Bloomberg News

Apple, MGM Resorts, Steelers, Chevron: Intellectual Property

December 15, 2011

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

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., fighting to protect sales of the iPhone worldwide, was sued by a U.S. company contending its products infringe two patents for caller- identification technology.

Cequint Inc. of Seattle, a unit of data-network servicer TNS Inc. of Reston, Virginia, seeks unspecified damages and a court order to stop Apple’s use of the inventions, according to a complaint filed Dec. 12 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Cequint has been damaged by Apple’s infringement” and “will be irreparably harmed” unless stopped by a judge, Cequint’s lawyers said in the complaint. In dispute are patents 6,353,664, issued in March 2002, and 7,200,212, issued in April 2007.

Apple, of Cupertino, California, has been battling companies such as Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. over patents for mobile telephones and tablet computers.

Apple spokesman Colin Smith didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Cequint Inc. v. Apple Inc., U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Website Operator Says He Doesn’t Infringe MGM Resorts Trademarks

One of the website operators that MGM Resorts International sued for trademark infringement Dec. 1 denied the allegations in a court filing.

Adam Majewski of McKinney, Texas, filed a motion to dismiss the case Dec. 8. He said MGM’s claims that he infringed the trademarks associated with the company’s Excalibur hotel won’t hold up.

“Excalibur is not a distinctive mark,” he said. He noted that “thousands of businesses own this name -- Excalibur bowling, Excalibur Taxi and even Excalibur condoms.”

Majewski said in court papers he chose the name “‘excaliburpoker.com” for his online poker platform to distinguish it from other online piker sites. “I believed the medieval theme would make my site distinctive,” he said.

He says his website doesn’t compete with the Excalibur hotel, doesn’t divert potential customers and “has not harmed the hotel in any way.” Additionally, he claimed he deliberately stayed away from Nevada “under the theory that demand would be weak since gamers in Nevada can go out and get the real thing.”

Majewski asked that the case be dismissed, or alternatively, be transferred to federal court in Texas.

On Dec. 2, U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro issued a temporary order locking up the domain names to which MGM had objected in its original complaint. That order extended to Majewski’s excaliburpower.com site.

Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International is represented by Michael J. McCue, Jonathan W. Fountain and John L. Krieger of Phoenix-based Lewis & Roca LLP. Majewski is unrepresented by counsel.

The case is MGM Resorts International Operations Inc. v. Kolahzadeh, 2:11-cv-01929-PMP-CWH, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

Steelers’ ‘Terrible Towel’ Trademark Infringed, Judge Rules

The Pittsburgh Steelers National Football League team’s “Terrible Towel” trademarks were infringed by a t-shirt maker, a federal court ruled.

The team, which has the exclusive license to the mark owned by the Allegheny Valley School Foundation, objected to a company selling shirts with a “Terrible T-shirt” design.

In a Dec. 6 ruling, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab noted that the mark had been used by Steeler fans for the past 35 years. The mark originated with the late Pittsburgh sports journalist Myron Cope, who registered the mark and then assigned it to the foundation, a nonprofit group that provided services to intellectually and developmentally disabled people.

The suit was triggered by the t-shirt company’s application to register “The Terrible T-shirt” as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Despite the cease-and-desist letter the team sent the shirt company, t-shirts were printed bearing that slogan, according to court papers.

Judge Schwab said the mark is valid and well known, and that the public would likely mistakenly assume an affiliation existed between the t-shirt maker and the trademark holder.

The team and the foundation were represented by Bernard M. Schneider of Brucker Schneider & Porter of Pittsburgh.

The case is AVS Foundation V. Eugene Berry Enterprise LLC, 2:11-cv-01084-AJS, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).

Tea Party Patriots Win Ruling Clarifying Trademark Ownership

The Tea Party Patriots Inc., a conservative political group based in Atlanta, won a trademark dispute with a former member of its board of directors.

