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This week in IP: Waco cases randomised, Montenegro joins EPC, and more

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The Western District of Texas courthouse in Austin. Credit: Patrick Wingrove

USPTO announces new inclusion initiatives; CBA sues Bilibili for $60m; Japan and Germany dominate future innovators list; Sony flags own website; Interpol nets $11m of fake drugs; Apple avoids earphone infringement trial

EPO must seize chance for EQE reform

The new EQE is part of an EPO-wide drive to move as much of the European patent system online as possible.

That shift raises some big questions about the future of the exams, however, including whether it will help or hinder efforts to make the system more inclusive.

Click hereto read the full article.

Other Managing IP stories published this week include:

Disclosure disaster reminds counsel to explain case needs

Breaking: UK Supreme Court to hear Sky v SkyKick

How brands can manage metaverse IP risks

EUIPO metaverse rules could cut costs and deliver advantage

Breaking: USPTO to revisit 101 guidance

Exclusive: Netherlands drops UPC bid, leaving path open for Italy

Licensees should unite to conquer EU SEP policy

Philips edict ‘cop-out’ opens door for SEP blocks at ITC

Four patent trends shaping the US automotive sector

Waco patent cases to be randomly assigned

The chief judge at the District Court for the Western District of Texas announced on Monday, July 25 that all patent cases filed in his court’s Waco division would be randomly assigned between 12 judges in west Texas.

This move from Orlando Garcia ended patent plaintiffs’ ability to select their judge by filing in the Waco division. Alan Albright, a former patent litigator, was the only judge in Waco.

The change should significantly reduce the number of cases assigned to Albright.

Albright was given 25% of all patent litigation cases in the US last year, but that concentration of disputes in his court was controversial.

In November 2021, senators Patrick Leahy and Thom Tillis – the respective chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee for Intellectual Property – wrote a letter to Supreme Court justice John Roberts expressing concerns about the rise of patent cases in Waco.

They asked Roberts to direct a judicial conference to study abuses of forum shopping in patent cases. Roberts ordered the conference in December 2021.

Albright declined to comment on the announcement.

USPTO announces new inclusion initiatives

USPTO director Kathi Vidal announced several initiatives to promote inclusion in innovation that she and secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo developed together on Wednesday, July 27.

Vidal stated that the office would introduce an innovation internship programme, noting that the USPTO was expanding its paid internships to provide hands-on job training to community college and university students. She said interested students should apply by August 16.

The USPTO also announced it would provide expedited examination and early indication of patentability for first-time micro entity filers. Vidal said there would be a federal register notice on this programme soon and that it would likely launch in early fall.

The office said it would expand access to pro bono legal services, adding that four new law schools – George Mason University, Case Western University, Wake Forest University and Brigham Young University – would participate in patent or trademark law school clinic programmes.

Vidal added that the USPTO would conduct a community outreach campaign. She stated that the office would pilot a volunteer programme later this year in which its workforce would educate local communities on the importance of intellectual property.

Chinese Basketball Association sues Bilibili for $60m

The Chinese Basketball Association has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against video-streaming platform Bilibili, claiming RMB 406 million, or $60m, in damages, it emerged this week.

The compensation demanded by the CBA was the largest ever in a sports event-related copyright infringement claim before a Chinese court.

Officially, the CBA authorised three media platforms run by Migu, Tencent and Youku to stream the professional basketball league’s 2019 to 2020 season games.

Bilibili sponsored the Shanghai Sharks team between 2017 and 2019 and had a video licensing deal with the CBA for the 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019 seasons. But its agreement with the CBA ended after the two seasons.

Despite the deal's expiry, Bilibili continued to provide users with on-demand videos of the association’s 2019 to 2020 season games, according to the basketball league’s filing with the Beijing court.

The court’s records also revealed that the CBA discovered 281 full game videos and 416 highlight clips from that season on the Bilibili platform.

The video-sharing website set up tabs, channels and rankings on its website for the basketball league’s sports events, which amounted to the direct and deliberate infringement of its rights, claimed the CBA.

It also accused Bilibili of unfair competition on the basis that the video sharing website gained a competitive advantage in the market by illegally streaming the games.

