On August 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, holding Google LLC did not infringe patents held by Data Engine Technologies LLC (DET). DET sued Google for infringing certain claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259; 5,784,545; and 6,282,551 (the Tab Patents). The Tab Patents are directed to systems and methods for displaying and navigating three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets by use of user customizable “notebook tabs” on a spreadsheet interface. The prior art discussed in this trio of patents explained that “three-dimensionality, as presently implemented, is an advanced feature beyond the grasp of many spreadsheet users.” ‘259 patent col. 3 ll. 9-11. Accordingly, the Tab Patents explain, prior art spreadsheets require the user to manipulate each individual spreadsheet within a three-dimensional spreadsheet as an individual window in a graphical window environment. By contrast, the Tab Patents recite notebook tabs that allow the user to simply “flip through” several pages of the notebook to rapidly locate information.
In recent days, both Google and Apple have lost big patent cases. On August 13, Apple lost a $300 million jury verdict to PanOptis. Also on August 13, Google was found to infringe five Sonos patents at the International Trade Commission (ITC) in an initial determination by Judge Charles E. Bullock, which, if upheld by the full Commission, would block the importation of Google hardware, including Chromecast and Pixels. This likely means that Apple, Google and their big tech allies will use these instances, as well as other recent high-profile patent losses, as evidence of the need for yet more innovation-crippling patent reform. That would be a huge mistake for America at a time when we find ourselves locked in a race for technological supremacy with the Chinese.
Last week, the attorneys general of 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California against internet services and mobile operating system (OS) provider Google. The complaint lists various causes of action under the Sherman Antitrust Act and a number of state antitrust laws that have allegedly been violated by Google’s practices in leveraging its monopoly power in the mobile OS sector to maximize its revenues on app purchases through the Google Play Store through suppression of competing app platforms and charging exorbitant fees from app developers.
Former President Donald J. Trump announced today that he is suing Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube in separate class action suits, claiming, among other allegations, that the platforms have “increasingly engaged in impermissible censorship resulting from threatened legislative action, a misguided reliance upon Section 230 of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, and willful participation in joint activity with federal actors.”… All three complaints take aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, dubbing it “[l]egislation passed twenty-five (25) years ago intended to protect minors from the transmission of obscene materials on the Internet, and to promote the growth and development of social media companies” that has outgrown its original intent and enabled each of the companies to become behemoths who censor content of their choosing.
On April 5, the U.S. Supreme Court held 6-2 that Google’s copying of 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE Application Programming Interface (API) in creating its Android operating system was a fair use. The ruling ends a decade-long battle between Google and fellow software giant Oracle, which purchased Java developer Sun Microsystems in 2010. It also overturns the Federal Circuit’s 2018 ruling in favor of Oracle, which could have led to a multi-billion dollar award against Google. Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google LLC, 886 F.3d 1179 (Fed. Cir. 2018). A recent decision from a district court in the Western District of Pennsylvania emphasizes the relevance of the Supreme Court decision in Google v. Oracle. While the case predates the Google decision, it brings up some important issues that were sidestepped in the opinion itself but were raised in the arguments presented in briefs and oral arguments for the Google case.
Most commentators agree that Google v. Oracle is the most important copyright decision of the last 25 years (since Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music). But what if the Court got it wrong? The Court has not always done well with issues of technology (the Sony v. Universal “Betamax” case being an exception), and the majority decision in Google v. Oracle appears to be more of the same. For many reasons, the powerful dissent from Justices Thomas and Alito may be the better opinion.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, or so states Newton’s third law of motion. It is safe to say that Newton never met an intellectual property lawyer, and he never had to deal with the whims and fancy of an arbitrary and capricious Supreme Court. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Google v. Oracle, in which the Court ruled that Google’s intentional copying of 11,500 lines of computer code from Oracle was a fair use despite the fact that Google made many tens of billions of dollars in the process, and despite the fact that the record showed that Google consciously chose to copy, rather than independently create, because programmers were already familiar with the 11,500 lines of code they wanted to take.
