Apple Inc. and the FBI: Balancing Fourth Amendment Privacy Concerns against Societal Safety Concerns in the Digital Age

Author: Maxel Moreland, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

On December 2, 2015, two shooters opened fire and killed fourteen members of the San Bernardino, California community.[1] Within hours, the police had shot and killed the couple who carried out the horrendous mass shooting.[2] Once the threat had been eliminated, law enforcement and the general public needed information explaining how and why this tragedy occurred. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), current evidence suggests that the shooters had a potential link to Islamic extremism.[3] While the FBI has uncovered troves of information about the San Bernardino attack, the FBI claimed that it needed more information.[4]

The FBI wanted to compel Apple to create software that will break-in to the iPhone and circumvent security features.[5] To do this, the FBI wanted the judicial system to issue a writ that requires Apple to create this software.[6] Judicial authority should not be used in this matter, if the government wants technology companies to provide technological assistance to the government, Congress should pass a law.  No court should issue an order that requires a company to circumvent its own security features as the customer’s right to privacy should outweigh the perceived increase to safety. Continue reading “Apple Inc. and the FBI: Balancing Fourth Amendment Privacy Concerns against Societal Safety Concerns in the Digital Age”

Design Patents: How Close Is Too Close? Vacillating Court Decisions Provide Little Guidance, as Shown in Apple v. Samsung

Author: Ashley Clever, Contributing Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

When marketing a new product, a business will often need to protect both the functionality and the overall design of a product to prevent competitors from producing an identical copy. While a utility patent covers a product’s functional features—how it works and what it does, a design patent can product a product’s aesthetic features—its design and how it looks.[1] Design patents however, provide notoriously little protection and are often construed only to cover the exact design. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has provided very little guidance in defining what a design patent protects, with even minute changes in design or ornamentation sometimes enough to overcome a patented design.[2] The recent case of Apple v. Samsung depicts the vacillating decisions in the court’s determination of what does or does not constitute design patent infringement.[3] These fluctuating court decisions create unnecessary confusion in determining the proper scope of design patent protection, leaving inventors as well as competitors with increasing uncertainty.

Continue reading “Design Patents: How Close Is Too Close? Vacillating Court Decisions Provide Little Guidance, as Shown in Apple v. Samsung”