WASHINGTON – A patent case over invisible dental braces is the latest arena for Google’s long-running fight with the film industry over piracy on the Internet.
Google and the Motion Picture Association of America, a Washington, D.C., trade group, filed comments to the U.S. International Trade Commission taking different sides on whether the agency’s power to block imports for infringing patents applies to digital files, such as movies or music.
The intervention of Silicon Valley and Hollywood raised the stakes in a case about teeth-straighteners. Align Technology, maker of the Invisalign dental system, claims ClearCorrect Operations infringes its patents.
It asked the ITC to block ClearCorrect’s transmissions of computerized dental plans from an office in Pakistan to a 3-D printer in the U.S.
As we sit here today, this is a comparatively small universe of commerce, but as commerce becomes pure information it will become more important, said Rodney Sweetland, a patent lawyer with Duane Morris in Washington who isn’t involved in the dispute. You’ll see that 3-D print- ing information will increase.
The commission on April 4 ruled that ClearCorrect’s transmissions do qualify under the law, according to a notice on its website.
It’s clear if it’s a physical product the commission may punish patent-violators by blocking imports. The question is whether the same is true if the product is virtual.
The MPAA says current law must include electronic transmissions, since bootleggers have moved away from CDs and DVDs in pirating copies of movies, music and books.
Google, owner of the most widely used search engine, says the opposite: The law, which dates back to the Great Depression, didn’t include digital files even when revised in the 1980s.