Bloomberg News

Samsung, Apple, Wi-Lan, Cordon Bleu: Intellectual Property

December 12, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Updates with Wi-Lan in Patent section.)

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. will start selling its rival to Apple Inc.’s iPad 2 in Australian stores before Christmas after the country’s highest court denied the U.S. company’s bid to maintain a ban on Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Chief Justice Robert French, on behalf of the three-judge High Court panel, said Dec. 9 that Apple failed to persuade them that it could win on appeal and denied the company a hearing. He reinstated an appeals court judgment lifting the ban on the Galaxy 10.1 tablets in Australia.

The ruling ends Apple’s four-month effort to keep the iPad’s biggest rival out of Australia on claims it infringes patents related to touch-screen technology. Apple and Samsung, the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and tablet computers, have sued each other on four continents since the Cupertino, California-based company accused the South Korean electronics maker in April of “slavishly copying” its products.

“While the win in Australia won’t give a big boost to Samsung’s revenue, it should be seen as symbolic,” Choi Do Yeon, an analyst at LIG Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul said in a phone interview. “Samsung suffered a blow to its image from earlier losses, but now they’re recovering.”

Samsung’s lawyer Katrina Howard said last week, before a High Court judge extended the ban, that it was “critical” for the company to start sales before Christmas.

Apple and Samsung have filed at least 30 lawsuits against each other, according to the Suwon, South Korea-based company.

On Dec. 8, Samsung failed to win an order from a Paris court to block Apple from selling its newest smartphone iPhone 4S in France. The maker of iMac computers also said it will appeal a U.S. judge’s refusal to block Samsung’s 4G smartphone and Galaxy Tab 10.1 computer.

“Apple and Samsung are fighting under different circumstances in so many different countries,” said James Song, an analyst at Daewoo Securities Co. in Seoul. “With Samsung beginning to win some cases, the two companies may be getting closer to a settlement.”

In Sydney, Apple’s lawyer, Stephen Burley, argued Dec. 9 that the appeal court made a mistake in overturning the ban and that Samsung will “visit harm on Apple” by selling the device.

“You got your relief by the skin of your teeth,” French told Burley, referring to the original judge’s ruling that granted the injunction against the Galaxy tablet.

Extending the ban in Australia “would effectively determine the outcome” of a trial over the patents because by the time that’s concluded the Galaxy 10.1 will be obsolete, French said.

Steve Park, an Apple spokesman in Seoul, repeated the company’s statement on the dispute that “blatant copying is wrong and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.”

Samsung is the second-largest component supplier for Apple. The company gets about 7.6 percent of its total revenue from selling memory chips, displays and other components for the iPhone and iPad, according to Bloomberg data.

A trial date on Apple’s patent claims in Australia hasn’t been set yet. Samsung’s countersuit, claiming Apple phones and tablets infringe its patents on 3G wireless transmission is scheduled for March in Sydney.

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

Motorola Mobility Wins German Patent Ruling Against Apple

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. won a German patent ruling against Apple Inc. Dec. 9 that may be used to block iPad and iPhone sales in a dispute over technology used in the products.

The court in Mannheim found Apple infringed one of Motorola Mobility’s cellular-communications patents, granting an injunction and declaring Apple, in principle, liable for damages.

“We’re going to appeal the court’s ruling right away,” said Alan Hely, a London spokesman for Cupertino, California- based Apple, in an e-mail. “Holiday shoppers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad or iPhone they want.”

There are several patent cases pending in Mannheim between Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility and Apple. The iPad maker said at a hearing in a related case on Nov. 18 that it may face as much as 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in lost sales if the court rules in favor of Motorola Mobility.

Motorola Mobility has “been negotiating with Apple and offering them reasonable licensing terms and conditions since 2007, and will continue our efforts to resolve our global patent dispute as soon as practicable,” General Counsel Scott Offer said in an e-mailed statement.

Motorola Mobility can enforce last week’s decision during an appeal only if it posts a bond of 100 million euros, according to the ruling. That figure usually reflects the potential damage the court thinks enforcing a ruling could cause to the loser. It can take several weeks to enforce a patent verdict and parties rarely enforce rulings while an appeal is pending.

The decision was reported Dec. 9 by Florian Mueller on his patent blog.

