Bloomberg News

ThyssenKrupp, Stephens, CafePress: Intellectual Property

June 16, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Updates with Dolby in Patent section.)

June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Schindler Holding AG, the world’s second-largest maker of elevators, won an appeals court ruling that revives a patent-infringement lawsuit brought by its Inventio unit against competitor ThyssenKrupp AG.

A federal judge erred when he said two Inventio patents covering a process of upgrading elevators were invalid because they didn’t adequately define the invention, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said yesterday in an opinion posted on its website. The panel sent the case back to the trial court in Wilmington, Delaware, for further review.

The dispute is over patents involving a way to add new functions to existing controls in an elevator. Schindler, based in Hergiswil, Switzerland, got about 66 percent of its revenue last year from its elevator and escalator unit.

At issue are U.S. patents 6,892,861, issued in May 2005; and 6,935,465, issued in August 2005.

ThyssenKrupp, Germany’s largest steelmaker, said in May that its elevator production and servicing division had sales of 1.28 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in the quarter ended in March. Chief Executive Officer Heinrich Hiesinger said last month that the Essen, Germany-based company is looking to buy “smaller and medium-sized” elevator service providers to expand the business.

On the appeal, Inventio’s case was argued by Pierre R. Yanney of New York’s Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. ThssenKrupp’s argument was made by David E. Schmit of Cincinnati, Ohio’s Frost Brown Todd LLC.

The case is Inventio AG v. ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas Corp., 2010-1525, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Inventio AG v. ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas Corp., 08CV874, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Dolby Sues Research In Motion Over Audio-Quality Patents

Dolby Laboratories Inc. said it filed infringement lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany against Research In Motion Ltd., claiming the BlackBerry maker refused to pay royalties on patents related to audio quality.

Dolby is seeking an order that would halt sales of RIM’s BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablet computer, as well as cash compensation, according to a statement from the company yesterday. Complaints were filed in district court in San Francisco and in Mannheim, Germany, Dolby said.

The patents cover ways to compress digital audio files in a way that uses less storage capacity while maintaining quality, San Francisco-based Dolby said. The technology has been incorporated into an industry standard for audio coding that “all other major smartphone makers have agreed to license” except Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, Dolby said.

“Litigation was regrettably our last resort after RIM declined to pay for the use of Dolby’s technology,” Dolby General Counsel Andy Sherman said in the statement. “We have a duty to protect our intellectual property.”

Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for RIM, said the company doesn’t comment on litigation.

According to the complaint filed yesterday in San Francisco, Dolby invented technology known as “spectral band replication” and “parametric stereo” that “represented a quantum leap forward in compression efficiency, and which were perfected only after years of research and development.”

The companies licensing the patents include Apple Inc., HTC Corp., LG Electronics Inc., Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronics Co., Dolby said. Via Licensing Corp., a company designated to handle licensing of the Dolby patents, first contacted RIM in November 2006 and again in 2007. Talks continued through the early part of this year, Dolby said in complaint.

The RIM products targeted by the complaint include the BlackBerry Storm, Tour, Pearl, Curve and Torch models, as well as the PlayBook, which was introduced in April to challenge Apple’s market-leading iPad.

For more patent news, click here.

Copyright

Stephens’ Righthaven Suit Against Democratic Underground Ends

Stephens Media Group’s copyright suit against the Democratic Underground pursued by Righthaven LLC, the alleged owner of the copyright in dispute, was thrown out of court June 14 by a federal district judge.

Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas entity that has filed more than 200 copyright-infringement cases involving Stephens’s newspapers in the past year, doesn’t have standing to pursue this case, U.S. District Judge Roger L. Hunt said in his ruling.

The Democratic Underground was sued Aug. 10, with Righthaven claiming copyright infringement occurred when an article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the effect of the Tea Party on a political campaign was posted on the Democratic Underground website.

Hunt said a document outlining the agreement between Stephens and Righthaven “went to great lengths” to specify that the only right obtained by Righthaven was “the bare right to sue.” As such, the judge said the agreement wasn’t ambiguous and Righthaven lacks standing because it doesn’t truly own the copyright it claims was infringed.

Hunt said he wasn’t persuaded by any supplemental documents filed by Righthaven, and called Righthaven’s arguments about its standing to file the case “disingenuous.” He also said that adding Stephens as a plaintiff “would not cure the jurisdictional defect” as far as Righthaven was concerned because “only the owner of an exclusive right under a copyright may bring suit.”

The Democratic Underground’s motion for an award of attorney fees is still alive. Judge Hunt gave Righthaven two weeks to show why it shouldn’t be sanctioned “for this flagrant misrepresentation” about its ownership of the Stephens copyrights.

