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Cell phones, arbitration, patent damages, German cake and Medellín

James Nurton

Today’s blog covers White House views on cell phone unlocking, arbitration in China, the biggest damages awards in the US, trade marks in Europe and what makes an innovation city

President: unlock those cellphones!

Has the US government done an about-face on the question of whether cell phone unlocking violates copyright? The White House has issued a statement agreeing that unlocking cell phones should be legal, in response to an internet petition which collected over 114,000 signatures. Techdirt recalls that the legality of the practice was threatened when the Librarian of Congress – who technically works for the President – removed the DMCA exemption for cell phone unlocking.

The arbitration alternative

CIETAC logoThere’s lots of coverage of IP litigation in China around at the moment (see, for example, China’s patent boom brings legal wrangles in Nature), which is appropriate given the data – nearly 8,000 patent cases filed in 2011, twice as many as in the US. But there’s less analysis of arbitration, despite the various options available to parties in Asia. In Managing IP’s March issue, we invited practitioners to discuss the merits of China, Hong Kong and Singapore as arbitration venues. It won’t surprise you to know that arbitration at institutions such as the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission is becoming more popular, though there is a cloud looming in the shape of tensions between Beijing and Shanghai/Shenzhen. Given that uncertainty, and also factoring in local expertise, language and legal tradition, Hong Kong may be a safer bet for the risk-averse.

IP dominates US damages awards

With all the fuss over Apple’s damages award in its California case with Samsung, the National Law Journal points out that even before it was reduced, that was only the second largest US award of 2012. The biggest was Carnegie Mellon University’s award of $1.17 billion in its patent case against Marvell Technology, while number 3 was the win by Monsanto in St Louis against DuPont, also just over $1 billion. For the past three years the Journal’s list of 100 biggest verdicts has included one IP award of over $1 billion, but this year IP accounted for the top three and the largest number of cases overall. Second, on a quarter of IP’s total, was fraud.

Barcelona treats

Salzwedeler BaumkuchenI’m off to Barcelona for the MARQUES Team meetings later this week and look forward to catching up on the latest news and views on trade marks in Europe. There’s certainly plenty to discuss, with the recent Onel and IP Translator decisions, and the widely circulated drafts of the Commission’s reform plans (covered in this month’s Managing IP cover story). Some other topical issues are discussed in the latest issue of the monthly online publication HouseMARQUES (which, as a member of the Communication and Membership Team I am partly responsible for). Two pieces I would particularly recommend: an article by Shelagh Carnegie of Gowlings (brands and marketing team) on evidence collection and trade mark proceedings; and a mouth-watering profile by Ortrun Günzel of Taylor Wessing (GI team) on the savoury cake and geographical indication Salzwedeler Baumkuchen (right). I hope she brings some to Barcelona.

Way to innovate, Medellín

Medellin awardIP Tango reports that Medellín, Colombia has been chosen as the most innovative city of the year for accomplishments ranging from an 80% drop in homicide rate between 1991 and 2010 to unique transportation options and launching a science museum in 2006. The research was conducted by Citi, the marketing services department of the Wall Street Journal Magazine and the Urban Land Institute. Runners up included New York and Tel Aviv – some tough competition. “This is good news for Medellín, but also for Colombia,” writes IP Tango’s Patricia Covarrubia. “This may attract more (foreign) investment in the form of trade and/or R&D.”


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