Bloomberg News

IPCom, Broadcom, Apple, Facebook: Intellectual Property

December 29, 2011

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

Dec. 23 (Bloomberg) -- IPCom GmbH & Co. sued stores of Metro AG’s Media-Saturn unit in Germany for selling HTC Corp. 3G mobile phones that it says violate IPCom patents.

IPCom sued about 25 stores, said Thomas Empt, a spokesman for the Pullach, Germany-based patent-licensing company.

“Since the retailers are fully aware of the court decisions of patent infringement against HTC, and continue to sell the handsets despite our request to stop doing so, the retailers risk being held liable themselves for willfully infringing our patent,” Bernhard Frohwitter, managing director of IPCom, said in a statement.

HTC hasn’t seen a complaint or been contacted by retailers about any IPCom lawsuit and “is committed to protecting its partners’ and customers’ interests,” according to a statement from an outside spokeswoman in London. Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC is still involved in litigation over the validity of the patent.

Dusseldorf, Germany-based Metro’s consumer-electronics chains Media Markt and Saturn didn’t return a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment on the suits.

Rambus, Broadcom Settle Patent Litigation for Undisclosed Terms

Rambus Inc., a technology licensing company, settled patent disputes with Irvine, California’s Broadcom Corp., the Sunnyvale, California-based company said in a statement yesterday.

The agreement ends all litigation, including claims related to Broadcom’s alleged past use of patented Rambus technology, according to the statement. The offending products are in Broadcom’s broadband communications, mobile and wireless, and network infrastructure lines, according to the court papers.

The license runs for five years, with undisclosed financial terms, Rambus said in the statement.

Rambus had sued Broadcom for patent infringement and also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, a body that has the authority to bar the importation of infringing products.

The dispute between the two companies dates back to 2006, when Rambus made its first approach about a license. Rambus filed the trade complaint in December 2010, alleging that Broadcom infringed patents through its sale of semiconductors known as dynamic random access memory controllers. At that same time Rambus filed the patent infringement suit against Broadcom in federal court in San Francisco.

That case is Rambus Inc. v. Broadcom Corp., 3:10-cv-05437- RS, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Apple Unlikely to Win German Ban on Samsung Galaxy 10.1N

Apple Inc. is unlikely to win a ban on sales of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy 10.1N tablet computer, a modified version introduced after sales of the original tablet were blocked, a German court said.

The Dusseldorf court that banned sales of the Galaxy 10.1 on Sept. 9 is unlikely to grant Apple an injunction against the Galaxy 10.1N, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said at a hearing yesterday. Samsung has changed the device’s design sufficiently to distance it from the iPad, she said, adding that the view is preliminary. A ruling was scheduled for Feb. 9.

“Consumers are well aware that there is an original and that competitors try to use similar designs, so buyers are vigilant when looking at products,” Brueckner-Hofmann said.

Apple has faced setbacks in its legal fight against Samsung, its closest rival in tablet computers, since its initial September success in Germany. The iPad maker failed to convince an Australian court on Dec. 9 to reinstate a ban in that country and two days ago, a Dusseldorf court voiced doubts about the reach of Apple’s European Union design right that was the basis for the company’s Sept. 9 injunction.

The new Samsung tablet has thicker edges and the front screen has speakers which distinguish it from the iPad, the court said. There is also a broad Samsung label that ensures consumers aren’t confused, according to the judges.

Apple’s lawyer Matthias Koch argued that Samsung is still exploiting the reputation of the iPad.

“That’s the typical strategy: You try to come as close as possible to the original and if you can no longer do it you introduce marginal changes,” Koch said.

Samsung lawyer Thomas Musmann argued that Cupertino, California-based Apple is trying to monopolize the tablet format.

“It’s not that there were no other tablets around and that all that came after the iPad are an illicit copy,” Musmann said.

Yesterday’s case is LG Dusseldorf, 14c O 292/11.

Mark Zuckerberg v. Mark Zuckerberg Facebook Case May Be Filed

An Israeli entrepreneur who Facebook Inc. threatened to sue because he set up a service commercializing the social network’s “like” functions has changed his name to that of the Palo Alto, California-based company’s founder.

Rotem Guez said on his website that he’s officially changed his name to Mark Zuckerberg following his receipt of a letter from Facebook’s counsel telling him to cease and desist operating his Like Store business. Businesses could use this service to offer incentives to Facebook users in return for their clicking the “like” button on the business’s listing.

Counsel for Facebook told Guez that he was violating the terms of service for the use of the social-media site, and demanded he close down his company and never again access the Facebook site, he said on his website.

Guez, now known as Mark Zuckerberg, left visitors to his website with a cliffhanger question: “Will Facebook sue Mark Zuckerberg? Or maybe the opposite? Stay tuned!”

