Bloomberg News

LG, P&G, Kraft, Cafe Hon, Motorola: Intellectual Property

November 09, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Updates with U.S. Lighting Tech item in patent section.)

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Dyson Ltd., the maker of the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, sued LG Electronics Inc. for patent infringement.

LG, the Seoul-based maker of appliances and mobile telephones, is accused of infringing a patent for a vacuum cleaner’s collecting chamber, according to court papers. In dispute is Dyson’s patent 6,991,666, which was issued in January 2006.

U.K.-based Dyson claims that at least four different LG vacuums infringe the patent. Previously Dyson filed a patent infringement suit against Samsung Electronics Co. over vacuum cleaner technology.

In its complaint in the latest case, Dyson said it has been deliberately damaged by the LG products and asked the court for an order barring additional infringement. The company also asked for money damages “not less than a reasonable royalty,” additional damages to punish LG for what it says is “willful infringement,” and for awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

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

Dyson is represented by David K. Callahan and Adam R. Brausa of Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

The case is Dyson Inc., v. LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc., 1:11-cv-07860, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

U.S. Lighting Tech Settles Street Light Patent Dispute

U.S. Energy Technologies Inc., which does business as U.S. Lighting Tech, has settled a patent dispute with Deco Lighting Inc.

The suit was filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, March 1. U.S. Lighting Tech claimed that Commerce, California-based Deco Lighting was making and selling knockoff street lights that infringed a design patent and U.S. Lighting Tech’s trade dress. U.S. Lighting says its street lights are used in 220 municipalities and cities.

In dispute was Irvine, California-based U.S. Lighting’s patent D624,685, which was issued in September 2010. In response to the suit, Deco Lighting claimed the patent was invalid and unenforceable.

According to a settlement document in the case file, each party had to bear its own litigation costs, U.S. Lighting’s claims were dismissed, as were Deco Lighting’s counter claims.

In a statement released yesterday, U.S. Lighting said that under the settlement, Deco Lighting agreed to remove its Anaconda line of street light products from the market. Financial terms of the agreement are confidential, according to the U.S. Lighting statement.

The case is U.S. Energy Technologies Inc., v. Deco Lighting Inc., 8:11-cv-00329-JST-RNB, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

P&G Spurns ‘.Pampers’ as Brands Balk at Expanding Internet Names

A program to let companies acquire their own Web suffixes is failing to win over U.S. brand owners such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Hewlett-Packard Co. that don’t see a need to expand beyond .com.

P&G, the world’s largest consumer products company with more than 50 brands including Tide detergent, Pampers diapers and Crest toothpaste, won’t apply for new suffixes, said Paul Fox, a spokesman. HP, the biggest computer maker, considers the program costly and has no plans to take part, according to Gary Elliott, vice president of global marketing.

“A lot of companies are looking at the same math as we are and saying, ‘Let’s stop this proposal from happening,’” Elliott said in an interview. “There’s a tremendous amount of confusion about what this means and what the costs are.”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit group managing the Web’s global address system under a U.S. Commerce Department contract, is preparing to consider almost any word in any language as a Web suffix, including company and brand names or terms such as .shopping or .nyc. The group will accept applications from Jan. 12 through April 12, 2012, for as many as 1,000 new suffixes a year. The application fee is $185,000 for each domain name.

The naming group, overseer of the Internet’s address system since 1998, currently manages 22 so-called generic top-level domains, including the commonly used .com, .org and .net. After six years of deliberation, the Marina del Ray, California-based group’s board voted June 20 to expand the number of those domains as a way to spur online innovation.

The Commerce Department should delay the domain-name expansion to give businesses more time to assess the program, including brand and legal issues, the National Retail Federation wrote in an Oct. 21 letter to the agency.

The department is reviewing the letter and plans to respond in a timely manner, Moira Vahey, a spokeswoman for the agency’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said in an e-mail.

The Association of National Advertisers, a Washington-based organization where HP’s Elliott serves as chairman, criticized the domain-name expansion as increasing costs for businesses and sowing confusion among consumers.

Canon Inc. and Hitachi Ltd. are among the few large companies that have expressed public interest in the new domains.

General Motors Co., the largest U.S. automaker, has “thoroughly evaluated” the domain-name program and is weighing its options, Tom Henderson, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. Wal- Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, is assessing the program, Ravi Jariwala, a spokesman, said in an interview.

Companies may ultimately apply for domain names because they don’t know what their competitors are doing and the next application round hasn’t been announced, said Josh Bourne, managing partner at FairWinds Partners LLC, a domain-name consulting firm in Washington.

Bourne is president of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, a nonprofit group that has criticized the structure of the expansion, including the lack of a timeline for a second application round. The group’s members include Eli Lilly & Co., Morgan Stanley and Nike Inc.

Kraft Gets Temporary Ban on Clothing Maker’s ‘Cadbeery’ Mark

Kraft Food Inc.’s Cadbury unit persuaded the Delhi High Court to bar an Indian garment manufacturer from using the trade name “Cadbeery” for its products, the Hindu newspaper reported.