The case is Righthaven LLC v. Democratic Underground LLC, 2:10-cv-01356-RLH-GWF, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

Puerto 80 Fights Government Domain-Name Seizure With IP Experts

Puerto 80 Projects SLU, a Spanish owner of an Internet domain name seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has turned to some powerful IP lawyers in its efforts to get the government to release the seized property.

Mark Lemley, Ragesh Tangri, Johanna Calabria and Genevieve P. Rosloff of Durie Tangri LLP joined David Spears and Charlita Mays of New York’s Spears & Imes LLP in their representation of Puerto 80.

Lemley is the director of Stanford University Law School’s Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology. He’s also taught IP law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and at the University of Texas School of Law. He and Tangri are two of the founders of Durie Tangri, a San Francisco litigation boutique founded in 2009.

When the domain was seized, an ICE agent said Puerto 80’s and other domain names were subject to seizure and forfeiture under a section of federal law relating to criminal copyright infringement.

In their June 13 filing in federal court in Manhattan, lawyers for Puerto 80 said their Rojadirecta.org and rojadirecta.com sites don’t host copyrighted videos or streams of sporting videos. Puerto 80 said it has undertaken “substantial efforts” to petition the government for return of the domain name.

It claims to be “incurring substantial hardship” because of both the seizure and what it says the government’s “failure to initiate formal forfeiture proceedings or take action on Puerto 80’s request” for the domain name’s return.

In their court filing, lawyers for Puerto 80 note there’s no risk that a domain name won’t be available for trial. There is “no risk that a domain name can be hidden, destroyed or otherwise made unavailable” they said in their pleading.

They asked the court to order ICE to return the domain names, and to set a hearing for no later than June 30 on their petition. They also requested that the court permit friend-of- the-court submissions with respect to the legal issues they are raising.

The case is Puerto 80 Projects SLU v. U.S.A., 1:11-cv- 03983-PAC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trademark

Fonterra Unit Only Partially Successful in Trademark Dispute

Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd.’s NZ Milk Brands lost part of a trademark battle with an Indonesian cigarette maker, New Zealand’s National Business Review reported.

Indonesia’s Sumatra applied in 2005 to used “Angkor” as a trademark in New Zealand for dairy products, cereal cookies and candy, according to the National Business Review.

Auckland, New Zealand-based Fonterra’s NZ Milk Brand opposed the application, claiming the public would be confused by the similarity between its “Anchor” brand” and Sumatra’s “Angkor,” the newspaper reported.

A New Zealand appeals court said that Sumatra would be permitted to use the mark for cereal, chocolates and candy and barred from using it on merchandise similar to that covered by NZ Milk Brand’s Anchor trademark, according to the National Business Review.

Palm Oil With ‘Sustainable’ Trademark Not Finding Big Demand

The new trademark developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Paul Oil isn’t finding universal acceptance among the palm oil producers and plantation owners of Indonesia and Malaysia, the Malaysia Star reported.

The mark, which is to be used to indicate the palm oil that is derived from reliable and sustainable sources, isn’t finding that much demand from the consuming nations, the Star reported.

Some members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association told the Star that the premium consuming nations were willing to pay for the certified-sustainable palm oil indicated by the mark has sunk to $9 to $10 a ton from $40 to $50 a ton.

World demand for certified palm oil has “turned sluggish” compared with the demand for the non-certified oil, according to the Star.

Martin Registered Guitar Headstock Configuration as Trademark

C.F. Martin & Co, whose guitars have been played by Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffett, has registered a trademark on the headstock configuration of its guitars, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania-based company said in a statement.

The headstock has become “one of the primary identifying brand and design elements of our guitars,” Gregory Paul, Martin’s vice president of corporate operations, said in the statement.

Martin has been making acoustical guitars for more than 175 years. The headstock design has been in use since 1850, according to the statement.

In February, WFMZ-TV reported that fake Martin guitars are being made and sold in China under a Martin trademark registered to a Chinese company.

C.F. Martin, the guitar company’s chief executive, told WFMX-TV that “it appears that the Chinese government has sanctioned the counterfeiting.”

North Dakota School District Hired Licensing Agency for Marks

A school district in West Fargo, North Dakota, has contracted with a licensing agency to protect its trademarks, the West Fargo Pioneer newspaper reported.

U.S. Licensing Co. of Fargo will handle all licensing issued for the district, typically charging vendors a one-time fee of $50 and a 7 percent royalty, of which 5 percent will go to the school district, according to the Pioneer.

The district’s redesigned logo, featuring a snorting bull, will be available for use in the fall, the newspaper reported.

Vendors will be given a cutoff date by which to sell merchandise marked with the district’s old logo without paying the licensing fee, according to the Pioneer.

For more trademark news, click here.

--With assistance from Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Fred Strasser, Glenn Holdcraft.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at vslindflor@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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