In characteristic form, the Supreme Court has once again managed to blow it in another intellectual property case. This time, the Justices blessed Google’s copying of Oracle’s code and called it fair use despite the fact that Google copied that portion of the Sun Java API that allowed programmers to use the task-calling system that was most useful to programmers working on applications for mobile devices. In the infinite wisdom of the Supreme Court, the copying of this code was found transformative because Google only used it to circumvent the need to license Java from Oracle with respect to Android smartphones. Of course, that isn’t exactly how the Supreme Court characterized it, but make no mistake, that is what they decided.
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning found Google’s use of Oracle’s Java application programming interface (“API packages”) a fair use as a matter of law, with Justices Thomas and Alito dissenting. The decision reverses a 2018 Federal Circuit ruling in favor of Oracle. Google appealed that decision to the Supreme Court in January 2019, and three attorneys made arguments to the High Court in October 2020: Thomas Goldstein of Goldstein & Russell argued for Google; Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick argued for Oracle; and Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stuart argued on behalf of the U.S. Government. Although the justices’ questioning at that hearing seemed skeptical of Google’s arguments, it also revealed that the Court wanted to avoid upending industry practices in computer programming.
Yesterday, Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX-24) sent a letter to President Joe Biden explaining her concerns over recent reports that the leading candidate for the top antitrust post at the Department of Justice (DOJ) is likely to go to long time Democrat antitrust official Renata Hesse, who served in the DOJ Antitrust Division during the Obama Administration as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and as Acting Assistant Attorney General. Hesse, who has gone in and out of government, has represented both Google and Amazon, companies that are facing antitrust scrutiny from the DOJ, European Union and dozens of state Attorneys General.
My head was turned by the recent news of President Trump’s final-day pardon of Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Google’s self-driving car unit who was recruited into Uber with full knowledge that he had downloaded 14,000 confidential files on his way out, and who was later convicted of trade secret theft. I was struck by the White House statement of justification. It said that Levandowski – who hadn’t yet served a day of his 18-month sentence – “has paid a significant price for his actions.” I have no doubt that Levandowski has “paid a significant price” for his misdeeds, but it caused me to think about the price paid by others who were involved in this fiasco of a hiring, most specifically Uber. Salacious stories like this one serve as a reminder of all the things that can go wrong when we hire someone from the competition. Especially when we stop thinking about risk and see only upside. So, let’s talk about that risk and what you can do to keep yourself out of trouble – and never, ever need a presidential pardon.
On November 13, the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision of the Board in In re: Google Technology Holdings LLC. In particular, the CAFC upheld a decision of the Board affirming a patent examiner’s final rejection and holding that Google forfeited the arguments put forth on appeal. Google’s U.S. Patent Application No. 15/179,765 was directed to “distributed caching for video-on-demand systems, and in particular to a method and apparatus for transferring content within such video- on-demand systems.” During prosecution, the examiner finally rejected the claims of the ‘795 application as being obvious under Section 103.
On November 2, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, in Google LLC v. Sonos, Inc., issued an order granting Sonos’s motion to dismiss a cause of action for infringement of Google’s U.S. Patent No. 8,583,489 (the ‘489 patent). The court found that the ‘489 patent was patent ineligible as being directed to an abstract idea. Google filed a patent infringement suit against Sonos alleging that Sonos infringed five of Google’s patents, including the ‘489 patent, which is directed to systems and methods for bookmarking media content for future availability. Sonos moved to dismiss the cause of action with respect to the ‘489 patent on the ground that it was directed to ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as an abstract idea. The ‘489 patent relates to a method of “determining if media content is available from different content sources” and “notifying a user when the availability of the media content changes.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and Attorneys General from 11 U.S. states filed a complaint on Tuesday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against Google, alleging the company is “unlawfully maintaining monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices.” The complaint maintains that Google has for years entered into exclusionary agreements and used anticompetitive practices to “lock up distribution channels and block rivals,” and comes after more than a year of investigation.
Google and Oracle each got to have their say in U.S. Supreme Court today, when eight justices heard oral argument in the closely-watched battle between the two tech giants. The questioning revealed some strong skepticism of Google’s arguments, but also potent fear that a ruling for either side might upend industry practices in computer programming. Both sides claim that a ruling for the other will harm innovation. The High Court agreed to hear Google’s petition for a writ of certiorari last year. The Court is considering the questions: 1) Whether copyright protection extends to a software interface; and 2) Whether Google’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use.