By Can Cui*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

I.  Introduction

The 1952 Patent Act sets forth four categories of subject matter that are patent-eligible: process, machine, manufacture, and composition of matter.[FN1] The Supreme Court has interpreted the subject-matter eligibility to be very broad[FN2]; instead of delineating what is patent-eligible, the Supreme Court has crafted a number of categories of “patent-ineligible” subject matter.[FN3] These judicially crafted categories, however, are not well defined.  The boundaries of these categories are also constantly challenged by the advancement of science and technology, particularly biotechnology.  While the Patent Act has remained largely unchanged since its codification in 1952, the discovery of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) in 1953 has revolutionized our lives in a great number of ways.  The complete mapping of the human genome has also changed our way of thinking about life and dealing with disease.  Discoverers of new genes, especially those associated with disease susceptibilities, rushed to the patent office to protect their discoveries.  Whether DNA molecules should be patented had been the topic of active policy debate for more than twenty years until the early 2000’s, when the question about their subject-matter eligibility was first seriously raised in the academy.[FN4]

By Andrew Berger*

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Tenenbaum Finds That a Jury’s Award Within the Statutory Range Violates Due Process

In July 2010 Judge Nancy Gertner in Sony BMG Music Entertainment et al. v. Tenenbaum, did what no court has ever done before. The court held the jury’s statutory damages award of $675,000 violated the Due Process Clause even though the award was within the statutory range set by Congress.[FN1] The court stated that the “award is far greater than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interests in compensating copyright owners and deterring infringement.”[FN2] Judge Gertner slashed the award by 90% to $2,250 per work infringed for a total of $67,500.

Tenenbaum thus becomes the first file sharing case to reach an appellate court following trial.

By Graham Ballou*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

In Our Bizarre System of Copyright Infringement, Mark Lemley argues that copyright law is exactly backwards: we should allow the jury to decide whether a defendant has copied the plaintiff’s work as a factual matter, and leave the question of improper appropriation to experts.[FN1] Expert testimony on substantial similarity would, at the least, clear judicial fog at this stage of a copyright infringement analysis: courts could abandon the fiction of an objective, “ordinary observer” perspective – the controlling test for substantial similarity – and allow specialists to conduct what is in fact a highly technical analysis.  But Lemley overlooks two realities of our copyright system.  First, the court – not the jury – most often has the final word on substantial similarity.  If a defendant loses at trial, she can seek de novo review of this issue.[FN2] Second, courts’ decisions on substantial similarity are much less technical than their elaborate rhetoric would suggest.  Despite the myriad judicial tests that courts employ – from “ordinary observer” to “more discerning ordinary observer,” from “filtration” to “total concept and feel” – their decisions ultimately stampede a formal analytical framework in favor of a basic “we know it when we see it” approach.

Part I of this paper gives a brief overview of the Second Circuit’s substantial similarity doctrine.  Part II examines application of this doctrine at the district court level, where summary judgment opinions from 2008 to 2010 display wide judicial latitude in the framing of the test.  In Part III, I propose an alternative.  Rather than allow expert testimony at this stage of an infringement analysis, copyright law should discourage summary judgment on and de novo review of substantial similarity.  By empowering the jury on this inherently subjective question, courts would free themselves of what has become an unworkable doctrine.

By Jason Tyler*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

I. Introduction

Applying general corporate law principles to Hollywood is challenging because the film industry is unique.  This article attempts to offer some preliminary analysis of two recent Delaware [FN1] Court of Chancery cases dealing with contests for corporate control in light of Hollywood’s unique qualities.  Recently, the Court of Chancery in eBay v. Newmark doubted the ability of firms to cite a threat to corporate culture as legitimate grounds for implementing a takeover defense.[FN2] Just over a year ago, the Court in Amylin expressed doubt about a firm’s ability to impede changes of control by embedding financial penalties, for lack of a better word, in otherwise ordinary business transactions.[FN3] In both cases, the final analysis proceeded naturally from a central tenet of Delaware’s corporate law jurisprudence: ultimate authority to elect corporate directors rests in the hands of the shareholders as the principals of their agent-directors.

By Jordan Markham*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

I.  Introduction

In uncertain times, or when dealing with uncertain partners, planning for the possibility of bankruptcy ex ante can provide a very real benefit to a party contemplating a patent licensing agreement.  Since the financial crisis of 2008, many contractual partners who formerly looked rock solid have experienced major cash-flow problems.  In addition, it has always been the case that in some fields of technology, such as biotech, a significant number of businesses are expected to fail.  Thus, it is important to think through at the outset how a license might be treated by a bankruptcy court, and where possible, to structure the agreement accordingly.  How to best do this will depend primarily on whether a party is the patentee or the licensee, and on the extent to which rights are transferred (i.e. whether the transaction results in a sale or merely a license agreement).  As we shall see, in the context of a bankruptcy proceeding, the patentee is generally better served by a greater, and a licensee by a lesser, transfer of rights.

