Over the past twenty years, the Supreme Court has demonstrated an increased interest in hearing argument on intellectual property cases. That interest does not seem to be dwindling. As a result, there are five cases that you should be on the lookout for in 2017.
Case One: Racial Slurs in Trademarks: Acceptable or Unconstitutional?
The Lanham Act bars the use of disparaging terms, and on January 18th the Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether the name of an Asian-American rock band, The Slants, fell under that category. The issue falls on the issue of whether the disparaging terms exclusion is an impermissible restriction of the user’s freedom of speech. While the band members consider this term a badge of honor, the USPTO sees this as a racial slur.
Lee v. Tam, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-1293
Case Two: Forum Shopping for Filing Suit
Often times, depending on where suit is filed will have an effect on whether you win or lose. For example, in East Texas plaintiffs are heavily favored, and as a result 40 percent of U.S. patent lawsuits are filed. This case focuses on one main issue; whether to limit where patent suits may be filed.
TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 16-341
Case Three: Resale of Patented Products
The concept of the exhaustion doctrine is an essential part of patent law, which allows someone to do what they wish with something they purchased, such as resell the product. The court will take up the issue of how far this exhaustion doctrine reaches this year.
Products v. Lexmark, U.S. Supreme Court No. 15-1189
Case Four: Active Inducement
The Patent Act limits active inducement liability to those who export “all or substantially all” of the parts of a patented product to build or assemble that product abroad, likely at a reduced cost. This case addressed the issue: whether “substantially all” relates to the quantity of the product used, or the importance of the ingredients used.
Life Technologies v. Promega, Supreme Court No. 14-1538
Case Five: Argue Against the USPTO
Aqua Products, with an invention for a robotic pool cleaner, is arguing that the USPTO’s regulations governing the amendment of patent claims during inter partes review violates the America Invents Act by shifting the burden to the applicant to prove the amended claims were patent eligible. With the new regulations of the America Invents Act, it is likely issues such as these will continue to pop up.
In re Aqua Products, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 15-1177
Keep your eye on these cases in the Supreme Court this year, as they may alter the way we interpret intellectual property law in the United States.
The Fashion Law, The 5 Intellectual Property Cases that You Cannot Miss in 2017 (Jan. 10, 2017), http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/the-5-intellectual-property-cases-that-you-cannot-miss-in-2017.