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This week's IP news round-up

14 March 2005

Hello again, as John Craven used to say, and welcome to this week’s IP Newsround (up). We begin this week with the latest in the ongoing fight between the BPI and illegal music downloaders.


According to the Register, ‘The High Court has granted the British Phonographic Industry… an order under which six UK ISPs must supply the names and addresses of 31 individuals alleged to "have uploaded large numbers of music files on to peer-to-peer filesharing networks".’


Once the BPI has the names and addresses of the alleged copyright thieves, they will write to them all offering them a chance to ‘settle the case before proceedings are issues’. If the offer is anything like previous BPI offers then it will involve the downloade4rs paying BPI a chunk of cash (£4500 seems to be the going rate) to cover some of the costs of the stolen music. If they refuse to settle then BPI will go to court to seek harsher damages.


We’ll keep you posted on the outcome.


Next up, a quick one for real IP geeks... Mobile phone company O2 is trying to get their case against rival ‘3’ referred to the European Court of Justice. According to our friends at IPKitten – ‘This was a spat between O2 and 3, two businesses that provide services in the UK's crowded and vicious mobile phone market. Since O2's name was the same as the chemical formula for oxygen the company adopted a ‘blue bubble imagery’ and registered trade marks which included bubbles. Rivals 3 launched comparative advertisements on TV and elsewhere, comparing 3 with O2 and featuring a bubble sequence shot in black and white. O2 sued for trade mark infringement and passing off. Although O2 failed to obtain an interim injunction, the court ordered a speedy trial. In this hearing O2 applied to the court to refer 12 questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling.’ It’s heavy going, but IPKitten has a great summary here.

And finally, a fascinating IP case from across the pond. Last Friday a judge in California ordered three online webloggers (or ‘bloggers’) to reveal who had passed them trade secrets about Apple’s new product releases. Traditionally reporters have been covered by the First Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees a free press by ensuring that reporters do not have to reveal their sources.


However, the court held that the online reporters were not entitled to First Amendment protection as they had published trade secrets. According to the Associated Press, 'The reporters — who run sites followed closely by Apple enthusiasts — allegedly published product descriptions that Apple said employees had leaked in violation of nondisclosure agreements and possibly the U.S. Trade Secrets Act. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled that no one has the right to publish information that could have been provided only by someone breaking the law.’ Hmm. Here at Own It, we’re not sure what to think: as lawyers, the ruling makes perfect sense and shows that the courts are keep no protect intellectual property rights. But as journalists, anything that forces reporters to give up their sources can only be a worrying development.

What do you think? tellus@own-it.org


Until next week.

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