IP news update: a U.S. snapshot

Published on: 02 May 2014
by Amber Halteman, Marketing Manager at Dennemeyer Group, Chicago

As the weather starts to thaw in the northern Unites States, intellectual property matters are heating up across the country.

United States Patent and Trademark Office

New Office of International Patent Cooperation
The USPTO has announced the creation of a new Office of International Patent Cooperation (OIPC). The OIPC was created to focus resources on international patent cooperation efforts. The new office will “provide optimized business process solutions to the international patent examination system for examiners and external stakeholders”.

The Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle Lee stated, “It will allow us to increase certainty of IP rights while reducing costs for our stakeholders and moving towards a harmonized patent system.” To read the full press release, click here.

Reviewing Rules for Post Grant Patent Proceedings
As promised, the USPTO is in process of reviewing the new post grant patent challenges of the America Invents Act. The Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (PTAB) is hosting roundtable discussions throughout the country through the beginning of May to help inform the debate around potential rule revisions. Then, this summer, the USPTO will have a Federal Register Notice to collect more comments. For schedule and agenda for the PTAB discussions, click here.

Social Media and Intellectual Property Rights

As social media becomes increasingly integrated into all aspects of our day-to-day lives, both business and personal, the conflict between social media pages and brands become a growing reality. When a brand finds someone, usually a fan, infringing on their IP, it’s important for the brand to weigh the type of response versus the potential media effect. All responses from the brand, especially in the social media realm, are likely to be broadcast to a wider audience then the initial communication. Positive interactions with fans can reverberate quickly and gain momentum for a brand, providing a virtual goldmine, but this same momentum applies to negative interactions as well. Two recent articles help highlight this situation.

  • Manchester United recently took a heavy handed approach with a fan’s Twitter account that had only 100 followers; 100 followers is a very small footprint on Twitter. While Manchester United is correct in asserting their IP rights, the manner has drawn negative publicity and the instance is now an article on World IP Review magazine. It’s likely we would never have heard this story if Manchester United had taken a simpler approach and spoke with the Twitter handle owner, a dedicated fan, first.
  • Ferrari is also embroiled in a legal battle stemming from a fan page created by a teenager that grew to be one of the most popular car pages on Facebook. As noted in the article, the approach Ferrari took is in stark contrast to the situation Coca-Cola found itself in when a fan page, created by two individuals not employed by Coke, amassed over a million fans. Rather than destroy the fan page or create negative media attention, Coke hired the individuals on as page administrators and worked together to build it into one of the most popular Facebook pages today. Coke is now used as an example of a brand that faced an IP infringement situation and handled it to the benefit of the brand; capitalizing on the strength of outside innovators and fans.

Trade Secrets

There has been an increase in media attention to Trade Secrets and its importance to the intellectual property management mix. Trade secrets are important to larger companies, but they are also just as critical for SMEs. Two articles with an interesting point of view on trade secrets:

  • In the last week of February, the Centre for Responsible Enterprise and Trade (CREATe) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released a study titled ‘Economic Impact of Trade Secret Theft: A framework for companies to safeguard trade secrets and mitigate potential threats’. The IAM blog highlights key findings, the accuracy and the implications of the study.
  • A solid overview of trade secrets – what are they and satisfaction of the secrecy requirement – is provided by this IP Watchdog article. As the article points out, the key is whether “reasonable efforts to preserve secrecy” was employed. Though, what is “reasonable” will vary depending on the company resources and/or value of the secret itself.