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IP Newsletter - April/May 2020

Ideas on Intellectual Property Law

April 1, 2020

Food for thought: Court rules banana costume is copyrightable
In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court in Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc., established a two-part test for analyzing which elements of a piece of clothing are design elements protectable by copyright and which are nonprotectable functional elements. This article reviews a recent case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that has applied the fruit of the high court’s labors in that case for the first time in its jurisdiction. A brief sidebar covers the application of the merger and “scènes à faire” doctrines to the case.
Silvertop Associates Inc. v. Kangaroo Mfg. Inc., No. 18-2266, Aug. 1, 2019, 3d Cir., Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc., 137 S. Ct. 1002 (2017).

Back to the future
Federal Circuit rejects narrow approach to relation back doctrine
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the appellate court that hears all patent-related appeals, recently revived an infringement lawsuit based on the relation back doctrine. This article examines why the court found the trial court’s application of the doctrine, which resulted in the case being dismissed because of the statute of limitations, “overly restrictive.”
Anza Technology, Inc. v. Mushkin, Inc., No. 19-1045, Aug. 16, 2019, Fed. Cir.

No harm, no foul
Fair use defense wins trademark infringement case
Athletes are known for “leaving it all on the field,” or going all out in competition. A nutritional consultant firm for athletes recently took the same mindset to a trademark battle — but it didn’t emerge victorious, because a court found its opponent’s use of its mark was fair. This article examines the fair use defense and how the defendant used it to overcome a claim of trademark infringement.
SportFuel, Inc., v. PepsiCo, Inc., No. 18-3010, Aug. 2, 2019, 7th Cir. 

Timing matters in inter partes review
Inter partes review (IPR) offers parties an expedited opportunity to challenge the validity of a patent outside of court. But, as one challenger recently learned the hard way, it’s critical that arguments against patentability be raised at the proper time. This article reviews the court’s finding that an IPR petitioner may not raise in reply an entirely new rationale for why a claim would have been obvious.
Henny Penny Corp. v. Frymaster LLC, No. 18-1596, Sept. 12, 2019, Fed. Cir.

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