Lodah Garments is barred from using “Cadbeery” or any other mark confusingly similar to the chocolatier’s marks, according to the Hindu.

The court order is only temporary, and Cadbury will argue at a future hearing that the ban should be permanent and that it should receive money damages from Lodah, the Hindu reported.

The “Cadbeery” mark used by the garment maker has the same font as the candy, and was chosen to mislead customers, Cadbury claimed and the Hindu reported.

Cafe Hon Proprietor Says Seeking to Register Mark was a Mistake

The proprietor of a Baltimore restaurant who tried to register “Hon” as a trademark has abandoned the effort in the wake of public opposition, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Denise Whiting of the Café Hon said she was sorry she attempted to register the mark, and that the negative response she met “almost killed me but has just about killed the business,” according to the Sun.

She said the term of endearment often used by Baltimoreans “was never mine to have in the first place,” the Sun reported.

According to the Sun, when it became known Whiting filed the application “she entered into a special category of municipal pariah that cities typically reserved for murderers and the owners of sports teams.”

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Content Industries Demand BT Block Access to Pirate Bay Web site

BT Plc, the U.K.’s largest Internet service provider, received a demand from a music industry group that it block its subscribers’ access to the Pirate Bay website, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.

The company was given 14 days to respond to the Nov. 3 demand before the content industries pursued legal action, according to the Telegraph.

BT told the Telegraph that it wouldn’t voluntarily block access to the site, which has been accused of facilitating illegal sharing of music, films and other content.

The content industries have already asked, with mixed success, Internet service providers in Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Italy and Belgium to block access to Pirate Bay, according to the Telegraph.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-Motorola Programmer Accused of Stealing Secrets Goes on Trial

An ex-Motorola Inc. software engineer faces trial for economic espionage after she was stopped by U.S. customs agents at a Chicago airport while allegedly carrying 1,000 company documents, $30,000 and a one-way ticket to China.

Hanjuan Jin, 41, a Chinese-born naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of stealing mobile telecommunications technology for the benefit of China’s military and for a Beijing business, Kai Sun News (Beijing) Technology Co., also known as SunKaisens.

Jin last week waived her right a jury and is being tried by U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago starting yesterday. If convicted on any of the three Chinese-military- related charges, she faces as long as 15 years in prison, while the maximum penalty for each of the remaining counts is 10 years.

Of seven federal cases prosecuted under the U.S. Economic Espionage Act last year, six involved a link to China, according to the report by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive.

Jin maintains she is innocent. Her attorney, Beth Westman Gaus of Chicago’s Federal Public Defender’s office, said she was preparing for trial and declined to comment on her client’s case.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, didn’t reply to an e-mailed request seeking comment.

Since Jin was stopped in February 2007 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, her former employer has split into two companies. Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility Inc., a mobile phone maker, spun off in January and is being acquired by Google Inc. for $12.5 billion if the Justice Department grants antitrust clearance.

Two-way radio and wireless network builder Motorola Solutions Inc. remains at the former company’s location in Schaumburg, Illinois.

“Motorola Solutions has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation and prosecution of this case, and continues to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice,” Nicholas Sweers, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Jin also is being sued by Motorola Solutions over claims she was working for another Schaumburg-based telecommunications company, Lemko Corp., at the same time she was employed by Motorola.

Closely held Lemko’s chief executive officer, Nicholas Labun, and Chief Operating Officer Bohdan Pyskir are former Motorola executives who are now co-defendants with Lin in the civil suit.

The U.S. claims that while still working for Motorola, Jin took a one-year leave of absence starting in February 2006 for medical reasons. During that time, she allegedly accepted employment at a Chinese company later identified in court filings as SunKaisens.

On Feb. 24, 2007, she bought a plane ticket to China with a date four days later, according to the December 2008 revised indictment. Returning to work at Motorola on Feb. 26, 2007, she allegedly began downloading technical and confidential documents from the company’s computers and did so again the next day before and after telling her manager she was resigning.

U.S. customs officials discovered her cache of 1,000 Motorola documents, according to the indictment against her. The U.S. alleges she had Chinese military documents, too. Motorola said in its civil complaint that she also had $30,000.

“If the Motorola proprietary trade secrets and confidential information found in defendant Jin’s possession were replicated by a competitor, Motorola would suffer many millions of dollars in harm,” according to the company’s civil complaint.

Jin was arrested in March 2008.

Lemko denies receiving any purloined information from Jin, according to a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News by outside spokesman Raymond Minkus.

“We believe Motorola initiated this suit to cover up its mishandling of the Jin employment matter,” Minkus said, “including its overreaction to the volume and the value of the reputed trade secrets -- if the information was secret at all.”

The criminal case is U.S. v. Jin, 08-cr-192, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The civil case is Motorola Inc. v. Lemko Corp., 08-cv-5427, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

--With the assistance from Eric Engleman in Washington, Andrew Harris in Chicago. Editors: Mary Romano, Fred Strasser

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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