Bloomberg News

Samsung, Teva, DC Comics, Coca-Cola: Intellectual Property

December 12, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Updates with “The Bachelor” item in Trade Secrets section.)

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. failed to win a court order blocking Apple Inc. from selling its newest smartphone, the iPhone 4S, in France.

The Paris court rejected Samsung’s request for an emergency order against Apple while it considers the South Korean company’s patent-infringement claims.

Samsung, the biggest maker of smartphones, sought to block sales of the new handset in France, Italy and the U.K. days after it was unveiled in October, arguing that Apple violated its wireless-communications patents. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung sued in Paris in July over earlier versions of the iPhone and Apple’s iPad tablet.

“The disproportionate character of the ban sought by Samsung against Apple is clear,” Judge Marie-Christine Courboulay said in yesterday’s decision.

The Paris court ruled Samsung must pay Apple 100,000 euros ($134,100) for legal fees while denying Apple’s request for damages. Samsung’s claim wasn’t “abusive” and the company’s infringement claims can move forward as a regular lawsuit, Courboulay said.

Florence Catel, a Samsung spokeswoman in Paris, declined to comment on the decision. Calls to Apple’s office in London for comment weren’t immediately returned.

Samsung has been locked in a global legal battle with Apple since the Cupertino, California-based company claimed in an April suit that Samsung’s Galaxy devices copied the iPad and iPhone. Samsung was the world’s biggest maker of smartphones in the last quarter, while Apple dominates the tablet market.

The companies have filed at least 30 lawsuits in 10 countries, and European Union regulators have started an antitrust probe of the companies’ use of smartphone patents.

A Milan court will hold a hearing Dec. 16 concerning Samsung’s Italian suit. In a Dec. 3 decision, a federal court in San Jose, California, rejected Apple’s request to block Samsung’s 4G smartphone and its Galaxy 10.1 tablet computer.

Teva’s Cephalon Wins Appeal Against Watson Over Fentora Copy

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s Cephalon unit won an appeals court decision that prevents Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. from selling a generic copy of the painkiller Fentora until 2019.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington yesterday upheld the validity of a Cephalon patent on Fentora and backed a lower-court ruling that Watson infringed the patent. The appeals court posted a notice of the decision on its website without a formal opinion explaining its findings.

Fentora is approved to relieve sudden episodes of cancer pain in adults already taking opioids, or morphine-like drugs. Cephalon has said its patent 6,264,981 that was upheld expires in 2019 and is for a process of making the tablet dissolve.

The drug generated $81 million in U.S. sales in the first half, Cephalon said in August. Petach Tikva, Israel-based Teva bought Cephalon in October.

The case is Cephalon Inc. v. Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc., 09cv724, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

DC Comics Loses Bid to Block Superloans Logo in New Zealand

DC Comics lost its bid to ban the logo of a New Zealand finance company for infringing its Superman trademarks, New Zealand’s Dominion Post reported.

New Zealand’s intellectual property office said there was a clear difference between Superman and Buck, the flying superhero used by Wellington-based Superloans, according to the Dominion Post.

The office said Buck has a shield on his chest bearing a dollar sign, and his holding money in his hand deviated from Superman’s altruistic orientation, the newspaper reported.

DC Comics was ordered to pay Superloans’ litigation costs, according to the Dominion Post.

Hermes Infringement Complaint Leads to Indictment in Taiwan

Hermes International’s trademarks associated with is Birkin handbag were found to have been infringed by the maker of the canvas “Banane Taipei” bags, according to the Taipei Times.

Logos of the French luxury-goods company were copied and placed on the Taiwan bags, the newspaper reported.

After a complaint from Paris-based Hermes, Taipei’s Intellectual Property Office rejected an application to register the Banane Taipei logo and the products’ two creators were indicted for criminal trademark infringement, the Times said.

Banane Taipei bags became popular in Taiwan after actress Barbie Hsu gave them away as gifts to guests at her wedding in May, the newspaper reported.

‘Sanuki Udon’ Noodle Trademarks Canceled by China’s IP Office

China’s Intellectual Property Office canceled a trademark for noodle products after a Japanese company complained, the China Post reported.

Namchow Group lost the registration for “Sanuki Udon,” which Japan’s Kabashima Co. had argued was a place name and public property not entitled to trademark protection, according to China Post.

Sanuki udon noodles are a product of Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, and because of the ruling, the name can be used by any maker of udon-type noodles from flour from the Sanuku region of Kagawa, according to China Post.

Namchow officials told the China Post they are discussing whether to appeal the Intellectual Property Office’s ruling to China’s Supreme Court.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Anti-Piracy Role Added to U.S. Trade Agency in Draft Bill

U.S. lawmakers unveiled draft legislation that would give the International Trade Commission the lead role in fighting foreign websites trafficking in illegal content and counterfeit goods.

