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Patent Assignments to Native American Tribes: Brilliant or Bad Business?

The recent trend of companies transferring patents to Native American tribes has raised some concerns about anticompetitive business practices.  Lawsuits brought by patent-holding tribes as a result of these assignments have been popping up a lot lately, and major companies are fit to be tied. Essentially, companies are assigning their patents to tribes in order to take advantage of the tribes’ sovereign immunity, thus shielding them from the patent review process and potential patent invalidation.  The most recent targets of these lawsuits in the tech industry have been Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. The method works something like this.  A company files for...

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What’s in a name? The USPTO’s slanted viewpoint on trademark applications

For over 3 years now, Asian-American rock band, The Slants, has been making noise in the courts while fighting for the right to register the band's trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The band's battle started in 2013 when the USPTO determined that the "The Slants" was disparaging to Asian Americans and refused registration of the mark. For the past 70 years, the USPTO has used Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act to deny registration of marks that it deems to be immoral, scandalous, or disparaging. Perhaps most notably, the USPTO relied on section 2(a) when it...

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