Monday, April 20, 2015

John Oliver Takes On The Patent Trolls

The problems with the existing patent system are no longer just a matter for patent lawyers. Rather the mainstream media has taken notice: In yesterday's "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver discusses patent trolls.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Latest EFF Project: Letter To The Federal Circuit About Transparency

Government transparency is an important issue.  In our complicated society, people need to know what their government is doing, so they can take steps to disagree if they don't like what is happening.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit took a big step backwards on transparency.  Up until December 2014, the Federal Circuit would post on its website both its published opinions (its decisions in a case) and court orders affecting the procedure of a case. After December, the court effectively decided to stop posting orders. For example, in the third quarter of 2014, the court posted over 180 orders; but in the first quarter of 2015, the court only posted six orders.

Why are orders important? They inform the public of important events in legal cases that aren't a final, published opinion. These can include orders dismissing an appeal, orders granting temporary relief, orders transferring lawsuits from one trial court to another, and many more. For example, public interest groups like EFF rely on such orders to decide whether to participate in a case going forward, by filing an amicus brief. It's therefore very disappointing that the Federal Circuit decided to stop posting most of its orders.

Yesterday, EFF, along with Professor Dennis Crouch (the editor and author of the popular Patently-O blog), sent a letter to the Federal Circuit asking them to restore the publication of orders. EFF's blog post about the letter is here; Professor Crouch's blog post is here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Best Comment Feed Ever?

Groupon sells a banana holder called a "Banana Bunker."  The product resembles, um, a more adult-oriented product.  Groupon decided to respond to every comment posted on the product's web page, and the comment feed is hilarious.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My Latest EFF Amicus Brief: Commil v. Cisco

Last Thursday, EFF filed the latest amicus brief I helped write.  As explained in EFF's blog post, the case involves the level of intent necessary to induce someone else to infringe a patent.  In Commil v. Cisco, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had ruled that a good faith belief that a patent is invalid is a defense to a claim for inducement.  The Supreme Court agreed to review the case; EFF's brief supports the Federal Circuit's rule.  Public Knowledge also has a very good blog post discussing the case.

Monday, November 24, 2014

13 Amazing Food and Life Hacks You Need to Know Right Now

Here are "13 Amazing Food and Life Hacks You Need to Know Right Now."
Some samples:
"1. Keep cake moist by just eating the entire thing in one sitting."
"4. Can’t fold a fitted sheet? Don’t worry, nobody can. Unless you are a wizard or something."
"5. To store asparagus for up to 2 weeks, first I would suggest you consider how much you actually like asparagus and why you bought so much asparagus 2 weeks before you planned on eating it."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dave Barry's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Humorist Dave Barry has succumbed to the trend of advertising for Christmas before it's even Thanksgiving.  Happily, it's due to Dave's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide!  Best ones: "Selfie" Toaster; "Rocky" Action Figure: The Meat: and Acupuncture Pig Model.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Latest EFF Amicus Brief: 77 Computer Scientists Ask The Supreme Court To Review Oracle v. Google

Last Friday, EFF filed the latest amicus brief I helped write, in the Oracle v. Google case.  The case involves Oracle's claim that Java's Application Programming Interfaces (API) are copyrightable.  Generally speaking, APIs are specifications that allow computer programs to communicate with each other, or to allow a program to communicate with a human being.

In May 2012, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs were not protected by copyright.  Oracle appealed to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; as part of that appeal, EFF filed an amicus brief on behalf of 32 computer scientists.

In a terrible decision in May 2014, the Federal Circuit reversed Judge Alsup and held that APIs are copyrightable.  The Federal Circuit went out of its way to disagree with the Lotus v. Borland case I worked on twenty years ago, which dealt with similar issues.  The circuit court's decision was harshly criticized by nearly every commentator who wrote about the case (the sole possible exception being a paid consultant for Oracle).  One commentary observed, "The court that created the patent troll mess is screwing up copyright too" (that commentator previously observed how the Federal Circuit has damaged the patent system).

In October, Google asked the Supreme Court to review this case; its petition for certiorari is here (or here).  On Friday, EFF and other groups filed amicus briefs supporting the petition.  EFF's amicus brief was on behalf of an expanded group of 77 computer scientists.  As explained in EFF's press release, signatories to the brief include five Turing Award winners, four National Medal of Technology winners, and numerous fellows of the Association for Computing Machinery, IEEE, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The list also includes designers of computer systems and programming languages such as AppleScript, AWK, C++, Haskell, IBM S/360, Java, JavaScript, Lotus 1-2-3, MS-DOS, Python, Scala, SmallTalk, TCP/IP, Unix, and Wiki.  ArsTechnica's article about EFF's filing is here; other articles or discussion boards are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Articles by Public Knowledge about its amicus brief are here and here.  CCIA's amicus brief is here.  Other articles about all three of these amicus briefs are here and here.

The Law Professor's brief, filed by Pam Samuelson of U.C. Berkeley, is here.