How the OMNIBUS Bill Changes Copyright Law

You probably heard about the OMNIBUS Bill, passed into law at the very end of 2020, primarily because it gave most Americans a $600 stimulus check. The bill was focused on COVID-19 pandemic relief and aid, but lawmakers used it to pass other measures as well. Some of these additional protections related directly to the world of Intellectual Property.

There were three main acts included in the OMNIBUS bill related to the world of copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Here they are:

The Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act.

Known simply as the CASE Act, this ushered in large scale changes to the copyright enforcement process. Currently, copyright owners whose rights have been infringed must file their complaints for copyright infringement in the appropriate federal district court.

The CASE Act establishes the Copyright Claims Board, essentially an administrative judicial function inside the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This board will have jurisdiction to award damages in copyright infringement cases below the threshold of $30,000. The obvious advantage is the ability to file a complaint for copyright infringement and be awarded damages for such infringement without having to litigate the issues in federal court. The hope and expectation is that this process will be more streamlined and less expensive for copyright owners to enforce their copyright rights. In an effort to protect against potential trolls abusing the new platform and targeting innocent internet users, the Act includes a proactive Bad Faith Conduct provision.

It should be noted that although the Act authorizes this process and the Copyright Claims Board itself, regulations related to the process and board must be proposed and adopted to actually implement the process and to form the Board and its related procedures. That process is currently ongoing.  

The Felony Streaming Act.

The Felony Streaming Act changes the seriousness of a crime related to streaming content that you do not own from a misdemeanor up to a felony. The reason for this change is to sync the severity of the crime with that of physically reproducing content you do not own, which is currently a felony. This act seeks to illustrate that hosting and streaming a copyrighted movie online is just as severe of a crime as making an illegal copy of a DVD of that same movie.

The Trademark Modernization Act.

The Trademark Modernization Act creates a process for third parties to challenge trademark applications and publications. The USPTO publishes a digest of all new trademarks that have been approved so that anyone who believes that they would be damaged by the registration of such trademarks or believes they have conflicting rights to such trademark may oppose the application of the trademark before it is registered. The new act expands the scope of allows third parties who do not own the infringed upon trademarks themselves but are aware of them to challenge the applications as well.

The act also gives the director of the USPTO the authority to alter or reconsider a ruling of the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board. This is giving the Board some requested oversight. It also includes provisions that should allow companies to get competing products that infringe upon their copyright off of store shelves quicker.

It will likely be a year or two before these changes are fully operational. Nevertheless, they signal positive change on the horizon for entrepreneurs and small business owners hoping to protect their Intellectual Property. For help with protecting your own assets, contact McDermott IP Law today. The future starts now!

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