In case you have been on vacation for the past two weeks, here is a quick update of some major developments in the intellectual property arena. Depending on your position, they may represent the “good,” the “bad” or the “ugly.” Alice Corporation Supreme Court Decision Yesterday, in the Alice Corporation case, the Supreme Court provided further comment on patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in the computer software context. The patent claims-at-issue were directed to “a computerized scheme for mitigating ‘settlement risk.’” The Court held, in part, that “the claims at issue [were] drawn to the abstract idea of intermediated settlement, and that merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.” The takeaway is that merely reciting a computer system configured to implement an abstract concept will not be patent-eligible subject matter. Rader Resigns As previously reported, Federal Circuit Judge Randall Rader stepped down as chief judge last month in the midst of criticism over his controversial e-mail. Last week, Judge Radar announced that he will be retiring from the bench at the end of the month. He intends to teach. Washington Redskins Trademarks Cancelled On June 18, 2014, the Trademark Trail and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) in the Amanda Blackhorse matter cancelled Pro-Football, Inc.’s trademark registrations consisting in whole or in part for the term REDSKINS for professional football-related services. The marks were cancelled because they were found to be disparaging to Native Americans and as such, were obtained in violation of 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), which prohibits “registration of marks that may disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The TTAB was quick to point out that its decision solely related to the right to register these marks and does not deal with the right to use such marks. This is an important distinction as this case will surely be appealed and does not extinguish any common law enforcement rights that may exist. Thus, if you are thinking about starting your own REDSKINS clothing line, you might want to rethink that decision.
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals announced that Chief Judge Randall R. Rader will be stepping down as Chief Judge on May 30, 2014. Judge Sharon Prost will succeed Judge Rader, who will remain active on the bench. The Federal Circuit is a unique court of appeals because its jurisdiction is not based on its geographic location, but rather on particular subject matter. It is most well known for having exclusive jurisdiction over patent appeals from all U.S. District Courts. Nominated in 1990 by President Bush, Judge Rader has been one of the more outspoken and influential judges in the area of patent law. Although there are rumors being circulated as to why Judge Rader has stepped down, we should remember that there are always two sides to every story. Judge Rader could have remained within the Beltway all of these years, but, instead, he made an effort to assist practitioners across the country. We should keep this in mind in the coming weeks.