Japan and Germany dominate future innovators list

Companies from Japan and Germany are among the most likely to become top innovators in the future, according to a report released yesterday, July 28.

The Innovators to Watch 2022 report, published by intellectual property analytics company Clarivate, identified 38 companies and institutions that were likely to become some of the world’s most innovative.

Within the list were seven German companies and 12 Japanese firms.

The list included established brand names, including car brands BMW and Mazda, as well as energy and software companies such as Japan-based energy brand Fujikoki.

The automotive industry was particularly well represented, with Japan-based Subaru included as well as German component suppliers Knorr-Bremse and Eberspächer.

Taiwan-based electronics and semiconductor firms were also featured, including Winbond, VIA Technologies, UMC and SiliconMotion.

Sony flags its own website for copyright violations

Google removed two URLs from Sony Pictures’ Sony Liv platform in India after the entertainment company itself sent a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it emerged this week.

The notice, sent through anti-piracy agency MarkScan on July 9, flagged 34 URLs for various copyrighted movies and TV shows on SonyLiv.com as infringing.

While it isn’t clear why Sony targeted its own division for copyright violation, it had made a similar takedown request for content hosted on SonyLiv.com in 2017.

This time, Google spotted the error and rejected most takedown requests except for two.

Many other rights owners, including Cricket Australia, Deutsche Fussball Liga, and Multi Screen Media, have previously alleged that SonyLiv.com hosted pirated content.

Montenegro seals EPC membership from Oct 1

Montenegro will join the European Patent Organisation at the start of October, the EPO announced Wednesday, July 27.

The move completes a journey that began in 2007 when Montenegro applied for observer status at the Administrative Council, one of the two constituent parts of the organisation alongside the EPO.

The council invited Montenegro to accede to the EPC – the treaty which governs the European Patent Organisation and the EPO – in 2018.

Legislators in the Balkan state began drawing up new laws to meet the organisation’s membership requirements the following year.

Montenegro’s parliament then gave the final seal of approval to EPC membership in December 2021.

The government deposited its instrument of ratification on July 15, clearing the way for Montenegro to join the group on October 1.

Montenegro will join at a moment of flux for both the EPO and the European patent system at large.

The Unified Patent Court, of which Montenegro is not a member, is expected to open early next year.

And the EPO is shifting much of its procedures, including oral hearings and its qualifying exams, online.

Montenegro will become the 39th member of the European Patent Organisation, which was founded in 1977 by just seven states.

Apple avoids earphone infringement trial

Apple has avoided a patent trial over its AirPods after it settled with headphone maker Koss earlier this week.

Judge Alan Albright at the US District Court for the Western District of Texas signed off on the parties’ deal on Saturday, July 23.

Jury selection in the trial had been scheduled to start early next week.

In a joint stipulation filed with the court, both parties said they had resolved all matters in controversy between them. The exact terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

Koss sued Apple in 2020 and alleged that the California company’s wireless earbuds violated five Koss patents for its Striva headphones.

Koss claimed it was the pioneer of the technology for modern wireless headphones, including voice recognition, headphone-touch controls, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Apple was represented by Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum and Scott Douglass & McConnico while Koss was represented by K&L Gates and Pakis, Giotes, Page & Burleson.

Interpol nets $11m of fake drugs in latest global op

Interpol seized more than $11 million worth of illicit and counterfeit medicines in its latest operation, the agency announced July 20.

During the week of June 23 to 30, Interpol made more than 7,800 seizures of counterfeit drugs and healthcare products, adding up to more than 3 million individual units.

The global operation, named Operation Pangea XV, included major seizures in the US, Malaysia, Argentina, and Australia, which targeted products including counterfeit erectile dysfunction treatments and COVID test kits.

US seizures alone were worth $3 million. Malayasian police identified more than 2,000 websites advertising or selling counterfeit medicines.

“Selling counterfeit or illicit medicines online may seem like a low-level offence, but the consequences for victims are potentially life-threatening,” said Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock.

“The illicit supply chains and business models behind the counterfeit medicine trade are inherently international, meaning that law enforcement has to work together across borders in order to effectively protect consumers,” Stock added.

In March 2020, the OECD estimated the value of the global illicit trade in medicines and healthcare products at $4.4 billion.

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