Posts made in August, 2013

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Copyright Issues – Oz, The Great & Powerful

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in Copyright

You can learn a great deal about copyright law by analyzing the different copyright issues in the creation of the recent Disney movie, Oz the Great and Powerful.  The new Oz movie is a derivative work based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, The Wizard of Oz.  Elements created in the book were available for Disney to use, but anything created for the 1939 movie was not. The book was written in 1900, so its copyright protection expired in 1956.  Baum had written thirteen sequels continuing the Oz story and they all entered the public domain between 1960 and 1986.  Meanwhile, Samuel Goldwyn purchased the film rights from Baum in 1933 then sold them to MGM in 1938.  MGM still retains the copyright to the movie it produced until 2034.  Disney received the film rights to the other thirteen books in 1954, but MGM did not sell their right to the first book.  In fact, MGM and Disney had a few legal battles over the movie content. In 2011, the 8th Circuit of Appeals ruled that while the characters in Baum’s novels are in the public domain, their depictions in the 1939 movie are still protected.  As a result Disney, and anyone else looking to utilize the Oz characters,...

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The City of Detroit Declares Bankruptcy

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in Bankruptcy, Blog

On Thursday, July 18, 2013 the City of Detroit filed a rare petition seeking bankruptcy protection and the adjustment of debts under Chapter 9 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.  Chapter 9 is only available for municipalities which want to declare bankruptcy.  Detroit is the largest municipality filing in the United States with debts between $18-20 million. However on July 19, an Ingram County judge ruled the bankruptcy was unconstitutional according to Michigan’s Constitution.  The Constitution bars any action which threatens to cut the pension benefits of public employees.  On July 24 the bankruptcy court issued a stay on the proceedings and set up a hearing on October 23 for people to object to the bankruptcy filing.  Detroit’s bankruptcy plan is due, for now, on March 1, 2014. Once bankruptcy proceedings eventually get under away, an automatic stay will be entered on most of Detroit’s bills.  Only secured creditors, such as water and sewer bondholders, will have the right to seize the city’s assets if they are not paid.  A stay will also be entered on all lawsuits against the city, so any further objections to cutting pension benefits will have to take place in the bankruptcy court. On stipulation for Chapter 9 bankruptcy is the city must be...

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United States Supreme Court Strikes Down Patents on Naturally Occurring DNA

Posted by on Aug 7, 2013 in Blog, Patent

On June 13, 2013 the United Stated Supreme Court entered a unanimous ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.  In this case the Association for Molecular Pathology, and other petitioners, challenged that Myriad’s patents for isolated DNA sequences associated with predisposition to different cancers and the methods to diagnose them were invalid because they covered products of nature.  Oral arguments for the case were on April 15, 2013 and Justice Thomas’s opinion was a concise 18 pages. Myriad’s patents had given them the exclusive right to isolate an individual’s BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and then synthetically create BRCA composite DNA (cDNA).  The cDNA only contains exons, nucleotides which code for amino acids.  cDNA is made from mRNA in a lab, as cDNA does not exist in the human body.  Using these discoveries Myriad developed tests which could detect mutations in BRCA genes to predict an increased risk of cancer.  Myriad then used its patents to stop laboratories from using similar tests on BRCA genes, giving Myriad a monopoly.  The Petitioners in this case sued to invalidate the patents and therefore break down the monopoly and bring down testing prices. The US Supreme Court held naturally occurring DNA segments are a product of nature and cannot be...

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