Bloomberg News

Amazon, Samsung, Apple, Netflix: Intellectual Property

September 26, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Adds Pepin Heights Orchard Inc. item in patent section.)

Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest online retailer, won a federal appeals court ruling that patent claims brought by software maker Cordance Corp. related to one-click shopping and customer feedback procedures weren’t valid, reversing a decision by a trial judge.

The ruling Sept. 23 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington reinstated a verdict by a federal jury in Delaware. The jury found that while elements of a Cordance patent had been infringed by Amazon, the claims were invalid. The trial judge later reversed the finding on infringement, leading to Amazon’s appeal.

“The district court erred” in ruling that the Cordance claims were valid, the three-judge appeals court panel wrote. The claims were anticipated, making them invalid, the court said.

Cordance had initially sought more than $84 million in damages for infringement of three patents that are related to allowing customers to store payment information and shipping addresses in their Amazon customer accounts. The jury only found infringement for one of the three contested patents. Michael A. Albert, of Boston’s Wolf Greenfield Sacks PC and who represented Cordance, declined to immediately comment.

Cordance, a patent holder and software developer, sued Seattle-based Amazon in 2006, contending it was misusing technology patented by Cordance for one-click shopping and customer feedback procedures.

The case is Cordance Corp. v. Amazon.com Inc., 10-1502, 1545, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).

Samsung Files Suits Against Apple in Netherlands, Court Says

Samsung Electronics Co. filed four lawsuits against Apple Inc. in the Netherlands and the first hearing in the cases is scheduled for today, according to The Hague court.

“There will be hearings on four different suits,” according to a court spokeswoman, who didn’t want to comment on the content of the complaints and declined to be identified citing court policy.

Dutch website Webwereld.nl reported Samsung is claiming the Cupertino, California-based company’s iPhone and iPad that use 3G technology infringe Samsung patents. Samsung is seeking a ban of the sale of such products in The Netherlands, Webwereld said.

The legal battle between Apple and rival smartphone makers is intensifying as an increasing number of consumers use smartphones and wireless handsets to surf the Web, play games and download music and videos. Samsung lost a preliminary court ruling over sales of its Galaxy S, S II and Ace smartphones in the country in another patent dispute with Apple last month.

Samsung declined to comment on the planned hearing. Apple didn’t have an immediate comment.

S3 Graphics Targets Apple in Patent Complaint at Trade Agency

S3 Graphics Co., the image-compression technology company being bought by phonemaker HTC Corp., filed a complaint against Apple Inc. at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The content of the complaint filed Sept 22 wasn’t immediately made public. The ITC, an arbiter of trade disputes with the power to block imports of products found to infringe U.S. patents, posted a notice of S3’s filing Sept 23.

S3, in a separate ITC case in July, won a partial ruling against Cupertino, California-based Apple that said the Mac OS X computer system violates patents. The judge’s decision is under review by the full commission. Fremont, California-based S3 makes image-compression technology and its Texture Compression feature is used in Nintendo Co.’s Wii and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation portable gaming systems.

Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC, Asia’s second-biggest maker of smartphones, agreed to buy closely held S3 for $300 million in July. HTC and Apple have targeted each other in patent- infringement complaints as part of a struggle among smartphone makers for market share.

Dispute Ends Between University, Growers of Patented Apple

A dispute between the University of Minnesota and a group of the state’s apple growers has ended in what court papers describe as “a compromise settlement of all issues.”

The growers sued the university in state court in June 2010 because they objected to the school’s exclusive license with Pepin Heights Orchard Inc. of Lake City, Minnesota. The license covered a patented apple variety sold as the SweeTango.

This early-season apple, a cross between the Honeycrisp and Zestar apples, was developed through the use of state funding, according to court papers. It’s covered by a plant patent U.S. PP18,812, which was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in May, 2008, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Under Pepin’s license, the Lake City-based orchard could give permission to others to grow a limited number of trees of the SweeTango variety only if they were sold to consumers within the state at their orchards, farmers markets or direct store delivery.

The other growers were barred from pooling their crops to sell to a large retailer or to any wholesaler, they said in their complaint. They claimed this was an unfair restraint of trade and violated state antitrust laws and federal laws barring unfair agricultural-trade issues.

