- Next sector for a boom in IP litigation: trade secrets? [Ike Brannon]
- Creating split among federal appeals courts, Seventh Circuit rules auto-erotic asphyxiation falls under insurance policy exclusion for “self-inflicted injury.” [Volokh; Tran v. Minnesota Life Insurance Company] In its commentary, the Institute for Justice is willing to go there: “Will the Supreme Court resolve the split? Don’t hold your breath.”
- “The county has assigned at least four prosecutors to handle the Bellevue cat case” as Miska, the most notorious cat in King County, Washington, lawyers up [KIRO, update]
- I’m quoted in article on Supreme Court’s agreeing to consider whether 1964 ban on employment discrimination because of sex includes ban on transgender discrimination [Nicole Russell, Washington Examiner]
- Federalist Society podcast on populist antitrust with Babette Boliek, Geoffrey Manne, William Rinehart, Hal Singer, and Joanna Tsai;
- Did a mobile home park violate housing discrimination law by checking applicants’ lawful immigration status? Fourth Circuit ruling threatens to open “disparate-impact” floodgates Supreme Court warned of in earlier case [Ilya Shapiro and Nathan Harvey on Cato cert amicus in Waples Mobile Home Park v. de Reyes]
The bikini entrepreneur used lawsuits vigorously in defense of what she said was her intellectual property. But was the garment design her invention? A story of a bikini, three lawsuits, and a cover-up [Katherine Rosman, New York Times]
- “It’s time for our justice system to embrace artificial intelligence” [Caleb Watney, Brookings]
- Ontario woman named vexatious litigant and barred from filing lawsuits without leave tells newspaper “to hold off on publishing her story until all of her matters before the court were concluded, or else” [Jesse McLean and Emily Mathieu, Toronto Star]
- Psittacine hearsay? Parrot said to have repeated “don’t (expletive) shoot” in murder victim’s voice; wife convicted [AP/Detroit News] “The parrot was not involved in any court proceedings.” [Evening Standard (U.K.)]
- Pennsylvania’s abuse-of-process law, not particularly strong in the first place, survives a challenge [Hillary Hunter, WLF]
- No, that’s not how the law works. Sanctions next? “Baton Rouge police officer injured in deadly ambush sues Black Lives Matter” and five leaders of it [CBS]
- “When the first section heading of an opinion is ‘Design Basics and the Art of the Intellectual Property Shakedown,’ you can probably guess how things are going to turn out for Plaintiff Design Basics, LLC.” [John Ross, Short Circuit on this Seventh Circuit case]
- Court order (arising from federal demand for information on three accounts) forbids Facebook “from communicating the existence of the warrants to its users” [Paul Alan Levy]
- “The great intellectual property trade-off”: brief guide to IP by economist Tim Harford [BBC]
- Eye-opening if dogmatic history of how federal government and other institutions connived at residential segregation [David Oshinsky in N.Y. Times reviewing Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law]
- About those “do not remove under penalty of law” mattress tags [Now I Know]
- What comes after a Congressional Review Act (CRA) repeal of a regulation? [Sam Batkins and Adam White, Cato Regulation magazine]
- Estate tax, DC Metro, bogus search-engine takedown suits, and kudos for a Democrat in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
“Indigenous advocates from around the world are calling on a UN committee to ban the appropriation of Indigenous cultures — and to do it quickly….Since it began in 2001, the committee [a “specialized international committee within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency”] has been working on creating and finishing three pieces of international law that would expand intellectual-property regulations to protect things like Indigenous designs, dances, words and traditional medicines.” [CBC/Yahoo]
Explains the WIPO site: “Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), also called ‘expressions of folklore’, may include music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, or many other artistic or cultural expressions.” Also under consideration are rules for “genetic resources” such as seeds, and folk or traditional knowledge.
One wonders how the novel intellectual property regime being contemplated will diverge from earlier, longstanding IP regimes on such questions as which products of the human mind are subject to protection, how long property rights in cultural expression are to persist after original creation and dissemination, and when if ever creative expressions originating with individuals, whether recently or generations ago, may (or must) have their rights assigned to national or ethnic collectives claiming to represent them. Presumably it will be difficult to limit the idea of collective property rights in folkloric expression to indigenous or tribal groups only, and other national groups and ethnicities, including the economically advanced, will also get in line to stake future claims.
Ed Krayewski, writing at Reason, points out that the project could have a potentially welcome consequences if it serves to impede the patenting by sophisticated Western concerns of medicines that were already in traditional usage, and likewise for the copyrighting of traditional designs and the like. Of course, intellectual property systems already are not generally supposed to confer IP rights on knowledge, uses, or expressions that were in use or known about before the claimant’s purported act of creativity, but national IP systems may not always do a good job of recognizing prior art, use, or knowledge.
For the most part, however, this is an effort to restrict the public domain and the creative and expressive liberties it brings with it. Note that an American law professor, formerly United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, is helping push it; earlier on Prof. James Anaya, now dean at Colorado, here.
Their food source is snarled in litigation, so this weekend thousands of virtual rabbits in Second Life began to die. [Rock Paper Shotgun]
As I went walking I saw a sign there.
And on the sign it said “(C) — Guthrie estate”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
“Following their successful actions to bring the songs ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’ into the public domain, New York law firm Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz are now taking on a similar action for the Woody Guthrie classic, ‘This Land Is Your Land.'” [IP Flow/Mimesis Law]
Back in 2004, when the successors in interest of Guthrie’s heirs threatened the writers of a politically oriented parody with copyright litigation, Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation wondered what Guthrie himself would have thought of the action, given that he once used a copyright notice that said:
This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.
The lyrics of “My Land,” including the “No Trespassing” verse lightly altered above, are here, complete with copyright assertion.
On the menu this week at your local restaurant or bakery, you might notice cute wordings like “Famous Horse Race Pie,” “Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Nut Pie,” or even “We’re Not Allowed To Call This Derby Pie.” In a Cato podcast with colleague Caleb Brown, I explain why, and also mention in passing the aggressive enforcement of the Super Bowl trademark.
One reaction: anti-IP libertarian theorist Stephan Kinsella takes issue with several things I say in the podcast and in particular deplores my intended tone of neutral description of trademark law; he contends that a better position would be to challenge the legitimacy of trademark law and of intellectual property law generally, a view some libertarians have taken.
The township of West Orange, N.J. sends a cease and desist letter to a local political activist who runs the domain westorange.info and gets the following response from attorney Stephen Kaplitt (via Above the Law):
Dear Mr. Trenk:
I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your “cease and desist letter,” dated May 13, 2013, regarding his domain westorange.info. Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk! ….
Oh, and just to play along, had you intended for your letter to be taken seriously, even in some small measure, we would have sent in response something along the following lines: …
[several legal points follow about municipalities’ general lack of a right to exclude others from using their names as part of domains]
If you manage to produce supporting authority that even remotely passes the laugh test, I will donate $100 in your honor to the American Civil Liberties Union — N.J. chapter. I plan to make the donation online, assuming the state of New Jersey has not shut down aclu-nj.org.