Bloomberg News

Samsung, Medtronic, Google, SF Giants: Intellectual Property

June 29, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Adds Intellectual Ventures item in the patent section.)

June 29 (Bloomberg) -- AU Optronics Corp., Taiwan’s second- largest maker of liquid-crystal display panels, sued Samsung Electronics Co. and AT&T Inc., claiming they infringed some of its liquid-crystal display patents.

“AUO has been damaged” by Samsung’s and AT&T’s alleged infringements on flat-panel displays used in TVs and cell phones, lawyers for the company said in a complaint filed June 27 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The allegation comes almost a month after Samsung, the world’s largest flat-screen panel maker, sued AUO in federal courts in Delaware and California, alleging infringement on some of its display patents.

Samsung also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission over the alleged misuse of its technology. In the trade-commission complaint, Samsung seeks an order prohibiting the import and sale of the LCD products used in televisions and computer monitors.

Samsung will “actively” try to protect its patents and customers against “groundless patent-infringement claims,” the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in an e-mail statement responding to the AUO suit.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Dallas-based AT&T, the second- largest U.S. wireless carrier, declined to comment on the AU lawsuit.

AU also filed a trade-commission complaint over the display technology. The trade agency has the power to block imports of products found to infringe U.S. patents. If the commission agrees to investigate Samsung’s and AU’s complaints, their patent-infringement suits will be put on hold. The agency typically completes its reviews in 15 to 18 months.

Samsung received the second-largest number of patents in the U.S. last year behind International Business Machines Corp., IFI Claims Patent Services, a Wilmington, Delaware-based research company, said in January.

The case is AU Optronics Corp. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-00568, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Medtronic Accuses Edwards of Infringing Heart Valve Patents

Medtronic Inc. sued Edwards Lifesciences Corp. in two U.S. lawsuits accusing the company of infringing patents on a heart valve system.

Edwards’s products, including the Embol-X Glide Protection System and the Perimount Mitral Valve, use patented technology without permission, Medtronic said in a lawsuit filed June 24 in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota. In dispute are patents 6,004,330, 7,468,073, 7,503,929, and RE42,395.

Medtronic’s CoreValve unit also sued on June 27 in California, claiming the Sapien transcatheter valve made by Edwards infringes patent 7,892,281.

Edwards, the world’s biggest maker of heart valves, reported a 25 percent jump in first-quarter sales in its heart- valve therapy unit, to $244.9 million. The Perimount valve is “the most prescribed tissue heart valve in the world,” Irvine, California-based Edwards said in its annual report.

Sapien, in which an aortic valve is threaded into the cardiac chamber to avoid chest-cracking surgery, is awaiting U.S. regulatory approval. An advisory panel with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to review the application on July 20.

Sapien, as well as a competing product by CoreValve, could generate sales of $2.4 billion and account for more than one in three aortic valve repairs by 2015 if they are cleared for use in the U.S., Larry Biegelsen, a Wells Fargo Securities analyst in New York, said in April. The products already have approval in Europe.

In both lawsuits, Minneapolis-based Medtronic, the world’s biggest maker of heart-rhythm devices, is seeking cash compensation for the unauthorized use of its technology, plus orders to prevent future infringement.

Edwards and Medtronic have sued each other in the U.K. and Germany as well as the U.S. over heart valve technology. Edwards won a $73.9 million verdict in Wilmington, Delaware, in 2010 that’s being appealed by Medtronic.

The Perimount case is Medtronic Inc. v. Edwards Lifesciences Corp., 11cv1650, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (St. Paul), and the Sapien case is Medtronic CoreValve LLC v. Edwards Lifesciences Corp., 11cv961, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

IV, BlueCat Sign Licensing Pact After BlueCat Sued by Infoblox

Intellectual Ventures, the patent-licensing company begun by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold, has licensed patents to BlueCat Networks of Toronto, according to a joint company statement.

BlueCat, a provider of Internet address management solutions, took the license for undisclosed terms. The statement also didn’t disclose which of Bellevue, Washington-based IV’s patents are covered by the license.

The reason the BlueCat took the license is that it’s the target of patent litigation, the company said in the statement.

Santa Clara, California-based Infoblox Inc. sued BlueCat for patent infringement in federal court in Santa Ana, California, in December 2007, accusing the Canadian company of infringing its patent 7,814,180.

The disputed patent, which was issued in October 2010, covers the technology for an Internet domain name service server.

That case is Infoblox Inc., v. BlueCat Netwowrks USA Inc, 8:10-cv-01962-JVS-MAN, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

Infoblox filed a second suit in federal court in Delaware on June 27, seeking a declaration it wasn’t infringing two patents owned by the Canadian company.

In dispute in that case are patents 6,098,098, issued in August 2000 and covering a system for managing the configuration of multiple computer devices; and 6,532,217, issued in March 2003, and covering a system for automatic determination of a network address.