Wi-Lan Adds 1,400 Patents and Pending Applications to Arsenal

Wi-Lan Inc., the Canadian patent-licensing firm that’s filed 17 patent-infringement cases in the U.S. since 2007, said it has acquired a portfolio of more than 1,400 patents and pending applications.

According to a statement from the Ottawa-based company, the new IP is related to digital television and video displays. Wi- Lan said it paid $8 million for the patents.

The company declined to identify the seller, saying only that it was an “international consumer electronics manufacturer.”

In its most recent case, Wi-Lan sued Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc., Apple Inc. and others for infringing two patents related to wireless technology. That case was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas, a popular venue for patent cases because of a belief that juries in that district are more sympathetic to patent owners. Wi-Lan has filed 11 patent infringement cases in that district, according to Bloomberg data.

The most recent case is Wi-Lan Inc., v. Apple Inc., 6:11- cv-00453-LED, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

No Trademark Registration for Cooking School, IP Office Says

Le Cordon Bleu, the French cooking school, had its application to register its name as a trademark rejected by the Intellectual Property Office in New Zealand, Business Day New Zealand reported.

The assistant commissioner of trademarks said the phrase had no distinctive character other than representing high quality food and it wouldn’t be fair to lock up the phrase so others couldn’t use it for their products, according to the newspaper.

In New Zealand, the phrase is commonly associated with a dish of chicken stuffed with cheese and ham, according to Business Day New Zealand.

The director of the cooking school told Business Day New Zealand that the Intellectual Property Office’s decision was “completely irrelevant” because existing international trademarks already barred others’ use of the school’s logo and branding.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Google’s YouTube Buys RightsFlow Copyright Management Company

Google Inc.’s video-sharing YouTube unit acquired RightsFlow, a copyright management company, according to a Dec. 9 posting on the YouTube blog.

In February the Mountain View, California-based company signed an agreement with New York’s RightsFlow for assistance in music rights management.

In a joint company statement issued at that time, RightsFlow was described as a technology-enabled licensing and royalty service provider that specialized in obtaining licenses and limited download rights.

YouTube’s blog posting said that the company has “already invested tens of millions of dollars in content management technology.”

Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed in the blog posting.

German Law Firm Auctioning Off Infringement Settlements

Urmann & Collegen, a German law firm involved in copyright enforcement, has started an auction to sell unpaid settlements in a file-sharing case, the TorrentFreak anti-copyright website reported.

The Regensburg, Germany-based firm has 70,000 unpaid settlement demands related to alleged infringement of adult content and is selling them to the highest bidder, according to TorrentFreak.

The supposed debt adds up to about 90 million euros ($120 million), TorrentFreak reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Discovery Accused of Misappropriating Programming Concept

Discovery Communications Inc. was sued by a Los Angeles production company over the network’s “All-American Muslim” program.

The program, which airs on Discovery’s TLC channel, is a reality show following the lives of five Muslim families living in Dearborn, Michigan.

According to the complaint filed Nov. 30 in state court on Los Angeles, Visionaire Media Inc. is a company that specialized in programming “seeking to bridge the divide and promote understanding between Americans and Muslims.”

At a series of meetings beginning in January 2011, officials of Visionaire began meeting with Discovery to discuss a potential new product focused on Muslims in America. Visionaire said that during these meetings it was told that if Discovery liked and used the project, it would hire and pay Visionaire and give it producer credit.

Visionaire said it pitched to Discovery the idea of a reality show based on Dearborn Muslim families and, from January through April of this year “expended considerable time, energy, resources and money” to help get the project off the ground, including meeting with various Michigan Muslim families.

In April one of the Visionaire officials left the company and, according to the complaint, began working with Discovery on the project. Visionaire said it discovered this in June, and in July learned that the Discovery program was to be called “All- American Muslim.”

It claims that Discovery is making use of proprietary information without Visionaire’s consent or compensation. The company asked the court for money damages, including extra damages intended to punish Discovery for its actions, and for a screen credit and “a reasonable royalty” from the “All- American Muslim” program, together with an award of litigation costs.

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

Visionaire is represented by Miles J. Feldman, Sonia Y. Lee and Randall Ivor-Smith of Raines Feldman LLP of Beverly Hills.

The case is Visionaire Media Inc., v. Discovery Communications Inc., BC474431, California Superior Court (Los Angeles).

--With assistance from Karin Matussek in Berlin; Joe Schneider in Sydney; and Jun Yang in Seoul. Editors: Mary Romano, Glenn Holdcraft.

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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