Key IP Trends To Watch For In 2020
A new decade is upon us, and its first two months have veered between ordinary and chaotic. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum lie a handful of developments relevant to the field of Intellectual Property.
Right now, it is not clear if IP's changes will materialize at blistering speed or a more measured pace, but 2020 is set to feature several key IP law trends.
Diagnostic patents will stay status quo in American IP law, for now
The 2010s were a curious decade for IP cases in the highest court of the U.S. Numerous decisions, including Alice Corp. v CLS Bank and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs added knottier caveats to the already complex, but, up to that point, well-established - spiderweb of American IP law. Recently, the Supreme Court declined a case that could have shook up IP regulations:
In Athena Diagnostics v. Mayo Collaborative Services, Athena tried to protect its new method for diagnosing a chronic autoimmune disease from alleged infringement by Mayo (the same firm that took Prometheus to court in 2012 over a similar issue). The precedent cited by Mayo established that processes contingent on "laws of nature" could not be patented. Since the Athena method involved detecting a naturally occurring molecule, it fell under that purview. The Federal Circuit (and its Court of Appeals) took Mayo's side, so Athena filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on October 1, 2019. On January 13, 2020, the Court denied Athena's request - contrary to the expectations of many in the IP law community - so Mayo's precedent stands. Anyone working in medicine or throughout the life sciences will continue to be frustrated in their efforts to patent similar techniques. But the Supreme Court is not done handling IP cases by a long shot. The justices are currently hearing Romag Fasteners v. Fossil, in which the plaintiff argues Fossil infringed on its profits when it used counterfeit Romag magnetic snaps in its handbags. Since the current court leans in a fairly traditionalist direction (given its inflexibility in a case like Athena), the judges are most likely to side with the plaintiff. Bold changes to American IP law will probably be seen in Congress before they surface in the court system.
Domain names could be better protected
On the other hand, the Supreme Court seems entirely more willing to debate the validity of domain names receiving protections under the same criteria that give trademarks their status...
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