September 2008

Chief Judge Paul R. Michel, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit:

September 26, 2008

. . . the Supreme Court can only decide a couple of patent cases even in a banner year. And, many important patent issues may be so obscure as to discourage its generalist judges from addressing them. The rest, necessarily, are left to us. We have the expertise and the will to resolve doctrinal problems. What we lack is mainly the opportunity. Why for example did it take a full decade to revisit State Street? Because no one asked us to until recently. The same can be said of the central issue decided in KSR. It was never simply presented to us in a petition for en banc treatment. Oddly, we receive over a hundred a year. Yet few raise such fundamental issues as eligible subject matter under §101, or the Teaching-Suggestion-Motivation test, or the proper methodology for assessing requests for the permanent injunction, or barring them, future damages. Speaking at the Harvard Law School Conference On Intellectual Property Law, September 9, 2008. Click here for full text of speech.

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New Massachusetts Rules on Data Security a Game Changer

September 25, 2008

The department of consumer affairs and business regulation shall adopt regulations relative to any person that owns or licenses personal information about a resident of the commonwealth. Such regulations shall be designed to safeguard the personal information of residents of the commonwealth … M.G.L. Chapter 93H: Section 2 Here is a link to the Executive Order signed by Governor Patrick on September 19, 2008. The Executive Order applies to State agencies; the regulations apply to the private sector. The regulations are of particular interest. They require private sector entities who keep personal information about individuals to meet “minimum” security standards for paper and electronic records. They apply broadly to “persons who own, license, store or maintain personal information about a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts”. They require the creation of a “written information security program” which must be “reasonably consistent with industry standards.” The most minimal requirements of such a program are (to my eye) quite extensive (and burdensome). I think it is an understatement to say that the regulation and Executive Order will attract a great deal of attention and preparation between now and year-end, and will likely spawn a new (or expanded) industry of compliance consultants.  

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Hey, It's Not Like President Bush Isn't Doing Anything Important These Days! or, Fresh Evidence That the True Course of Civilization is Upward

September 24, 2008

Here is the text of new Federal Rule of Evidence 502, eliminating waiver resulting from inadvertent disclosures of attorney-client privileged or work-product materials in federal litigation: Federal Rule of Evidence 502 (signed into law September 19, 2008) The following provisions apply, in the circumstances set out, to disclosure of a communication or information covered by the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection. (a) Disclosure made in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency; scope of a waiver. — When the disclosure is made in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency and waives the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection, the waiver extends to an undisclosed communication or information in a federal or state proceeding only if: (1) the waiver is intentional; (2) the disclosed and undisclosed communications or information concern the same subject matter; and (3) they ought in fairness to be considered together. (b) Inadvertent disclosure. — When made in a federal proceeding or to a federal office or agency, the disclosure does not operate as a waiver in a federal or state proceeding if: (1) the disclosure is inadvertent; (2) the holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure; and (3) the holder promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, including (if applicable) following Fed. R. 25 Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(B). (c) Disclosure made in a state proceeding. —…

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The Laugh Test

September 22, 2008

[Update: decision denying Blockshopper’s Motion to Dismiss] [Update: Jones Days’ Opposition to Blockshopper’s Motion to Dismiss] is one of many small web sites that have sprung up to follow local residential real estate markets. So far, the site highlights purchases in upscale neighborhoods in Chicago, St. Louis, South Florida and Las Vegas. The site identifies purchasers by name, street address of the property and the price paid. Of course, this information is available in local real estate publications (like Banker & Tradesman here in Boston) or at the local registry of deeds. Blockshopper also performs an Internet search on the person, and based on what it finds identifies the purchaser’s job title and employer. When it can, the site pulls a photo of the person from somewhere on the Internet (like the purchaser’s company site), and pastes it into the item. If the home purchaser has an online bio, the site will link to it. Example: I saw on Blockshopper that Juan Luis Goujon had recently purchased a property in Chicago. I Googled “Juan Luis Goujon,” and the first hit I got was to Blockshopper, profiling the property, linking to Mr. Goujon’s company, and posting a photo of him from the site. Mr. Goujon is not a celebrity or a politician, and he may not be thrilled with this publicity (if anyone truly cares). However, the information regarding the…

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The Google Chrome Comic Book

