Every week, we will be highlighting the top patent, copyright, trademark, intellectual property, etc. stories of the previous week in our “In Case You Missed It” segment. The list itself is in no particular order and includes a wide range of stories from the patent world that are informative, noteworthy, or just plain bizarre. The stories included encompass everything from Supreme Court cases to insights into growing industries. Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the stories or share an important one we missed!
“The Ohio State University Seeks to Trademark ‘The”
The Ohio State University has recently moved to trademark the word “the” for use on clothing and hats according to a new USPTO filing. The emphasis of “The” in “The Ohio State University” has been synonymous with the school and is well-known throughout both the collegiate and professional sports world. It is a running joke of sorts where the school is pronounced as THE Ohio State University. Trademark attorney Josh Gerben, who originally found the filing, notes the word will most likely not be sufficient for trademark use will be promptly rejected by the USPTO.
This is not the first time the school has attempted to file a controversial trademark. Back in 2017, Ohio State and Oklahoma State University were in a battle over the rights to the “OSU” trademark after Ohio State filed for it. It was eventually settled that Ohio State would get the rights to the trademark in 19 states while Oklahoma got the rights in 17 states.
USPTO defines trademarks as “any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.” To read more about this story, click here (via Smithsonian, August 16th, 2019).
“Walmart Files Patent for Blockchain-Backed Drone Communication”
As we covered in the past, Walmart is outpacing retail giants like Amazon in drone patents as these companies prepare for a future where drone deliveries are the norm. Walmart has taken the drone race one step further, filing a patent for drones to communicate with one another via blockchain.
The information exchanged on the blockchain between drones would include data that makes drones more aware of one another. For example, drone identification numbers, flight speeds and altitudes, direction, braking, flight routes, etc. Walmart claims such communication will allow for “unprecedented coordination.”
The advantage of blockchain technology is data security whereby messages relayed between drones can be encrypted. A blockchain ledger, according to the patent, “may store any kind of information that may be stored in any other format or medium, for example, a large list of instructions of different types, navigational information, and maps. In such a way, a same software profile may be deployed across the cloned drones.” To read more about this story, click here (via CoinDesk, August 14th, 2019).
“The Trump Administration Picks a Side in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Fight”
Led Zeppelin is currently in an ongoing legal battle over allegations that the main riff of their iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” was plagiarized from Spirit’s “Taurus.” In 2016, a jury ruled there was not substantial similarities between the songs however the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated it would review that decision two months ago. Now, the Department of Justice is weighing in, filing an amicus brief against the claims by the plaintiff.
In their statement, the government argues that because the 1909 Copyright Act did not fully protect sound recordings, only deposits submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office could warrant the scope of copyright protection “Taurus” was judged on by jurors. The protection of sound recordings did not occur until a 1971 congressional bill and then ultimately the 1976 Copyright Act. “Plaintiff relies on policy arguments to suggest that courts should accord copyright protection to the work as embodied in some form other than the complete copy deposited with the Copyright Office,” the DOJ states.
The DOJ goes on to explain that deposit copies submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office “include the elements of a song, such as the melody and lyrics, that are of most importance to the copyright owner.” Failure to include such elements “reflect a failing on the part of the copyright owner or its agent.” What this could mean for other pre-1970’s artists is yet to be seen. To read more about this story, click here (via The Hollywood Reporter, August 16th, 2019).
“Harley-Davidson Patents Group Riding-Friendly Adaptive Cruise Control”
A new patent from Harley Davidson outlines a system for motorcycles to utilize automotive adaptive cruise control (ACC) technology. Conventional ACC systems are meant for cars in a single lane to maintain a set distance from another car ahead of them, adjusting for speed. For groups of motorcyclists, this technology is not effective because motorcycle groups are in staggered and off-centered formations. Conventional technology cannot account for multiple vehicles in a lane.
That said, Harley Davidson’s patent could potentially solve that problem. The technology would enable motorcyclists to lock onto a vehicle of their choice and distinguish between a motorcycle and a car. By allowing motorcyclists to lock onto the motorcycle closest to them, the group of riders can maintain a safe distance from one another. The technology will also enable a motorcyclist to account for leads changing lanes to overtake a vehicle. To read more about this story, click here (via Ride Apart, August 16th, 2019)