- Professor Ryan Holte, Southern Illinois Law
The Federal Trade Commission has dual missions to protect consumers and competition. The agency has a 100+ years of history as an antitrust enforcer and general consumer protection agency. And over the last 20 years it has emerged as the lead U.S. agency addressing consumer privacy and data security. During the past administration, the agency faced challenges within and without. How well has it executed its dual missions? What external factors (such as actions by the CFPB and FCC) have affected its ability to further its missions? And how might the agency improve in the coming administration? To answer these questions we'll talk to Heritage Senior Fellow Alden Abbot and FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen.
On January 18, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Lee v. Tam. Simon Tam of The Slants, an Asian American rock band, applied to register the band’s name with the U.S. Trademark Office, but the application was denied. The Office claimed that the name would likely be disparaging towards “persons of Asian descent,” citing the Disparagement Clause of the Lanham Act of 1946, which prohibits trademarks that “[consist] of or [comprise] immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” Tam appealed to a board within the Office but was again denied. On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a panel of judges determined that the Office officials were within their rights to refuse the application. The Federal Circuit then reviewed the case en banc and found that the Disparagement Clause violated the First Amendment and that the Office should not have refused the application.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether the disparagement provision of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a), which provides that no trademark shall be refused registration on account of its nature unless, inter alia, it “[c]onsists of . . . matter which may disparage . . . persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute” is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
To discuss the case, we have Megan L. Brown, who is Partner at Wiley Rein LLP.
On December 6, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple. In April 2011, Apple sued Samsung Electronics, alleging that Samsung’s smartphones infringed on Apple’s trade dress as well as various design patents for the iPhone. A jury awarded Apple nearly $1 billion in damages under Section 289 of the Patent Act, and the trial court upheld most of the award against Samsung’s post-trial challenges. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected Samsung’s argument that the district court erred by allowing the jury to award damages based on Samsung’s profits off of its phones in their entirety, rather than just the portion of profits attributable to the smartphone components covered under the design patents.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether, where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, an award of infringer’s profits should be limited to those profits attributable to the component.
By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Federal Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion by Justice Sotomayor, the Court unanimously held that in the case of a multicomponent product, the relevant article of manufacture for arriving at a damages award under Section 289 need not be the end product sold to the consumer but may be only a component of that product. Whether the relevant article of manufacture in this particular case should be the entire smartphone or merely a component thereof is an issue the Court left open for resolution on remand.
To discuss the case, we have Trevor Copeland, a Shareholder at Brinks Gilson & Lione, and Art Gollwitzer, a Partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP.
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