jump to navigation

Good News for Patent Holders 07/22/2016

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Intellectual Property, Legal Developments, New Resources.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

LMW Headshot Photo 2015 (M0846622xB1386)By: Lisa Warren

In what has been a seemingly rare occurrence in recent months, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently issued a pro-patentee decision in Immersion Corporation v. HTC Corporation and HTC America, Inc., holding that a continuing application filed on the same day as the parent application issues as a patent satisfies the requirement that the continuing application be filed before the parent is patented.  The decision noted the consistent judicial and agency interpretations of the statutory language at issue (35 U.S.C. 120) as supporting its decision, stating that, “…that history, we think, is so weighty as to be determinative.”  A cheer undoubtedly arose from patent holders, as, according to the decision, over-turning the PTO’s position allowing priority claims for such filings would have affected the priority dates of more than 10,000 patents currently in force.

MBBP’s Life Sciences Vector, Summer 2016 07/14/2016

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Client News, Life Sciences, MBBP news, New Resources.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

ext2016 LIFE SCIENCES PANEL SERIES

At the second of our Life Sciences panel Series: “Laying the Foundation for Growth: Entity & Equity”, experts discussed whether a corporation or a limited liability company is the “Right Stuff ” for building an emerging company, and how to structure and optimize the equity compensation of the team. MBBP’s John Hession moderated the panel, which included Marc Cote of Accellient and Jeff Solomon of Katz Nannis + Solomon. Stay tuned for details on Panel 3 in the fall.

Click here to learn more.

MBBP ADDS TWO ATTORNEYS

Weatherly Ralph Emans, Corporate Senior Attorney – As a member of the firm’s PIFA team in the corporate group, Weatherly focuses her practice primarily on private investment funds, including private equity funds, venture funds, hedge funds and funds of funds. Weatherly’s practice also includes venture capital transactions and providing general corporate advice to early stage companies.

Amanda R. Phillips, Litigation Associate – As a member of the firm’s litigation practice, Amanda focuses her practice on commercial civil disputes and securities litigation, and has broad experience working with clients under investigation by federal and state government agencies.

WAIT A MINUTE MR. POSTMAN…

Sooner or later many companies with a successful product or service will receive an overture from a patent holder. Some are almost friendly, proposing a potential mutually beneficial business relationship involving the patent. Others are decidedly less so, leveling claims of patent infringement and seeking immediate termination of the activity or product sales and/or significant financial compensation. This entire range of written communications is commonly referred to as “demand letters.” So – what’s the next step if your company receives a demand letter?

Read more on Page 2.

SUPREME COURT DENIES SEQUENOM’ PETITION TO CLARIFY SCOPE OF MAYO IN SEQUENOM V. ARIOSA

On June 27, 2016, the United States Supreme Court denied a Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by Sequenom, Inc. requesting the Supreme Court to clarify the scope of its Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012) decision, as applied to Sequenom’s claimed inventions. The Mayo decision, which held that a method correlating a drug dosage regimen and levels of the drug in the blood was an unpatentable law of nature, has had the profound effect of narrowing the scope of patent-eligible subject matter in the United States and has cast doubt on the validity and enforceability of previously issued United States patents.

Read more on Page 3.

CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: iSpecimen 

iSpecimen is a trusted, one-stop source of customized human biospecimen collections. Compliantly sourced from our diverse
partner network of hospitals, labs, biobanks, blood centers, and other healthcare organizations, our solid tissues, biofluids, and cells are delivered directly into the hands of biomedical researchers using our unique, turnkey technology. Scientists gain access to a ready supply of the high-quality, richly-annotated specimens they need from the patients they want. Supply partners gain an opportunity to further contribute to biomedical discovery as well as their bottom line.

Read more on Page 4.

Ad Network to pay $950,000 in civil penalties for alleged privacy misrepresentations and alleged COPPA violations 06/22/2016

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Client News, Internet and E-Commerce, New Resources.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced a settlement with InMobi, a Singapore-based mobile advertising network.  The FTC alleged that InMobi engaged in deceptive trade practices in violation of Section 5(a) of the FTC Act by misrepresenting its practices regarding online consumer tracking and collection of information from children.  The FTC also alleged that InMobi violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by failing to comply with COPPA’s notice requirements and failing to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting and using personal information (including geolocation information) from children under the age of 13.

