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Utynam’s Heirs

Our monthly column devoted to IP curiosities and controversies includes Judge Gilstrap's Google grumble, Delaware's judge gap closing and Clint Eastwood's involvement in an unusual patent case

Gilstrap’s Google grumble

Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the Eastern District of Texas in July slammed Google for bringing a motion to establish procedure for resolving remaining claim construction disputes in a case brought by Seven Networks.

"Unlike promises and pie crust, the Rules and Procedures of this Court are not meant to be broken, nor is their breaking to be ignored … Each Rule and Order has as its object proper and orderly litigation," wrote Gilstrap in an order. "Unfortunately, in this case, this goal is well on its way to becoming so much broken pie crust. A glaring example is now before the Court... This Motion demonstrates a serious disregard for this Court's Rules, Orders, and its authority to control its own docket."

Gilstrap also denied Google's motion to move the lawsuit to the Northern District of California. Despite the Supreme Court's TC Heartland ruling, Gilstrap held that Google's servers housed by third-party internet service providers meant the case could stay in the district.

Delaware judges gap closes

Colm Connolly and Maryellen Noreika have been confirmed as new judges for the District of Delaware. The appointments provide relief for a Court that has been short of judges and contending with a rise in filings since May 2017's TC Heartland decision.

Connolly was previously a US attorney and partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, while Noreika worked at Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell as a trial lawyer and patents specialist. The addition of the two judges will return the district to full strength after Judge Sue Robinson retired in 2017 and Judge Gregory Sleet took senior status. The district has been relying on visiting judges.

The confirmations were a surprise for many in the legal world who thought that the shortage would continue for longer because the Trump administration has focused more on appellate court judges.

Is piracy falling in Europe?

Utynam of course respects IP rights too much to go sneaking around on the internet downloading unpaid-for content. But he was somewhat surprised to see others appear to increasingly be coming around to this viewpoint as well, even "the kids".

First, in July research from the UK IPO suggested that piracy has become less prevalent among some groups – particularly young consumers. The report indicates that there has been a drop in infringement among 12- to 15-year-olds from 25% to 22% of all content between 2017 and 2018. The report also noted a drop from 27% to 25% among 16- to 24-year-olds in the same time.

This was followed by another study that suggested the percentage of internet users in Europe that occasionally download or stream illegal content decreased between 2014 and 2017. The Global Online Piracy Study conducted by the Institute for Information Law and Ecorys reveals the number of pirates decreased in all European countries except Germany, with the reductions coming in music, films/series and books.

The patent enforcer

Hollywood star Clint Eastwood has taken on an unfamiliar role: patent avenger.

Eastwood is a substantial shareholder in Antioxidant Pharmaceuticals, set up by medical researcher Dr Harry Demopoulos, who is credited with inventing the field of free radical pathology. Demopoulos died last year. Eastwood is now suing Molecular Defenses Corporation seeking redress for "swindling through outright usurpation, covert intellectual property transfers and corporate shell games".

Eastwood says that Antioxidant Pharmaceuticals was restructuring when Demopoulis died and the defendants took the opportunity to seize Demopoulis's business, including six US glutathione patents.

The complaint says: "Since Dr Demopoulos' stroke, the Eastwood Trust has undertaken herculean efforts to obtain information from Defendants concerning the business operations, shareholders and intellectual property of Dr Demopoulos' companies, including with respect to the Defendant-entities. But Defendants refuse to provide even the bare-minimum; instead, they spent the last two years employing a strategy of inordinate delay with kind words, empty promises and the trickling of incomplete, contradictory and the vaguest of information. All the while, during which time they solicited additional investments from the Eastwood Trust, Defendants have been working to develop and profit from all of the glutathione patents that rightfully belong to the shareholders of APC, including the Eastwood Trust."

Eastwood is seeking declarations over inventorship and a trust over patents. At the time of going to press, Utynam had heard no word about whether Molecular Defenses was feeling lucky.

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