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Patent reform, Blurred Lines, USPTO, Newegg, trade mark filing, RPX – the week in IP



Michael Loney


The Innovation Act being put on hold, a reduction of the Blurred Lines award, the USPTO updating on its Enhance Patent Quality initiative, Newegg receiving good news, US trade mark applications increasing, public patent licensing companies having a strong quarter, and Goebbels’ estate being awarded royalties were in the IP headlines in the past week

Patent reform’s not in the House

The House of Representatives this week pulled the Innovation Act from consideration for the summer session, as reported on the Patently-O blog.

Opposition to patent reform has been increasing. This week a press conference involving Representatives John Conyers, Thomas Massie, Bill Foster and Scott Peters and Senators Chris Coons and David Vitter attracted attention.

Coons, who introduced the pro-patent bill the STRONG Patents Act in the Senate, was critical of the Innovation Act and the Senate bill the PATENT Act.

"The fact of the matter is that these two bills would be destructive to our innovation economy, and we're working hard to ensure they won't be treated lightly in either the House or the Senate," said Coons in a press release. "A strong patent system is one of the critical ways we distinguish ourselves from competing economies around the world, and we cannot afford to rush into passing a bill that would further weaken our innovation economy, which is exactly what the Innovation Act would do by making broad changes that fail to protect all patent holders."

The earliest the Innovation Act will now be considered is September.


Bit less Blurred

The long-running Blurred Lines saga, in which the heirs of Marvin Gaye were awarded damages for a Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song infringing its copyright, took another turn this week when the judge overseeing the lawsuit rejected a request for a new trial, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The judge, however, reduced the jury’s $7.4 million award to $5.3 million. This reduction included cutting the actual damages to about $3.2 million from $4 million, and reducing the profits that Williams has to pay to about $358,000 from about $1.6 million.

Thicke and Williams are expected to take the lawsuit to an appeals court.

An interesting effect of the Blurred Lines verdict was also revealed this week when singer Miguel gave Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins a writing credit for his new song "leaves" because the guitar line was reminiscent of the 1996 song "1979".

"Kind of after we finished the song, it was like, 'You know what, this is reminiscent of this song,' so we made sure that they heard it and made sure that it was all good," Miguel told the Associated Press. He said that he was keen to avoid a situation like in the Blurred Lines case.


Newegg's good news

Newegg this week received good news when Judge Rodney Gilstrap ruled that it does not infringe a TQP Development patent, reports Ars Technica. Gilstrap vacated an award of $2.3 million that TQP was awarded in 2013 for Newegg infringing its patent.

Erich Spangenberg owned TQP in 2013, when more than 100 companies were sued for infringing the patent. Ars Technica said this resulted in about $45 million in settlements. TQP filed 543 more lawsuits in April last year. Spangenberg told the website that he sold the TQP portfolio last year and does not know who owns it now.

However, Gilstrap did complain about Newegg’s petition, which he said took a "shoot first and ask questions later" approach.


Trade mark filing up 10%

New trade mark filings increased 10% in the first half of 2015, according to trade mark lawyer Erik Pelton’s blog.

There were 183,205 new applications filed in the half, up from 165,934 in the first half of 2014.


Strong quarter for RPX

The IP Close Up blog this week had a good run down of public patent licensing companies’ performance in the second quarter.

The index the blog tracks rose 2.1% overall in the quarter, a better performance than the S&P 500 index’s fall of 0.2%.

The best performers were RPX, which was up 17.4%, and Rambus, which was up 15.2%.


Some quality feedback

The USPTO revealed this week it had received more than 1,100 comments and suggestions about its Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative in response to its Federal Register notice.

"We have taken the ideas and suggestions you provided and are making improvements in all aspects of patent quality," said Valencia Martin Wallace, deputy commissioner for patent quality at the USPTO, in a blog post.

She added" "The USPTO is committed to providing the most current and robust training for our patent examiners. In view of the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Alice Corp., Myriad, and Mayo, we are now offering our examiners additional training on subject matter eligibility and claim clarity issues related to 35 USC § 101 and § 112. We are also further enhancing our training for patent examiners on search skills and the interviewing process."

The USPTO has consolidated the Office of Process Improvement, Office of Patent Quality Assurance, Office of Patent Training, and Office of Patents Ombudsman and Stakeholder Outreach into its newly created Office of Quality Management.

The USPTO will be embarking on a Patent Quality Roadshow this summer to update stakeholders about its efforts. The roadshow will visit Silicon Valley on August 24, Dallas on August 26, and Alexandria on August 28.


Goebbels’s estate awarded royalties

Publisher Random House this week was ordered by a Munich district court to pay royalties to the estate of Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, according to Newsweek. A biography written by Peter Longerich and published in 2010 used parts of Goebbels’ diary.

The case raised an interesting issue of whether the estate, which is thought to consist of the direct descendants of Goebbels’ four siblings, should be allowed to claim copyright infringement.

"We have more than a purely moral argument," Rainer Dresen, Random House Germany’s lawyer, told Newsweek. "The name of Goebbels appears on a list, written by the Allied Control Council [the authority which governed Germany in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War], of war criminals whose estate was banned from financial transactions."


Also on the blog this week:

US patent litigation back with a bang in May and June

Learn about the latest luxury goods law

In our news and analysis this week:

UK seeks comments on design marking

New version of Google Patents launched to improve patent quality

CJEU sets out FRAND rules for licensors and licensees

Assessing patent owners’ fightback against hedge fund IPRs

SIPO finalises administrative patent enforcement rules

PTAB cancelled 86% of instituted claims in June

Norton Rose hires Allen & Overy’s US IP leader

Haynes & Boone adds two Kenyon & Kenyon ANDA attorneys

US Ninth Circuit revives initial interest confusion in Amazon trade mark case

Kara Stoll confirmation brings Federal Circuit back up to full strength

Nathan Kelley named acting PTAB Chief Judge

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ICYMI: Our report on this week's #SCOTUS ruling in Star Athletica v Varsity Brands https://t.co/Rf3TWplNUrhttps://t.co/TrZ5YcvKQr

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@Oblon_IP @PatentPostGrant Congratulations Scott! #mipawards

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@KellyIPllp Well done to all at the firm!

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