The penalties imposed were $4 million (suspended to $950,000 based on the company’s financial condition).  This case underscores the importance of ensuring that privacy representations are accurate and complying with COPPA.  Please contact Faith Kasparian if you have questions about privacy representations and/or whether COPPA applies to your business and how to comply.

With Seagate Overturned, More Careful Analysis of Competitor Patents May Be A Good Idea 06/14/2016

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Client News, Intellectual Property, New Resources.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Sean D. Detweiler (SDD)By: Sean D. Detweiler

The U.S. Supreme Court has just issued a decision in two unrelated cases[1] that overturns the 2007 Federal Circuit ruling[2], known as “Seagate”. The Supreme Court considers Seagate to be “unduly rigid” and overly limiting as to the potential for enhanced damages in patent infringement cases.

Since 2007, under the now-overturned-Seagate-analysis, a patent infringer could more easily avoid paying treble, or otherwise enhanced damages for their infringing activity, by simply demonstrating that they had not acted in an “objectively reckless” manner regarding their infringing activities. This essentially meant that a patent infringer could escape paying higher damages as long as they could present virtually any form of explanation or reason as to why they did not consider their activity to be infringing. This could even, in some instances, include asserting a defense during the patent infringement trial that they ultimately lost, with nothing else such as a non-infringement opinion or other legal analysis.

Now in 2016, based on this overturned decision, a court can assess enhanced damages under 35 U.S.C. §284, including treble damages, for patent infringement activities at the discretion of the court. This decision eliminates the more rigid test requirements of Seagate, which means courts can now assess enhanced damages more often for less egregious infringing activities.

How does this affect you? The Supreme Court decision did not go so far as to specify whether willful infringement is required for an enhanced damages award (vs. a requirement that the infringement be “egregious”). As such, in a patent infringement case where infringement is found, the court will take into account all evidence and at its discretion decide at the end of a trial whether the patent infringer should be on the hook for enhanced damages or not. Many had interpreted the Seagate ruling of 2007 as reducing the need for non-infringement opinions to be drafted by attorneys as a protection against enhanced damages should infringement be found.

Whether or not you had that view in 2007, it is clear that now with Seagate being overruled you may want to more carefully consider whether you should obtain at least a legal memorandum or analysis, if not a full-fledged legal opinion, from your patent attorney if you are concerned about a competitor patent and whether your product may infringe. If nothing else, it appears that in light of this Supreme Court decision such documents from your attorney will now do more to protect you from enhanced damages, including treble damages, if you are found to infringe another’s patents.

For more information concerning this issue, please contact Sean D. Detweiler.

[1] Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc., U.S., No. 14-1513, 6/13/2016; Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, U.S., No. 14-1520, 6/13/2016

[2] In re Seagate Technology, LLC, 497 F. 3d 1360

June ELA Published: “Magic” Numbers 06/08/2016

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Employment, New Resources.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

ELA Advisor Banner (M0836835xB1386)MBBP’s Employment Law Group just released its June Employment Law Advisor. It is crucial for businesses to be aware of the ever-increasing array of laws that govern the workplace in order to maintain legal compliance and avoid legal exposure. For growing businesses, it is specifically important to understand how the number of employees dictates when the state and federal jurisdictions apply.

To learn more, check out our Employment Law blog.

The Contours of Copyright #3: Too Short for Copyright? 01/04/2016

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, Intellectual Property, Licensing & Strategic Alliances, New Resources, Publishing & Media.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

M0846618It is axiomatic that copyrights do not protect words or short phrases. But how short is too short for copyright? 10 words? 5 words? 3 words? Consider Henny Youngman’s classic 4-word joke, “Take my wife … please.” Is that a copyrightable jocular expression, or an uncopyrightable short phrase (or, for you copyright pros, a merged idea)? The answer is important, not only to comedians, but also to epigrammatists, songwriters, poets … and anyone who wishes to include, in a work they are creating, word sequences they’ve seen used by another.

A recent case, William L. Roberts v. Stefan Kendal Gordy (U.S D.C., S.D. Florida 2015), provides helpful guidance, though not a definitive answer.

Discussion: The plaintiffs, Roberts et al., owned the musical composition Hustlin’, whose chorus consists of the repeated refrain “everyday I’m hustling.” The defendants, Gordy et al., had a hit song, Party Rock Anthem, which included the phrase “everyday I’m shuffling.” When the defendants began marketing their “shuffling” phrase on T-shirts and other merchandise, the plaintiffs sued, arguing that their copyright in the song included a copyright in the “hustlin’” refrain, and therefore they could prevent anyone from copying that refrain, whether in a similar song or standing alone on a garment.

The defendants disagreed, and the court sided with them. Yes, said the court, the plaintiff’s song was entitled to copyright protection. However, “copyright protection does not automatically extend to every component of a copyrighted work.” Rather, because “originality” is the sine qua non of copyright, and short phrases are common and unoriginal, the copyright in a work does not extend to individual short phrases (or, of course, single words) in the work. This doesn’t mean, the court explained, that the presence of “ordinary” phrases deprives a work of copyright protection; but it also doesn’t mean that the copyright umbrella shelters every word or phrase contained in a copyrighted work.

Or, as the court puts it: “The question presented … is not whether the lyrics of Hustlin’, as arranged in their entirety, are subject to copyright protection. The question is whether the use of a three-word phrase appearing in the musical composition, divorced from the accompanying music, modified, and subsequently printed on merchandise, constitutes an infringement of the musical composition Hustlin’. The answer, quite simply, is that it does not.”

To add insult to injury, the court also notes that the terms “hustling” and “hustlin’” were used in many earlier songs, and that the plaintiffs never asserted that the phrase “everyday I’m hustlin’” originated with them – which in itself could have killed their copyright claim (to be copyrightable, a work needn’t be novel, as in the patent sense of never before appearing anywhere, but does need to be original, in the copyright sense of having composed it oneself without copying from another). Finally, says the court, there is no substantial similarity between the original musical composition, containing the (uncopyrightable) phrase “everyday I’m hustlin’,” and the defendant’s T-shirts, containing the (uncopyrightable) phrase “everyday I’m shuffling.”  In short, none of the plaintiff’s original expression was infringed by the defendant’s apparel.

An Interlude for Copyright Aficionados: There was nothing earthshaking about this decision, though it is interesting to read the court’s sampling of many short phrases that failed to win copyright protection, including: “so high” (2 words), “get it poppin’” (3 words), “fire in the hole” (4 words – uh-oh, Henny), “most personal sort of deodorant” (5 words), and “You Got the Right One, Uh-Huh” (5 words, plus an “Uh-Huh”). So, one might conclude, a half dozen words or more are probably the minimum required for copyrightability.

Perhaps the reason this court – and no court I’m aware of – has stated a bottom line number below which copyright cannot apply is that no one can be absolutely certain that a creative author couldn’t be original in even a handful of words. Let’s cheat, make up a word, and stick it in a short phrase: “She’s my joyzilla mama.” Four words – really 3 plus a mashup – which have never appeared before (a Google search more or less confirmed this).  Can I use copyright law to prevent another person from using my original phrase in a song or on a T-shirt?

My answer is a definite “maybe.” The epigrammatist Ashley Brilliant has successfully registered – and once successfully asserted – copyrights in his epigrams, many of which are quite short (such as, “When all else fails … Eat” = 5 words). Poets and songwriters often feel that their short but creative phrasings are worthy of protection. So maybe we can’t state an absolute bottom line because we can’t guaranty that a brilliant writer or composer won’t dash our assumptions.

Conclusion. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone successfully claiming copyright in any 2- or even 3-word (real words, not coined) phrase – if for no other reason than given the relatively small number of meaningful 2- and 3-word phrases, and the exhaustive output of English speakers, each of those short phrases would have already appeared so frequently that no one using such a phrase could convincingly assert it originated with them, or that they should have the right to keep anyone else from using it.

So, unlike Roger Bannister running a mile under 4 minutes, the possibility of someone writing a copyrightable phrase of under 4 words (probably 5, possibly 6) should stand the test of time.

For more information on this topic, please contact Howard Zaharoff.

