(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. (Updates with Microsoft in Patent section.)
Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- HTC Corp., the second-largest maker of devices using Google Inc.’s Android software, lost a ruling in a patent case against Apple Inc. that sought to block U.S. imports of the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
The Apple devices don’t violate HTC’s rights to four patents, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Charles Bullock said in a notice yesterday. The full six-member commission in Washington may choose to review the findings, with the investigation scheduled to be completed by Feb. 17.
Apple, with competition emerging for its top-selling iPhone and iPad, has accused Android-device makers HTC, Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. of copying its technology and has won court rulings in Australia and Europe to limit sales of some Samsung products. The loss yesterday for HTC is the first ruling in at least six ITC cases that rivals had filed in retaliation against Apple.
“They’re prevailing a lot, they’re getting injunctions against shipments against competing companies, and we haven’t seen it the other way,” Carl Howe, an analyst with Boston-based research firm Yankee Group, said of Apple. “If you actually develop the patents, you have a lot of ammunition that works in court.”
Apple and Taoyuan, Taiwan-based ITC each have two ITC cases pending against the other company. Yesterday’s case, filed in May 2010, accused Cupertino, California-based Apple of infringing patents related to ways to manage a phone’s power supply, protect data and store contact information.
“This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings,” HTC General Counsel Grace Lei said in a statement. “We are confident we have a strong case for the ITC appeals process and are fully prepared to protect our intellectual property.”
The commission in a separate case is reviewing a judge’s findings that HTC infringed two Apple patents. Also pending before the agency is a case Apple filed seeking to block imports of HTC’s Android phones and Flyer tablets. HTC filed a second case against Apple, with a trial scheduled for August.
Notice of the judge’s findings yesterday didn’t include the full text of the ruling, which will become available after HTC and Apple get a chance to redact confidential information.
Yesterday’s HTC case focused on four patents, two of which were acquired by company and two that were the result of research within the company.
The two homegrown patents relate to a way to control how the phone switches between different modes of operation to manage the power supply and a method to protect data so it’s not lost if the phone doesn’t have enough power supply.
The other two relate to ways to store, access and use contact information in a phone’s address book. HTC acquired the patents in 2009, about a year before Apple filed its first complaint, according to information on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
The HTC case against Apple is In the Matter of Portable Electronic Devices, 337-721, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
Samsung Sues Apple in Japan, Australia to Halt IPhone 4S
Samsung Electronics Co. sued Apple Inc. in Japan and Australia to stop sales of the iPhone 4S, escalating a legal battle between the world’s two biggest makers of smartphones and tablet computers.
Samsung also sought injunctions against the sale of the iPad 2 and the previous generation iPhone 4 in Japan, the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in a statement yesterday. Samsung claimed Apple’s products infringe its patents covering wireless communications and user-interface technologies.
Legal conflicts between the rivals have spread globally since April when Apple claimed that Samsung’s Galaxy devices “slavishly” copied the iPad and iPhone. An Australian court last week blocked sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, while Samsung filed motions in France and Italy seeking to ban sales of Apple’s latest handset.
“The legal battle is lasting longer and is more extensive than originally expected,” James Song, a Seoul-based analyst at Daewoo Securities Co., said by phone yesterday. “This kind of legal saga isn’t good for both companies given their business relationship. The parties will eventually seek to resolve the issue.”
Apple, which is also one of the biggest buyers of chips and displays from Samsung, had 19.1 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, with its South Korean rival closing the gap and taking 16.2 percent, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based researcher IDC.
“It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging,” Steve Park, a Seoul-based spokesman for Apple, said by phone yesterday, responding to the court filing.
Apple is also suing Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC Corp. in the U.S., alleging patent infringement. Samsung and HTC both use Google Inc.’s Android platform, which has extended its lead in smartphone operating systems over Apple’s iOS with 43 percent of the market, according to Gartner Inc. Apple’s iOS leads the market for tablet platforms, while Android will close the gap in coming years, Gartner said.
Samsung filed motions in Paris and Milan earlier this month citing two patent infringements on wireless telecommunications technology, aiming to prevent the sale of the iPhone 4S.
The company has filed an appeal against an Oct. 13 Australian court ruling to grant a preliminary injunction against the sale of its Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung said in today’s statement.
Samsung filed the latest preliminary injunction motions in Japan’s Tokyo District Court and in the New South Wales Registry, Australia, it said.
App Developer for Apple’s iPhone Settles Patent Case With Lodsys
One of the developers of applications for Apple Inc.’s iPhone settled a patent infringement suit brought by a Texas company.
Michael Karr of Las Vegas was accused of infringing patents owned by Lodsys LLC in a May 31 suit filed in federal court in Marshall, Texas. Karr, who does business as Shovelmate, is the creator of “69 Positions - Sex Positions” application for iPhone.
The application is presently offered for 99 cents in Apple’s iTunes store to customers 17 years of age or older.
According to the case docket, a settlement document between Karr and Marshall, Texas-based Lodsys was filed Oct. 12. Although terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed, Lodsys asked for money damages and a royalty for post-judgment infringement.
