Intellectual Property

Dissecting the TC Heartland Ruling – What Does This Mean for Patent Owners?

By Alesha M. Dominique

In an 8-0 decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, No. 16-341, the U.S. Supreme Court placed tighter limits on where a patent owner may file a suit for patent infringement by holding that “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute.”  The Court’s decision reverses Federal Circuit precedent that allowed a patent owner to file suit anywhere a defendant made sales.

In TC Heartland LLC, Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC (“Kraft Foods”) brought a patent infringement suit against flavored drink mix maker TC Heartland LLC (“TC Heartland”) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.  TC Heartland, organized under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana, moved to transfer venue to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, arguing that under the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), it did not “resid[e]” in Delaware and had no “regular and established place of business” in Delaware.  TC Heartland based its arguments on the Supreme Court’s decision in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 226 (1957), where the Court concluded that for purposes of § 1400(b) a domestic corporation “resides” only in its State of incorporation.

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Protecting Your Brand Overseas

By Evan M. Kent

It has been my experience that when many U.S. clients expand their businesses beyond national borders, they are unaware that their U.S. trademark registrations provide no protection in foreign jurisdictions.

Trademark ownership provides important commercial and legal benefits including the exclusive right to use the registered trademark and the right to sell or license it to another for profit. Further, trademark ownership gives one legal standing to prevent others from using or attempting to register similar or identical trademarks. Trademarks are considered to be tangible assets of the owner and add to the value of the shares of a company. If you are an exporter, or thinking about exporting in the future, you should seriously consider securing protection for your trademarks at the earliest possible date in those foreign markets which are or could be of interest. (more…)

Data Breaches: An Employer’s Duty to Protect Employees’ Personal Information

By Aaron Wais

Recently, there has been much discussion about the Superior Court of Pennsylvania’s ruling in Dittman v. UPMC, which affirmed a lower court’s order dismissing an employee class action against their employer over a data breach.  While this was a significant victory for employers, non-Pennsylvania employers should temper their enthusiasm.  As one recent federal court decision in California makes clear, the reasoning of Dittman may not extend far beyond, if at all, the borders of Pennsylvania.  Moreover, regardless of their outcomes, both cases also reinforce the need for employers to maintain legally compliant, written policies for safeguarding private information and responding to data breaches.

In Dittman, a data breach resulted in the theft of the personal information (e.g., names, birth dates, social security numbers, banking information) of approximately 62,000 UMPC current and former employees.  The information was used to file fraudulent tax returns and steal tax refunds from certain employees.

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iWill or iWon’t

By Allan Cutrow and Emily Evitt

digital safety concept padlock in electronic environment

Photo credit: iStock.com/the-lightwriter

Ever wondered what will happen to your Facebook page when you die? The California Legislature has recently weighed in. Effective as of January 1, 2017, California will have its first law to specifically address the handling of your “digital assets” after your death. The Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act will determine who, if anyone, can access your digital assets, such as social media accounts, online gaming accounts and music accounts after your death. Under the new law, the custodian of digital assets – such as Facebook, Google, or Apple – must provide a fiduciary access to a deceased individual’s digital assets as the decedent previously directed. The Act sets up a three-tiered approach, which works as follows: (more…)

Moving Startups Forward: Tips for Responding To A Patent Troll

By Alesha Dominique

Startups are increasingly vulnerable to demand letters and lawsuits from “patent trolls” looking for opportunities to extract quick settlements from small companies with limited resources to defend against claims of patent infringement.  To protect your business, developing a thoughtful approach for responding to such non-practicing entities is essential.  Here are 5 tips for moving forward:

1. Don’t Panic. When confronted with a patent demand letter or infringement lawsuit from a non-practicing entity, it is perfectly understandable to be upset.  You have likely invested substantial sums of money into your business and/or product, and now feel that the investment is under attack.  Maintaining your calm, however, will better enable you to think clearly and strategically about next steps.
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New Regulations Issued By The Copyright Office Affecting Thousands of Websites

By Eric Schwartz and Matthew Williams

The Copyright Office officially released an announcement Monday, October 31st, about new regulations affecting all online service providers who seek liability limitations under 17 U.S.C. § 512 (i.e., the DMCA). The regulations, which are effective as of December 1, 2016, require that all service providers (even those who have previously designated agents) file new forms prior to December 31, 2017 to (re)name their copyright designated agents, who are to receive takedown notices from copyright owners related to allegedly infringing content. This (re)designation process must be completed through the Copyright Office’s new online registration system. Paper forms will no longer be accepted. Moreover, companies must renew their agent designations every three years.

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Designing Successful Intellectual Property Protection

By Brionna Ned

When you start to think about protecting your business’s intellectual property, some things might immediately jump to mind – like trademarking your logo or filing a patent application for the functional invention that underlies your business. But other things, like the design or appearance of your product, may not be so obvious. In fact, it may not have occurred to you that you can and should consider seeking protection for the appearance or ornamental characteristics of your company’s product – whether that product is an actual article of manufacture, like the Apple iPhone, or the user interface of your mobile application. Intellectual property law offers protection for both via copyright and patent law.

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Intellectual Property Tips

By Emily F. Evitt

Here are 10 ways to build a rock-solid foundation for your new company and avoid constructing a masterpiece on top of quicksand:

  1. Make sure your company’s name isn’t already taken. As a starting point, search the name on Google and other Internet search engines. Then search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov). Important: repeat this process each time you pick the name of a new product or service.
  2. Check if the domain name you want is available – if so, get it. Create Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for your company, and start using them. (more…)

Brexit and the Impact on Trademark Rights in Europe

By Evan Kent and Alexa Lewis

Last week, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The process, however, will take at least two years to be completed. Your European Union registered trademarks, which currently cover the United Kingdom, will continue to be enforceable in the United Kingdom for some time. Eventually, this will no longer be the case, but we expect that a transitional procedure will be established allowing for the maintenance of rights in the United Kingdom once it has officially departed the European Union. Because there is no precedent for such an event, there is no way to predict whether this will take the form of an automatic extension of existing European Union rights to the United Kingdom, require re-registration in the United Kingdom, or another conversion procedure altogether.

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