In addition to the non-infringement declaration, Infoblox also asked the court to rule that both patents are invalid.

That case is Infoblox Inc. v. BlueCat Networks USA Inc., 1:11-cv-00567-UNA, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Google Sued for $421 Million by Paris Rival for Ad Policies

Google Inc. was sued in France by a local competitor over claims the world’s largest search engine blocks rivals from reaping advertising revenue and gives preference to its own sites in query results.

1PlusV, a Paris-based web publisher, filed the lawsuit with the Paris Commercial Court yesterday, seeking 295 million euros ($421 million) in damages and an order that Google post details of alleged “anti-competitive behavior” on its French home page for three months, 1PlusV said in an e-mailed statement.

“Google employed a number of anti-competitive practices and unethical behavior over a period of four years to cripple 1PlusV’s ability to generate business and advertising,” 1PlusV said in its statement. These practices include “suffocation of technological competitors” and “manipulation of ‘natural results.’”

1PlusV has made similar complaints against Google in two filings to European Union competition regulators last year and in February, saying the Mountain View, California-based company discriminates against so-called vertical search sites like 1PlusV. Other companies including Microsoft Corp. have joined with 1PlusV in asking for a review of Google’s practices.

“We have only just received the complaint so we can’t comment in detail yet,” Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said in an e-mailed statement. “We always try to do what’s best for our users. It’s the key principle that drives our company and we look forward to explaining this.”

The EU and U.S. federal and state antitrust regulators are investigating Google to see whether it discriminates against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission subpoenaed Google on June 23 to review its search and advertising practices.

Sturgis Bike Rally Sues Souvenir Distributor for Infringement

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., which draws more than 600,000 bikers and motorcycle fans to a small town in South Dakota every August, is suing a regional souvenir distributor for trademark infringement.

According to the complaint filed in South Dakota federal court on June 22, Rushmore Photo & Gifts Inc. is offering merchandise to retailers falsely designated as officially licensed products. The rally sponsors also object to applications the company has filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register “Officially Licensed Sturgis” and “Sturgis Motor Classic” as trademarks.

Rushmore Photo, based in Custer, South Dakota, is acting in bad faith, the rally sponsors claim, and has also registered and used domain names that violate the rally’s trademarks, according to the complaint.

The rally sponsor claims the infringement is deliberate and that it has caused confusion in the marketplace. It says as a result of the allegedly infringement, the rally is losing royalty revenue, some of which in the past it donated to 90 different causes and charities in the Sturgis vicinity.

In addition to seeking a court order barring future infringement of the marks, the rally sponsor asked the court for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. The sponsor also seeks an order to the patent office to cancel Rushmore Photo’s pending registrations that are allegedly infringing.

Rushmore Photo didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is represented by Michael C. Loos of Clayborne Loos & Sabers LLP and Jason M. Sneed of Atlanta’s Alston & Bird LLP.

The case is Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., v. Rushmore Photo & Gifts Inc., 5:11-cv-05052-JLV, U.S. District Court, Western District of South Dakota.

Fake SF Giants World Series Gear Donated to Charity in Haiti

Counterfeit goods sold in San Francisco during the Giants push toward World Series victory in 2010 are to be donated to a charity that will distribute them to survivors of the Haitian earthquake, the San Francisco Weekly reported.

The merchandise, worth $150,000 if it had been legitimate, was seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the Weekly.

Major League Baseball gave permission for the black-market goods to be donated to charity instead of destroyed as is the usual case, the Weekly reported.

Federal authorities had been holding the merchandise since the series to wait for the deadline after which the accused vendors could no longer contest the seizures, according to the newspaper.

Fake Designer Watches Worth $1 Million Seized in Kentucky

Fake watches worth more than $1 million were seized by federal customs officials at a United Parcel Service Inc. facility in Louisville, Kentucky, WDRB television reported on its WDRB.com website.

The watches were marked with luxury brands belonging to Georgio Armani Spa, Cartier Ltd., Lacoste, and Breitling SA, according to WDRB.

They were to be sent to an addressee in Texas, the television station reported.

Customs officials have intercepted more than 1,100 shipments of fake goods with a retail value approaching $20 million at the same UPS facility, according to WDRB.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Tom Petty Objects Use of His ‘American Girl’ at Bachmann Rally

Singer Tom Petty is sending Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann a cease-and-desist letter complaining of her use of his “American Girl” song, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The song was played as Bachmann left the stage following her June 27 announcement of her candidacy, the newspaper reported.

Previously Petty objected to the use of his song “I Won’t Back Down” in the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

For more copyright news, click here.

--With the assistance of Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, Aoife White in Brussels, Heather Smith in Paris, Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Fred Strasser, Mary Romano

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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