Karr sent an e-mail to the PaidContent.org website in which he said he settled because he’s only a sophomore in college and didn’t have the money to continue the lawsuit. He said he’d had hopes Apple would have been able to intervene in the case and “potentially even offer some sort of blanket coverage for small developers, but this has not been the case.”
Cupertino-based Apple Inc. said in June that it would defend Karr and the others in the case who were accused of infringing two Lodsys patents. Apple contended that the app makers were covered by its license with Lodsys.
In a May 31 blog posting, Lodsys disagreed, saying “We stand firm and restate our previous position that it is the third party developers that are responsible for the infringement of Lodsys’ patents and they are responsible for securing the rights for their applications.”
The two patents at issue in the case are 7,620,565 B2, issued in November 2009, in August 2010; and 7,222,078 B2, issued in May 2007. Both were acquired by Lodsys in August 2010, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database listings of changes in patent ownership. The patents cover methods of interacting with customers through software programs.
The case is Lodsys LLC v. Combay Inc., 2:11-cv-000272-DF, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).
Microsoft Sues St. Clair, Vadem in State Court Over Patents
Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, sued patent-holder St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants Inc. and technology holding company Vadem Ltd. in Delaware Chancery Court alleging breach of patent contracts.
The lawsuit, filed under seal in Wilmington Oct. 14, is related to a federal court suit filed in the same city on April 7, 2010, in which Microsoft asked for a ruling that it doesn’t infringe four former Vadem patents owned by St. Clair.
In Chancery Court documents made public yesterday, Microsoft in minimal detail alleges “self-dealing, theft of corporate opportunity, and breach of contract arising out of the transfer of certain patents previously owned by Vadem.”
The federal case, in which Microsoft contends the patents aren’t valid, is still in the information-gathering stage. The federal case also relates to a 2009 case in which Grosse Pointe, Michigan-based St. Clair accuses Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft of infringing the patents. Vadem is based in San Jose, California, according to patent papers.
Edmund Chung, a St. Clair spokesman, and officials at Vadem didn’t immediately return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment on the litigation.
In dispute are patents 5,710,929; 5,758,175, 5,892,959 and 6,079,025.
The case is Microsoft Corp. v. St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants Inc., CA6940, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).
For more patent news, click here.
Urban Outfitters’ ‘Navajo’ Panties Offend, Tribe Tells Retailer
Urban Outfitters Inc., the Philadelphia-based retail chain, has been told by the Navajo Nation to quit selling Navajo-themed products, including a “Navajo Hipster Panty” and a flask wrapped in “Navajo Print Fabric,” the Associated Press reported.
The tribe sent the retail chain a letter saying the products infringed trademarks, according to AP.
Dwayne Caluschee, a designer from a Navajo tribal area in Arizona, told AP the use of “Navajo” on underwear offends the tribe’s spiritual belief about modesty and calling a flask “Navajo” is insensitive, given the Navajo Nation’s ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol on the reservation.
Urban Outfitters’ company spokesman Ed Looram told AP the term “Navajo” has been “cycling through fashion, fine art and design for the last few years.”
De Beers, Hearts on Fire Settle Trademark Dispute Over ‘Sublime’
De Beers Diamond Jewellers Ltd. and Hearts on Fire Co. settled a 2-month-old trademark-infringement case, according to the court docket.
Boston-based Hearts on Fire filed suit in federal court in Boston, saying it objected to London-based De Beers’s use of “Sublime Symmetry” and claimed this infringed Hearts on Fire’s “Sublime” trademark.
That mark was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in February 2006, according to court papers. Hearts on Fire said the phrase has become an identifier of its good and services.
The London diamond company had filed an application March 30 to register “Sublime Symmetry” as a trademark and would use it for the same classes of goods for which Hearts on Fire uses “Sublime,” according to the complaint.
The most recent entry in the patent office file related to this application is dated Aug. 27. On that date the patent office sent De Beers a letter saying all action on the application was suspended pending resolution of the dispute in civil court.
The case was dismissed Sept. 13 following an agreement between the parties, according a case filing. No terms of the agreement were disclosed. Each party waived its right to appeal the settlement, and had to pay its own litigation costs and attorney fees.
The case is Hearts on Fire Co. v. De Beers Diamond Jewellers Ltd., 1:11-cv-11391-WGY, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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Nigeria Second Only to China in Software Piracy Rates, BSA Says
The Business Software Alliance trade group has ranked software piracy rates in Nigerian second only to China’s, AllAfrica.com news website reported.
The Washington-based group surveyed 15,000 personal computer users and found that 82 percent had illegally acquired software, according to AllAfrica.com.
Seye Oluruntoba, who heads anti-piracy activities in Nigeria for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp., said many people in that country aren’t clear on what constitutes piracy and mistakenly think that “because they paid for the software, it must be genuine,” AllAfrica.com reported.
The piracy rate in China is 86 percent and the worldwide average is 47 percent, according to AllAfrica.com.
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--With assistance from Saeromi Shin in Seoul; Tim Culpan in Taipei; Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware; and Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Mary Romano, Glenn Holdcraft.
To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.