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In 2013, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) adopted a new policy under which any party commencing a de novo proceeding challenging a PTO decision would be responsible to pay a pro rata share of the salaries of the government attorneys working on the matter, based on a new interpretation of language that has appeared in the Patent Act for 175 years — and more recently was included in the Lanham Act as well. That language requires the plaintiff seeking de novo review to pay “all expenses of the proceedings,” win or lose. However, the term expenses had always in practice been construed (until recently) to mean only lesser costs — not attorneys’ fees. On Dec. 11, 2019, the Supreme Court rejected the PTO’s new interpretation of the Patent Act in Peter v. NantKwest, Case No. 18-801, slip op., which held that the American Rule, a centuries-old principle under which each party bears its own attorneys’ fees, does apply to this statute. The Court further concluded that the actual language of the statute itself simply does not support shifting fees.
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By Hanchel Cheng
Regardless of whether a patent practitioner’s clients favor a stricter or more lenient eligibility regime, patent eligibility decisions continue to evolve. We need a line drawn for what practitioners expect to be clearer. Hardware inventions are facing patent eligibility challenges that would have seemed more likely in software inventions. Recent court decisions have shown that what once made a hardware invention eligible may no longer fly.
By Richard S.J. Hung, Jacob N. Nagy and Evangeline T. Phang
A recent Federal Circuit opinion sheds light on the process for settling co-ownership disputes pursuant to an underlying agreement. Although the precedential opinion does not change the rules of contract interpretation, it suggests considerations when drafting ownership agreements.
By Stan Soocher
Composers of pre-1978 works often assigned both the initial and renewal copyright terms in their works when signing songwriter agreements with music publishers. But what happens when a grant of the copyright renewal term of a pre-1978 work has been made post-1977?
By Keith Hauprich
In the last two decades, the music industry and, more specifically, songwriters, producers and recording artists have been losing the value of their efforts to online piracy. Perhaps a business-to-business solution can be found between the music industry and cable providers.