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Megaupload, UAE rebate, seed controversy, trade mark liability and Sherlock Holmes

James Nurton

In today’s IP news roundup: what impact did the Megaupload shutdown have on movie piracy?, an incentive for patenting in the UAE, antitrust accusations against seed companies, Professor Joachim Bornkamm on trade mark liability and a Sherlock Holmes copyright dispute

Movies benefit from Megaupload going dark

Did shutting down Megaupload increase movie sales? A new US paper suggests so. The study, conducted by Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, analyses sales for two movie studios across 12 countries for the 18 weeks following the January 2012 shutdown. It estimates that revenues from digital sales and rentals for the two studios were 6% to 10% higher than they would have been if Megaupload hadn’t been closed down.

UAE ministerUAE gives patent filers 90% rebate

The United Arab Emirates has extended a scheme that subsidises patent applications, reports Zawya. The scale is small: since the scheme started in 2010 it has helped with 33 applications to the USPTO, two of which have been granted. But it also exhibits the generosity typical of many UAE projects: individuals are given 90% of the application fee and help with legal costs; companies get 50%. With total UAE filing numbers almost tripling in the past three years, and the scheme also now extended to PCT filings, it’s good news for local filers and their law firms. (Pictured: Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, who announced the extension yesterday.)

Seeds of doubt

Six big seed companies (Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont) have been accused in a report by ETC Group of forming an “anticompetitive oligopoly”. The report also attacks initiatives such as offering cheap, post-patent GE seeds. On IP Watch, Catherine Saez discusses the report in some detail, noting that key patents begin to expire in 2015. Citing concerns for developing countries, ETC wants the UN to take action. I suspect the seed companies won’t agree.

Liability and lorry drivers

Prof JOachim BornkammAn innovation at last week’s MARQUES Team Meetings in Barcelona was the Kay Uwe Jonas memorial lecture, in memory of the distinguished German trade mark lawyer who died a year ago. It was given by Professor Joachim Bornkamm on the topic of intermediary (rather than accessory) liability for trade mark infringement in the EU (or, put another way, can you sue the lorry driver?). Bornkkamm argued that the concept of Störer developed in German law is essentially in line with the notion of an intermediary set out in European law. But he admitted “a little concern” about three pending CJEU cases, all referred from Germany (Hi Hotel, Parfumflakon II and Melzer), all of which address jurisdictional questions. It sounds like these three cases have the potential to cloud, rather than clarify the issue. Unfortunately, that might mean further references are needed.

Not elementary

Even the master detective himself would struggle to solve this one: according to the 1709 Copyright Blog, a Los Angeles attorney called Leslie Klinger is suing the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over copyright in Sherlock Holmes. Blogger Miri Frankel explains that out of four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes, all but 10 stories have entered the public domain. The question for the court is: does the copyright in these 10 stories (which lasts until 2023) only protect new elements in them, or (as the Conan Doyle Estate claims) does it also prevent the use of all elements of the Holmes canon? In a further plot twist, the Estate also owns trade mark rights derived from the copyright in the Sherlock Holmes name and silhouette image, raising questions about perpetual protection. The case could have implications for any copyright work in the form of a series. Definitely a two-pipe problem.


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