On May 18, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court answered an exceedingly narrow question of copyright law with potentially sweeping impact: did the purpose and character of Andy Warhol’s below ‘Orange Prince’ work—as used on a 2016 Condé Nast magazine cover—support fair use of Lynn Goldsmith’s photograph of famed musician Prince Rogers Nelson a/k/a Prince? In a 7-2 decision, the Court found that it does not, calling into question nearly 30 years of fair use jurisprudence, arguably narrowing the scope of that doctrine, and potentially threatening disciplines that rely on it, e.g., appropriation art. The decision is also sure to impact generative artificial intelligence (“AI”), an emerging technology that is also likely to rely heavily on fair use.
The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken center stage in popular culture thanks to the significant advances of tools like ChatGPT. Of course, the use of these new, high-powered AI tools presents real issues for businesses of all types and all sizes. Notably, Samsung employees shared confidential information with ChatGPT while using the chatbot at work. Subsequently, Samsung decided to restrict the use of generative AI tools on company-owned devices and on any device with access to internal networks. Concerned about the loss of confidential information, Apple has likewise restricted employees from using ChatGPT and other external AI tools. The actual or potential loss of confidential information is a matter of critical importance to technology companies, but it also must be of the utmost concern for all attorneys who have an ethical obligation to keep client information confidential.
The House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet today held a hearing titled “IP and Strategic Competition with China: Part II – Prioritizing U.S. Innovation Over Assisting Foreign Adversaries,” which focused on the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) agreement on a waiver of IP rights for COVID-19 vaccine technologies under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) last June. All of the panelists agreed that COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency and that an extension of the waiver to diagnostics and therapeutics is likely unnecessary.
In 2015, China launched its 2025 Initiative listing all the technologies and industries it wants to control by 2025. So far, they have been successful in leading 37 of 44 technologies critical to economic growth and national security. The nation that dominates these technologies will determine the fate of all nations. In the past, the United States led the world in technology, but today it is China. How did this happen? This damage was caused by a series of big hits by the courts, congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The first big hit was eBay vs. MercExchange (eBay) in 2006. In order to obtain an injunction, a patent holder must prove that they not only have a patented product on the market, but also the ability to distribute that product. eBay let loose massive predatory infringement, killing off startups, the biggest competitive threat to Big Tech and many other industries.
Some of the earliest chapters in the story of U.S. innovation have been written by Black Americans who not only advanced the state of industry in our country, but also fought to ensure that they were credited for what they achieved. Within the next few years, the city of Newark, NJ, will be the home of a museum properly paying homage to the historic contributions that these inventors have made to medical science, telecommunications, transportation and more.
Former Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Andrei Iancu, who is now a partner with Irell & Manella, told attendees of an Orrin G. Hatch Foundation webinar today that many of the proposals in the USPTO’s recent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) practices should be legislated by Congress. Particularly on issues that were statutorily prescribed, such as the standard patents are reviewed under at the PTAB versus the courts, the timing for filing petitions, and who can bring an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding, Iancu said the better route to certainty is through Congress.
In response to last week’s hearing of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on copyright law, former Copyright Office General Counsel, Jon Baumgarten, submitted a letter this week to the Subcommittee expressing his concerns with the testimony of one of the witnesses, Sy Damle of Latham & Watkins, who also formerly served as U.S. Copyright Office General Counsel. The letter was published in full on the Copyright Alliance website.
As most in the IP world know by now, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Amgen v. Sanofi on Thursday, holding that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) was correct in finding that Amgen’s patents for its popular cholesterol drug failed to meet the enablement requirement…. IP practitioners diverge on the degree to which the decision will change patent practice in the biotech industry going forward, with some claiming the Court merely reiterated the existing law on enablement, and others saying it represents a major shift.
Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Amgen, Inc. v. Sanofi et al. The Court held, as many feared they would, that the 26 antibody examples and detailed instructions for generating additional antibodies within the genus—which covered some 400 pages and included a CD Rom of the x-ray crystallography coordinates of Amgen’s “anchor” (or lead) antibodies 21B12 (Repatha) and 31H4—was insufficient to satisfy the enablement requirement. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not explain what level of detail would have been sufficient, nor did the Court provide direction to the industry on what more is expected to satisfy the enablement requirement. So, we simply learned today that the extraordinary disclosure and detail provided by Amgen was not enough.
The House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet today held the first of several planned hearings about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on intellectual property, focusing in this initial hearing on copyright law. The witnesses included three artists, a professor, and an attorney with varying perspectives on the matter, although the artists all expressed similar concerns about the potentially dire effects of generative AI (GAI) applications on their respective industries and careers.
Bacon is delightful. And the similarly savory subject of who must be named inventor on a bacon patent was the issue in the recent case of HIP, Inc. v. Hormel Foods Corp., No. 2022-1696 (Fed. Cir. May 2, 2023). HIP claimed that one of its employees materially contributed to the invention of Hormel’s patent on methods for precooking bacon. The question of what makes one an “inventor” was central to whether HIP’s employee should be added to the patent. More broadly, questions about inventorship and authorship have become central to recent commentary and speculation about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on intellectual property law. While AI did not factor into HIP v. Hormel, the decision provides a useful reminder about the role of the common law in developing answers to these momentous questions.
The patent examination process is subject to the well-known issue of hindsight bias. Issues with hindsight bias come up when a patent examiner, without realizing it, uses their knowledge of the invention itself to reject a claim as being obvious. If left unchecked, these issues can lead to incorrect determinations of obviousness, which prolong prosecution, cause unnecessary ex parte appeals to be filed, and force unfair narrowing of independent claims. However, even when an examiner learns about an invention that seems straightforward, human emotions and subjectivity can make it difficult for that examiner to appreciate that the invention was not obvious based on prior art that existed before the invention.
You have to give them credit. The Department of Energy (DOE) bureaucracy doesn’t give up. For more than 40 years, they’ve been resisting the Bayh-Dole Act’s mandate cutting Washington out of micro-managing the commercialization of federally funded inventions. And under the guise of increasing domestic manufacturing, they’re well on their way to reasserting control. Before 1980, federally funded inventions were strangled under laborious case by case reviews to determine whether ownership would be waived from government agencies to the inventing organization. As a result, few inventions were ever developed. Bayh-Dole cut the Gordian knot, mandating that universities, contractor operated federal laboratories and small companies could own and license their discoveries. American innovation took off, and we regained our lead over our foreign competitors.
The issue of AI inventorship in the United States remains at large following the Supreme Court’s denial of cert in Thaler v. Vidal, meaning that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) finding that AI cannot be considered a named inventor to a patent application remains the law of the land. Now that the agency is seeking public comments on the issue of AI inventorship, I reached out to Dr. Thaler to get his comments on the current AI inventorship debate within the patent space.
On May 2, Northeastern University hosted the IP awareness and literacy organization The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) for its 6th Intellectual Property Awareness Summit (IPAS), titled Bridges, Not Barricades. The view of Boston’s skyline from the 17th floor conference room on St. Botolph Street served as an appropriate backdrop to a series of expert panels exploring efforts to unleash the next generation of American economic development by accelerating popular understanding of the value of obtaining IP rights.