GoalsOfGreenTech

Matal v. Tam, ___ US ___ (2017)

SCOTUS handed down a HUGE trademark decision yesterday.

Matal v. Tam declares the language of 15 USC 1052(a), which prevents the registration of marks that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead” to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Free Speech clause.

Wow.

This opens up a whole new world of potential trademark registrations.

 

GoalsOfGreenTech

Happy Earth Day 2017!

The patent world is full of technologies that support the Earth. From solar panels to ever-more-efficient batteries to new recycling technologies, inventors throughout the USA are working to protect our environment.

Even the oil and gas industry have worked, at least a little, to help keep things cleaner. According to www.oilprice.com:

Oil companies, working alongside environmental organizations, scientists, biologists and engineers have developed numerous solutions for spills occurring both on land and in the water. Water spills can now effectively be cleaned by presses that involve straining and draining while containing the oil slick, using “floating booms” to corral the oil while skimmers and vacuum pumps cleanse the water and reclaim large percentages of the spilled oil.

Another “eco-friendly” oil spill management method for both water and land spills is called “Bio-Remediation. It’s a technique that uses living organisms such as bacteria and fungi to degrade, break down and in some cases; actually eat the oil as it safely cleanses the spill without hurting the environment.  Meanwhile, serious upgrading of the technology now being used for the drilling and refining of oil is cutting previous pollution levels down tremendously, as the oil industry increases profits by processing more usable oil while polluting a lot less.

Oil companies are now investing billions of dollars in socially responsible programs and are quickly becoming one of the largest supporters of environmentally friendly programs worldwide. Oil is already largely responsible for many of the major advances in medicine, pharmacology and world wide health care infrastructure, but now they are some of the largest supporters of research dedicated to promoting renewable energy sources.

This text was written in 2009; whether it remains true in the new administration or not is questionable. Our current administration is not friendly toward our planet, and that fact needs to be mitigated through strong Congressional action that puts into statute environmental protections which have, up until now, been administrative.

So, along with lobbying for science, we need to lobby for statutory control of air pollutants, water pollutants, increased use of green energy sources, and all the rest of the stuff formerly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. There is so very much technology out there already to support an eco-friendly country … we just need to have the backing of the government to continue to develop and use it.

GoalsOfGreenTech

Winter Weather

The snow is falling thick and fast as I write this. The roads are terrible; accidents abound on the highways and the back roads around Clifton Park, NY.

The net result of this, of course, is that the office is CLOSED on Monday, 13 February 2017.

Stay safe!

GoalsOfGreenTech

Hail and Farewell

The franchisee who developed and named the Big Mac died on Monday night. Jim Delligatti, an early franchisee of Ray Croc’s, ran several McDonald’s in the Pittsburgh area (he ended up with nearly 50 stores). The first Big Mac sold in Mr. Delligatti’s restaurant on McKnight Road in Ross Township for $0.45 … that’s right, the first Big Macs sold for 45 cents.

Ray Croc and his business advisors must have seen the genius of that sandwich and McDonald’s ran with it. All those “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” started in Pittsburgh and went franchise-wide in 1968.

Mr. Delligatti was 98.

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Crowdfunding IP

This is a good article about the taxability of crowdfunding.

But who owns the intellectual property in a crowdfunding situation? Does the inventor or author always get to keep the rights to the Big Idea they fund?

Well, as with whether a crowdfunding campaign is taxable or not, that depends.

Intellectual property is transferred by agreement between the owner of the rights (the originator of the work or an assignee) and the assignee of the rights. If the originator of the work assigns the work to another, then that other owns those rights. If s/he does not, then that other does not own those rights.

So what makes a valid transfer of rights?

A signed writing that transfers the rights. This need not be a contract; there need be no consideration.

That writing can be a “work made for hire” agreement, in which the originator of the work agrees that s/he has been hired by another to create, and the results of the creation belong to that other.

That writing can be an assignment of rights, in which the originator of the work assigns the rights to another. This assignment can take the form of a contract (offer, acceptance, consideration), or it can be a simple assignment without the trappings of contract.

Without that signed writing, though, the IP rights remain with the current owner, who may be the originator or an assignee.

If the crowd were to get rights to the intellectual property it funds, the owner of those rights must assign those rights to the crowd. That doesn’t happen very often; in fact, I know of no instance in which the crowdfunders have shared in the IP rights their funds help to develop. The crowd must generally settle for something else. Stock, for instance. Or a sample of the product. Or even just a T-shirt. But IP rights? Possible, but not likely.

Crowdfunding and venture capital are entirely different in this regard. Venture capitalists regularly take ownership interest in the company, including the IP rights, in exchange for funding.

