm.)

Mayo v Prometheus

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Last week, the US Supreme Court unanimously rejected the patentability of Prometheus’ “diagnostic”, characterising it as an impermissible attempt to patent a law of nature.

Claim 1 of the Patent was:

A method of optimizing therapeutic efficacy for treatment of an immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder, comprising:

“(a) administering a drug providing 6-thioguanine to a subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder; and

“(b) determining the level of 6-thioguanine in said subject having said immune-mediated gastrointestinal disorder,

“wherein the level of 6-thioguanine less than about 230 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to increase the amount of said drug subsequently admin istered to said subject and

“wherein the level of 6-thioguanine greater than about 400 pmol per 8×108 red blood cells indicates a need to decrease the amount of said drug subsequently ad ministered to said subject.”

The Supreme Court characterised that part of the claims dealing with the relationship between concentrations of certain metabolites in the blood with the effectiveness of particular dosages as a law of nature, which was unpatentable. The additional features did not overcome that exclusion as they were in effect already well-known and practised. In his Honour’s overview, Breyer J explained the rationale:

[The cases] warn us against up holding patents that claim processes that too broadly preempt the use of a natural law. Morse, supra, at 112– 120; Benson, supra, at 71–72. And they insist that a process that focuses upon the use of a natural law also contain other elements or a combination of elements, sometimes referred to as an “inventive concept,” sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to signifi cantly more than a patent upon the natural law itself. ….

We find that the process claims at issue here do not satisfy these conditions. In particular, the steps in the claimed processes (apart from the natural laws them selves) involve well-understood, routine, conventional activity previously engaged in by researchers in the field. At the same time, upholding the patents would risk dis proportionately tying up the use of the underlying nat- ural laws, inhibiting their use in the making of further discoveries.

Patently-O has a more substantive consideration: Natural Process + Known Elements = Normally No Patent. The Commissioner of Patents has issued new guidelines indicating his understanding here; and criticisms have been propounded here and here.

The Supreme Court subsequently remitted the Myriad “gene patent” case to the Federal Circuit and Patently-O thinks their patent is going down too.

Our law is in many respects rather different. Section 18(2) of the Patents Act contains an exclusion from patentability only for human beings and the processes for their generation. Under s 18(1) and (1A), however, a patentable invention must be a “manner of manufacture within the meaning of s 6 of the Statute of Monopolies”.

In the ‘watershed’ NRDC case, the High Court confirmed that a ‘mere’ discovery was not a manner of manufacture, but an application of a discovery in a field of economic endeavour would be. A ‘mere’ discovery being “some piece of abstract information without any suggestion of a practical application of it to a useful end” at [8].

On this approach, Prometheus’ patent appears to have moved beyond the ‘mere discovery’ stage. The question might be, therefore, whether the additional integers were obvious or, may be, we have moved into Microcell territory: nothing but “nothing but a claim for a new use of an old substance” (see NRDC at [7].

A role for that approach was preserved (reinstated?) under the 1990 Act by the High Court in Phillips v Mirabella. Now, given the overlap between the Mirabella court’s analysis and the statutory requirements for novelty and inventive step (or an innovative step), that raises a whole set of issues. First, there is a question whether Mirabella would be decided the same way given the High Court seemed to have cut the legs out from under it in Advanced Building Systems - although, as the Full Federal Court pointed out in BMS v Faulding, Advanced Buidling Systems was decided under the 1952 Act and distinguished Mirabella on the grounds that the 2 Acts were different.

In trying to make sense of that, the Full Court went on to find that the “lack of newness” must be apparent on the face of the specification. As that appears to depend on the text of the specification, the approach taken by the US Supreme Court might not be open: the Faulding court found the dosage type regime a manner of manufacture although, in the end, it failed the novelty test.

In Arrow v Merck, Gyles J struck down a dosage regime on the grounds that it lacked subject matter. On appeal, the Full Court upheld invalidity, but only on grounds of lack of novelty and inventive step. Subsequently, Gyles J also accepted that the lack of subject mater ground could not be made out if it was necessary to resort to extrinsic evidence.

