Teleworking, Apple, Aereo, Canadian trade marks, patent reform latest – the week in IP
A House of Representatives hearing on the USPTO teleworking programme, Apple being ordered to pay $24 million in damages, Aereo filing for bankruptcy, concerns over changes to Canada’s trade mark law, and the latest on patent reform were among the intellectual property stories hitting the headlines this week
uspto.jpg Teleworking under the microscope
A US House of Representatives hearing probed the USPTO’s teleworking programme on Tuesday.
The Washington Post reported that Margaret Focarino, commissioner for patents at the USPTO, told lawmakers that the USPTO “takes [time and attendance abuse] very seriously” and has made changes to “strengthen the oversight and management” of the telework programme. These changes include new training for supervisors and more comuincation between managers and examiners.
In addition, supervisors can now request the computer records of USPTO employees suspected of misrepresenting time worked.
Representative Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it was “disturbing” that USPTO management “would not allow a thorough investigation” of allegations of abuse of telework programme.
Todd Zinser, inspector general of the Commerce Department, revealed his office is investigating a dozen new reports of patent examination fraud. He said, however, “based on the evidence we have seen so far, I do not think abuse has reached a systemic level.”
dollars.jpg Paging Apple: pay $24m
Apple this week was ordered to pay $23.6 million in damages after being found to infringe six patents covering technology used in the SkyTel two-way pager network run by Mobile Telecommunications Technologies.
MTel argued that Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch infringed the six patents, which were filed between 1992 and 1997. MTel was seeking $1 for every infringing device sold, equivalent to $237 million, according to The Guardian.
Last month Apple won in a different court case in California against GPNE, which had accused it of infringing its pager technology.
aereo20logo.jpg Aereo files for bankruptcy
Streaming company Aereo this week filed for bankruptcy, after the Supreme Court’s June ruling in ABC v Aereo effectively killed its business model. The Supreme Court ruled Aereo was infringing broadcasters’ copyright by selling subscribers a service to allow them to watch television programmes over the internet.
"The US Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty," Chet Kanojia, Aereo’s CEO, said in a statement. "And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."
canada20flag.jpg Canadian concerns
Critics of proposed changes to Canada’s trade mark law are worried “trade mark trolls” could apply for registration of businesses’ trade marks and then force them to pay fees to license or take over the trade mark.
The amendments to the Trademarks Act were introduced in March. Comments on the regulations are being accepted and, as The Globe and Mail reported this week, some are hoping the concerns will be mitigated.
“We are concerned from a business owner’s perspective about the potential costs that are being unloaded on to businesses,” Scott Smith, director for intellectual property and innovation policy at The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper.
Cynthia Rowden, a partner at Bereskin & Parr in Toronto, also told the newspaper: “To change the system is very substantial. And the government largely did it without consultation [before the bill was tabled]. There is a concern that if you don’t have to use a trademark, you take the brakes off the system.”
us20congress.jpg Reform on the agenda
This week Republican Senator John Cornyn, the Senate Minority Whip, vowed that lawmakers “absolutely” are going to pass a patent reform bill next year after the Republicans take control of the Senate.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the bill will likely include new additions such as a provision requiring plaintiffs who lose patent infringement lawsuits to pay defendants’ legal costs.
“We’re going to get it done,” said Senator Cornyn.
A patent reform bill failed to be passed in the Senate this year after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged Senator Patrick Leahy to pull his bill off the table.
This week Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement: “This bill is vital to start up tech companies that are playing a bigger and bigger role in our economy, so both parties need to come together and get it over the finish line this time.”
The Wall Street Journal said the starting point would be a draft worked out by Senators Cornyn and Schumer in the last term.
Also on the blog this week:
And in our news and analysis: