IP News April 2016

Welcome back to IP News This Month! I’m delighted to say the CIPP’s website got a long-awaited facelift – and so has your venerable newsletter. I’ll be adding pretty features in coming months, but in the meantime here’s your reliable round-up of all things IP, culled from news reports around the world. Thanks for reading – Jeff

Top 3 Stories

Design patents will go before SCOTUS for the first time in a century as the high court granted cert in the interminable Apple-Samsung smartphone fight. The Justices will probe if design damages should apply to an infringer’s total or partial profits (via Ars Technica)

Canadian hospitals won a major victory for patients via a settlement that creates a public licensing model for gene patents. The deal, which had a legal assist from Prof Gold of the CIPP, will save millions a year in fees and make it easier to offer whole-gene testing (Globe & Mail)

Even here it’s a man’s world? A study of 200 patents related to tampons shows 75% of the inventors were men – raising questions of who is allowed to develop and fund technology (New York Times)


Netflix is succeeding in its campaign to tighten the screws against users who deploy VPNs to hop across copyright-driven geo-fences (Toronto Star)

A Toronto trade pundit says Canada, through the TPP, risks repeating a low-innovation policy by handing out IP concessions in exchange for access to commodities markets (Globe & Mail)

The former CEO of BlackBerry likewise sees Canadians as dupes when it comes to IP; he argues three decades of ramping up protections has failed to increase wealth or innovation (Financial Post)

United States

Katy Perry, Billy Joel, and the usual suspects from the entertainment industry asked the Copyright Office, which is reviewing the DMCA Act, to shrink safe harbors (Bloomberg)

The Senate, at the behest of Apple et al, unanimously passed a bill to federalize and expand trade secret enforcement (Reuters)

The Federal Circuit tossed an eyebrow-raising $85 million verdict against Google; the ruling suggests “the era of large patent troll victories may be waning” (Ars Technica)

The ITC issued a broad import ban on all hoverboards that violate Segway patents (Quartz)

SCOTUS refused to reconsider a ruling that the Batmobile is a copyrightable character, and that a car mechanic can’t recreate it without Marvel’s permission (LA Times)

Some see patent squabble between scholars at Berkeley and MIT over bio-engineering discoveries, known as “Crispr,” as fresh proof America’s IP system has run amok (Bloomberg View)

The district judge in the Apple-Samsung IP case, pointing out it has already run five years and produced 3,500 filings, said she is suspending it  until SCOTUS sorts out the design patents issues (Mercury News)

A judge refused Dupont’s request to toss an IP case on “maintenance and champerty” grounds – the ruling pleased the litigation finance firm that is bankrolling the case (WSJ)


The looming possibility of “Brexit” is the latest threat to the EU’s interminable quest to implement a unified patent system (The Guardian)

Sweden’s Supreme Court, in a nod to visual artists, ordered Wikipedia to scrub photos of public works of arts; Wikipedia said the ruling undermines people’s ability to share panoramic photos (Fortune)

Inventor James Dyson wants longer patent protection; he sees the UK’s decision to extend copyright to monstrously long terms as a useful precedent (The Times)

The EU is revving up a new plan for “neighouring rights” aka a Google tax; critics suspect the plan, which calls for copyright on hyperlinks, is a ploy by big publishers to kill off small rivals (Ars Technica)


A group of “Lost Boys” from Sudan, who told their stories in a 2014 Reese Witherspoon movie, could be joint authors of the film, according to an unusual U.S. copyright ruling (Time)

Medecins Sans Frontieres is opposing a Pfizer application to patent a popular pneumonia vaccine in India; the group says Pfizer’s current discount program is still too expensive (Reuters)

Police seized heaps of fake Disney swag from shops in Mumbai, drawing praise from a company VP (Times of India)

A New Zealand mom is upset with Chinese retailers for lifting pics of her child from her Instagram account to sell onesies; a prof thinks a copyright small claims court will somehow help (NZ Herald)

Tips or comments? Send them to jeffrobertslegal at gmail.com

This content has been updated on May 18, 2016 at 11:31.