September 15, 2008

The release of the Google Chrome web browser on September 2nd attracted a huge amount of publicity. The release of the browser was accompanied by a 38 page comic book, featuring cartoon figures of real-life Google employees, and explaining some of the features and technology associated with the browser. The comic book was illustrated by “cartoon theorist” Scott McLoud. This is pretty cool stuff – hiring a top cartoonist to help you explain a new software product. Much better than a traditional technical manual! A link to the comic book on is below. (And here is a link to the comic on McLoud’s own web site, which might be easier to read online). Google Chrome Comic Book – Upload a Document to Scribd Read this document on Scribd: Google Chrome Comic Book

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White on White

September 9, 2008

Meta tags consist of words and phrases that are intended to describe the contents of a website. These descriptions are embedded within the website’s computer code. Although websites do not display their meta tags to visitors, Internet search engines utilize meta tags in various ways. First, when a computer user enters particular terms into an Internet search engine, the engine may rank a webpage that contains the search terms within its meta tags higher in the list of relevant results. Second, when a particular webpage is listed as a relevant search result, the search engine may use the meta tags to provide the searcher a brief description of the web page. Brookfield Commc’ns, Inc. v. W. Coast Entm’t Corp., 174 F.3d 1036, 1045 (9th Cir. 1999) —————– The First Circuit has affirmed a finding of trademark infringement based on the defendant’s use of meta tags to attract potential customers of the plaintiff using search engines to find the plaintiff’s web site. The case is Venture Tape v. McGill tried in U.S. District Court by Judge Morris E. Lasker. The defendant’s actions were described as follows by the First Circuit: The record contains numerous admissions that meta tags and invisible background text on [defendant’s] website incorporated [plaintiff’s] exact marks. … [Defendant] even admitted that he intentionally used [plaintiff’s] marks for the express purpose of attracting customers … The background text used…

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EdTX Judge Says: Litigate Future Royalties as Part of Trial

September 4, 2008

We’ve been following the lower courts’ interpretation and application of eBay v. MercExchange since the case was decided by the Supreme Court in May 2006. In eBay the Court held that post-judgment injunctions were not “automatic” for successful patent plaintiffs, but rather that the trial court had to apply the traditional equitable test to determine whether an injunction or ongoing royalties were the appropriate remedy. In June I gave a presentation at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education on developments in this area in the two years since the decision. (Warning – the Powerpoint won’t make a lot of sense without the voice-over, but it gives some idea of the landscape). As I discussed then, a constellation of issues was forming around the question of how to assess future royalties if it is determined that this was the appropriate remedy after final judgment. By then, of course, the jury has gone home. Was it up to the judge to determine the royalty? Would there be a new trial (jury or otherwise) on this issue alone? Would the pre-judgment royalty be used for future royalties (as some courts have done)? Not surprisingly, a U.S. District Judge in the Eastern District of Texas has taken the first real “shot” at this issue. In early August Federal District Court Judge Clark issued an order in several cases, advising the parties that he expected the issue…

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Cloud Computing – The "Next Big Thing"?

September 4, 2008

Here is a link to the slides used by Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger (Chairman Emeritus of the IBM Academy of Technology) in his talk entitled Cloud Computing and the Coming IT Cambrian Explosion. This was presented at Xconomy’s Cloud Computing event in Cambridge in June. While there is no audio, I think the slides communicate the message loud and clear. A favorite expression of mine is “important if true.” On these predictions, I will say “important if prescient.”

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Judge Young on Employee Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims, Interference With Contract and Pleading

September 3, 2008

U.S. District Court Judge William Young’s recent decision in Talentburst, Inc. v. Collabera, Inc. is worth study. Talentburst is the former employer of Raj Pallerla. While employed by Talentburst, Pallerla signed a noncompete agreement with Talentburst. He then resigned and went to work for Collabera, Inc. For ease of reading I’ll refer to these three parties as Former Employer, New Employer and Employee. When the Former Employer discovered that its Employee had gone to work for New Employer, it pursued an unorthodox legal strategy: rather than sue the employee for breach of the noncompete agreement, it sued only the new employer, alleging that the New Employer had “aided and abetted” a breach of fiduciary duty by the Employee. It also claimed that by hiring the Employee the New Employer “interfered” with the noncompete contract. The case was filed in Massachusetts Superior Court, but the Former Employer was able to “remove” it to federal court (based on diversity jurisdiction). To the Former Employer’s misfortune, the case was drawn by Judge Young, who was almost certain to give the case closer scrutiny than it would have received in state court. The Former Employer filed a motion to dismiss, which is usually a long shot. However, Judge Young allowed the motion and dismissed the suit on the basis of the complaint alone. In his decision Judge Young reasoned that the Employee, who was…

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