Star Wars And Technology: May The Patent Office Be With You… 12/18/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Intellectual Property, Licensing & Strategic Alliances, New Resources.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Today, December 18, 2015, is the official release in the U.S. of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is the seventh installment in the film series. The original trilogy began in 1977, and 38 years later is still going strong; a highly regarded film franchise to say the least. In part, the film series owes some of its success to the technology that “surrounds and penetrates” the movies.

Since the original trilogy, inventors have focused on creating or improving upon such Star Wars technologies as human prosthetics, solar power, robotics, lasers, rocket and missile technology, force fields, clones and genetic engineering, cybernetics, forms of levitation, and holography.

If you are thinking about trying to make something from the Star Wars universe a reality, “do…or do not. There is no try.” “You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” And if you invent something, remember that it is “unwise to lower your defenses.”

Read the full article here!

M&A Video Clip – Stockholder Representative: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 12/14/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, Corporate, M&A, New Resources.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

In the twelfth video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, Attorney Joe Martinez discusses stockholder representatives and describes how one should be selected.

JRMvideo1

M&A Video Clip – Closing Conditions: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 12/08/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, Corporate, M&A, New Resources.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

In the eleventh video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, M&A attorney Joe Marrow discusses closing conditions in M&A Transactions.

JCMVideo3

M&A Video Clip – Non-Competes & Non-Solicits: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 12/02/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, Corporate, MBBP news, New Resources.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

In the tenth video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, M&A attorney Shannon Zollo explains the importance of non-competition and non-solicitation covenants when buying a business.

Untitled

MBBP’s Life Sciences Vector, Fall 2015 11/30/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Client News, Life Sciences, MBBP news, New Resources.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

extU.S. INTRODUCTION TO THE HAGUE SYSTEM

For many years, non-U.S. parties have taken advantage of the Hague System to register their design patents, an important part of strengthening and differentiating your product and brand. On May 13, 2015, the Hague Agreement Implementation of the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 (PLT) went into effect in the U.S. As a result, the U.S. became a member of the Hague System, an international system of registration for design patents (also referred to as “industrial designs” internationally). Now, U.S. applicants wishing to register a design patent in the U.S. and abroad may submit a single application and pay a single fee to register such design patent in all or some of the 63 other Contracting Parties that participate in the Hague Agreement.

Click here to learn more.

4,500 COMPANIES REELING AS EU’S HIGHEST COURT INVALIDATES SAFE HARBOR

On October 6, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) issued a binding judgment invalidating the European Commission Decision (Commission Decision 2000/520, the “Safe Harbor Decision”) that authorized the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor arrangement. For the past fifteen years, this arrangement has been relied upon by many businesses to transfer personal data from the European Union to the United States in compliance with the EU Data Protection Directive (Commission Decision 95/46, the “Directive”). As a result of the CJEU’s judgment, self-certification under the Safe Harbor framework is no longer sufficient to comply with the Directive.

Read more on Page 5.

CONTROLLING THE DEBATE: ANTICIPATORY SELF-DILIGENCE IN BIOTECH BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

By: Jonathan P. Gertler, Back Bay Life Science Advisors

Business development is the lifeblood of the biotech industry. This article focuses on internal decision making regarding portfolio prioritization, and external anticipatory diligence to maintain optimal control over negotiation dynamics (i.e. “controlling the debate”).

Read more on Page 3.

MBBP ADDS TWO ASSOCIATES

Registered Patent Attorney Erin E. Bryan handles a broad range of intellectual property issues in a number of technical areas. She currently works with a variety of clients, including universities, research organizations and start-ups in the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology areas. She is also proficient in patent prosecution and provides assistance with various phases of IP litigation and counseling.

Corporate Attorney Erik S. Thompson provides services to a range of clients, including emerging businesses and private investment funds, and advises them on mergers and acquisitions, issuances of ISOs and equity options, and regulatory compliance. He also serves as outside counsel to numerous companies, attending Board meetings and advising them on corporate actions.

MBBP ATTORNEYS PRESENT “CONSTRUCTING A SOLID PROVISIONAL PATENT”

In October, Registered Patent Attorneys Sean D. Detweiler and Dr. Stanley F. Chalvire spoke at a program hosted by TechSandBox for its Life Sciences SIG. Joining Sean and Stan were two Life Science CEOs. The panel provided attendees with guidance on how to do a provisional patent, on your own, or on a low budget.

