IPLJ BLOG FEATURE: From the Desk of the Editor Each month, Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline McMahon weighs in on topics and legal issues covered in the IPLJ. This month Jacqueline looks back on the key stories the IPLJ focused on this past year.
“In keeping with the situation”… what better time to recap the exhaustive year of developments in the IP world. Two thousand eleven saw a great many changes. The looming presidential election, bickering among political sides, and intense involvement from vocal lobby groups forced a surge of lawmaking; new technologies exploded onto the scene—and, of course, caused some fighting among industry powerhouses; people continued to struggle through the financial crisis, finding ways to muddle through using—or not using for Louboutin and YSL—trademark law. This was a year of starters, of new beginnings, but also of significant losses. Only time will tell the extent of the benefits or damage the 2011 changes will have.
Below are ten topics addressed by courts, legislators, and people generally in this eleventh year of the New Millennium that I found particularly interesting…
1. For the first time ever, Americans were encouraged to invent! President Obama signed the American Invents Act into law on September 16, in the hopes of speeding up the patent process for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Act was generally met with praise by commentators, but concerns over confusion, mischief, and stymied institutional research hang overhead.
2. Two proposed anti-piracy acts—the Protect IP and Stop Online Piracy Acts—caused and continue to cause quite a stir as Congress debates the bills. The Protect IP Act, which would effectively allow the government to halt financial transactions with rogue, infringing websites, elicited strong reactions from left-wing groups bent on protecting civil liberties. SOPA, a related bill, would require Web hosting companies to police their sites for infringing content. Not surprisingly, providers of hosting services strongly oppose the bill. The Senate will vote on the bills on January 24, 2011, before which pirates and privacy hounds will surely continue to join forces to quash their passage.
3. Visions of Louboutins danced in counterfeiters’ heads as S.D.N.Y. Judge Victor Marrero refused to honor the Louboutin’s broad trademark in the color red. Marrero stated, “[a]warding one participant in the designer shoe market a monopoly on the color red would impermissibly hinder competition among other participants” and compared Louboutin’s attempts to enjoin rival Ives Saint Lauren from utilizing the bright-colored soles to Picasso suing Monet for use of a particular shade of indigo.
4. Google was repeatedly reminded that “with great power comes great responsibility” in a string of various lawsuits filed against the search giant. Judge Denny Chin set a trial date of July 2012 for the lengthy Google Books litigation. Oracle sued Google over allegation of patent infringement of its Java and Android platforms. PayPal filed suit against Google in May for stealing trade secrets. Feeling left out, the FTC joined in by launching its “most comprehensive antitrust investigation” against the Internet kingpin. Better luck next year Google.
5. The continued financial crisis motivated some to do-it-themselves. For $275, individuals can successfully register their own trademarks with the USPTO. Good news for small businesses in an economy where money is just about as tight as it can be, but not such good news for those trademark attorneys out there. Never fear attorneys, you are still needed for the complicated stuff, because “not all registrations are created equal.”
6. Occupy Wall Street was big news in 2011. In fact, organizers of the “movement,” as well as a number of other groups, including one Long Island couple, filed for a trademark of the slogan “Occupy Wall St.” Because nothing says protest like a new t-shirt.
7. For websites like the Huffington Post, which essentially are online sources composed entirely of refurbished news, a flurry of concerns over the extent of fair use emerged in 2011. How much copying is too much copying? Isn’t it enough if you give credit where credit is due? Does it matter how “hot” the news is? Questions like these have yet to be answered by any legal authority—and possibly to the benefit of blog sites everywhere, (including this one)—but with the insurgence of more second-hand reporting and blog sites, coupled with the failing print news industry, the scope of fair use is likely to require a clear(er) definition in the near(est) future.
8. 2011 also had its share of losses, notably with the deaths of Steve Jobs and other technology innovators. Local and national video stores dropped like flies upon the rapid emergence of “Internet subscription services for enjoying movies and TV shows,” like Netflix—which unfortunately has also taken a dive in recent months. But luckily, the wheels of innovation have kept turning and spitting out new technologies everyday, like Apple’s improved face-recognition software. Read about other top tech stories here.
9. The end of an era approaches. In 2011 the impending return of song rights to musicians made big news. The 1970s amendments to the Copyright Act provided for termination rights, allowing artists to regain control of works after 35 years. Although this was a huge story in 2011, the amendments to the Copyright Act didn’t take effect until 1978 so they won’t actually affect anything until Jan. 1, 2013. But it was still worth a mention on this list. As the New York Times reported: “‘Everyone is adopting a wait-and-see posture. But that can only be maintained for so long, because the clock is ticking.’”
10. And finally, for you sports buffs out there, in case you have forgotten, lots of things happened before Joe Paterno was fired and the NBA started up again. Out of fear that I will botch the terminology, check out this incredibly detailed recap of the year in sports here.
11. And finally, thanks to all for your contributions, suggestions, and readership over the past months. We look forward to another fantastic year so keep checking in on the IPLJ in 2012.
We wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!