Under the terms of the settlement, although the growers other than Pepin will be able to grow a larger number of SweeTango trees than previously, they still are barred from selling their apples wholesale. They must also pay $25,000 toward the cost of Pepin Orchard’s attorney fees, according to the settlement agreement.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Warnaco’s Speedo Unit Sues Over Aussie Gay Porno Websites

Warnaco Group Inc.’s Speedo unit went to court in Australia to enforce the company’s trademarks against an Australian website operator, United Press International reported.

The New York-based company objected to the use of its marks in connection with gay-oriented pornography sites, according to UPI.

Speedo is also asking for money damages and to be awarded those websites whose names contain the word “Speedo,” UPI reported.

The bathing suit company said it filed the suit to protect the “reputation and goodwill” associated with its mark, according to UPI.

UHS Trademark Issues Derail Hospital’s Name Change

North Carolina’s University Health Systems is consulting with a marketing group in efforts to come up with a new name that doesn’t trigger a trademark-infringement complaint from Pennsylvania’s Universal Health Services Inc., the Greenville, North Carolina-based Daily Reflector newspaper reported.

The North Carolina health-care system’s plans to change its name to UHS Medical Center brought a letter from the Pennsylvania group warning of possible infringement issues, according to the newspaper.

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services has four facilities in North Carolina, according to the Daily Reflector.

Dave McRae, chief executive officer of the North Carolina system, told the newspaper that while it wants to keep some sort of geographic designation in its new name, “the early exploration we’ve done leads us to believe there are few options left that would allow us to use the word ‘east’ or some other similar word to designate the geography region.”

Netflix Files Application for ‘Qwikster’ Trademark After All

Netflix Inc., which said it would split its mail-order DVD business off from its video-streaming service, didn’t try to register the name for the new entity until the day after the announcement was made.

The Los Gatos, California-based company said Sept. 18 that the name of the mail-order spinoff would be “Qwikster,” and that it would be created “in coming weeks.”

The following day the San Francisco Chronicle noted that no applications had been filed to register as a trademark. The newspaper also reported that one user of Twitter Inc.’s short- messaging service had already been using qwikster as his online identity.

That same day Netflix filed two applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the term as a trademark.

According to the application, the trademark would be used for “retail services; online retail store services; computerized on-line retail services featuring films, movies, motion pictures, video recordings, pre-recorded videotapes, digital video disks, digital versatile discs (or DVDs), Blu-ray discs, videotape cassettes, audio recordings, multimedia.” recordings and games.”

No Hammer and Sickle Trademarks in EU, European Court Rules

The hammer and sickle symbol used by the Soviet Union cannot be registered as a trademark, the General Court of the European Union ruled, the CBC reported.

The application filed by Couture Tech Ltd. of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, was rejected because in EU member state Hungary, the use of the symbol is “contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of morality,” according to the CBC.

The court needed to look only at Hungary because a rejection in any one member state is grounds enough for rejection throughout the EU, the CBC reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

BBC Sues Berlusconi’s Mediaset Over Ballroom Dancing Program

The British Broadcasting Corp., the U.K.’s public service broadcaster, is suing Mediaset SpA for copyright infringement over a ballroom dancing show, the U.K.’s Independent reported.

Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is accused of infringing the BBC’s copyright related to its “Strictly Come Dancing” show format, according to the Independent.

Italian public broadcaster Rai has run a licensed version of the BBC’s show for the past six years, the Independent reported.

The BBC is objecting to a proposed program called “Baila!,” to be aired on Mediaset’s Canale 5 beginning this week, according to the Independent.

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

Bradley Arant Adds Lanier Ford’s Angela Holt to IP Practice

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP hired Angela Holt for its IP practice group, the Birmingham, Alabama-based firm said in a statement.

Holt, a litigator, joins from Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne PC of Huntsville, Alabama. Before she was a lawyer, she was a test engineer for Boeing Co.’s Boeing Defense and Space Group.

She has represented clients in patent, trademark, trade- secret and domain-name disputes, in addition to doing government contract work.

Holt has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Alabama.

--With the assistance of William McQuillen in Washington, Maaike Noordhuis in Amsterdam and Romaine Bostick in Washington. Editors: Mary Romano, Peter Blumberg

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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