By Michael J. Kasdan*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

Introduction

The move toward online communication has the potential to throw off the historically careful balance that has been struck regarding First Amendment issues in the realm of “student speech.”  In a seminal trilogy of cases, the Supreme Court balanced the free speech rights of students with school districts’ ability – and even responsibility – to regulate student speech that disrupts the learning environment.  Before the proliferation of instant messaging, SMS texts, and social networking sites, the Court allowed schools to regulate on-campus speech in limited circumstances (i.e., when the speech disrupts the learning environment) but did not extend the school’s authority to regulate speech that occurs off-campus (i.e., speech subject to traditional First Amendment protection).  Electronic communication blurs the boundary between on- and off-campus speech.  While a student may post a Facebook message from the seeming privacy of his or her own home, that message is widely accessible and could have a potentially disruptive effect on campus.

By Brian R. Byrne*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

I.  Introduction

For U.S. filmmakers, the People’s Republic of China represents a prodigious market opportunity.[FN1] As the Chinese middle-class expands,[FN2] enjoying an increase in disposable income,[FN3] the thirst for quality entertainment intensifies.[FN4] Cinema construction rampages across the mainland in an effort to satisfy demand for theatrical releases.[FN5] Yet despite this consumer demand,[FN6] supply methodology remains a perplexing phenomenon. True exploitation of the market is simply chimerical due to an obstinate web of import quotas, censorship, and government intervention, all founded upon a guise of cultural protectionism.[FN7]

However, notwithstanding the obstacles to legitimate distribution, the channels of illegitimate distribution remain relatively unencumbered. Piracy is rampant throughout China[FN8] and high quality copies of pirated films are widely available, often before the film in question has even been released through lawful channels. Moreover, in contrast to lawful distribution, pirates are subject to neither an import quota nor the rigorous censorship regime that would otherwise apply.[FN9] Thus, China appears to offer a distinct advantage to illegitimate market players.

By Steven Olenick*

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Prized basketball recruit Renaldo Sidney has yet to step foot on the court for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.   His eligibility status remains uncertain due to an ongoing investigation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) into his amateurism status regarding receiving improper benefits.[FN1]Oklahoma State star wide receiver, Dez Bryant, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA this past season for lying about a meeting with NFL great Deion Sanders.[FN2] Major League Baseball prospect Andrew Oliver was suspended by Oklahoma State University because he had violated Bylaw 12.3.1 by allowing his former attorney to contact a Major League club and by having his former attorney present when a Major League Baseball club tendered him a contract.[FN3] Recently, another Major League Baseball prospect, James Paxton, had his eligibility questioned for his dealings with a Major League Baseball club.[FN4]

By Scott Gelin and G Roxanne Elings*

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It has never been easier for sellers of counterfeit goods to avoid getting caught. The Internet is particularly well suited for anonymity, and counterfeiters readily take advantage of the Internet’s cloaking abilities. Counterfeiters are able to register domain names, operate web stores that sell counterfeit goods and/or sell counterfeit goods on third party auction platforms, accept and process credit card payments, and ship these illicit goods directly to customers, all without revealing their true identities to consumers, who often think they are buying the real thing, or to brand owners who might try to stop them.

But if brand owners cannot catch the actual counterfeiters and make them pay, why not pursue the selling platforms, credit card processors, shippers, and Internet service providers who make these counterfeit sales possible? After all, these entities garner fees when counterfeiters use their services to sell and distribute fake goods. Also, these service providers may know the counterfeiters’ true identities and be in the best position to make them stop. Another advantage for brand owners to focus on service providers rather than the counterfeiters themselves is that the former are generally easier to locate and often have deeper pockets.

By Brendan J. Coffman*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

INTRODUCTION

A man sits in his apartment in a major United States city checking his email. He may or may not be a U.S. citizen, and may or may not be associated with a significant international organization. The government’s intelligence agencies are not aware of the man, and local police officials have no overt reason to suspect anything abnormal or threatening. His email is transmitted and stored by a major electronic communications service provider, and his private messages on the server contain information vital to his plot—to attack a major U.S. city.

In the adjacent apartment, a man sends an email to a friend discussing his desire—mostly imaginary, but frighteningly realistic—of assaulting his female neighbor. The friend’s wife intercepts the email. The wife does not believe the man would follow through on his desires, and goads him on in response. Much like the case above, the police have no reason to suspect any dangerous intention from this man.