According to a statement released by the group’s law firm, Amy Kremer, who had helped form the group in 2009, had claimed the group’s name and websites were hers.

The Tea Party group filed a trademark suit in Georgia state court in October 2009 seeking a court ruling that it owned the trademarks and related IP.

Deborah Ausburn of Atlanta’s Taylor English Duma LLP represented the Tea Party Patriots, and said that the jury “recognized that when a group of people, including Ms. Kremer, work as part of an organization, it is unfair for one individual to claim rights to everyone’s work.”

The case is Tea Party Patriots Inc. v. Kremer, 09110603-42, Georgia Superior Court (Cobb County).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Yahoo Denies Infringing Singapore Press’s Copyright, Sues

Yahoo! Inc., accused by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. of reproducing news content without its permission, denied infringing the city-state’s copyright laws and countersued the newspaper publisher.

The articles that Singapore Press claimed were reproduced without authorization were insubstantial and insignificant, Yahoo’s Southeast Asia unit said in a defense filed in the Singapore High Court yesterday.

“There is an important public interest in respect of the right of the public to be informed of current events in Singapore,” the Sunnyvale, California-based Internet company said in its filing. “Copyright law does not protect facts and information.”

The Singapore-based newspaper publisher sued Yahoo last month, seeking unspecified damages for alleged copyright infringement of 23 articles from newspapers including the Straits Times from November 2010 to October 2011. Yahoo claimed in its countersuit that Singapore Press infringed its copyrights by reproducing articles and images on a website.

Chin Soo Fang, a spokeswoman at Singapore Press, the city’s largest publisher, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail or return a call to her office seeking comment.

Yahoo approached Singapore Press in April 2009 for a license to reproduce news content, and negotiations between the two companies broke down last year, according to the lawsuit.

Singapore Press deliberately kept silent until its lawyers sent a letter on Nov. 4, causing Yahoo to continue with the alleged infringement for a year as it believed the publisher had no complaints, according to the Internet company’s filing.

The case is Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. v Yahoo! Southeast Asia Ltd., S831/2011, Singapore High Court.

China to Increase Fines for Counterfeiting to Deter Piracy

China, poised to become the world’s largest market for pirated software, will increase fines and punishments for counterfeiters better deter offenders.

The nation will impose flexible fines that are multiple the value of infringed goods, moving away from fixed amounts, Vice Chinese Commerce Minister Jiang Zengwei said at a briefing in Beijing yesterday. China will amend its criminal law to make it more effective in fighting piracy, and improve evidence rules to aid owners of intellectual property, he said.

The moves build on a pledge by Vice Premier Wang Qishan last month to improve monitoring of intellectual property rights in China.

“We are working to amend the relevant laws and regulations to increase punitive measures against law breakers so that they will bear the corresponding legal responsibility for their crimes of infringement and counterfeiting,” said Jiang, who is also office dean of China’s National Leading Group for Combating IPR Infringement and Counterfeits.

Almost four out of five computer programs used in China are pirated, according to the annual report of the Business Software Alliance, a Washington-based trade group representing companies in the software industry, including Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

The central government has “greatly pushed forward” its effort to use legal software nationwide, including the adoption of licensed programs at 135 state departments and some provincial governments, the State Council said in a statement distributed before Jiang’s briefing.

The $7.78 billion commercial value of software pirated in China last year was second only to the $9.52 billion lost in the U.S., the alliance said. Only 20 percent of software in the U.S. is pirated, compared with 78 percent in China, according to the BSA’s report issued in May.

While the percentage of pirated software in China has declined, from 79 percent in 2009 and 92 percent in 2003, its value has increased as the Chinese software market expanded, the report showed.

Chinese authorities investigated 16,000 cases of counterfeiting involving 13.12 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) of goods during the government’s “Sharp Sword” campaign, said the State Council, China’s cabinet. The campaign, from October 2010 to June 2011, led to prosecution in 2,176 cases, it said.

