The USPTO's "staggering
On the eve of the White House announcing three new
executive actions to strengthen the patent system,
the USPTO was embarrassed by news breaking that it had granted a
patent to a disgraced scientist.
A decade ago Hwang Woo-suk claimed to have created the
world's first cloned human embryos. The work was found to be
fraudulent and the researcher was fired from his university and
convicted of embezzling research funds and buying human
USPTO this week issued Hwang a patent covering some of the
disputed work. The patent covers a human embryonic cell lined
derived through cloning and methods for creating that line.
This left some scientists shocked and one observer embarrassed on
the USPTO's behalf and labelling
the news "nothing short of staggering incompetence".
USPTO pointed to the
system operating on an honour code and that patent examiners
cannot independently verify claims. The patent is "definitely
not an assertion by the US government that everything he is
claiming is accurate," the New York Times quoted USPTO
spokesman Patrick Ross saying of Hwang.
Hwang is attempting a comeback through the Sooam Biotech
Research Foundation, which he heads.
NSA finally takes a
The National Security Agency listens to a lot, but
it does not always like what it hears. The NSA and Department
of Homeland Security have settled with
online retailer Zazzle.
Dan McCall had been making and selling t-shirts through
Zazzle parodying the NSA, including one with the tagline "the
only part of the government that actually listens". McCall was
forced to take certain t-shirts and mugs off Zazzle after the
NSA and DHS sent cease and desist letters to Zazzle threatening
litigation and prosecution unless the offending items were
McCall started selling NSA parody t-shirts through
CafePress instead, and filed a lawsuit last October
claiming his t-shirts were parodies and therefore protected
under the First Amendment.
The NSA and DHS have come round to his thinking. They have
agreed to send letters to Zazzle saying the statutes they cited
do not prevent the use of agency seals to identify the subjects
of commentary such as parody and that they were wrong to demand
the designs be taken off the market.
bad enough that these agencies have us under constant
surveillance; forbidding citizens from criticizing them is
beyond the pale," technology website Ars Technica quoted Public
Citizen's Paul Levy, who filed the suit on McCall's
behalf, as saying.
Nicki Minaj sued for hair-raising amount
Songwriter Nicki Minaj is being sued for
$30 million of losses by one of her former wig
designers. Terence Davidson is accusing Minaj, whose real name
is Onika Maraj, and Pink Personality of misappropriating his
wig designs, breaking implied contracts and going back on
discussions to launch a reality TV show and wig line. The
lawsuit was filed in a district court in Atlanta.
lied, cheated, she stole from him," the New York Times
quoted Christopher Chestnut, who is representing
Davidson, as saying. "That's a misappropriation of his
started work as Minaj's hair stylist in 2010. He claims he was
urged by a Minaj representative to turn down a contract for a
reality TV show.
Minaj may not be too worried. Howard Hogan, IP partner at Gibson Dunn,
said Davidson has asserted a "grab bag of tort and quasi
contract claims" but noted the law often does not protect
'Mr Davidson's complaint
implicitly acknowledges that it would be very difficult for him
to advance traditional intellectual property claims based on
his wig designs, because he has not asserted any copyright
claims and to the extent his wigs function as trademarks, most
consumers are likely to associate them with Nicki Minaj
anyway," said Hogan.
win first victory over Aereo
won their first court victory over internet TV service Aereo
after a district court judge in Utah ruled that the service
must shut down in some US states. Siding with broadcasters
including Twenty-First Century Fox, Judge Dale Kimball
found the service violates copyright law because it allows
users to stream terrestrial TV signals online and does not pay
royalty fees to broadcasters.
He granted a
temporary injunction preventing Aereo from providing the
service to users in Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico,
Oklahoma, Wyoming and some parts of Montana and Idaho.
Last year, a
New York appeals court ruled in favor of Aereo and refused to
grant an injunction against the start-up. Broadcasters
appealed, and the ultimate fate of the service will be decided
at the Supreme Court on April 22. A decision is expected by the
end of June.
injunction from the Utah court will stay in place while the
Supreme Court case is decided, but other aspects of the case
will be put on hold until the higher court issues a
service, which it provides to users for a monthly fee, was
designed to circumvent copyright law. It works by assigning a
remote antenna to each subscriber. The subscriber can tune in
to publicly accessible broadcast television signals online and
make a personal recording using a remote digital video
recorder. The subscriber can then play the recording back to
watch the program.
ruling, Judge Kimball said that despite Aereo's efforts to
design a service that falls outside of the scope of the 1976
Copyright Act, it transmits the broadcasters' copyrighted
programs to the public.
"The public has
an interest in continuing to receive unique, local programming
provided by the plaintiffs," he said.
programming, covering local news, sports, and other areas of
interest, costs millions of dollars to produce and deliver to
the public and the public interest plainly lies in enjoining
copyright infringement that threatens the continued viability
of such local programming."
Chet Kanojia said in a
statement to TechCrunch: "We are extremely
disappointed that the District Court in Utah has chosen to take
a different path than every other Court that has reviewed the
"Consumers have a
fundamental right to watch over the air broadcast television
via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use. The
Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right
simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located
Fox told Variety in
statement: "We are very pleased that
the US District Court in Utah has granted our request for a
preliminary injunction. This injunction will prohibit Aereo
from stealing our broadcast signal in Utah, New Mexico,
Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana."
Utah case is Community
Television of Utah et al v Aereo. Andrew Baum of
Foley & Lardner provided
analysis of the Supreme Court case in January for Managing
IP's IP clinic.
To kill a
trade mark dispute
Author Harper Lee has settled
with a museum in her Alabama hometown that was using
her name and that of her most famous book, To Kill A
Mockingbird. Lee reached an undisclosed agreement with The
Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, which is located
in the former courthouse that inspired her book.
Lee had launched legal action
claiming the museum was taking advantage of her trade marks to
sell souvenirs such as clothing. The agreement was reached soon
after a judge refused to dismiss the case. The museum's website
has also been changed from www.tokillamockingbird.com to