Causation and Conception in American Inventorship

By: Dan L. Burk Increasing use of machine learning or “artificial intelligence” (AI) software systems in technical innovation has led some to speculate that perhaps machines might be considered inventors under patent law. While U.S. patent doctrine decisively precludes such a bizarre and counterproductive result, the speculation leads to a more fruitful inquiry about the role of causation in the law of inventorship. U.S. law has almost entirely disregarded causation in determining inventorship, with very few exceptions, some of which are surprising. In this essay, I examine those exceptions to inventive causality, the role they play in determining inventorship, and their effect in excluding consideration of mechanical inventors under current law. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 20 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 116

COVID Vaccines and Intellectual Property Rights: Evaluating the Potential for National Legislation Implementing Global Patent Waivers

By: Ashley DaBiere Debates over the proper scope of intellectual property protections during the COVID-19 pandemic have occupied newspaper headlines since the first vaccines were developed nearly three years ago. Scholars and key politicians from several nations considered the implementation of a global patent waiver in an effort to make the vaccines more widely available in developing parts of the world. Although the question of whether such a waiver would fulfill this goal remains empirically unanswered and up for debate, the legal structure of United States patent law would make its implementation by Congress difficult given the value placed on intellectual property protections since America’s birth. If lawmakers wish to consider limiting patent rights in an inevitable future pandemic or other national emergency, they would be wise to consider these legal issues ex-ante by revising the Bayh-Dole Act and the existing patent law takings provision. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 20 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 68

Viagra Did Not Work, but Michael Jordan Still Made It: Trademark Policy Toward the Translation of Foreign Marks in China

By: Jyh-An Lee & LiLi Yang Most multinational enterprises (MNEs) register their original trademarks in Roman letters in China upon entering the Chinese market. However, many fail to develop and register corresponding Chinese marks because they do not understand local culture and consumers, overvalue consumers’ presumed brand loyalty, or neglect the accompanying trademark issues. This failure enables trademark squatters to register and hold the Chinese marks for ransom or local competitors to free ride on foreign marks using their Chinese translations or transliterations. This Article first introduces the complexity of translating a foreign mark into Chinese, which concerns complex linguistic, cultural, and business challenges. Based on recent court decisions, this Article systematically analyzes the legal basis on which an MNE may claim to protect the Chinese equivalent of its original trademarks. This Article then provides essential business and legal implications of China’s trademark policy toward translating foreign-language marks into Chinese.Download Full Article (PDF)Cite: 20 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 36

Food for Thought: Intellectual Property Protection for Recipes and Food Designs

By: Kurt M. Saunders and Valerie Flugge As any chef will tell you, cooking and food preparation is a creative, sometimes innovative, endeavor. Much thought and time is invested in selecting ingredients, developing the process for preparing the dish, and designing an interesting or appealing look and feel for a food item. If this is true, then it should come as no surprise that recipes, food designs, and other culinary creations can be protected by various forms of intellectual property, namely: trade secrets, design and utility patents, trade dress, but usually not copyright. This article considers how intellectual property law has been applied to protect recipes and food designs, along with broader issues relating to how these rights may overlap and their implications for competition. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 19 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 159

Regulating Data as Property: A New Construct for Moving Forward

By: Jeffrey Ritter and Anna Mayer The global community urgently needs precise, clear rules that define ownership of data and express the attendant rights to license, transfer, use, modify, and destroy digital information assets. In response, this article proposes a new approach for regulating data as an entirely new class of property. Recently, European and Asian public officials and industries have called for data ownership principles to be developed, above and beyond current privacy and data protection laws. In addition, official policy guidances and legal proposals have been published that offer to accelerate realization of a property rights structure for digital information. But how can ownership of digital information be achieved? How can those rights be transferred and enforced? Those calls for data ownership emphasize the impact of ownership on the automotive industry and the vast quantities of operational data which smart automobiles and self-driving vehicles will produce. We looked at how, if at all, the issue was being considered in consumer-facing statements addressing the data being collected by their vehicles. To formulate our proposal, we also considered continued advances in scientific research, quantum mechanics, and quantum computing which confirm that information in any digital or electronic medium is, and

Live Sports Virtual Reality Broadcasts: Copyright and Other Protections

By: Marie Hopkins As virtual reality rapidly progresses, broadcasts are able to increasingly mimic the experience of actually attending a game. As the technology advances and the viewer can freely move about the game and virtual reality can simulate the in-stadium attendance, the virtual reality broadcast nears the point where the broadcast is indistinguishable from the underlying game. Thus, novel copyright protection issues arise regarding the ability to protect the experience through copyright. Although normal broadcasts may be copyrighted, virtual reality broadcasts of live sports could lack protection under the Copyright Act because the elements of originality, authorship, and fixation are harder to satisfy for this type of work. If the elements that formerly protected broadcasts through copyright no longer apply, the virtual reality broadcast of the game will lose copyright protection. The virtual reality broadcaster can receive protection for the work in several ways, such as (1) by broadcaster-made modifications to the transmitted broadcast, (2) through misappropriation claims, or (3) by inserting contract terms. These additional steps maintain the ability of virtual reality broadcasters to disseminate works without fear the work will not be protectable by the law. Download Full Article (PDF) Cite: 16 Duke L. & Tech. Rev.

Seeking Rights, Not Rent: How Litigation Finance Can Help Break Music Copyright’s Precedent Gridlock

By: Glenn E. Chappell Since its inception, litigation finance has steadily grown in prevalence and popularity in the United States. While many scholars have examined its merits, few have considered litigation finance specifically in the context of copyright law. This is most unfortunate, for there, a vicious cycle has taken hold: high litigation costs discourage many market participants from taking cases to trial or summary judgment in order to vindicate their legal rights, even when they have strong cases. Thus, parties settle almost every case, which in turn prevents resolution of longstanding precedential questions in critical areas of copyright law. The legal uncertainty resulting from this precedential gridlock generates higher avoidance costs and poses more financial risks for market participants, particularly less-heeled or less-established parties. This Note proposes one way in which litigation finance could help break that cycle. Specifically, rights holders and defendants alike can use litigation finance to fund strategic-litigation campaigns to pressure the development of precedent. To illustrate how this might work, this Note examines litigation finance in the narrow context of music copyright, an area that perfectly illustrates the problems besetting copyright law writ large. In doing so, this Note flips a popular criticism of litigation

Increasing Copyright Protection for Social Media Users by Expanding Social Media Platforms’ Rights

By: Ryan Wichtowski Social media platforms allow users to share their creative works with the world. Users take great advantage of this functionality, as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, and WhatsApp users alone uploaded 1.8 billion photos per day in 2014. Under the terms of service and terms of use agreements of most U.S. based social media platforms, users retain ownership of this content, since they only grant social media platforms nonexclusive licenses to their content. While nonexclusive licenses protect users vis-à-vis the social media platforms, these licenses preclude social media platforms from bringing copyright infringement claims on behalf of their users against infringers of user content under the Copyright Act of 1976. Since the average cost of litigating a copyright infringement case might be as high as two million dollars, the average social media user cannot protect his or her content against copyright infringers. To remedy this issue, Congress should amend 17 U.S.C. § 501 to allow social media platforms to bring copyright infringement claims against those who infringe their users’ content. Through this amendment, Congress would create a new protection for social media users while ensuring that users retain ownership over the content they create. Download Full Article (PDF)