I guess we’ll see where the Myriad litigation in Australia takes us in due course.

Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs., Inc. (Supreme Court 2012) (pdf)

 

A third case of extradition

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The 1709 blog has a good summary of the arrest of Megaupload.com’s Kim “Dotcom” in New Zealand for allegedly copyrights in the USA.

Case 1 (Hew Griffiths aka ‘bandido’)

Case 2 (Richard O’Dwyer)

Meanwhile, some controversy is brewing because the FBI has seized the domain name and apparently blocked any access to the site even by those who have stored material legitimately in the service. Does that mean we all need to start worrying what will happen if our online back-up service is being used by alleged pirates too?

Extraditing (alleged) copyright criminals

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The internet is all a twitter over the prospect that a 23 year old British subject, Richard O’Dwyer, may be extradited from the UK to the USA to face criminal charges for copyright infringement.

Well guess what, it has happened before albeit from this far away destination.

Mr Griffiths has apparently served his time (in both Australia and the USA) and had this to say to an enterprising journalist.

Lid dip: Graham Dent for the boing boing link!

ISP gets DMCA win in USA

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

The Ninth Circuit has affirmed the trial court’s summary dismissal of UMG copyright claims against Veoh on the basis of §512(c) – the ‘hosting’ safe harbour. UMG argued 3 reasons why §512(c) did not apply:

First, UMG argues that the alleged infringingactivities do not fall within the plain meaning of “infringe-ment of copyright by reason of the storage [of material] at thedirection of a user,” a threshold requirement under§ 512(c)(1). Second, UMG argues that genuine issues of factremain about whether Veoh had actual knowledge of infringe-ment, or was “aware of facts or circumstances from whichinfringing activity [wa]s apparent” under § 512(c)(1)(A).Finally, UMG argues that it presented sufficient evidence thatVeoh “receive[d] a financial benefit directly attributable to. . . infringing activity” that it had the right and ability to control under § 512(c)(1)(B). We disagree on each count, andaccordingly we affirm the district court.

Each of these requirements has a counterpart in our US Free Trade Agreement ‘inspired’ – see s 116AH items 1 and 4 and therefore should repay consideration.

On the knowledge / awareness point:

At [11], Judge Fisher noted that UMG had not notified Veoh of any infringing material under the DMCA before commencing proceedings. After noting at [12] that Congress placed the burden of policing infringements on copyright holders, Judge Fisher continued at [13]:

[13] UMG asks us to change course with regard to§ 512(c)(1)(A) by adopting a broad conception of the knowl-edge requirement. We see no principled basis for doing so.We therefore hold that merely hosting a category of copy-rightable content, such as music videos, with the generalknowledge that one’s services could be used to share infring-ing material, is insufficient to meet the actual knowledgerequirement under § 512(c)(1)(A)(i).
Then at [14], Judge Fisher rejected UMG’s arguments that Veoh should be held to have sufficient awareness of infringing activity:
…. For the same reasons, we hold that Veoh’s general knowledge that it hosted copyright-able material and that its services could be used for infringe-ment is insufficient to constitute a red flag.
In Section 2, Judge Fisher dismissed UMG’s other evidence of awareness. One point of interest was that an email from Michael Eisner CEO of Disney would have been sufficient if from a third party, but was rejected since it was from a copyright holder and did not follow the DMCA process.

The 1709 blog has a good summary and links here.

As Techdirt points out, however, the costs of the litigation drove Veoh out of business.

Next up, presumably, the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the appeal from Viacom v Youtube.

Although, as noted above, the decision has potential ramifications for the corresponding Australian provision, I am not convinced it has much to say on Roadshow v iiNet (which concerned Category A activity, not Category C anyway) where the AFACT Notices seemed to provide specific notice (once properly explained).

UMG Recording Inc v Shelter Capital Partners LLC., Case: 09-55902, 9th Cir. December 20, 2011