Patents

Forget the Obama's Stimulus. Forget the Bush Tax Cuts. Increased Funding for the USPTO Could Fix Our Broken Economy.

By Rob Abb *

While the Obama administration’s Stimulus package and the expiring Bush tax cuts dominate the news, Congress recently and quietly passed a very important bill with bipartisan support.  In August, President Obama signed into law P.L. 111-224, increasing funding for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  Specifically, the bill authorized the USPTO to keep and spend $129 million extra in fees that it is projected to collect in the 2010 Fiscal Year.

The USPTO is now projecting Continue reading »

News Update: Motorola sues Apple for Patent Infringement

Yet another dispute over intellectual property among phone-making tech companies has ensued–specifically, more troubles for Apple.

On October 6, 2010, Motorola Inc. filed complaints against Apple Inc. for patent infringement.  The complaints were filed in the Northern District of Illinois, the Southern District of Florida, and a complaint was also filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission.  Motorola’s complaints cover 18 patents relating to their “early-stage technologies”– allegedly found in such products as Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and some Mac computers.  It appears that Motorola is accusing Apple of intentionally infringing on the patents, rather than obtaining a license for the technology.  Kirk Dailey, a vice president of intellectual property for Motorola, stated Apple “refused to take a license” after the two companies had engaged in lengthy negotiations.  We will just have to wait to see how this legal matter unfolds.

News Update: Mirror Worlds' Jury Award of $625.5 Million for Apple's Patent Infringement Still Awaiting Final Verdict by Federal Judge

On Friday, October 1, 2010, a federal jury awarded the plaintiff Mirror Worlds $208.5 million in damages for each of three patents infringed by Apple Inc–a possibility of $625.5 million in damages total.  To put this award in perspective, according to Bloomberg, the $625.5 million award is the “second-biggest jury verdict in 2010, and the fourth-biggest patent verdict in U.S. history.”

One of the infringed patents relates to Cover Flow, which is a central feature of Apple’s computers and mobile devices that allows users to scroll through album covers, photos and other files. 

Apple filed an emergency motion asking the judge to stay the verdict.  In an order issued Tuesday, October 5, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis provided a schedule that gives Apple and Mirror Worlds until the end of November to submit additional post-trial arguments.

Is the UNITAID patent pool a solution to providing affordable treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries?

By Lauren M. Tozzi *

            Treatment and a cure for HIV/AIDS are highly sought after, and as a result, there has been much rancor over who profits from the solutions and who should have access to them.  The treatment now commonly prescribed to patients living with HIV/AIDS is a combination of multiple medicines into a single pill, called a fixed-dose combination (FDC).  FDCs contain antiretrovirals (ARVs) that fight the virus. 

            There are many ways to tweak FDCs, including changing the active ingredients, altering the quantity of active ingredients, and/or implementing different processes to manufacture and combine the components.  Any of these variables may be subject to a patent, meaning that the person or entity that created the new combination or process would have an exclusive right to commercial use of the idea.  With exclusive commercial rights, an inventor does not have any competition, so she may set the price that others must pay to use her idea.  This is good because it gives the inventor an incentive to invest in her idea, knowing that she will be able to recover on her investment and even make a profit.  The drawback is that the inventor does not have any competition and may set the price so high that people who need the invention will not be able to afford it, which is what happened in 1997 when a revolutionary new treatment for HIV/AIDS hit the market. Continue reading »

Shifting Gears: The PTO Moves to 3 Speeds

 By Ira Knight

On June 4, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) requested comment on implementation of its new, multi-track patent examination method.  Currently, patent seekers have only one mechanism to apply for a patent; however, the PTO is considering giving consumers three different track choices.  The first track will allow applicants to have their patent granted in less than a year in exchange for a heavily increased application fee.  The fee will be high enough to provide for an increased number of staff members to handle the expedited process.  The second track will be similar to the current system.  The third track will allow applicants to extend the patenting process for up to 30 months.

Since publication of the PTO’s request for comment, the internet has been atwitter Continue reading »

Will a Patent for Peanut Butter Prevent Nonprofits from Helping to Feed Starving Children?

By Alayna Ness *

When it comes to malnourished children, there just might be a miracle treatment out there.  In 1996, Nutriset, a French-based company, and Institut de Recherche Pour Le Development (“IRD”), a French public research institute, created Plumpy’Nut, a so-called ready-to-use therapeutic food (“RUTF”).  RUTFs are used to treat young children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.  RUTFs are a successful treatment for severe acute malnutrition because they include the nutritional requirements to aid in fast recovery from malnutrition.  Complaint at 16, Mama Cares Found. v. Nutriset Societe Anonym France, No. 09-cv-02395 (D.D.C. Dec. 18, 2009).  Nutriset currently provides humanitarian agencies with an estimated ninety percent of the global supply of such foods.  Packed in foil pouches, Plumpy’Nut is a sweetened peanut paste that provides essential vitamins and minerals in 500-calorie doses.  The paste is a “mixture of peanut butter, powdered milk, sugar, and vegetable oil fortified with 40 vitamins and minerals.”  It has been heavily used by the World Food Program, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, and other humanitarian groups. Continue reading »

The Beginning of the End? A Federal District Court Holds Gene Patents Invalid

By Lauren Metcalf

Nearly two months after the close of oral arguments, a New York District Court has issued its ruling in the widely publicized gene patenting case against Myriad Genetics. The case concerns patents of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by Myriad Genetics. Mutations of these genes are linked with significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For additional background on the case, see my prior post: Can Someone Else Own Your Genes? In what is sure to become a watershed case on the issue of gene patents, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet held that Myriad’s patents are invalid. Continue reading »

Gene Patenting: Can Someone Else Own Your Genes?

By Lauren Metcalf

The issue of gene patenting has been a hot topic in the medical research community for years, and now the issue will finally be addressed in the courts. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit in federal court challenging the validity and constitutionality of gene patents. Ass’n for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., No.09 Civ. 4515 (S.D.N.Y. filed May 12, 2009). The case centers on patents of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by Myriad Genetics, a commercial biopharmaceutical company focused on drug development and genetic testing. Mutations of the BRCA genes are highly correlated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The lawsuit brought by the ACLU and PUBPAT represents researchers, genetic counselors, and scientific associations as well as individual cancer survivors and female patients who wish to have access to genetic testing for the BRCA genes. Continue reading »

Spring Symposium Wrap-up: Part 2, Controversy and Challenges of Software IP Protection

By Luke MacDowall

In the second half of the Copyleft vs. Copyright symposium, our distinguished panel presented various perspectives on the workability of copyright law to provide protections for developers and users of software. Continue reading »

Symposium Preview: Looking Both Ways at the Intersection of Antitrust and Intellectual Property

By Dirk Lasater

At what point does a copyright or patent owner’s exercise of her exclusive rights become anti-competitive behavior? Do the Federal intellectual property right laws sufficiently cover these issues? Is there a clear standard? On March 5, 2010, Professor Andrew Chin will be discussing these issues and more at the Wake Forest Intellectual Property Journal Spring 2010 Symposium: Copyleft v. Copyright. Continue reading »