U.S. supreme court avoids ruling on limits of federal authority over state and local broadband rules, for now

20 January 2015 by Steve Blum
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When your name is Roswell, reality can be subjective.

The U.S. supreme court declined to wade any deeper into the question of how much leeway local governments have to block installation of cellular towers and equipment. In a decision last week regarding a dispute between T-Mobile and Roswell, Georgia, the court ruled very narrowly in T-Mobile’s favor, saying the city didn’t give its reasons for denying a tower permit soon enough.

Federal telecoms law requires local agencies to give a reason when a tower permit application is rejected, in order to provide a basis for the courts to review the decision if there’s an appeal.… More

Oops, U.S. supreme court kills cable TV industry

10 July 2014 by Steve Blum
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On the other hand, cable still has a fistful of dollars.

Well. That didn’t take long. Barely a fortnight after the U.S. supreme court ruled that Aereo “looks-like-cable-TV” so it must be treated like cable TV (in dissenting justice Antonin Scalia’s phrase), Aero has told a federal trial court judge, OK, we’re cable TV

The Supreme Court’s holding that Aereo is a cable system under the Copyright Act is significant because, as a cable system, Aereo is now entitled to the benefits of the copyright statutory license pursuant to the Copyright Act…Aereo is proceeding to file the necessary statements of account and royalty fees.


If new tech looks like old tech, old rules apply says supreme court

28 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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Today’s turn-of-the-knob logic might have made VCRs contraband 30 years ago.

Functionality, not technology, should guide how pre-Internet laws are applied in cyberspace. That’s the essential logic behind a U.S. supreme court ruling on Wednesday, that said that the same copyright rules that apply to cable TV systems also apply to Aereo, an online system for accessing broadcast television signals.

Aereo argued that since viewers were individually activating a tiny receiver and antenna, and selecting which channel to watch, it was more like a VCR than a cable TV system, which streams multiple channels continuously.… More

You can't patent just an idea, supreme court rules again

19 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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The Air Force can now defend Earth without fear of trolls.

Doing the job that the patent office should have done in the first place, the U.S. supreme court stepped up to the plate and swatted down a long line of patent trolls. In an unanimous opinion issued today and written by justice Clarence Thomas, the court said that an Australian company, Alice Corporation, can’t take a common, centuries (millennia?) old financial practice – using a middleman to keep both parties honest – and claim a patent on it just because it’s being done on a computer…

There is no dispute that a computer is a tangible system…or that many computer-implemented claims are formally addressed to patent-eligible subject matter.


U.S. supreme court sticks to the strict meaning of patent infringement

There’s good news in the U.S. supreme court’s unanimous decision this week to toss out a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Akamai against a competing content delivery network, Limelight.

The court declined to open a vast new frontier for patent troll claims. Akamai, of course, isn’t a troll – it uses its patented technology to good effect – but it was trying to make the case that a partial (and thus, under law, allowable) duplication of a method it developed was actually an infringement because Limelight told customers how to complete the missing steps themselves.… More