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Electronic Arts Must Defend Activision Contract Claims at Trial

Electronic Arts Inc., the second-biggest U.S. video-game publisher, lost a court bid to dismiss the $400-million contract-interference claims by its larger rival Activision Blizzard Inc.

California Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle, at a hearing Dec. 21 in Los Angeles, denied Electronic Arts’ request to throw out the claims, saying Activision had provided sufficient evidence that a jury should decide whether Electronic Arts broke the law by talking to two creators of Activision’s “Call of Duty” franchise while they were still under contract.

Berle rejected Electronic Arts’ argument that it was perfectly lawful for the two top executives of Activision’s Infinity Ward studio, Jason West and Vince Zampella, to explore future employment opportunities. It was “a whole different scenario” if Electronic Arts approached the two executives while there was still more than two years left on their contract, the judge said.

Activision, based in Santa Monica, California, last year added Electronic Arts as a cross-defendant to a lawsuit that was initially brought by West and Zampella after they were fired. They had sued for $36 million, saying Activision fired them to avoid paying the royalties they were owed for “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” the top-selling game the previous year.

Robert Klieger, a lawyer for Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts, declined to comment after the hearing.

“We’re pleased with the ruling and look forward to proving our case at trial,” Steven Marenberg, a lawyer for Activision, said after the hearing.

Activision’s lawyers said in court filings that Electronic Arts wanted to lure away the “Call of Duty” developers because the game had displaced “Medal of Honor” by Electronic Arts as the dominant combat-game franchise, helping Activision to overtake its rival as the largest video-game publisher.

“EA dangled before West and Zampella a lucrative deal that incentivized them to terminate their Activision contracts prematurely, either by quitting or by behaving so badly that Activision had no choice but to fire them, which, of course, is exactly what happened,” Activision said in its opposition to Electronic Arts’ request to throw out its claims.

After they were fired, West and Zampella set up an independent studio, Respawn Entertainment. Electronic Arts said in court papers that it has no involvement with Respawn beyond an agreement to publish and distribute the studio’s games.

In addition, about 40 current and former employees of Infinity Ward sued last year, alleging they weren’t paid bonuses and royalties for their work on “Modern Warfare 2.” Their case has been consolidated with the case by West and Zampella against Activision.

The case is West v. Activision, SC107041, California Superior Court (Los Angeles County).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-Dow Scientist Who Stole Secrets Gets 7 Years, 3 Months Prison

An ex-Dow AgroSciences LLC researcher who stole trade secrets from his former employer to benefit a Chinese university was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, prosecutors said.

Kexue Huang, 46, was sentenced Dec. 21 by U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence in Indianapolis, according to an e- mailed statement from U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett’s office.

“The United States Attorney’s Office takes seriously its obligation to protect Hoosier businesses from economic espionage,” Hogsett said in the statement. Hoosier is a nickname for people from Indiana.

Huang, a Chinese national, pleaded guilty in October to economic espionage. He also admitted to stealing trade secrets from the Minneapolis-based grain distributor Cargill Inc., the U.S. Justice Department said in October. Financial losses from his conduct exceed $7 million, the U.S. said.

It’s the first such prosecution in Indiana under a provision of the Economic Espionage Act that bans trade-secret theft to benefit a component of a foreign government, the government said. Eight such cases have been brought since the law was enacted in 1996, the U.S. said.

James Edgar, Huang’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the sentencing. Huang has been in federal custody since he was indicted and will begin serving his sentence immediately, said Tim Horty, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Indianapolis. The government will seek to deport him after his sentence, Horty said in a phone interview.

Huang worked for the Indianapolis-based unit of Midland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co., where he researched the development of organically derived pesticides, from 2003 to 2008.

While at Dow, he shared confidential information with at least two people, one of whom conducted research first at the Hunan Normal University in China and later in Dresden, Germany, according to a plea agreement, which didn’t name the people.

In 2008 Huang went to work for Cargill as a biotechnologist. He admitted that while at Cargill he stole one of the company’s trade secrets -- a key component in the making of a new food product -- which he gave to a student at Hunan Normal University, the U.S. said in a statement yesterday.

The cases are U.S. v. Huang, 10-cr-102 and 11-cr-163, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana (Indianapolis).

IP Moves

Perkins Coie Hires Transactional Specialist for Licensing Group

Perkins Coie LLP hired Jacob S. Farber for its licensing and technology practice, the Seattle based firm said in a statement.

Farber joins from Washington’s Dickstein Shapiro LLP. He has represented clients in the telecommunications, cable, wireless, Internet service provider and broadcast industries.

His transactional work includes licensing, outsourcing and mergers and acquisitions.

Farber has an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from George Washington University.

--With the assistance of Karen Gullo in Chicago, Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles, Karin Matussek in Berlin, Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg. 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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