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This week in Other Barks & Bites: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announces its five-year strategic plan; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issues a precedential ruling on inventorship criteria; a biotech firm files lawsuits against Pfizer and Moderna alleging patent infringement; and Adobe releases an AI image generator that it believes will not infringe copyright.
CAFC Affirms Lower Court Ruling on Inventorship in Expandable Hose Patent Dispute
On Friday, June 9, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a precedential ruling that affirmed a district court ruling determining an additional inventor should be added to several expandable hose patents. Blue Gentian originally sued Tristar, licensee of two patents from inventor Gary Ragner, accusing the firm of infringing on one of its patents, three related utility patents, and two design patents. Subsequently, Tristar countersued and argued that Ragner should be added to Blue Gentian’s patents. Blue Gentian attempted to persuade the CAFC that Ragner should not be added to the patent because his work did not amount to a contribution but the appeals court found the arguments unpersuasive.
Google Tells Advertisers its Trademark Policy is Getting an Update
On Thursday, June 8, Google notified advertisers that it will change how it processes and adjudicates trademark complaints. Previously, advertisers complained that entire industries could be restricted from using copyrighted material due to a complaint against a single advertiser, but now Google is telling advertisers that its new policy will streamline the copyright claim process. The Google Ads policy on trademarks will be updated on July 24 to reflect the changes. A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “to address feedback from advertisers, we are updating our Trademark Policy to focus solely on complaints against specific advertisers in order to simplify and speed up resolution times, as opposed to industry-wide blocks that were prone to over-flagging.”
USPTO Announces Five-Year Strategic Plan
On Wednesday, June 7, the USPTO released its 2022-2026 Strategic Plan after a planning process that considered 150 comments from the public and USPTO employees. The plan outlines five strategic goals for the Office including driving inclusive innovation and U.S. competitiveness. “We are reimagining the USPTO of the future, an agency that issues, upholds, and protects robust and reliable IP rights that incentivize innovation and bring more ideas to market for and from all,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director Kathi Vidal. The full five-year plan is available online.
Pfizer and Moderna Hit with Another Patent Infringement Lawsuit over COVID Vaccines
On Tuesday, June 6, biotech company Promosome filed two lawsuits, one against Moderna, and another against Pfizer and BioNTech alleging that their COVID-19 vaccines infringed on one of its patents. In the lawsuits, Promosome said that the firms infringed on U.S. Patent No. 8,853,179, related to rules to modify mRNA. The biotech companies behind the COVID-19 vaccine have been hounded by patent infringement litigation, including Moderna suing Pfizer and BioNTech last year.
USPTO Sets Plan to Open Southeast Regional Office into Motion
On Monday, June 5, the USPTO announced it was seeking public comments on the establishment of a new southeast regional office and four new community outreach offices. The Office published an appeal for public input via written comments on the Federal Register. The new regional office would be the fifth USPTO regional office joining outposts in Detroit, San Jose, Denver, and Dallas. The new regional office would serve the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. “Meeting people where they are – in their own communities, connecting them with important resources and sharing local success stories – is the best way to incentivize and inspire participation in the innovation economy,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.
Adobe Releases AI Image Generator to Enterprise Clients Confidence it Won’t Infringe Copyright
On Thursday, March 8, Adobe released Firefly, an AI image generator, to enterprise clients. The tech firm is so confident that its new product will not infringe on copyrighted images that it plans to offer financial compensation to users who run into copyright lawsuits, according to Fast Company. Adobe claimed that Firefly “generates commercially viable, professional quality content at speed.”
C4IP Announces Krug as Director of Outreach and Development
On Thursday, March 8, the Council for Innovation Promotion (C4IP) announced Peter Krug as its new Director of Outreach and Development. Krug has worked as a senior legislative advisor to former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu and Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Robert Dornan (R-CA). “Peter’s expertise will be invaluable in growing our organization and promoting strong and effective intellectual property rights,” said Frank Cullen, executive director of C4IP.
USCO Starts Ninth Triennial Rulemaking Proceeding
On Thursday, March 8, the U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) initiated the ninth triennial rulemaking proceeding under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Office’s goal with this proceeding is to determine if users will have their ability to make non-infringing uses of certain works negatively impacted due to the prohibition on circumventing access controls. Submissions of written petitions for renewal of current exemptions must be turned in by July 7, 2023, and proposals for new exemptions must be submitted by August 11, 2023.
EU Court Upholds Batman Trademark
On Wednesday, June 7, the Court of Justice for the European Union ruled that DC Comics’s Batman trademark is distinctive, thus upholding its 1996 trademark. An Italian fashion company attempted to have the Batman trademark invalidated by claiming that it lacked distinctiveness. The Court wrote, “the evidence submitted to the General Court is not sufficient to show that the EU trade mark representing a bat in an oval surround was devoid of distinctive character.”
District Court Dismisses Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Dua Lipa
On Monday, June 5, a California district court dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against pop star Dua Lipa. The band Aritkal Sound System alleged that the pop star’s song “Levitating” copied one of its songs. However, the district judge ruled that the band failed to prove that copying took place or that the “Levitating” writers had access to Artikal Sound System’s song.
USPTO Extends Option to Upload Backup PDF
On Monday, June 5, the USPTO extended, until further notice, the option for applicants to upload a PDF backup of their application in addition to the required DOCX version. The announcement is part of the USPTO’s ongoing transition to the DOCX format for patent filings. Additionally, the USPTO also delayed the implementation of a non-DOCX filing fee to January 17, 2024.
This Week on Wall Street
WhatsApp Announces New Feature to Rival Twitter
On Thursday, June 8, Meta announced that WhatsApp would be launching a new feature called Channels that will allow users to privately follow topics that they care about. The feature is clearly aimed at rivaling some functions of Twitter as it will allow government organizations and businesses to share information. “We are starting in Singapore and Colombia, but will roll out to everyone later this year,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a statement.
SEC Files Charges Against Cryptocurrency Trading Platform Binance
On Monday, June 5, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed 13 charges against cryptocurrency trading platform Binance and its founder Changpeng Zhao. The SEC alleged that Binance secretly allowed restricted U.S to trade cryptocurrency on the platform, and that Zhao and Binance were diverting customer assets into personally controlled accounts. SEC Chair Gary Gensler said, “we allege that Zhao and Binance entities engaged in an extensive web of deception, conflicts of interest, lack of disclosure, and calculated evasion of the law.”
Quarterly Earnings – The following firms identified among the IPO’s Top 300 Patent Recipients for 2022 are announcing quarterly earnings next week (2022 rank in parentheses):
- Monday: Oracle (55)
- Tuesday: None
- Wednesday: None
- Thursday: Adobe (102)
- Friday: None
Image Source: Deposit Photos
Image ID: 58643025