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USPTO Patent Examination and Procedure Training Coming Up

From the US Patent and Trademark Office:

The USPTO will host a three day training course on examination practice and procedure for members of the public as part of the Stakeholder Training on Examination Practice and Procedure (STEPP) program. The training will be held November 15 – 17 on the USPTO’s Alexandria, Virginia campus.  

This training is intended for those who have recently passed the Patent Bar for the purpose of practicing before the USPTO. The training will make use of statutes, rules, and guidelines relevant to practicing before the USPTO. The course is led by USPTO trainers and is based on material developed for training patent examiners and other employees. More information and a proposed upcoming course schedule is available on the USPTO STEPP program web page

 STEPP falls under the Excellence in Customer Service pillar of the USPTO Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI), which ensures that the agency continues to issue high-quality patents well into the future. EPQI is a set of initiatives with goals toward strengthening work products, processes, services, and how the USPTO measures patent quality at all stages of the patent process.
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New Visitors at My Office

Pokémon Go came out a couple of weeks ago. The Pokémon are showing up at my office in droves. Apparently they want my help with the legal issues they encounter with battling other Pokémon. They need to set up franchises and businesses, they need to protect their battle rankings, and they certainly need to protect their good names in business.

JynxOnMyComputerOne of my earliest visitors was a Jynx; she arrived and sat on my computer a couple of days ago. She wanted an LLC set up. I of course told her I’d be happy to do that for her.

ParasIsHappyParas came by later and wanted a patent application filed. We got that done for it post haste. Paras is delighted.

 

GoalsOfGreenTech

What Is the DOJ Thinking?????!

The Department of Justice has basically denied songwriters a living wage from their hard work. 

Yuck. There is some light at the end of this tunnel, I don’t see a lot of it.

This is administrative law. Admin rulings like this can be appealed at the District Court level, but not for content per se; only for abuse of power. Since there is 60-year-old precedent in place, and since federal courts are all about precedent, it will (not “would”; “will”) take a really good litigator to convince the judge to rule against the DOJ (that’s not me; I’m a transactionalist). Once it’s in the court system, it can proceed through the appeals process like any other case.

Even though I am not a litigator, it’s always fun to do some backseat driving in cases like this. I’d do a bit of forum shopping before I would take this to the District Court. Whoever brings the admin appeal to the District Court should be sure to bring it in either the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (that court is king of copyright and performing arts) or in the US District Court that covers L.A. and Hollywood (that court is the other king of performing arts). That shouldn’t be a tough one; songwriters live in droves in those places. The lawyer would just need a local client to bring this to the attention of one (or both) of those two courts. If it gets brought in both places (two different plaintiffs), hope to God the rulings disagree with each other. That makes the appeal easier to get through the chinks, especially if they appeal to the 2nd and 9th Circuits and those rulings disagree. That could turn it into a SCOTUS case … if SCOTUS grants certiorari. That’s a big “if.”

 

GoalsOfGreenTech

Cuozzo v. Lee, 579 US ____ (2016)

I was present in the Courtroom for the announcement of the Cuozzo decision by SCOTUS. This decision makes it clear that inter partes review by the USPTO is not appealable, and that the USPTO can institute such review sua sponte (by its own initiative). It’s an interesting decision.

35 USC §314(d) says that the “determination by the [Patent Office] whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” (Emphasis added.)

35 USC §312 says that petitions must be pleaded “with particularity.” Those words, in its view, mean that the petition should have specifically said that claims 10 and 14 are also obvious in light of this same prior art. Garmin’s petition, the Government replies, need not have mentioned claims 10 and 14 separately, for claims 10, 14, and 17 are all logically linked; the claims “rise and fall together,” and a petition need not simply repeat the same argument expressly when it is so obviously implied.

The “No Appeal” provision’s language must, at the least, forbid an appeal that attacks a “determination . . . whether to institute” review by raising this kind of legal question and little more. §314(d).

Moreover, a contrary holding would undercut the Patent Office’s significant power to revisit and revise earlier patent grants. Congress would not likely have granted the Patent Office this reexam authority if it had thought that the agency’s final decision could be unwound under some minor statutory technicality related to its preliminary decision to institute inter partes review. Congress has told the Patent Office to determine whether inter partes review should proceed, and it has made the agency’s decision “final” and “nonappealable.” §314(d). SCOTUS’s conclusion that courts may not revisit this initial determination gives effect to this statutory command.

However, the Court limits its green-lighting of the USPTO’s unappealable reviews: “… we need not, and do not, decide the precise effect of §314(d) on appeals that implicate constitutional questions, that depend on other less closely related statutes, or that present other questions of interpretation that reach, in terms of scope and impact, well beyond “this section.”” The Court does not “…categorically preclude review of a final decision where a petition fails to give “sufficient notice” such that there is a due process problem with the entire proceeding, [or] enable the agency to act outside its statutory limits by, for example, canceling a patent claim for “indefiniteness under §112” in inter partes review.”