Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Update II

Just another reminder that blog articles regarding technology and intellectual property will be delayed until the end of summer due to job commitments. You can still follow posts that I have written at Additionally, I now have a Twitter account which you can follow. I will focus Tweeting on stories of the same subject matter as this blog, technology and intellectual property, and because Tweeting is quicker and simpler than writing a full post, I will be actively posting this summer. Bear with me, though, because I am new to Twitter, it may take some time until I am Tweeting on a consistent, frequent basis. So, please follow me on Twitter or Tweet at me. My handle is @GoingsTechLaw. I welcome questions or ideas for new articles!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer Update

Posting has been at a standstill for a while due to finals and the beginning of summer. I will continue to follow emerging technology and intellectual property issues throughout the summer, but posting will be extremely limited because of job commitments. You can, however, follow updates and blog posts by me on issues in other areas of law at

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Market, Patents, and Pirating: A Look into the Future of 3D Printing

In lieu of my recent post about 4D printing, I was asked by an acquaintance about the implications patents could have on the emerging 3D printing industry. He posed a hypothetical illustrate an instance in which issues might arise which sparked deep thought process about what we might see in the future of 3D printing:
"A mechanic needs a part to make repairs and can "print" the part at a much lower cost than what it would cost to purchase the part from a company."

First, we must address how the market will react to the ability to purchase and print parts and other objects at home. The market will eventually correct itself. This is similar to what occurred in the market when online shopping first appeared. People could browse many products quickly and buy items at a reduced cost from the comfort of their home. As this became popular, the market changed and began catering toward online shopping. As 3D printing becomes more prevalent and affordable, I believe we will start to see things such as presented in the hypothetical occurring. Thus, the market will be forced to shift once again to encompass this new outlet.

This new market also presents an entirely new hurdle for patent-holders and inventors alike. I believe that patent-holders and companies will continue to hold the patents on their parts and products but will license the right to sell them as 3D printable objects out to sellers, much as software developers license out their software to 3rd parties. This only addresses patent issues to a small degree though. "[Relevant] for reproducing 3D objects, patent law does have a novelty requirement. Patent law does not allow for parallel creation. Once an invention is patented every unauthorized reproduction of that invention is an infringement, whether the reproducer is aware of the original invention or not." (Michael Weinberg, "It Will Be Awesome if They Don't Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology")**. Therefore, there is almost limitless opportunity for users to unknowingly violate copyrights.

Once products and parts have been reduced to CAD (Computer Assisted Design) files, pirating and illegally obtaining them will be easy for the computer-saavy. We already see pirating of software programs, games, music, etc. How long will it be until people are able "steal" entire physical devices or products from their computer chairs. Though, generally, the average citizen will pay for a product if they can. This will likely still hold true in the advent of 3D printing, especially if the paid-for product is of higher quality than other wise be acquired.

A quote from Mr. Weinberg's article sums up this discussion nicely: As "[t]he line between a physical object and a digital description of a physical object...begin to is keep a vigilant eye on these policy debates as they grow. For [t]here will be a time when impacted legacy industries demand some sort of DMCA for 3D printing."

**To read Mr. Weinberg's article in full, visit

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3D Printing? How About 4D Printing!

While innovations are still occurring with 3D printing, creating new possibilities and uses for the technology and decreasing the cost of 3D printing units, some companies are already looking to the future. This step beyond has been dubbed "4D Printing." The 4th Dimension implicated in the name is time and refers to the change over time that the object undergoes.

MIT professor Skylar Tibbits recently spoke at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) event about this venture. For those that do not know, TEDTalks are conference events that bring together entrepreneurs and visionaries to discuss research and innovations in their fields of study. Skylar's 8 minute presentation introduced attendees to the concept of 4D printing, which improves upon 3D printing by embedding programming into the printed objects which allow them to construct themselves.

These objects would be able to use passive energy sources, such as heat or water, to change from their printed form into the form indicated in the embedded programming, thus eliminating the need for hours of frustration at confusing assembly instructions. While technology of the scale able to produce larger results such as this is not yet available, researchers have already succeeded in producing self-assembly on a smaller scale.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is also working on technology of a similar nature. Seeking to prevent enemies from obtaining and using or reverse-engineering discarded or lost electronics equipment, DARPA has begun researching creating equipment which could degrade into the environment at a signal and render them useless. 4D printing and program embedding innovation could prove immensely beneficial to DARPA's goals.

The possibilities for 4D printing are mind-boggling and nearly unlimited, but what negative implications could it hold? People will always find a way to warp and exploit new technologies to unintended or even harmful uses. So while this breakthrough is a step forward, we must be wary where these "steps" may lead.

