ReDigi has created software that purports to remove old digital music files from the user’s equipment and then allow that user to resell these files through ReDigi’s on-line marketplace. Capitol Records filed suit against the company in 2012 claiming copyright infringement. The first sale doctrine seems to suggest that a purchased copy can be legally sold. But is a digital copy a true “copy” under copyright law?
UPDATE: In April 2013 the Court granted
summary judgment for Capitol Records, finding that ReDigi’s online sale of
digital music constitutes copyright infringement. This ruling creates a
distinction between physical items and digital ones. While this case
applies to digital music, it may affect the resale of all digital works
including e-books. ReDigi may appeal.
On December 28th, President Obama signed the Theft of Trade Secrets Act into law (18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-39). This act amends the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA) and grants federal courts much broader jurisdiction over trade secret misappropriation cases. In the past, state laws governed trade secret protection and federal jurisdiction was only granted in cases where the trade secret misappropriation involved a product that the company used or sold in interstate or foreign commerce. Items used internally within a company did not fall within federal jurisdiction. The current law expands federal jurisdiction, allowing oversight in trade secret cases involving “a product or service used in or intended for use” in commerce.
Two recent trade secret decisions held that products and processes comprised of a combination of components qualify for trade secret protection even if the individual components are in the public domain. Trade secret protection may be available if the combination of these elements is not readily known or easily ascertainable.
A growing number of companies are amassing enormous IP portfolios, often purchasing patents from underfunded inventors. Those in the warehouse patent business generally have no intention of bringing these inventions to market; they profit through licensing and litigation. Oftentimes the purchased patents have overly broad claims, allowing these “patent trolls” to bully would-be infringers into a licensing agreement. Those who refuse find themselves in court and are forced to spend huge sums on their legal defense.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) is a valuable resource in preventing the importation of counterfeit goods. While the ITC cannot award damages, they can issue exclusion orders that will keep infringing products out of the United States. These orders are generally much easier to obtain than court ordered injunctions.
A court in the United Kingdom recently held that Nestle cannot trademark the shape of its chocolate Kit Kat bar. This may pave the way for competitors such as Cadbury to make a similarly shaped bar. Nestle plans to appeal this decision.
The Plaintiff artist in this case claimed that she was approached to create an advertising campaign for Starbucks. She declined but argued that Starbucks stole the core of her style, creating an ad that had the same shapes and colors as much of her art. While “look and feel” claims are common in Copyright suits, “style” is not protectable under copyright law. The fact that Starbucks used similar shapes and colors was not sufficient to support her claim and the suit was dismissed.
Irish fast food chain, Supermac, has successfully challenged McDonald’s EU trademark BIG MAC. After reviewing the mark, the EU Intellectual Property Office found that evidence submitted by McDonald’s was insufficient to support its use. The BIG MAC trademark registration was canceled and Supermac is now free to expand within the UK and EU.