IP News June 2016

Welcome to the June edition of IP News This Month. Here’s your 5-minute guide to the latest goings-on in IP, culled from news reports around the world.  Thanks for reading! – Jeff

Top 3 Stories

Tay-tay vs the DMCA: Swift, other A-list musicians launch attack on YouTube, urge Congress to rewrite safe harbor laws for tougher copyright liability (Billboard)

Patent owners get 3x the fun as SCOTUS rejects objective/subjective test for treble damages, finds a “preponderance of evidence” sufficient to prove egregious infringement (Patently-O)

Celebrity samples run amok: Madonna wins trial over horn hits in “Vogue” as Justin Bieber faces new copyright ordeal over vocal sample in “Sorry” (Fortune)


A Canadian court found companies can own copyright in seismic data, which is widely used in the mining industry (National Post)

The telecom industry obtained an injunction against makers of set-top boxes that make it “extremely easy” to obtain copyrighted cable TV in addition to online content (Globe & Mail)

United States

The Kirstaeng copyright case is still chugging up and down the courts; SCOTUS, which used it to clarify first sale rules in 2014, remanded it over “reasonable attorney’s fees” (NYT)

The latest high stakes trial over samples – this time Stairway to Heaven – is underway; a songwriter’s heir says a music sequence is copyrighted, while Zep counters it’s just “basic guitar playing” (Ars Technica)

SCOTUS upheld a process at the USPTO that permits quick and broad challenges to patents (Fortune)

Yahoo is selling about 2600 search and advertising patents; the firm calls them “pioneering” and predicts they’ll fetch $1 billion at auction – but one skeptic says the Rockstar debacle and changes in patent law mean the price will likely be much less (Ars)

The lawyer running a billionaire’s secret litigation campaign to destroy Gawker first made his name representing Hollywood stars like Lena Dunham and Reese Witherspoon in IP cases (WSJ)

Google delighted techies with a seminal copyright victory over Oracle over how IP protection should apply to software APIs (Fortune)

The unending Apple-Samsung squabble over design patents is inching closer to its Supreme Court hearing; the Justice Dep’t urged the top court to side with Samsung and remand the case (Reuters)

Eight years since it began, the notorious patent trolling firm Intellectual Ventures keeps posting ghastly returns for investors (Forbes)

An unseemly scramble to monetize Prince’s IP is underway in US courts as heirs and a trust tussle for control (Billboard)

In the latest twist in a trademark family feud, a musician has changed his act from “Zappa Plays Zappa” to “50 Years of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the Heck He Wants — The Cease and Desist Tour (NYT)

California lawmakers are pressing a measure that would extend copyright protection to state government records; the EFF and other public interest groups are irate (EFF)

This really is “your” land! Law firm who stripped copyright from “Happy Birthday” now seeks order that “This Land is Your Land” is in public domain (NYT)


Jewish groups are alarmed as the sale of “Mein Kampf” is soaring in Europe since a state copyright used to suppress it expired in January (CS Monitor)

Brexit may scramble Europe’s “unitary patent” plans for next year, which require the UK’s assent and includes a life science office in London; IP firms are hopeful it would work out anyway (FT)

The Advocate General to the ECJ advised Europe’s top court to cancel a trademark for Rubik’s Cube; in a decade long dispute, a challenger says the cube should have been protected by a patent instead (Courthouse News)

In a surprise ruling, Germany’s top court held “artistic freedom” meant electro-pop band Kraftwork may not be able to use copyright to ban others using small samples of its work (BBC)


New Zealand IP office continue to rebuff a bid by 7-11 to get a trademark, finding the red-green-yellow stripes lack sufficient distinction (NZ Herald)

Apple’s IP misadventures in China took a new twist as a Beijing court ruled the iPhone 6 infringed on a local firm’s design patents (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile, costumed characters of Snow White and Captain America keep appearing at Chinese amusement park giant Wanda, much to the chagrin of Disney (Bloomberg)

Academics fear a push by India’s nationalist government to patent “traditional” remedies like cow urine will play into the hands of Big Pharma and undermine the country’s pragmatic approach to IP (NYT)

This month’s Twitter star is David Latter, former law clerk turned editor of muck-raking AboveTheLaw (Follow him here)

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

This content has been updated on July 26, 2016 at 11:00.