Monthly Archives: January 2012

Much Ado About Fricosu

The District of Colorado recently handed down an order in United States v. Fricosu requiring the defendant to decrypt the contents on her laptop so the government could access it. According to the Court, compelled decryption did not violate the Fifth Amendment’s bar against compelled self-incrimination.

In reaching this decision, the Court relied upon In re Grand Jury Subpoena to Boucher, 2007 WL 4246473 (D. Vt. Nov. 29, 2007) (Boucher I) and In re Grand Jury Subpoena to Boucher, 2009 WL 424718 (D. Vt. Feb. 19, 2009) (Boucher II). The Boucher decisions, in turn, relied upon the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Doe, 487 U.S. 201 (1984).

Doe distinguished between compelling the testimony of new information to the government (not permitted under the Fifth Amendment) and compelling giving access to existing information (permitted so long as the act of production results in no new facts). Thus, a defendant may be compelled to provide a key to a wall safe. In contrast, a defendant may not be compelled to provide a combination since the combination itself would constitute new information. Therefore, the government may compel a defendant to provide access to a computer’s contents once it knows the defendant has the ability to access the computer. But it may not compel production of a password. Continue reading

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The European Court of Justice Bars Stem Cell Patents In Landmark Decision

The European Court of Justice in Luxemburg ruled on October 18, 2011 in a landmark decision in the case C-34/10 Oliver Bruestle v Greenpeace e.V. and barred embryonic stem cell patents in Europe.

In its ruling, the Court said that “a process which involves removal of a stem cell from a human embryo at the blastocyst stage, entailing the destruction of that embryo, cannot be patented. The use of human embryos for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable, but their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable.”

Case Background

Professor Bruestle, a German neurology professor and one of the leading stem cell research pioneers, is the holder of the disputed German patent. The patent, filed on December 19th 1997, concerns isolated and purified neural precursor cells, methods for the production of such neural precursor cells from embryonic stem cells, and the use of such neural precursor cells for the treatment of neural defects such as Parkinson or Alzheimer. The patent seeks to resolve the technical problem of using embryonic stem cells to produce an almost unlimited quantity of isolated and purified precursor cells having neural or glial properties. Professor Brustle’s patent was issued in Germany as DE 19756864 in 1999.  Continue reading

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