Richard Epstein’s models on the spread of COVID-19 have been proven wrong, but his reluctance to abandon the assumptions that inform his model is similar to problems in the debate surrounding the treatment of ideas as property on law and economics grounds.
News and Commentary
For any film buffs out there, Zvi Rosen has a great blog post on the history of and procedure for registering motion pictures at the copyright office during the early days of cinema.
A team of engineers at MIT has developed a ventilator, called the MIT E-Vent, with an open-access design that will hopefully be approved soon.
Another ridiculous copyright case bites the dust. Art Ask Agency, rights holders to a number of unicorn-related works, filed an emergency ex parte motion to unmask and sue for infringement a number of unnamed defendants for infringing on their unicorn design. In response to this tone-deafness, Judge Steven Seeger wrote a blistering denial of the motion, mentioning the urgent nature of the current pandemic, quipping “One wonders if the fake fantasy products are experiencing brisk sales at the moment.”
Adam Mossoff wrote in The Washington Times about the need to extend patent terms to further incentivize the development of COVID-19 treatments and cures during the pandemic. This view is problematic, partly because extension of terms would put the rents to be accumulated further in the future (and thus worth less in present value terms), but also because the federal government has already invested significant sums of money into coronavirus-related R&D.
Dr. Drew, who compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu, has apologized for his comments. But, in a sustained effort to prove there is no bottom for him, abused the DMCA takedown system by flagging as copyright infringement those who posted the video of him claiming coronavirus was the same as the fun.
Joseph Falcon III has a three–part guide to protecting intellectual property during a pandemic. It’s a good primer for business owners about the exclusive rights granted to them by IP, and encourages firms to examine their portfolios, but has no admonitions against suing for infringement in special cases.
The First Circuit court of appeals ruled in a case involving the use of photographs licensed to a lightbulb manufacturer by one of the manufacturer’s distributors that even though the rightsholders, Photographic Illustrators Corp., only entered into an agreement with the manufacturer, Osram Sylvania, there was an “implied license” that allowed Osram’s distributor, Orgill, to use the protected images just like Sylvania.
This post by Jorge Contreras on InfoJustice outlines the rules on the right to repair patented devices in the U.S. (not to be confused with the right to repair movement surrounding the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA). In general, while it’s possible to repair a specific part of a patented design, the replication of a patented design is not permitted. This raises important questions about the replication of patented components of an also-patented device, and Contreras argues that right to repair should be interpreted liberally during the COVID-19 outbreak.
At IPWatchdog, Andrew Berks and Gene Quinn have written a post about how Federal Court decisions, most notably Mayo and Myriad, which expanded the definition of laws of nature, and thus what couldn’t be protected by patents, will hinder the development of new treatments and tests for COVID-19.
A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research examines the effects of Advance Market Commitments, where donors or businesses commit funds to develop a market for a yet-to-be produced product, on the production and distribution of pneumococcal vaccine for low-income countries. They examine the effects of this pilot, and what lessons the project has for future AMCs, but found that the project distributed 150 million vaccines saving close to 700,000 lives.