Top Tens in 2015: Patent, Trademark, Copyright and Trade Secret Cases

McJohn, Stephen | January 1, 2017

The Supreme Court significantly affected the dynamics of patent litigation, holding that patent claim interpretation was not always reviewed de novo and that good faith belief that a patent was invalid was not a defense to infringement. The Federal Circuit potentially changed the approach to patent claim interpretation, holding that claims could be interpreted in light of the written description of the invention, even where the claim was not ambiguous. The Federal Circuit also addressed inducement of patent infringement, holding that it was not inducement to suggest consulting a physician who would likely prescribe an infringing treatment. The Federal Circuit also held that two parties acting in concert could infringe a patent, replacing its rejected doctrine of divided infringement. Trademark saw rejection of trade dress protection for cell phone design and conflicting opinions on whether disparaging trademarks are registrable. Copyright cases show that fair use authorized the Google Book project and also protected against attempts to use copyright to censor critics. Courts addressed some classics of copyright courses, including the copyrightability of maps, recipes, and “Happy Birthday to You.” Trade secret cases emphasized the fundamental requirements, rejecting attempts to give trade secret protection where parties had failed to take the necessary reasonable security measures