The draft bill, released yesterday by Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, is meant as an alternative to Hollywood-backed anti- piracy legislation under consideration by the House and Senate.

Those measures pit the movie and music industries, which want a stronger crackdown on online piracy, against Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and other Web companies that say the bills may ensnare legitimate websites and threaten the growth of the U.S. technology industry.

The draft bill released by Wyden and Issa, called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, lets U.S. intellectual-property owners petition the trade agency to investigate foreign websites linked to piracy.

Under the bill, the commission may issue cease-and-desist orders against foreign websites that “primarily” and “willfully” engage in copyright infringement. Those orders could be used to force U.S.-based payment and advertising companies to stop providing services to such sites, according to the draft.

The Wyden-Issa proposal contrasts with Hollywood-backed anti-piracy bills that were introduced this year and have multiple co-sponsors from both parties. Those measures would let the U.S. Justice Department seek court orders forcing Internet- service providers, search engines, payment services and advertising networks to block or cease business with foreign websites linked to piracy.

The Hollywood-backed measure in the House, the Stop Online Piracy Act, also would give intellectual-property owners, through private action and in court, the ability to push U.S. payment processors and online-advertising services to stop doing business with foreign websites.

Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has said he plans to hold a committee vote before year-end on the Stop Online Piracy Act, which he introduced.

Google, Facebook and other Web companies said in a Nov. 15 letter that the House and Senate measures would create “new uncertain liabilities” for Internet companies and asked lawmakers to seek “more targeted ways” to combat “rogue” websites in other countries.

NetCoalition, a technology-industry group representing Google, Yahoo! Inc. and EBay Inc., supports having the ITC handle copyright and trademark-infringement cases against foreign websites, Markham Erickson, the group’s executive director, said in an interview this week. The Washington-based group’s members include Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Studio executives have expressed concern the trade commission isn’t equipped to take on enforcement.

The alternative bill from Wyden and Issa is still in draft form and may be introduced as legislation within a week, Jennifer Hoelzer, a spokeswoman for Wyden, said in an interview. The draft bill has been posted on a website to solicit comments and feedback.

The agency has the power to block imports of products found to infringe intellectual-property rights. It’s at the center of patent battles over smartphone technology and is investigating allegations of unfair trade practices by China in the solar- panel industry.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Coca-Cola’s Secret Formula Finds New Home in Downtown Atlanta

Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest maker of soft drinks, moved its closely guarded formula from a bank vault to a tourist attraction in downtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The recipe went from one of SunTrust Inc.’s banks to the newly built “Vault of the Secret Formula” at the World of Coca-Cola exhibit, according to the newspaper.

The 125-year-old formula belonging to Atlanta-based Coca- Cola had been housed at SunTrust since 1925, the newspaper reported.

Although the new vault will be visible to the public, its size, security details and cost will be as closely guarded a secret as the formula itself, the Journal-Constitution said.

‘Bachelor’ Producers Sue ‘Reality Steve’ Over Program Spoilers

The producers of “The Bachelor” reality television program sued the Texas-based operator of a “spoiler” website for trying to disclose secrets about the program.

“Spoilers” are information that reveal a plot or program’s outcome in advance of its conclusion.

In the complaint filed Dec. 6 in federal court in Los Angeles, Burbank, California-based NZK Productions Inc. and Horizon Alternative Television Inc. accused Stephen Carbone of revealing “non-public information regarding events that transpired on the Bachelor series episodes prior to their broadcast.”

“The Bachelor” and its spin-off “Bachelorette,” which are broadcast on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network, feature either a male or female principal character who, over the course of the series, selects a potential marriage partner from among 25 contestants selected by the producers. The identity of the chosen person -- who is given the “final rose” -- isn’t revealed until the final show of the series.

According to the complaint, Carbone has contacted participants, casts and crew members of “The Bachelor” and induced them to breach their confidentiality agreements. He then allegedly posted the information on the RealitySteve.com website.

The producers claim Carbone offered at least one participant $2,500 to reveal information about the show. Although Carbone was sent a cease-and-desist letter in August, and a second in November, he has continued to solicit confidential information from participants in the program, according to court papers.

Carbone posted a notice on his website referring all inquiries to his counsel, Brad Kizzia of Dallas-based Brown Fox Kizzia & Johnson PLLC. He also posted a link to a letter Kizzia sent to the producers on his behalf, denying the allegations in the complaint.

The producers asked the court to order Carbone to stop soliciting non-public information about the show in advance of its broadcast and quit offering participants and employees money for the secret information. Additionally, they seek money damages, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

NZK Productions and Horizon Alternative Television are represented by Tina Wong and Linda M. Burrow of Caldwell, Leslie & Proctor PC of Los Angeles.

The case is NZK Products Inc., v. Stephen Carbone, 2:11- cv-10118-GHK-E, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

--With assistance from Eric Engleman and Susan Decker in Washington and Heather Smith in Paris. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Stephen Farr

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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