RECENT FINANCINGS IN HEALTHCARE / LIFE SCIENCES

  • NED Biosystems closed a $1.5 million Series B Preferred financing with First Round Capital and angel investors. NED Biosystems provides a adjunct therapy of natural supplements designed to enhance chemotherapy with less toxic side effects.
  • Criscot Inc. closed an $800,000 extension of its Series A-2 Preferred Stock financing. Criscot provides a novel, proprietary applicator for delivery of drug compounds, resulting in more exact dosage without toxicity effects.
  • First Light Biosciences Inc. closed a $3.0 million Series B Preferred Stock financing. First Light Biosciences provides a patented instrument for early and swift detection of pathogens during the hospital admissions process, reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

SELVITA ESTABLISHES FIRST U.S. OPERATIONS  IN GREATER BOSTON AREA

MBBP client, Selvita, recently announced an expansion into the Boston-area biotechnology and pharmaceutical market, as they open a fully-owned US subsidiary, Selvita Inc., headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Selvita is a leading global drug discovery company and the largest drug discovery company in Central and Eastern Europe. The new office, located at 485 Massachusetts Ave., will focus largely on expanding the company’s existing clients for its drug discovery services, as well as exploring and developing partnering opportunities.

Read more.

HENKE-SASS, WOLF A SO-CALLED “HIDDEN CHAMPION”

Every day, people all over the world use products and solutions produced by Henke-Sass, Wolf – often without even realizing it, as most of our products have the brand and label of our customers and not ours. As a medium-sized international company, and a technological leader in the medical endoscopy sector, we are sometimes considered a “hidden champion” – but certainly not “hidden” from our longstanding business partners and loyal customers.

Read more.

M&A Video Clip – Post-Closing Indemnifications: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 11/23/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Corporate, M&A, New Resources.
Tags: ,
add a comment

In the ninth video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, M&A attorney Mary Beth Kerrigan describes post-closing indemnifications in M&A transactions.

M&A Clips Video #9 - Post-Closing Indemnifications in Purchase Agreements

Changes to Canadian Trademark Law 11/17/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Intellectual Property, Legal Developments, New Resources.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

On June 19, 2014, Bill C-31, Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, received Royal Assent. The Bill contains a large series of amendments to Canada’s Trade-marks Act and will allow Canada to (among other things) accede to three key international treaties: (1) the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (the Madrid Protocol); (2) the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (the Singapore Treaty); and (3) the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks (the Nice Agreement).

The new regime is expected to come into force by late 2016 or early 2017. Those already owning or considering registration of a Canadian trademark should be aware of these new changes to Canadian trademark law. Read the full article here.

For more information on trademark matters, please contact Thomas Dunn or Sean Detweiler.

M&A Video Clip – Representations & Warranties: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 11/16/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in M&A, New Resources.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

In the eighth video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, M&A attorney Mary Beth Kerrigan talks about representations and warranties in M&A transactions.

MBKvideo

 

M&A Video Clip – Earn-outs: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 11/09/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, M&A, New Resources.
Tags: ,
add a comment

In the seventh video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, M&A attorney Joe Marrow discusses earn-outs.

ma-clips-video-7-earn-outs

The Contours of Copyright #2: Can You Copyright Yoga Poses? 11/06/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Intellectual Property, Legal Developments, New Resources.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Attorney Howard ZaharoffBy Howard Zaharoff

Section 102 of the Copyright Act tells us that “choreographic works” – i.e., dances – are protected by copyright. So if you’re Alvin Ailey or Saroj Khan, the copyright police will protect you if someone copies or publicly performs your original choreography.

But what if you’re Beto Perez, who created Zumba; or Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor, actor, bodybuilder), who developed his own workout routines; or Bikram Choudhury (yoga guru and plaintiff), who in 1979 published a book describing his “Sequence,” 26 asanas and two breathing exercises performed for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 °F? Does copyright protect original workouts or yoga sequences?

Probably not. At least according to the 9th Circuit in the recent case, Bikram’s Yoga College v. Evolation Yoga.

