Steve Brachmann is a graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law, having earned his Juris Doctor in May 2022 and served as the President of the Intellectual Property Law Society during the 2021-22 school year. He currently works as a freelancer on research projects, blogging and media consulting and is accepting offers to work. Steve has written on intellectual property topics since January 2013. Other than IPWatchdog, Steve’s work has also been published by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding, and he has worked as a ghostwriter on IP topics for several entities. Currently living in Buffalo, NY, Steve also works as a stage actor and pet sitter.
Following an incredibly contentious vote for Speaker of the House, it has taken some time for Congressional subcommittees to take shape. However, at least the Republican membership of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet has taken shape in recent days, featuring a couple of well-known politicians whose efforts on patent system reforms have represented the interests of either end of the world of IP system stakeholders. The House IP Subcommittee during the 118th Congress also contains several incoming Representatives, including a few that have had some engagement with IP matters prior to joining the subcommittee.
Earlier this month, patent owner Cellspin Soft filed a motion for recusal under 28 U.S.C. § 455 seeking the vacatur of a summary judgment order entered in the Northern District of California by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers releasing several defendants from infringement liability, including Fitbit. Cellspin Soft’s motion points to several financial interests between Judge Gonzalez Rogers and Fitbit’s parent company Google, including business relationships developed by Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ husband through McKinsey & Company, as requiring recusal under Section 455, a statute that was recently raised by a petition for writ denied last December by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the days leading up to the recent all-day listening session on initiatives pursued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address drug patent issues, 30 public comments were filed in response to the Federal Register notice issued last November seeking input on ways that both agencies could promote both innovation and patient access to generic pharmaceuticals. Some comments cited data pointing to supposed issues with artificially extended market exclusivity for branded drugs, while at least one pharmaceutical firm called out a well-known data source as improperly inflating that company’s patent data. Suggestions for intra-agency collaboration included more access to drug dossier information during patent prosecution, although concerns were also raised regarding the prospect that such increased engagement could tax agency resources to the detriment of all patent applicants.
On January 23, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) published a report entitled Wake Up, America: China is Overtaking the United States in Innovation Output, which applies innovation and industrial performance metrics for comparing relative innovation outputs from foreign technological rivals China and the United States. The report, produced by ITIF’s Hamilton Center on Industrial Strategy, is the latest indicator that China is close to surpassing the United States in terms of innovation output per capita and calls upon U.S. policymakers to develop a national economic and technology policy to restore U.S. dominance in innovation.
Last November, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari filed by famed whiskey brand owner Jack Daniel’s Properties. The petition filed by Jack Daniel’s appealed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s March 2020 ruling that a “Bad Spaniels” dog toy marketed by VIP Products was an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protections against trademark infringement liability under the Rogers test. On January 18, a series of 16 amicus briefs were filed with the Supreme Court, the vast majority of which urged the nation’s highest court to reverse the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and limit the application of the Rogers test to clearly artistic works and exclude consumer products that happened to have some humorous expression. Several amici also pushed back on the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that VIP Products’ use of Jack Daniel’s marks was noncommercial.
Earlier this month, patent owner and casino game innovator New Vision Gaming & Development filed a reply brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in its latest bid to challenge the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) institution of covered business method (CBM) review proceedings brought by gambling product company SG Gaming. New Vision alleged violation of a forum selection clause in an agreement between the two parties and now also points to a final report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) as further support for dismissal. New Vision’s most recent brief comes nearly two months after appellee SG Gaming and intervenor USPTO Director Kathi Vidal both filed briefs in the Federal Circuit backing the PTAB’s institution of CBM review proceedings.
Last week, artificial intelligence (AI) systems developer Dr. Stephen Thaler filed a motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a lawsuit over copyright eligibility for artwork created by AI systems. Thaler’s motion for summary judgment argues that AI-generated works are copyrightable under U.S. federal law and that the copyright should vest in Thaler under common law property principles and the work made for hire doctrine.
January 17 marks the first day in the tenure of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) new Commissioner for Patents, Vaishali Udupa. Udupa, whose appointment was announced in December, comes to the USPTO after serving the last seven years as the head of litigation for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where she was responsible for heading HPE’s intellectual property litigation and formulating case strategies. She replaces Acting Commissioner for Patents Andrew Faile, who served in that role since January 2021 and who will be retiring from the agency after 33 years upon Udupa’s installation as commissioner. Well-known within the patent community as an advocate for diversity and representation issues, Udupa joins the USPTO as a relative outsider. She comes in as the first full Commissioner for Patents since the retirement of Drew Hirshfeld, who served with the agency for two decades before he was first appointed to Commissioner in 2015. Those familiar with recent Patent Office history will recall that Commissioners immediately preceding Hirshfeld included Bob Stoll, Peggy Focarino, John Doll and Nick Godici. Stoll, Focarino, Doll and Godici each served in various capacities at the Office, including in high-level policy and regulatory positions, for more than a generation prior to becoming Commissioner.