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Recently in Intellectual Property Law Category

A pair of patent appeals were argued before the High Court this week, each with potentially massive ramifications for IP litigators. One involves a challenge to a part of the inter partes patent review process established by the 2011 America Invents Act, while the other challenges the whole inter partes review process.

Both appeals strike a chord within the tech and intellectual property communities as each is attacking a process designed to stem and discourage patent trolls from filing lawsuits. The inter partes patent review process was designed to resolve the technical aspects of patent infringe disputes in a more cost effective manner.

Trademark attorneys, brief your intake clerks, and tell them to get ready for the flood of unpopular clients. In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court held that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment. The disparagement clause required rejection of a trademark "which may disparage ... persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute."

The case was brought by an Asian American music group named "The Slants" which had sought trademark protection for their controversial name. Originally, the Patent and Trademark Office denied their trademark application, and the subsequent appeal. The federal district court overturned the PTO's decision, but that ruling was appealed up to the Supreme Court. Today's SCOTUS ruling upheld the group's right to trademark protection, paving the way for other controversial "disparaging" trademarks.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in Lee v. Tam, the much-anticipated case over trademark registration, free speech, and disparaging names. The Slants, an Asian-American "Chinatown dance rock" band, had its trademark rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Slants' name, the PTO explained, was the sort of "scandalous, immoral, or disparaging mark" for which the Lanham Act denies trademark protection.

That decision eventually led the Federal Circuit to strike down the act's "disparaging marks" provisions as unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. That's a ruling that could reach well beyond The Slants -- and straight to the Redskins, the Washington, D.C. football team that has been fighting its own offensive name dispute for years.

If you want to look thinner, try stripes, Court watchers learned yesterday. For extra slimming, look for clothes with "waist-narrowing V's."

No, the justices weren't advising Alito on the best way to wear a black robe. They were hearing oral arguments in a dispute over copyright protection for cheerleader uniform designs, arguments which quickly turned to how Kate Winslet chooses clothing to flatter her figure.

Will Samsung be able to blow up Apple's $399 million patent infringement award against it, or will its legal arguments spontaneously combust in front of the Supreme Court? The company, which is currently struggling to keep its Galaxy Note 7 phones from literally exploding, came before the Court yesterday to challenge the massive infringement award meted out after Samsung was found to have copied design features from the Apple iPhone in its own Galaxy line of smartphones.

The case is the culmination of a fiery legal battle that has lasted five years and which could carry significant implications for the design and technology industries.

So far, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear just over 30 cases during the upcoming term, but that number is sure to balloon in the coming weeks and months. Next week, for example, the Court will begin its "long conference," going through the cert petitions that have accumulated over the summer, followed by more cert reviews as the term goes on.

But the Court's makeup could be pushing it to accept some petitions while passing on others. The "shorthanded and ideologically divided Court," Reuters' Lawrence Hurley reports, is "showing a keen interest in more technical cases," such as intellectual property disputes. Among the drier cases that the Court could take up is a dispute over a dancing baby and a controversy over an offensive band name.

The Supreme Court has been in a generous mood this week. On Monday, the Court made it easier for patent holders to get treble damages for patent infringement and yesterday a unanimous Court ruled that the reasonableness of a party's claims should not be the determining factor when awarding attorney's fees under the Copyright Act's fee-shifting provisions.

The opinion, written by Justice Kagan, revived a $2 million claim for attorney's fees by Supap Kirtsaeng, a former Thai student who had been sued by an American textbook publisher. The ruling marks the second Supreme Court win for Kirtsaeng -- and his best chance at recovering legal fees after years of litigation.

The Patent Act authorizes courts to impose triple damages in cases of infringement. But the Federal Circuit's Seagate test makes those damages hard to come by, imposing a relatively complicated two-part test to determine when damages are warranted, subject to trifurcated (yes, trifurcated) appellate review.

The Supreme Court tossed out that test yesterday, ruling unanimously that the Seagate requirements were not consistent with the Patent Act. The ruling is a boon to patent holders, who could see much more money coming from litigating patent infringement now. It's also on track with the Court's recent trend of striking down tests which "impermissibly encumber" a court's discretion to allow enhanced damages.

There's a massive showdown coming to the Supreme Court -- over cheerleader uniforms. On one side is Star Athletica, an upstart purveyor of spirited outfits for spirited squads. On the other is Varsity Brands, hometown heroes and long-time reigning champs, at least when it comes to everything cheerleading. Caught in the middle are thousands of peppy high schoolers who just want to waive some pompoms and scream "go team!"

And last Monday, the Supreme Court decided it would play referee in the competition between the two companies, granting cert to a dispute over whether cheerleading uniform designs are entitled to copyright protection. So, cheerleaders, get ready to "bring it on!" On to the Supreme Court, that is.

Once upon a time, to read a book you had to travel to the local bookstore, or, for the penny wise, the library. If you needed information from a rare or out of print work, you might have to go halfway across the world to secure a copy. Today? You can just Google.

Google Books, the search behemoth's attempt to digitize all the world's printed matter, already has 25 million titles online, searchable and available for free. But four million of those titles are copyrighted, leading to a long-running class action lawsuit by the Authors Guild, which argued that Google was engaged in "massive copyright infringement." The authors lost that challenge in the Second Circuit and, on Monday, the Supreme Court wrote the final chapter to the dispute, denying cert and allowing that decision to stand.