Bloomberg News

Samsung, Kodak, Intel, Zenimax: Intellectual Property

October 03, 2011

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

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. made a proposal to Apple Inc. to resolve their patent dispute in Australia regarding touch-screen technology, a Sydney court was told Sept. 30.

Samsung lawyer David Catterns didn’t give details about the proposal, and Apple will need time to consider it, Apple lawyer Steven Burley told the court.

Catterns’s proposal is a bid to end the last dispute over patent technology in Australia that’s seen Samsung hold off selling its Galaxy 10.1 tablet in the country. Apple’s claim that Samsung violated patents for its iPhone and iPad in Australia is part of a wider patent battle between the two companies that has come up in courts on four continents.

Samsung agreed earlier to hold off selling the Galaxy 10.1 in Australia as Federal Court Justice Annabelle Bennett rules on Apple’s request for an injunction barring the sale of the Samsung tablets until a court rules on its patent infringement claim.

The two sides failed to conclude their arguments Friday as scheduled, and the hearing is set to resume on Oct. 4, after a public holiday in New South Wales. Bennett, who said Sept. 29 she aimed to deliver a ruling this week, told the lawyers she couldn’t give a time-frame for a decision on the injunction.

“I can’t promise when I’ll make a decision,” Bennett said. “I will try to get it out as soon as possible.”

Samsung agreed last week to withdraw two features from the Galaxy 10.1 which allegedly infringed Apple’s patents. That reduced their dispute in Australia to the one patent over touch- screen display technology.

Bennett pressed both sides to consider a trial over the patent claim as early as the last week of October. Apple had already agreed to an early trial.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. NSD1243/2011. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).

Kodak Said to Weigh Bankruptcy Filing to Spur Patent Sale

Eastman Kodak Co., the unprofitable 131-year-old camera maker, is weighing options including a bankruptcy filing because of concerns raised by possible bidders for its patent portfolio, said three people with direct knowledge of the process.

Some potential buyers of the patents are reluctant to proceed with bids because a purchase may amount to a so-called fraudulent transfer if Kodak becomes insolvent, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.

A number of suitors, such as Google Inc., have signed confidentiality agreements to examine the assets, said these people. If a sale were judged a fraudulent transfer, creditors could later sue for more money, said one of the people. A bankruptcy filing may help clear the way for the patent sale, said the people. The sale could fetch about $3 billion, according to estimates from MDB Capital Group.

Kodak has discussed its options with law firms Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Jones Day, the people said. It hasn’t yet hired a firm and a filing isn’t imminent, they said. Lazard Ltd. is advising Kodak on options for the patent portfolio.

“As we sit here today, the company has no intention of filing, and there is no change in our strategy to monetize our intellectual property,” said Gerard Meuchner, a spokesman for Kodak. “We’re not concerned about fraudulent conveyance in regards to the sale of our IP portfolio.”

He declined to comment on whether the company had discussed a potential filing with law firms, saying that Kodak is “focused on the fourth quarter and on delivering on our strategy to become a profitable, sustainable digital company.”

A representative from Kirkland declined to comment. Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California- based Google, didn’t immediately respond to voice-mail and e- mail messages seeking comment, nor did an official for Jones Day.

Moody’s Investors Service cut Rochester, New York-based Kodak’s bond ratings last week and indicated further reductions may follow, citing “ongoing weakness” in the company’s operations. Kodak, which tapped a credit line earlier this month, has seen its market value sink by more than $30 billion from its 1997 peak.

Chief Executive Officer Antonio Perez announced plans in July to explore options for the portfolio of more than 1,100 patents, including some for processing, editing and storing images. Perez, who took the helm in 2005, has sharpened Kodak’s focus on the printing business to help revive revenue.

Sales have fallen by half since 2005 to $7.2 billion last year, with further declines predicted this year and next. The company’s losses since 2008 exceed $1.76 billion.

Kodak, whose origins date back to 1880, was founded by George Eastman, who introduced the Kodak camera eight years later, according to the company’s website. Kodak has shifted away from traditional film as consumers gravitated toward digital cameras.

TomTom, Garmin Sued for Infringement by Nevada Patent Owner

TomTom NV and Garmin International were sued for patent infringement by a Nevada patent holder.

Garmin Ltd. of Schaffhausen, Switzerland, is a maker of navigation devices that use global positioning system technology. Amsterdam-based TomTom is Europe’s largest maker of portable navigation devices.

The two companies were sued in federal court in Las Vegas Sept. 29, 19 days after the patents were acquired by Silver State Intellectual Technologies Inc., of Las Vegas.

The patents TomTom and Garmin are accused of infringing are part of a group of 20 utility patents, six published and pending patent applications and four design patents Silver State acquired Sept. 10.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the named inventor on all the patents is Michael L. Obradovich of San Clemente, California. The database indicated he has been issued 65 U.S. patents.

The patents had previously been assigned to American CalCar of Las Vegas. In March 2004, American CalCar successfully sued Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW of North America unit for patent infringement.

