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5-a-day: Microsoft on patents, Oscar statues and CTM reforms

James Nurton

In today’s IP round up: Microsoft’s four-point patent reform plan; copyright fines in New Zealand; battle over Oscar; MARQUES prompts debate on CTM reforms; and Thomson Reuters analyses BRICK patenting

Microsoft speaks out on patent reform

BSA panelLast week we noted the growing calls for software patent reform in the US. Now Microsoft has spelt out what it thinks needs to be done, in the form of a blog post by general counsel and executive vice president, legal & corporate affairs Brad Smith, which followed a Capitol Hill briefing (blog and video). Microsoft wants four specific reforms: transparency about who owns patents; no injunctions on standards-essential patents; loser-pays litigation; and improved patent quality, including through the use of standard terms in claims. Readers will have their own views about whether these proposals will fix problems with the patent system, or whether they only address problems perceived by Microsoft. What’s striking though is that three out of the four recommendations can be addressed largely by agreement in the software industry, rather than legislation.

What price copyright piracy?

The results are beginning to trickle in from New Zealand’s three strikes law allowing rights holders to collect fines from internet users who are found to have committed multiple acts of copyright infringement. The first fine of NZ$616 ($500) was levied against an unnamed internet user in January, and now reports that two more fines have been made public. The second was NZ$557.17 while the latest was NZ$797. According to the written decision from the NZ$577.17 fine obtained by the National Business Review, the Copyright Tribunal awarded actual damages of just NZ$7.17, or NZ$2.39 for each of the three infringing acts (interestingly, two of the acts involved uploading the same song at different times). The rest of the fine consisted of NZ$250 for the costs to bring the claim, with NZ$300 added as a deterrent. The Tribunal rejected the rights holders’ claims that it was entitled to NZ$215.10 ($180) per track on the grounds that each upload could have resulted in multiple downloads, instead opting to levy damages at the NZ$2.39 that iTunes charged for each song.

Oscar statueWhere’s Oscar?

Oscar parties last night lacked a certain something, the Los Angeles Times reports, following the settling of a copyright dispute over the famous Oscar statue. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued last year for selling eight-foot replica statues for use at such parties, and the case was settled in November. TheEventLine, in a counterclaim, said that its statues were not “strikingly … or confusingly similar” to the Oscars’ Art Deco knight, which rather begs the question, why did they think customers were renting them?

CTM discussions get going

Following our recent articles on the proposed changes to trade mark protection in Europe, trade mark association MARQUES has started a discussion on its LinkedIn site. As you would expect, there has already been a lively exchange of views, mainly on the questions: is there a problem with CTM cluttering and if so how should it be tackled? Suggestions focus on finding the right level for application and renewal fees, and requiring affidavits of use on renewal. The Commission has told us the proposals will be formally published for consultation by Easter, so this discussion is merely the aperitif.

BRICK infographicBRICKs in pictures

What does the growth of IP in the BRICK countries look like? Thanks to Thomson Reuters for showing us, in the form of an infographic illustrating the growth in research publications and patent filings in the five BRICK countries relative to the G7 (free registration required). The illustration is part of a report (Building Bricks: Exploring the Global Research Impact of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Korea) published last week. The report also suggests that the growth in patent filings overall is driven by China and South Korea, while India leads in pharmaceuticals, Russia excels in nucleonic and Brazil stars in petroleum and agricultural chemicals.

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