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High court strikes down ‘scandalous’ part of trademark law
Blog News | 2019/06/25 17:49
The Supreme Court struck down a section of federal law Monday that prevented businesses from registering trademarks seen as scandalous or immoral, handing a victory to California fashion brand FUCT.

The high court ruled that the century-old provision is an unconstitutional restriction on speech. Between 2005 and 2015, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ultimately refused about 150 trademark applications a year as a result of the provision. Those who were turned away could still use the words they were seeking to register, but they didn’t get the benefits that come with trademark registration. Going after counterfeiters was also difficult as a result.

The Trump administration had defended the provision, arguing that it encouraged trademarks that are appropriate for all audiences.

The high court’s ruling means that the people and companies behind applications that previously failed as a result of the scandalous or immoral provision can re-submit them for approval. And new trademark applications cannot be refused on the grounds they are scandalous or immoral.

Justice Elena Kagan said in reading her majority opinion that the most fundamental principle of free speech law is that the government can’t penalize or discriminate against expression based on the ideas or viewpoints they convey. She said Lanham Act’s ban on “immoral or scandalous” trademarks does just that.

In an opinion for herself and five colleagues, both conservatives and liberals, Kagan called the law’s immoral or scandalous provision “substantially overbroad.”

“There are a great many immoral and scandalous ideas in the world (even more than there are swearwords), and the Lanham Act covers them all. It therefore violates the First Amendment,” she wrote.


Supreme Court sides with Alabama company in patent dispute
Blog News | 2019/06/07 23:31
The Supreme Court sided Monday with an Alabama technology company over the U.S. Postal Service in a patent dispute.

The dispute before the justices had to do with U.S. Patent No. 6,826,548. That's the patent Birmingham-based Return Mail has for a system that uses barcodes, scanning equipment and computer databases to process returned mail almost entirely automatically. The Postal Service initially expressed interest in Return Mail's invention but ultimately developed its own, similar system. That led to a dispute over the company's patent.

On Monday, the court sided 6-3 with Return Mail. Of the Postal Service's arguments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor deadpanned in an opinion : "None delivers."

The dispute began when the Postal Service tried and failed to get Return Mail's patent invalidated. Return Mail sued, arguing that the government should pay for using its invention without permission.

Just as Return Mail thought it might be gaining the upper hand, the Postal Service switched tactics, using a 2011 law to challenge Return Mail's patent. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act says that a "person who is not the owner of a patent," can file a patent challenge using the law. The Postal Service argued it counted as a "person" under the law, but the Supreme Court disagreed.


Arizona court says Costco can be sued over ED drug disclosure
Blog News | 2019/05/03 00:11
The Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled that the Costco warehouse store chain can be sued for privacy violations by a Phoenix-area man because a pharmacist joked with his ex-wife about an erectile dysfunction prescription he had never picked up.

The ruling issued Tuesday revived the lawsuit the man filed after the pharmacist told his ex-wife about the prescription when she went to pick up another prescription with his approval. The man had called Costco twice to cancel the prescription before his ex-wife went to the north Phoenix store in early 2016, but the pharmacist did not do so, according to the ruling.

Attorney Joshua Carden filed the lawsuit for the man alleging a variety of violations, but it was dismissed by a trial-court judge. The Court of Appeals revived sections alleging negligence under federal health care privacy law commonly called HIPAA. The ruling potentially allows him to seek punitive damages.

The ruling is the first to say that negligence claims under HIPAA can be brought in Arizona courts, Carden said.

“If there is a big deal in the case it’s that the court went ahead and said yes to negligence claims based on HIPAA violations,” Carden said. “That’s not ever been announced in Arizona before.”

The federal health privacy law doesn’t allow individuals to sue for violations in federal court, he said, and state courts haven’t always been clear about that right.


Supreme Court won't stop bump stock ban
Blog News | 2019/03/28 02:02
The Supreme Court won't stop the Trump administration from enforcing its ban on bump stock devices, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns.

The ban took effect Tuesday. Gun rights groups asked the court on Monday to stop the government from enforcing the ban for now. Chief Justice John Roberts declined one request for the court to get involved on Tuesday and a second request was declined by the court on Thursday. That was the only remaining request.

The administration's ban puts it in the unusual position of arguing against gun rights groups.

President Donald Trump said last year that the government would move to ban bump stocks. The action followed a 2017 Las Vegas shooting where bump stocks were used. Fifty-eight people were killed.



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