Discussion: Bikram Choudhury, self-proclaimed “Yogi to the stars,” was important in popularizing yoga in the U.S. He claimed he developed his Sequence after many years of research and verification, and he touted its many health and fitness benefits. But when two students who attended his 3-month teacher training started their own studio, offering a “hot yoga” class very similar to his Sequence, he sued for infringement.

The district court ruled that the Sequence was a “collection of facts and ideas” not entitled to copyright protection. Choudhury appealed and the Circuit Court upheld the lower court’s finding.

The Court first reasoned that the Sequence is “an idea, process or system designed to improve health” (Choudhury himself described his Sequence as a “system” or “method” designed to “systematically work every part of the body”). Since Section 102 of the Copyright Act is clear that copyright does not protect any idea, process or system, the Court easily concluded that the Sequence was an unprotectable idea or system. Put differently: “Choudhury thus attempts to secure copyright protection for a healing art,” an obvious no-no.

Nor does the grace and beauty embodied in the Sequence matter, since many processes can be beautiful –a surgeon’s movements, a baker’s kneading – without being copyrightable. In other words, “beauty is not a basis for copyright protection.”

The Court similarly dispensed with Choudhury’s argument that, even if individual yoga poses cannot be copyrighted, the original sequence of poses he developed is copyrightable as a “compilation,” that is, a work formed by “the collection and assembling of preexisting materials.” Not so, said the Court: because Choudhury himself claimed that “the medical and functional considerations at the heart of the Sequence compel the very selection and arrangement of poses and breathing exercises,” the entire Sequence, no less than the individual poses, is itself a process and “therefore ineligible for copyright protection.”

The final – and, as discussed below, least satisfying – part of the Court’s holding is that the Sequence cannot be protected as a “choreographic work.” The Court acknowledged that this term isn’t defined in the Copyright Act (though the legislative history makes clear that the term excludes “social dance steps and simple routines”). But that doesn’t matter, says the Court: “The Sequence is not copyrightable as a choreographic work for the same reason that it is not copyrightable as a compilation: it is an idea, process, or system to which copyright protection” may not extend.

The Court also noted that daily life consists of “many routinized physical movements, from brushing one’s teeth to pushing a lawnmower,” which could be characterized as forms of dance (by whom, the Court does not say). Only the idea/expression dichotomy prevents people from obtaining “monopoly rights over these functional physical sequences.” So at least in the 9thCircuit, arrangements of physical movements with a functional purpose, such as improving one’s health or fitness, no matter how aesthetic or beautiful, are merely unprotectable ideas or processes and therefore cannot be claimed as anyone’s copyright.

An Interlude for Copyright Aficionados: The Court’s final argument – that compilations of physical movements that “serve basic functional purposes” are unprotectable ideas/processes and not protectable choreography – begs the question. It’s cheating for a court to simply declare that a sequence of physical movements that functions as a means to health and fitness is thereby an uncopyrightable process without explaining why other sequenced movements that have similar fitness benefits are copyrightable choreography (which is surely true of the athletic choreographic routines of Alvin Ailey and Pilobulus).

Is it the functional purpose (or effect) of Choudhury’s sequence of poses – i.e., that despite their grace and beauty, they are particularly conducive to fitness – which makes the Sequence an uncopyrightable process? Why? Rarely does the functionality of a work completely deprive it of copyright. Even the designers of “useful articles” can claim copyright in any “pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects.” If functionality were a copyright killer, architecture and software would have no protection.

Indeed, why not treat physical movements like architecture and software? Just as copyright law provides no protection for “individual standard features” of architectural works, or for standard routines and features of software applications, can’t we conclude that, although individual poses (or short sequences of poses) that are included in the Sequence and that are unoriginal, standard, or highly effective for fitness cannot be monopolized by copyright, the original overall selection and order of the poses can be deemed sufficiently original and aesthetic to qualify as copyrightable choreography?

In short, nothing in the Court’s opinion explains why the entire 28-step Sequence was ruled an unprotectable idea and no aspect or feature of these graceful movements could be deemed choreographic and copyrightable. This is not to say the Court is wrong. Rather, right or wrong, the Court failed to articulate any principles that distinguish movements constituting “a healing art” from movements constituting athletic dance.

