A primer that provides an overview of patent issues and what they mean for startups.
California collecting input on privacy law. The process of implementing a new California privacy law kicked off in earnest this week as state Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office held its first public forum on the issue.
A flood of perspectives on privacy. Late last week, the federal government got dozens of comments from companies, trade groups, non-profits and more on how to approach consumer privacy online. As part of the response to a request for comments on a broad framework for consumer privacy, Engine submitted comments to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, outlining the ways in which various privacy proposals and laws affect startups.
Engine filed an amicus petition to the Supreme Court of the United States on Tuesday, November 13th to urge the court to consider the case. In our brief, we argue that the Federal Circuit’s decision in the case conflicts with the Supreme Court’s ruling on patentable subject matter eligibility.
Engine has released a new booklet that outlines why the strength of the patent system is so important for startups.
The Big Story: Patent trolls aren’t a fairy tale. Last week, in a speech to the Eastern District of Texas Bar Association, the United States Patent and Trademark Office Director Iancu told a room full of trial lawyers that there is no patent troll problem and that it's just a "narrative" being pushed by large companies trying to decrease innovation and competition. This week, we pushed back on that claim, explaining that abusive patent litigation is “a real threat and one every startup founder dreads.”
Pushing 5.9 GHz for 5G. The federal government is seeing more and more pressure to free up airwaves currently reserved for vehicle safety so that they can be used for the next generation of wireless networks, especially as different vehicle safety technologies that don’t depend on that spectrum are becoming commonplace.
The Big Story: A second Senate privacy hearing. The Senate Commerce Committee held its second hearing on online privacy this week, which included testimony from privacy advocates pushing for federal privacy legislation.
A year after the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Food Group Brands LLC, however, Marshall may be returning to the normalcy of tumbleweeds and prairie, as NPEs who once filed there flock instead to other jurisdictions.
Engine looks forward to working with President Trump’s for nominee Andrei Iancu for the position of the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As a non-profit advocacy and research organization that supports startups, we understand what an important position the Director of the USPTO is to protecting the innovation ecosystem.
The First Comment Period for the FCC NPRM on Net Neutrality Closes. Monday was the deadline for the first round of comments to be filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that addresses the 2015 Open Internet Order. Engine was one of over 10 million groups and individuals to file comments with the Commission. The deadline for reply comments extends to August 16. In its submission, Engine explained the need for clear regulations to protect startups from threatening behavior by ISPs and incumbents. “The NPRM’s indifference to the ISP abuse of their terminating access monopoly power is incredibly dangerous to entrepreneurship. Without bright line rules banning anti-competitive ISP practices, startups will be put at a structural disadvantage in competing with well-heeled incumbents, causing venture investment to dry up and innovation to suffer,” Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, wrote. The White House, which has been mostly mum on the topic, also weighed in on the debate this week. “The best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty,” deputy White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.
Today, the Supreme Court delivered a blow to patent trolls by unanimously reversing the Federal Circuit’s decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC. The high court ruled that defendants in patent cases can only be sued where they are incorporated or have a regular and established place of business. The decision will make it significantly harder for patent trolls to file lawsuits in jurisdictions that patent-friendly but otherwise unrelated to the claims at issue—most notably the Eastern District of Texas, where almost forty percent of patent cases were filed last year.
Today, Engine hosted Austin Meyer, the director of the new documentary “The Patent Scam,” at the Capitol Hill Visitor Center. The screening and subsequent discussion with real victims of patent litigation abuse demonstrated the extent that the U.S. patent system is failing to protect small businesses and startups from patent trolls.
After almost five years of legal volleying, the U.S. Supreme Court finally issued a decision in the highly anticipated Apple v. Samsung design patent case late last year. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the court delivered a unanimous decision in favor of Samsung, finding that damages for design patent infringement may be limited to revenues attributable to a component of an article of manufacture rather than profits from the entire article. While this is an important victory for startups and innovators—from global corporations to inventors toiling in garages—courts must still work to provide the guidance and clarity necessary to prevent bad actors from abusing the patent system to the detriment of innovation. And they have a new opportunity to do so: On Feb. 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit took a significant step in that direction by remanding the Apple v. Samsung case to the Northern District of California court.
Under Director Michelle Lee, the Patent Office has made real strides toward fixing patent quality. While much work in that area remains to be done, we are encouraged by the steps she and her team have taken and are pleased that she will remain in her role in the incoming Administration so that this important work can continue. Startups in particular rely on a well-functioning patent system, and under Director Lee's leadership, the Patent Office has welcomed the startup community to play a role in that debate. We look forward to continuing working with her to ensure that that the patent system promotes rather than hinders innovation.
The Supreme Court’s December 2016 decision in Apple vs. Samsung reversed a dangerous lower court decision that would have allowed patent plaintiffs to claim the total value of a product containing an allegedly infringing design feature, even if that design feature only provides a small amount of the product’s value. While total profits awards may arguably have been more plausible in an age when devices were less complicated and the design of the object constituted a significant portion of its value, the complexity of modern devices renders total profits awards for design patent infringement particularly illogical.
The patent system was established by our founding fathers as a tool to promote innovation and invention. But too often, America’s most creative, forward-thinking startups find themselves interacting with the patent system in a less-than-ideal way: on the receiving end of an infringement suit or a letter threatening as much. Bad actors that have amassed hundreds and thousands of overbroad, low-quality patents (colloquially known as “patent trolls”) target businesses, using these patents as proverbial weapons with the goal of forcing companies into costly settlements.