China will deploy enforcement inspections during the New Year and Lunar New Year holidays, according to the cabinet statement.

Websites involved in counterfeiting and infringement will be “rectified” and companies producing unauthorized duplications of CDs and DVDs will be “sorted out,” the State Council said. China will also crack down on the import and export of counterfeit foods and drugs, it said.

For more copyright news, click here

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Cleaning Products Disclosure Bill Has Trade Secrets Exceptions

Legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat representing New York’s Long Island, will require the listing on the label of all ingredients in consumer cleaning items.

H.B. 3457, introduced Nov. 17, would mandate the listing in order of predominance of all ingredients in cleaning products, including those in dyes, fragrances and preservatives.

The measure does contain exemptions for ingredients present in undetectable levels and those that the manufacturer can demonstrate to the Consumer Product Safety Commission that it is a trade secret.

No ingredient can be claimed as a trade secret if it is publicly known to be in the product, can be discovered through “a standard process” of reverse engineering, or is deemed a hazardous substance, according to the text of the bill.

Products covered by this measure would include air fresheners, automotive cleaning products, and any cleaning product used in the home, with the exception of personal care items or cosmetics, pesticides and disinfectants used on certain kinds of “critical or semi-critical devices.”

Chevron Can Protect Shale-Gas Drilling Secret in Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s contract with San Ramon, California’s Chevron Corp. for shale gas exploration and production contains trade secret elements and can’t be fully revealed to the public, Traicho Traikov, the country’s minister of economy, energy and tourism said and Bulgaria’s Novinite.com news agency reported.

Traikov told Bulgaria’s parliament that while the trade secret elements will be withheld, his ministry is engaging in talks with Chevron to make public as much of the agreement as possible, according to Novinite.com.

He also said that the submission of a shale gas drilling plan should be compulsory before shale gas permits are awarded, Novinite.com reported.

Conditions of approval, Traikov told parliament, included a program disclosing the method of extraction and its environmental impact, according to Novinite.com.

Hackers Seeking Chemical Industry Secrets Masquerade as Symantec

Hackers who targeted the gas industry earlier this year in an attempt to get credentials allowing them access to companies’ proprietary data are still targeting chemical companies, according to a posting on the Symantec Corp. blog.

At the end of October, Symantec issued a report on the Nitro attacks. It said the attacks were focused on the chemical industry with the goal of “obtaining sensitive documents such as proprietary designs, formulas and manufacturing processes.”

The Mountain View, California-based computer-security company said the so-called Nitro Attacks Group is now sending the companies an e-mail that purports to be from Symantec itself and offer protection from the “Poison Ivy Trojan” virus.

Symantec posted on its blog a screen capture of an email purporting to come from its technical support department with the heading “Symantec Security Warning!” The bogus e-mail says “recently poison Ivy Trojan horse rampant, many enterprises are infected. Symantec has launched a special kill poison Ivy Trojan anti-virus software -- Symantec Endpoint Protection 12.”

That e-mail also contains a clickable link, and notes that the password to launch the file is “Symantec.” That link contains a malicious executable file that could enable unauthorized access to a company’s servers, according to the computer security company.

Symantec said it has contacted the provider that hosts the Internet protocol address used by the Nitro Attack Group and that the e-mails are now being blocked through the .cloud e-mail scanning service.

IP Moves

Sidley Austin Snares Patent Litigator From Greenberg Traurig

Sidley Austin LLP hired Vernon M. Winters for its IP practice, the Chicago-based firm said in a statement.

Winters, a patent litigator, joins from New York’s Greenberg Traurig LLP. He has also served as a judicial clerk for U.S. District Judge Robert C. Bonner.

He has represented clients whose technologies have included pharmaceutical companies, disk drives, semiconductors, and electrophoresis instruments.

Winters has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

--With the assistance of Andrea Tan in Singapore, Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware, Edmond Lococo in Beijing. Editors: Peter Blumberg, Mary Romano

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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