Conclusion: Despite its unfortunate failure to provide a principled distinction between copyrightable choreography and uncopyrightable workouts, it remains undeniable that, in the 9th Circuit at least, there is no copyright protection for sequences of yoga poses intended to improve health and fitness, no matter how graceful or beautiful they may be.

Still, given the gaping hole left by this decision, and the popularity of fitness and yoga, it’s hard to imagine that the issue of copyrightable choreography won’t reappear soon. Or, as Arnold Schwarzenegger (as actor, not bodybuilder) might say: “I’ll be back.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Howard Zaharoff.

Massachusetts Data Protection Regulations 11/03/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Internet and E-Commerce, Legal Developments, New Resources, Privacy and Data Security.
Tags: ,
add a comment

As a reminder, Massachusetts has enacted stringent data protection regulations (the Massachusetts Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth, 201 C.M.R. 17.00 et seq. (the “data protection regulations”) and data disposal legislation (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93I) (the “disposal law”).

These laws likely apply to your business to the extent that you collect information (either from your own employees or in connection with providing goods/services) that falls within the meaning of “personal information” under the data protection regulations.  Although the definition of “personal information” under the data protection regulations is relatively narrow (a Massachusetts resident’s first name and last name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements that relate to such resident: (a) Social Security number; (b) driver’s license number or state-issued identification card number; or (c) financial account number, or credit or debit card number, with or without any required security code, access code, personal identification number or password, that would permit access to a resident’s financial account), the data protection regulations impose high minimum standards for protecting such information.  (The definition of “personal information” under the disposal law includes the same information as that in the data protection regulations’ definition, except that the disposal law’s definition also includes a Massachusetts resident’s first name and last name or first initial and last name in combination with a biometric indicator.)

Among other requirements, the data protection regulations require the adoption of a written information security program (WISP) including certain minimum administrative, technical, and physical safeguards – among which are to oversee third-party service providers and adhere to specific computer system security requirements.  The disposal law sets forth minimum standards for the proper disposal of records (including paper documents and non-paper media) containing personal information.

To assist in the compliance process with respect to the data protection regulations, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation has created a compliance checklist, as well as a guide for small businesses entitled “A Small Business Guide: Formulating A Comprehensive Written Information Security Program.”

If you would like help in preparing a WISP or addressing other compliance issues, please contact MBBP Attorney Faith Kasparian.

M&A Video Clip – Working Capital Adjustment: Common Issues in M&A Transactions 11/03/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, Corporate, M&A, New Resources.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

In the sixth video of MBBP’s M&A Clip Series, M&A attorney Scott Bleier explains why working capital is a vital piece of the M&A transaction.

M&A Clips Video #6 Common Issues in M&A Transactions- Working Capital Adjustment

The Sweetest Trademark Cases of 2015 10/30/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Attorney News, Legal Developments, New Resources.
Tags: ,
add a comment

By Callie L. Pioli

In 2015 the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) received hundreds of thousands of trademark applications. While the USPTO did not face a scary number of cases in the candy and sweets industry, the ones that did appear addressed some very creative issues. As we prepare for this year’s Halloween and brace ourselves for the accompanying sugar-highs, we took a moment to trick-or-treat for the sweetest trademark cases of the year.

In re Kabushiki Kaisha Lawson

LawsonThe Japanese mega-brand Lawson filed with the USPTO to extend trademark protection covering its Uchi Café Sweets product line, currently registered in Japan. Lawson is a well-known operator of 便利店, “convenience stores” whose product lines epitomize the trend of cute, or kawaii, designs and objects common in Japanese culture and gaining popularity in the U.S. as well. Unfortunately for Lawson, UCHI had already been registered in the U.S. by Austin, Texas’s Uchi, a Japanese restaurant. Because of the similarity of the goods at hand, the USPTO declared that there is a likelihood of confusion among consumers as to the source of the confections, and accordingly denied registration.

