Technology Law Blog

Is customer e-mail data maintained by US companies on overseas servers subject to US jurisdiction?

Microsoft may soon find itself being held in contempt of court after refusing to abide by a U.S. District Court Order, requiring it to produce customer e-mail data stored by the company in Dublin, Ireland.  The United States Department of Justice previously sought and obtained a search warrant for the production of customer e-mail data maintained by Microsoft as part of a criminal investigation relating to narcotics trafficking.

Judge Loretta Preska, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered Microsoft to produce the e-mail data in July, finding that, although the data was held overseas, it remained under Microsoft’s possession and control, over which the court maintained jurisdiction. Microsoft has yet to comply, claiming that the court lacks jurisdiction over the foreign e-mail data. The judge has since imposed a Sept. 5 deadline for the parties to inform the court on how they plan to proceed. Read More ›

Categories: News & Events, Privacy

Can Social Media Cost You $5 Million?

I know you've probably heard this before, but it's worth repeating: be careful what you post on social media.

It may be used against you.  For one NFL player, it cost $5 million.  

New Orleans Saints football player Jimmy Graham was recently in a contract dispute with the Saints over whether he should be designated as a "Tight End" or a "Wide Receiver."  While the distinction may seem trivial, it had huge repercussions in terms of salary.  Read More ›

Categories: Social Media

Incoming: Recent News on FAA Drone Approval

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering several petitions for commercial use of low-risk unmanned aircrafts, commonly called drones. Although the most widely-publicized interest in commercial drone use came from Amazon's Jeff Bezos late last year, commercial interest exists for a variety of other uses including both filmmaking and farming. Read More ›

Categories: News & Events

Supreme Court KO's Laches As Defense to Copyright Infringement Damages in Raging Bull Case

Raging Bull is a cult classic boxing film that depicts the life story of Jake Lamotta, a hard-charging, volatile boxer from the Bronx. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Robert Deniro as Lamotta, a role which garnered Deniro an Academy Award for best actor.

A copyright infringement case involving Raging Bull that has wound its way through the courts recently took "center ring" at the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case, Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, Inc., the Court considered the question of whether the doctrine of laches is available as a defense to copyright infringement. On May 19, 2014, Justice Ginsberg issued a 6-3 opinion holding that laches is not a defense to a claim for copyright damages. Justices Breyer, Roberts and Kennedy dissented. Read More ›

Categories: Copyright

Cincinnati Who-Dey Ruling is Big Deal for Internet Commerce: Website immune from Ex-Bengals Cheerleader’s Defamation Lawsuit

The gossip website, thedirty.com, is immune from liability for online posts about an ex-Bengals Cheerleader’s sexual promiscuity and acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. In a closely followed decision from a case that has generated considerable media coverage because of its potential to chill online speech and hold internet websites such as Facebook, Twitter and newspaper sites liable, which allow third party users to post content, was reversed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently overturned a jury verdict of $338,000 against gossip website thedirty.com and its owner Nik Richie. Sarah Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings LLC arose after Sarah Jones, a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader and teacher who was subsequently convicted of having sex with a high school student, sued the website after it posted unflattering information about her sexual promiscuity with football team players, she demanded the posts be removed, and the website refused. She filed state law tort claims for defamation and privacy torts and won at trial. The defendants appealed. Read More ›

Categories: First Amendment, Privacy, Social Media

New Michigan Crowdfunding Website

Since the passing of the Crowdfunding Act in December 2013, many questions concerning the applicability of the law have surfaced. This past month, the Michigan Municipal League launched CrowdfundingMI.com, a website pertaining to crowdfunding in Michigan. It is an excellent resource intended to answer basic questions and importantly, aimed to help local businesses connect with investors. The website provides general information, along with frequently asked questions, and tutorials regarding the benefits of crowdfunding Read More ›

Categories: Crowdfunding, News & Events, Venture Capital/Funding

Will the Government Force the Redskins to Change their Name?

On June 18, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") cancelled the Washington Redskins' trademark in its team name, concluding that the term "Redskin" was racially offensive and derogatory towards Native Americans. 

Under the Lanham Act, Federal Trademark Law prohibits the registration of trademarks that "may disparage" individuals or groups or "bring them into contempt or disrepute."  In a controversial 2-1 decision, the USPTO agreed with a group of petitioners who claimed the team name was disparaging to Native Americans, and thus was not permitted to receive the protections afforded by trademark law. The Washington Redskins plan to appeal the decision and have responded by saying that the term is meant to honor Native Americans and is not considered offensive by many. Read More ›

Categories: News & Events, Trademarks

Copyright Doesn't Last Forever: Sherlock Holmes and the Public Domain

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently affirmed a decision stating that many of the older Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are in the public domain. The court held that just because later versions of a character are still protected by copyright, does not mean that the copyrights in those earlier stories continue to exist beyond the copyright term. The Doyle estate argued that the later stories added to the "complexity" of the characters and should provide some measure of protection. Read More ›

Categories: Copyright, News & Events

Trade Secrets: The Big Thing for Tech Companies

What do Google and WD-40 have in common? They can both attribute their continued success to trade secrets. It may be relatively easy to build a search engine or an aerosol can that sprays lubricant, but it is practically impossible to replicate the success of Google and WD-40. The two companies do not have patents on their products, precisely because that would require public disclosure of how to produce the product that has made them so successful. The benefit of a trade secret is that it continues in perpetuity. Coca-Cola's trade secret for its formula is over 120 years old. If Coke had decided to patent its formula instead, the patent would have expired over a century ago and the company would not be the giant it is today.

In order to qualify as a "trade secret," the information must have economic value and must be kept confidential by the company. This can be done through legal documents, compartmentalizing information, physical and digital security, and enforcement actions against leakers of information. Tech companies should consider the use of trade secrets if a product is one that is not easy to develop independently. Software code and chemical formulas are two prime candidates. Importantly, trade secrets are governed by state law, which can vary as to confidentiality requirements. Read More ›

Categories: Intellectual Property, Patents, Trade Secrets

Design Patents

It is time that we talk about design patents. Generally, when I mention design patents to potential clients, they invariably protest that they have an “invention” and not a “design.” However, most “inventions” at least contain ornamental elements that have the potential for design infringement in the marketplace. In those cases, pursuing a design patent, by itself or in combination with a utility application, can be an effective and affordable way to secure valuable intellectual property protection.

To help you decide if a design patent might be right for you, I have devoted this post to answering the most common questions I get regarding design patents. Read More ›

Categories: Intellectual Property, Patents