Studios Await Court Ruling on Blocking Digital Transmissions

A case before a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit between two companies that make dental braces will have an impact on Hollywood movie studios and Silicon Valley technology companies. Both groups have taken a vocal position on the issue, in which Align Technology, which makes Invisalign braces, accuses ClearCorrect of infringing its patents by sending digital files over the Internet. The question is whether the U.S. International Trade Commission has the power to block those files.

The case pivots over the definition of “articles,” which the ITC does have the power to block, says Bloomberg. In the Align Technology case, that company claims that ClearCorrect infringes its patents by having a Pakistani company send digital files to ClearCorrect, which uses those files to 3D print the braces.

Both sides — movie, music and publishing companies as well as Internet companies — are watching because the verdict will have an impact on the conflict between the two groups on piracy. The definition of “articles” encompasses all goods, says Align, which is supported by the movie, music and publishing industries. ClearCorrect begs to differ. Bloomberg quotes Clear Correct lawyer Michael Myers of McClanahan Myers Espey in Houston: “An article is something that can be stopped at the customs house, stamped with a trademark, put on a rail line.”

The Internet Association, whose members include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Uber, agrees with Myers, noting that, “an order from the ITC would amount to onerous demands that would force service providers to figure out from which country a file was sent.”

“The Internet knows no boundaries and sends files using the most efficient route,” says the organization’s court filing.

ITC lawyer Sidney Rosenzweig countered that the Internet Association’s concerns are a “red herring,” because “the agency has no interest in policing services, phone calls or e-mails, and Internet service providers would be protected from any liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if they take steps to prevent illegal postings.”