Bloomberg News

AllianceBernstein, Seagate, Apple: Intellectual Property

November 25, 2011

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

Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A former AllianceBernstein Holding LP employee accused of stealing software from the fund manager pleaded guilty to computer trespass in New York state court in Manhattan.

Peter Jan, 35, who was an application support specialist at the investment-management company, was accused in April of stealing software used to send and receive messages related to clients’ securities transactions. He was charged with computer trespass, grand larceny and unlawful duplication of computer- related materials.

He pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of felony computer trespass as part of a deal with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office. Jan will be able to withdraw his plea to the felony count and plead instead to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a computer if he completes 100 hours of community service and isn’t arrested during the next six months, his lawyer Jeremy Saland said. As a result, Jan will face no jail time and no probation, Saland said.

“Mr. Jan was not involved in any theft of data that compromised any aspect of AllianceBernstein’s clients,” Saland said in an interview after Jan’s plea. “This was really an unfortunate incident that was exacerbated because of AllianceBernstein being a major player in the financial community.”

Prosecutors said Jan gave notice to New York-based AllianceBernstein on March 8, 2010, and was supposed to leave the company 11 days later. On four occasions, prosecutors said, he downloaded software used by the company for FIX messages, a financial information exchange standard. Jan was fired on March 15, 2010.

John Meyers, a spokesman for AllianceBernstein, didn’t immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment on the plea.

The case is People vs. Jan, 01784/2011, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.)

Western Digital Must Pay Seagate $250 Million, Arbitrator Orders

Western Digital Corp., the largest maker of mechanical hard-disk drives, was ordered to pay $525 million Seagate Technology LLC in a trade secrets dispute, the Irvine, California-based company said in a statement.

The award was ordered by an arbitrator in confidential proceedings in Minnesota, the company said. The dispute was related to claims Dublin, Ireland-based Seagate made about a former employee who joined Western Digital.

Seagate had claimed that confidential information and trade secrets had been misappropriated.

According to Bloomberg data, Seagate filed a case in Minnesota state court against Western Digital in August 2004. Shortly after it was filed, the case was briefly transferred to federal court and then returned to state court within two weeks.

John Coyne, the president and chief executive of Western Digital, said his company would “vigorously challenge” the award. He maintained that his company “acted properly at all times,” according to the Western Digital statement.

Seagate also issued a company statement about the arbitrator’s award. It said that the arbitrator had requested additional information from the parties about pre-award interest. After the final award is used by the arbiter, it will be entered into court record and the state-court action will be dismissed, Seagate said.

Patents

Smith & Nephew Files Endoscopy Patent Suit Against Hologic

Smith & Nephew is claiming Hologic Inc. infringed a patent for a method to remove polyps and fibroids from the uterus using an endoscope.

The case was filed in federal court in Boston yesterday, the same day the disputed patent was issued.

Hologic, based in Bedford, Massachusetts, is accused of infringing patent 8,061,359, which covers a surgical endoscopic cutting device and a method for its use. Smith & Nephew objects to Hologic’s MyoSure Tissue Removal System, which competes with its Truclear system.

London-based Smith & Nephew asked the court to order Hologic to quit infringing the patent and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Hologic Inc., 1:11- cv-12064, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

Apple Seeks Patent for ‘Air Bag’ to Protect iPads, iPhones

Apple Inc., maker of the iPad and iPhone, has applied for a patent on a technology that acts like an air bag for those devices.

Application 20110279961, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Nov., 17, is for a “shock mounting cover glass in consumer electronic devices.”

The application notes that while plastic has the advantage of being less breakable when used as a faceplate on a portable electronic device, it is also susceptible to scratching. The glass faceplates, which are more scratch-resistant, can crack when dropped.

The technology covered by the application would include a sensor to detect what is called a “drop event.” When this occurs, a little inflatable bladder would fill with liquid to cushion its fall and prevent breakage.

Cupertino, California-based Apple applied for the patent in May 2010. Apple founder Steve Jobs, who died Oct. 5, isn’t listed as an inventor although he was on many applications filed by the company and patents issued to it.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Russian Railways Entitled to ‘RZD’ Trademark, Court Rules

OAO Russian Railways, the country’s state rail monopoly, has won a trademark dispute with the National Association of Transport Workers, the Russian Legal Information Agency known as RAPSI reported.

The association had registered the “RZD” mark in 1998 and Moscow-based Russian Railways sought termination of the registration, claiming it hadn’t been used during the previous three years, according to RAPSI.

The railroad didn’t use the mark either, the association had argued, claiming there was no way it could be considered the railway’s property, RAPSI reported.

Russia’s Patent Disputes Chamber said the letters -- both in the Russian and English alphabets -- represent the abbreviation of Russian Railway’s name, and determined the railway was the proper owner of the mark, according to RAPSI.

Chick-fil-A Objects to Artist’s ‘Eat More Kale’ Application

Chick-fil-A Inc., the Atlanta-based fast-food chain, has objected to a trademark application filed by a Vermont artist, the WPTZ television station reported.

Bo Muller-Moore, who had been hand-printing T-shirts under the “Eat More Kale” brand, applied to register his brand as a trademark and met opposition from the restaurant chain, according to WPTZ.

Closely held Chick-fil-A said Muller-Moore’s brand was too close to its “Eat Mor Chikin” slogan, and that it’s managed over the years to persuade 30 other entities to stop using marks containing “eat more,” the television station reported.

Muller-Moore told WPTZ he was prepared to fight the chicken chain for the right to use his mark, saying there was room for both of them because “I’m a folk artist and they’re a fast-food chain.”

New Zealand Library Claims Trademark Hijacked by U.S. Company

A rural New Zealand library has accused a U.S. company of trademark misappropriation and copyright infringement, Radio New Zealand reported.

The Koha library-catalog software system was developed more than a decade ago by the Horowhenua Library Trust, Radio New Zealand reported.

The trust, which has provided the system for free to users around the world, said LibLime of Bethesda, Maryland, has been given provisional rights to the Koha name and is trying to adapt the system for its private client base, according to Radio New Zealand.

“Koha” means gift or present in the language of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people. The trust’s head of libraries told Radio New Zealand that she was astounded an international company wanted to trademark the word.

For more trademark news, click here.

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

Duane Morris Hires Life-Sciences Partner From Foley & Lardner

Duane Morris LLP hired David A. Charapp for its life sciences and technology practice, the Philadelphia-based firm said in a statement.

Charapp joins from Milwaukee’s Foley & Lardner LLP, where he head that firm’s life sciences collaborations and licensing practice. He has also previously practices in-house at Koran Biosciences, a biotech company acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and at Santarus Inc., a San Diego-based biotech company.

He has done transactional work for life sciences and technology companies in the area of licensing, partner, and operational agreements, including pre-clinical and clinical research.

Charapp has an undergraduate degree in business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a law degree from Boston College.

--With assistance from Chris Dolmetsch in New York and Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Mary Romano, Michael Hytha

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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