Bloomberg News

News Corp., Righthaven, Reliance: Intellectual Property

December 28, 2011

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Adds Oracle Corp. item in patent section.)

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers unit sued a digital publisher for copyright infringement.

New York-based HarperCollins accused Open Road Integrated Media LLP of infringing the copyright of a children’s book, “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George.

According to the complaint filed Dec. 23 in federal court in New York, HarperCollins has the exclusive right to publish the work in book form, including by way of “computer, computer- stored, mechanical or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented.” The publisher said that so far it has sold more than 2.8 million units of the book in all formats.

In its court papers, HarperCollins notes that the technological developments for electronic delivery of a book “significantly predate” its 1972 publishing agreement with the author. “While the commercial realization of the e-book is of more recent vintage, its conception from these roots has long been foreseeable,” the publisher said.

HarperCollins said it is the only party that has the right to publish “Julie of the Wolves” as an e-book.

George’s literary agent told HarperCollins in late 2010 that the author had received an offer from an unidentified publisher to bring out “Julie of the Wolves” as an e-book. HarperCollins said it responded that it alone had the right to e-book publication of the work.

Open Road went ahead and published the e-book version of the work anyway, HarperCollins said, and distributed the text in electronic format through various websites for sale to the public including Amazon.com, and BN.com.

HarperCollins asked the court to bar Open Road from further infringement of the copyright, and for awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

New York-based Open Road didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Harper Collins is represented by R. Bruce Rich and Mark J. Fiore of New York’s Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP.

The case is HarperCollins Publishers LLC v. Open Road Integrated Media LLP, 1:11-cv-09400-NRB, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Copyright Enforcer Righthaven’s Domain Name Put Up for Auction

Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas-based group that attempted to enforce the copyrights for content from Stephens Media Group’s publications, has lost control of its domain name.

The righthaven.com domain name is now up for auction on snapnames.com auction website. According to the website, the name was put up for auction by a private party. When accessed yesterday, the site indicated that six bids had been received, and the top bid at that time was for $1,250.

The auction closes Jan. 6.

The auction is a symptom of the woes that have beset Righthaven since courts began finding that the company didn’t have control over the copyrights it attempted to enforce. The sale is the result of Righthaven’s inability to pay court- ordered fees to a defendant it unsuccessfully sued.

Most of the more than 100 infringement suits were filed in federal court in Las Vegas in 2011 and were related to what Righthaven claimed was unauthorized posting of content from Stephens’ Vegas Review-Journal.

Closely held Stephens also has newspapers in Texas, Washington State, Tennessee, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arkansas and Hawaii.

Reliance Shuts Down File-Sharing Access When Films Are Released

Reliance Communications Ltd., the Mumbai-based telephone and Internet services company, bars its Internet users from access to file-sharing sites whenever movies produced by affiliate Reliance Entertainment are released, India’s Business Standard reported.

Sanjay Tandon, Reliance Entertainment’s vice president, music and anti-piracy, told the Business Standard that it blocks the file-sharing sites to protect its intellectual property.

Although Tandon said his company has an order from the Delhi high court blocking access to file-sharing for other Internet service providers in addition to Reliant, the actual blocking seems to occur only with Reliance’s RCom Internet service, according to the Business Standard.

The blocking may do more than deter piracy because while these sites are used for music and movie downloading, they are also employed by those who need to transfer large-sized documents, pictures and files, the Business Standard reported.

China’s High Court to Issue Ruling Related to Online IP Rights

China’s Supreme People’s Court will issue a ruling related to online intellectual property rights in January, China Daily reported.

The court found that online infringement was an element in half the copyright cases it dealt with in 2011, according to China Daily.

The ruling will seek to balance the protection of IP with the grown of China’s online community, China Daily reported.

The number of IP cases Chinese courts receive has tripled in the past decade, China Daily reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trademark

Napa Valley Geographic Indication Recognized by Thailand

Thailand has recognized the Napa Valley geographic indication for wine, the Napa Valley Vintners Association said in a statement. The association represents more than 400 wineries in Northern California’s Napa Valley.

The St. Helena, California-based regional trade group worked with Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property to achieve the geographic-indication registration in that country.

In Thailand, the preference is for red wine, which garners 70 percent of the market, according to the California Wine Institute. The institute said wine consumption is increasing in Thailand, especially among the 25 to 55 age group.

Kanchipuram Sari Designation Now Permits Less Gold and Silver

Weavers of saris given the Kanchipuram designation of origin in India’s state of Tamil Nadu have received a break from the government, the Economic Times reported.

Saris entitled to the Kanchipuram designation were required to contain lace woven of 57 percent silver and 0.6 percent gold, which was causing weavers severe economic hardship because of the rising prices of gold and silver, according to the Economic Times.

The government has now eased the requirements to 40 percent silver and 0.5 percent gold, the newspaper reported.

Some Kanchipuram weavers say they are against the system of geographic origin anyway because consumers aren’t aware of what the label symbolizes and don’t look for it when buying saris, according to the Economic Times.

Nepali Sugar Smuggling Ring Accused of Trademark Infringement

Police in Nepal have broken up a smuggling ring that was bringing Indian sugar to Nepal and repacking and selling it in sacks bearing the trademarks of a Nepali company, Nepal’s Republica newspaper reported.

The district police found that the sugar was carried across the border by children from bordering villages, with each child carrying as much as 7 kilograms of sugar a day on a bicycle, according to Republica.

An official of the Nepal Police told Republica that a criminal case will be filed against the company selling the goods for counterfeiting the brand of a legitimate company and violating that company’s Black Marketeering Act.

An official of the accused company said he wasn’t trying to infringe a trademark and was using bags marked with the legitimate company’s logo because they were cheaper, according to Republica.

For more trademark news, click here.

Patents

Multiple Claims in Oracle Patent Rejected by Patent Office

Oracle Corp.’s patent lawsuit against Google Inc. over Android software may have lost a little steam following a finding by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Dec. 23.

Redwood City, California-based Oracle is seeking at least $1 billion in damages from the operator of the world’s largest search engine. The company accuses Google of infringing its Java patents and copyrights in the Android operating system, now running on more than 150 million mobile devices. The suit was filed in August 2010.

One of the Oracle patents at issue in the case -- 6,192,476 -- was the subject of a procedure in the patent office known as a reexamination. The patent office took a second look at the claims -- the key elements of the patent -- and rejected 17 of that particular patent’s 21 claims.

That patent was issued to Sun Microsystems in February 2001 and became Oracle’s as part of its 2010 acquisition of Sun. For patent news, click here.

IP Moves

Troutman Sanders Adds Patent Specialist to Chicago IP Group

Troutman Sanders LLP hired John J. Gresens for its IP practice, the Atlanta-based firm said in a statement.

Gresens, who joined from Chicago’s Vedder Price, does litigation and patent acquisition work. He has represented clients in federal court, before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and at the U.S. International Trade Commission, a government body that has the authority to bar the importation of products that infringe intellectual property rights.

He has an undergraduate degree from St. John’s University and a law degree from Hamline University.

--Editors: Mary Romano, Peter Blumberg

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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