This week in Other Barks & Bites: the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) seeks public comment on its latest Strategic Plan and releases information on a pilot program that may help reduce gender disparities in patenting; a Texas-based technology files a lawsuit against Reebok alleging patent infringement; the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposes a new rule to eliminate non-compete clauses; and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announces the conviction of a former GE engineer on charges of conspiracy to steal trade secrets.
USPTO Wants Public Comment on Strategic Plan
On Friday, January 6, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it is seeking comment on its draft 2022-2026 Strategic Plan. The plan’s five goals are: “drive inclusive U.S. innovation and global competitiveness; promote the efficient delivery of reliable intellectual property (IP) rights; promote the protection of IP against new and persistent threats; bring innovation to positive impact; and generate impactful employee and customer experiences by maximizing agency operations.” Comments should be submitted via email to [email protected] by January 31, 2023.
CAFC Affirms PTAB’s Interference Determination
In a precedential opinion issued Friday, January 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in an interference proceeding that awarded priority to Agilent Technologies, Inc over Dionex Softron GmbH. The parties were disputing priority, claim construction, written description support, conception, and reduction to practice. The CAFC affirmed on all issues.
FTC Proposes a Rule to Ban Noncompete Clause
On Thursday, January 5, the FTC proposed a new rule that would ban employers from using noncompete clauses on their workers. In an announcement, the FTC said that noncompete clauses are “a widespread and often exploitative practice that suppresses wages, hampers innovation, and blocks entrepreneurs from starting new businesses.” The agency estimated the new rule could increase wages by $300 billion a year as firms would be encouraged to do more to keep their workers. The proposed rule change is now open for public comment.
USPTO Announces Reduction in Gender Disparity in Patenting
On Wednesday, January 4, the USPTO announced that a pilot program to help patent applicants without legal representation reduced gender disparity in patent applications. The USPTO evaluated the first randomized control trial of the program in a working paper, which is part of a greater plan from the organization to understand the underrepresentation of women in patenting. The authors of the paper found “additional communication during patent examination was an effective way to improve patent examination outcomes for pro se applicants, especially for women.” While the pilot program benefited both male and female applicants, the authors found that women were 11% more likely to obtain a patent if they were a part of the trial.
Meta Loses Bid to Dismiss Copyright Lawsuit over Facebook Ads
On Wednesday, January 4, a US district court ruled against Meta in its attempt to dismiss a lawsuit from an artist who has accused Facebook of violating artists’ copyright. Sculptor JL Cook has accused Facebook of running counterfeit ads on their platform that violate copyright law. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Meta is not entitled to DMCA safe harbor in this case. Cook has claimed that Facebook allows targeted advertising campaigns that sell counterfeits of her and other artists’ work.
Former Engineer Sent to Jail for 2 Years in Trade Secrets Case
On Tuesday, January 3, the DOJ sentenced a former GE Power engineer to 2 years in jail on charges of conspiracy to commit economic espionage. The 59-year-old man, Xiaoqing Zheng, was found to have attempted to steal trade secrets from General Electric after he worked at the company from 2008 to 2018. The DOJ said evidence presented in the case showed that Zheng worked with others in China to steal GE’s trade secrets related to its ground-based and aviation-based turbine technologies. “This is a case of textbook economic espionage. Zheng exploited his position of trust, betrayed his employer and conspired with the government of China to steal innovative American technology,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
USPTO Updates Trademark ID Manual to Include Green Tech
On Wednesday, January 4, the UPSTO added new terminology to its Trademark ID Manual to cover green technology goods and services. This will allow more trademark applicants who offer green tech to file their application using TEAS Plus, thus paying a lower fee. The list so far includes 75 terms and is part of the organization’s broad effort to address climate change.
Reebok Hit with Lawsuit Over 3-D Customizable Shoe Patent
On Wednesday, January 4, Etto IP LLC filed a lawsuit accusing Reebok of infringing on its patent related to 3-D technology used to customize shoes. USPTO granted the patent in question to an Israeli inventor in 2014, and Etto IP is asking the US District Court for the Western District of Texas for a jury trial.
CAFC Agrees with District Court in Freezer Warehouse Patent Case
On Tuesday, January 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a district court’s judgment in a freezer warehouse patent case. Tippmann Engineering sued Innovative Refrigeration Systems alleging that the company violated one of its patents related to its freezer warehouse technology. However, the judges were not convinced by Tippman’s arguments and found them “unpersuasive.”
Biotech and Big Pharma Companies File Amicus Brief in Support of Amgen
On Tuesday, January 3, several biotech and pharmaceutical companies including, Bavarian Nordic, Biogen, Bristol Myers, Merck & Co., and 3M, filed an amicus brief in support of Amgen in the Supreme Court case against Sanofi. In the brief, the companies wrote, “the Federal Circuit’s enablement standard for genus claims is wrong as a matter of law and harmful to the innovation process.” Previous court rulings have gone against Amgen, the company that began the lawsuit against Sanofi in 2014 over the patent infringement of a drug to treat high cholesterol.
This Week on Wall Street
Southwest Forecasts Big Losses after Cancellation Meltdown
On Friday, January 6, Southwest Airlines revised its fourth-quarter forecast from a strong profit to a net loss after mass cancellations during the holiday period cost the company an estimated $825 million. Southwest’s stock plummeted 10 percent after the holiday meltdown which saw passengers stranded across the country.
Hackers Steal 200 Million Email Addresses from Twitter
On Wednesday, January 4, Alon Gal, co-founder of Israeli cybersecurity-monitoring firm Hudson Rock, revealed on LinkedIn that hackers stole 200 million email addresses from Twitter. Gal called the incident “one of the most significant leaks I’ve seen.”
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