This week in IP: Courts shut amid protests, AI inventorship push, Tiger King’s cage rattled
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This week in IP: Courts shut amid protests, AI inventorship push, Tiger King’s cage rattled


Managing IP rounds up the latest patent, trademark and copyright news, including some stories you might have missed

Open and shut courtrooms

Several courts across the US shut their doors this week, including the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the District Court for the Northern District of California, amid mostly peaceful protests across the country over the death of African American man George Floyd.

The Federal Circuit closed its offices on Monday and Tuesday on advice from law enforcement officers who were monitoring protests in Washington DC, and announced that the clerk's office would be temporarily inaccessible for paper submissions and deliveries.

A source at the court tells Managing IP that even though arguments were to be heard remotely this week because of the COVID-19 lockdown, such hearings would have been challenging because of the court’s proximity to the White House.

The Northern District of California also closed its doors on Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution”. The court had been closed since March because of the lockdown and, like many other district courts such as the Eastern District of Texas, opened its doors to the public again on June 1.

The District of New Jersey, which has also been closed since March, decided to postpone its reopening for a week in light of the public protests. The clerk’s office sent out a notice on June 1 saying it wanted to ensure the utmost safety of the public and members of the court.

Demonstrations have taken place in different cities across the US and the world, with some of the biggest happening in New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC, since Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 while being detained by police.

AI inventorship: WIPO publishes policy, Dabus calls for clarity

This was a big week for artificial intelligence inventorship. WIPO published a revised issue paper on AI and IP policy and the DABUS team pushing for AI inventor recognition appealed an adverse EPO decision.

WIPO’s revised paper updated the draft issues paper published in December 2019 with the addition of a glossary and sections on trademarks and trade secrets, and an expansion of the sections covering patents, copyright, infringement and deep fakes.

The revised issues paper, published on May 29, states under Issue 2 that “the role of AI in the invention process is increasing”, and sets out eight questions related to AI-generated inventions, including whether the law should permit an AI application to be named as an inventor.

The paper also provides more information on patentable subject matter and patentability guidelines under Issue 3, and inventive step or non-obviousness under Issue 4.

The EPO appeal containing the statement of grounds for appeal and accompanying annexes was published on May 25 and filed by law firm Williams Powell on behalf of the patent applicant Stephen Thaler, the inventor of DABUS (device for the autonomous bootstrapping of unified sentience).

This appeal comes after the patent office rejected the initial application where DABUS was named as the inventor on the grounds that an inventor must be a “natural person”, as set out by the European Patent Convention.

The USPTO rejected a parallel application from the DABUS team in April, similarly arguing that Title 35 of the US Code consistently refers to inventors as natural persons.

The EPO has yet to officially respond to the appeal.

Tiger King Joe Exotic loses zoo in trademark case

A zoo once owned by Joe Exotic, the star of Netflix documentary Tiger King, will be given to his nemesis Carole Baskin as part of a $1 million trademark and copyright dispute.

Baskin, a big-cat rights activist in the US, was given the seven-figure award in a 2011 trademark infringement lawsuit against Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage. The suit involved Exotic’s use of logos and images that were similar to those created and owned by Baskin’s animal sanctuary in Florida.

Exotictold The Oklahoman at the time that the federal judge didn't give his legal team enough time to proceed to trial, so the case was essentially settled. He also said that he didn’t “plan to pay a dime” to Baskin and that the entity that leased his land would soon file for bankruptcy.

Baskin claimed in a second suit filed in 2016 that Exotic had subsequently transferred his Oklahoma-based property to his mother in an effort to evade creditors. On Monday, Judge Scott Palk at the District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ordered that the property be turned over to Baskin.

Exotic is serving a 22-year prison sentence for his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin and other crimes that include animal abuse.

Nokia IP chief jumps to InterDigital

Nokia IP head Eeva Hakoranta has taken a new job as chief licensing officer with InterDigital, it was announced on Wednesday.

Hakoranta, who has worked for the Finnish telecoms company for more than 13 years, will take up her new position on July 1. She will replace Timothy Berghuis, who is retiring and has been InterDigital’s chief licensing officer since January 2018.

“InterDigital’s ability to attract someone with Eeva Hakoranta’s capabilities and track record to lead such a crucial function as licensing speaks to the strength of our technology and our position in the industry,” said William Merritt, president and CEO at InterDigital.

“I am thrilled that she has chosen to join us, and very much look forward to working with her as we execute on our mobile licensing programme, continue to build our new CE licensing programme, and explore further opportunities leveraging the tremendous research conducted at the company.”

Until 2012, Hakoranta was the director of Nokia's IPR legal team, which she had established upon joining the company in 2006. Before arriving at Nokia, she worked as a specialist counsel for law firm Roschier in Helsinki.

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