In re Kristin Harris

GlutenIt is estimated that 1 of every 133 Americans suffers from Celiac disease; more still suffer from gluten-intolerance or gluten allergies. A great many delicious treats contain gluten-based sweeteners, such as barley malt, to sweeten the products (pure cocoa is devastatingly bitter.) Further, the tools and machinery used to harvest and process cocoa beans are often the same tools used to harvest and process wheat and other grains, creating cross-contamination issues for those with allergies. In response, entrepreneur KristAnn’s online store caters to those who are afflicted with Celiac disease, and offers shoppers the opportunity to purchase apparel and confections under the CELIABRATE (a combination of “celiac” and “celebrate”) brand. The issue that concerned USPTO was the use requirement. As trademarks are granted based on a mark’s use in commerce, a specimen demonstrating such use has to be submitted to the USPTO office during the registration process. In the specimen demonstrating use, KristAnn combined its mark with other phrases such as “Celiabrate Life,” “Celiabrate Love” and “Celiabrate Bliss.” The Examining Attorney felt that such combinations were inconsistent with the CELIABRATE mark for which KristAnn initially sought protection. Fortunately for KristAnn, the Trademark Trials & Appeals Board (“TTAB”) disagreed with the Examining Attorney based on the mark’s use with the variety of additional terms, as well as the mark’s independent significance. With the TTAB’s reversal of the Examining Attorney’s position, the mark will move on through the registration process and KristAnn may quite soon have another reason to Celiabrate!

In re August Storck KG

Storck

Have we gone 2far in our trans4mation of letters in common words? German candy company August Storck seemed to think it could push the boundaries a little farther. August Storck, known primarily in the U.S. for their brand “Werther’s Originals,” sought protection for its latest product in the candy market: “2good”. It is 2bad however that the mark “toogood” is already registered for use by the French distribution company Triumph Snat. The TTAB issued an opinion that, while not visually identical, the two marks were phonetically identical, and as the goods sought to be protected are substantially similar (though connoisseurs of German and French chocolate may disagree), there is a high likelihood of confusion between the two marks. August Storck was just 2 L8 this time.

For the rest of our list, click hereFor more information on trademark matters, please contact the MBBP Trademark team.

The Contours of Copyright #1: Can You Copyright Fast Foods? 10/19/2015

Posted by Morse, Barnes-Brown Pendleton in Intellectual Property, Legal Developments, New Resources.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Attorney Howard ZaharoffBy Howard Zaharoff

As broad and creator-centric as copyright is, it doesn’t protect every creative output. For example, as a recent case confirmed – to no one’s surprise (probably not even the plaintiff’s) – copyright does not protect chicken sandwiches, nor even chicken sandwich recipes, nor even chicken sandwich names, no matter how original.

The conflict began after Noberto Colón Lorenzana, while employed by a Puerto Rican fried chicken chain, invented the “Pechu” chicken sandwich. Ultimately his employer greatly benefited from sales of the sandwich and various derivative items, but never compensated Mr. Colon for these remunerative products. Feeling he’d been cheated, Mr. Colón filed an amorphous set of trademark, fraud and (the district court generously found) copyright claims.

After ruling against Mr. Colón’s trademark claim – having never used the mark, he had no trademark rights to infringe – the court considered his assertion of copyrights in his sandwich. After quoting Section 102(a) of the Copyright Act, to the effect that copyright does not protect ideas or inventions, but only works of authorship, and remarking that the Register of Copyright specifically denies copyright to “mere listings of ingredients,” the court stated: “Neither plaintiff’s idea for the chicken sandwich recipe or the name ‘Pechu Sandwich’ is subject to copyright protection.”

To drive home its message, the court proceeded to note that neither the idea for the sandwich, nor its recipe, nor the concept of serving a chicken sandwich at a fast food restaurant, nor even the term “Pechu Sandwich,” were subject to protection by copyright (regarding the last, the court quotes several cases to the effect that copyright does not protect fragmentary words or short phrases).  In short, to the extent the plaintiff was raising a copyright claim – not clear from the proceedings – it was “dismissed with prejudice.”

The case was appealed to the First Circuit, which upheld the district court’s holdings. Regarding the copyright claim, the appeals court noted that neither the recipe nor the name fits any of the categories of eligible works and endorsed the district court’s finding that “a chicken sandwich is not eligible for copyright protection.”

So eat your hearts out, designers of designer-sandwiches and other food products … and be happy that, if you do, you’re not infringing anyone’s copyrights.

Stay tuned for more examples of what copyright does not – and does – protect.

For more information on this topic, please contact Howard Zaharoff.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers

%d bloggers like this: