EFF Addresses Digital Rights Issues on the Horizon at the Supreme Court

SupremeCourt-300x135The U.S. Supreme Court already has a list of digital civil liberties issues to consider in the near future; that list is likely to grow.

If confirmed, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court—Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit—will be in a position to make crucial decisions protecting innovation and fair use.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has weighed in on several such issues that are, or may be, before the Court.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in TC Heartland v. Kraft, a case centering on whether TC Heartland can have the infringement case against it considered in the company’s home state of Indiana instead of Delaware. EFF has supported TC Heartland, and a ruling in favor of reasonable venue limits could help tamp down on abusive patent lawsuits, which are often brought in the Eastern District of Texas despite any actual ties to that location because that court is perceived as being friendly to abusive suits.

The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear arguments in Impression Products v. Lexmark, a case about patent exhaustion, or whether a patent holder can put limits on how a customer can use, resell, tinker with, or analyze a patented product the customer has purchased. In a brief filed to the Supreme Court, the EFF and others argued that allowing patent owners to control goods after sale threatens all sorts of activities—like security research, reverse engineering, and device modification.

The Court may also consider Lenz v. Universal, also known as the dancing baby case, which centers around an individual whose fair use video was removed from YouTube because it had a Prince song playing in the background. In a brief filed for the petitioner, EFF argued that copyright holders should be held accountable if they force content to be taken down based on unreasonable charges of infringement. The Court has not yet decided whether to take the case but has asked for the Solicitor General’s views.

The Supreme Court has also been asked to consider whether the Patent Trial and Appeals Board should use the standard of common sense and knowledge of a skilled artisan to gauge the obviousness of a patent in the case Google v. Arendi. EFF has encouraged the Court to take up the case, arguing that the Court should bolster the country’s patent system by setting a stricter standard for obviousness.

This edited article was provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group which advocates for innovators and users of technology. The article has been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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