In that case, which was settled in June 2006 with BMW taking a license to the disputed technology, American CalCar was represented by Frederick S. Berretta of Irvine, California’s Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP. He is also representing Silver State in the two new patent cases against the two makers of global-positioning navigation systems.

A second case by American CalCar against Honda Motor Co.’s American Honda unit is still moving through the appellate process.

Silver State is claiming that TomTom infringes six patents related to navigation systems. Garmin is accused of infringing those six patents plus three more.

In the complaints, Silver State claims it’s damaged by the alleged infringement and seeks court orders halting each company from activities it claims infringes the patents. Additionally, it asked for money damages and litigation costs.

Neither Garmin nor TomTom responded immediately to e-mailed requests for comment.

The case against TomTom is Silver State Intellectual Technologies Inc., v. TomTom Inc., 2:11-cv-01581-KJD-PAL, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

The case against Garmin is Silver State intellectual Technologies Inc. v. Garmin International Inc., 2:11-cv-01578- ECR-RJJ, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

Intel to Fund No-Patent Research at University of Washington

Intel Corp., the world’s largest chipmaker, established the fifth in a series of research collaborations with U.S. universities, according to a statement from the Santa Clara, California-based company.

Each of the collaborations, known as Intel Science and Technology Centers, focuses on a specific technology or discipline.

The agreements between the chip company and the universities specify that no patents are to be sought by either the company or the academic institutions and their researchers, and that all patentable research is to be published. Additionally, under the agreement, all “significant” software developed through the centers’ research is to be open source.

Any background intellectual property introduced into any of the centers projects will have to be licensed by the other parties involved before it can be used within the project, according to an Intel statement.

The newest collaboration will be with the University of Washington, and will be focused on “pervasive computing.” According to an Intel statement, aim of the research is “developing applications that are organized into the following themes: low-power sensing and communication; understanding human state and activities; and personalization and adaptation.”

Applications to be developed will fall into three areas, mobile health and wellbeing, a family coordination system, and “task space, smart kitchen.”

Earlier collaborations are with Stanford University, for visual computing; secure computing at the University of California at Berkeley; and cloud computing and embedded computing, both at Carnegie Mellon University.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

News Corp.’s ‘Glee’ Said to Infringe U.K. Comedy Club’s Marks

News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox unit was sued for trademark infringement by the proprietor of several U.K.-based comedy clubs, the U.K.’s Birmingham Mail reported.

Mark Tughan claims his Glee Club is harmed by Fox’s use of the same name for its television series about a high school glee club, the newspaper reported.

Tughan told the Mail that the “Glee” television program aims at a younger demographic group than the customers of his comedy clubs, and that the confusion between names has caused the underperformance of his two newest branches.

He registered “The Glee Club” trademark in 2001, and renewed it in 2009, before the first episode of Fox’s “Glee” was ever aired, the newspaper reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Zenimax Sues Mojang in Sweden, Claims ‘Scrolls’ Game Infringed

Zenimax Media Inc.’s Bethesda Softworks unit is filing suit in Sweden against Stockholm’s Mojang AB, claiming the Swedish company’s unreleased “Scrolls” game infringes its “Elder Scrolls” game, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.

In August Bethesda wrote to Mojang claiming there were “significant visual, audio and conceptual similarities” in the two games, according to the newspaper.

Mojang founder Markus Persson told the Telegraph he assumed the suit was a “more or less automated response” to his company’s application to register “Scrolls” as a trademark.

In the early stage of the dispute, Persson made an offer -- declined by Zenimax -- that it should be settled by a “deathmatch” between the two companies’ staffs using Id Software’s “Quake III” multiplayer game, according to the Telegraph.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

‘Industrial Espionage’ Does in U.K.’s First Micro-Pig Breeder

The U.K.’s first breeder of micro pigs sought protection of the bankruptcy court after what she claimed was “industrial espionage,” the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported.

Jane Croft, of Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, said she was also hit by an online campaign waged through social media sites, the newspaper reported.

She said there was such a demand for her tiny pigs that she bought some stock from another breeder, and when those pigs grew up, they were normal, full-sized hogs, according to the Daily Mail.

Croft, a former investment banker who promoted her business through her book “This Little Piggy,” said that she had to give refunds to buyers when the supposedly tiny swine grew to a much larger size than anticipated.

IP Moves

Baker & Hostetler Hires Theodore Kobus from Marshall Dennehey

Baker & Hostetler LLP hired Theodore J. Kobus III for its IP group, the Cleveland-based firm said in a statement.

Kobus, who joins from Philadelphia-based Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, does both client counseling and litigation related to intellectual property, media, technology, and data breaches.

Among the clients he’s represented are Holland Computers Inc., the Pendleton Round Up Association, Magnetic Corp., Foundation for Fiduciary Studies, Ikea U.S. West Inc. and Valley Forge Old Guard Inc., according to Bloomberg data.

He has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University, and a law degree from Widener University.

--With the assistance of Jonathan Keehner in Tokyo, Jeffrey McCracken in New York, Joe Schneider in Sydney. 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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