Watch Skylar's presentation here:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reselling Textbooks: Intellectual Property Theft or Savvy Business?

Ask any student what the best part about buying textbooks for classes is and you'll probably get one of two answers: "NOTHING!" or "Getting SOME of that money back by reselling it." One resourceful student turned the common practice of reselling into a successful business practice.

Foreign student Supap Kirtsaeng purchased textbooks at a lower price from a foreign subsidiary of John Wiley & Sons, an academic textbook publisher, had them shipped to himself here in America, and then sold them at a profit. When they became aware of this, Wiley brought suit against Kirtsaeng, arguing 17 USCS § 106(3) barred Kirtsaeng's sale of the textbooks. Kirtsaeng appealed, arguing "First Sale" protects his business. The doctrine of "first sale" allows the owner of a lawfully acquired copy of a work to do anything they wish with it after purchase, including reselling.

The case ultimately reached the Supreme Court who overturned the verdict in favor of Wiley and the $600,000 awarded to them. The Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine of "First Sale" applies even to copyrighted material that is manufactured abroad, believing this protects consumer rights.

Was the Supreme Court correct in allowing Kirtsaeng's actions to fall under the "first sale" doctrine? Will this open a "can of worms" like the dissenters believe? Does this ruling make importation privilege in copyright law outdated and insignificant?

It is too early to tell whether this will cause the fallout that some judges fear, but "first sale" hasn't caused the downfall of companies in the past. There are other laws and precedents that have and will continue to prevent the economic fallout and "parade of horribles" of which the dissenters of the opinion alluded. And, as we all know, case law is not set in stone and it may only be a matter of time before one of the dreaded "horribles" raises its head and brings to light reasons to rethink Kirtsaeng's ruling.

Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2013 U.S. LEXIS 2371 (2013)
E. Joshua Rosenkranz, petitioner
Theodore B. Olson, respondant

Monday, April 1, 2013

Advice From Jackie Hutter, IP Strategist and Attorney

A small group of fellow students and I had the opportunity to have lunch with Jackie Hutter and discuss the ways that the IP Law market is changing and how to fit into this evolving area. I would like to share some of her enlightening words of wisdom on how to set yourself apart in the changing IP industry.

"Never stop meeting people." Even after you've obtained a job, don't stop meeting people and networking. You never know when you'll want or need to move careers paths and having connections is key to achieving your career goals.

"Stay in charge of your resume."

"Learn how to make yourself indispensable as the industry changes." Watch where the industry is headed and learn skills pertinent to that area.

"Business people want guardians, not traffic cops." Attorneys want to eliminate all risk from business, but risk is innate to business. Business people want/need to take risks in transactions. They want their attorney to provide boundaries to know when something has become too risky, not police their every move.

"Spend time around the correct people." In order to better understand the people you work for, you need to spend time around people who understand or work in that field. If you want to learn licensing, spend time with licensors, not other attorneys.

"Listen to what people need. Lawyers' biggest flaw is not knowing what the problem is." You need to understand what the problem is before trying to fix it. The only way to understand the problem is to listen.

"Volunteer in the right places." Make yourself available to the right people, the people who need it. Startup companies, for example.

Thank you for your time, Ms. Hutter.

Check out Jackie Hutter's blogs:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Patent Allowance for Wayne State University Vision Restoration Research

Today, years of work on vision restoration therapy by researchers at Wayne State University and Salus University has been rewarded. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a Notice of Allowance for patent application No. 12/299,574. A Notice of Allowance is issued to the applicant when the patent office finally approves an application. Once the Notice has been issued, the applicant has three months to pay an "issue fee," after which the patent will be issued.

The team, headed by  Dr. Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., has developed therapies that may offer relief to patients suffering from blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which have so far been incurable. AMD causes the macula, the light-sensitive tissue in the retina which allows you to see fine details, to break down. RP also affects the retina and causes such symptoms as tunnel vision and night blindness. Dr. Pan's therapy delivers a green algae photoreceptor gene, channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to the retina. The gene causes inner retinal neurons to become light sensitive, which restored light responses in the visual cortex of the brain. The team has targeted late 2013 to early 2014 for clinical trials. 

The patent will cover methods of vision restoration using the molecules ChR2 and Halorhodopsin and targeting the molecules with cell specific promoters.

**Dr. Pan is the professor of Ophthalmology and Anatomy/Cell Biology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and scientific director of the Ligon Research Center of Vision at the Kresge Eye Institute**

Visit for updates on development.