Bloomberg News

Monsanto, Apple, Hermes, Elsevier: Intellectual Property

February 28, 2012

Monsanto Co. (MON), the world’s largest seed company, won the dismissal of a lawsuit by growers of organic crops seeking to have its patents for genetically altered seeds invalidated.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan threw out the organic growers’ lawsuit in a ruling dated Feb. 24, saying it represented no controversy and that she had no jurisdiction over the suit.

Organic farmers, seed companies and food safety groups sued St. Louis-based Monsanto in March 2011 seeking court protection against possible lawsuits by the company for patent infringement if genetically modified crops were mistakenly found among their yields.

The growers, claiming that Monsanto “aggressively asserted” its patent claims against hundreds of U.S. farmers, sought a ruling from Buchwald that the patents for genetically engineered seeds are invalid because they are “injurious.”

Daniel Ravicher, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the plaintiffs will appeal.

“The ruling makes it clear that there was neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against farmers who have no interest in using the company’s patented seed products,” David Snively, Monsanto’s general counsel, said in a statement.

Monsanto makes transgenic seeds by introducing the genetic code of one species into the DNA of another. Its transgenic seed for soybeans, called Roundup Ready, prevents the plants from being killed by an herbicide that it also sells.

The case is Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto Co., 11-02163, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Apple Wins Temporary Ruling on German IPad, IPhone Sales

Apple Inc. (AAPL) won a German appeals court ruling temporarily blocking the enforcement of a patent verdict obtained by Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) in December.

Motorola Mobility, which forced Apple to remove some iPad and iPhone models from its German online store for a short period, can’t enforce the verdict during an appeal. The ruling was issued after the iPad maker revised license-agreement terms it offered Motorola Mobility, the court said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Motorola Mobility, which is being acquired by Google Inc., and Apple are entangled in numerous patent disputes. Yesterday’s case concerned a so-called standard essential patent that companies must license to competitors because they can’t produce the devices without the technology. Cupertino, California-based Apple has also filed a complaint with the European Union accusing Motorola Mobility of violating a pledge to license industry-standard patents on fair terms.

Apple spokesman Alan Hely declined to comment. Motorola Mobility’s press office didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

Motorola Mobility, based in Libertyville, Illinois, would violate its duties if it doesn’t accept the new offer and thus can’t make use of the verdict during an appeal, the court said. It didn’t disclose details of Apple’s offer.

Apple made a first request to the appeals court in January over the issue. At that time, the judges said the terms Apple offered weren’t adequate, supporting the reasoning of the lower court in Mannheim, Germany, that had issued the December verdict. Apple then revised its offer.

Yesterday’s ruling helps Apple’s prospects in the appeals case, which hinges on the terms Motorola Mobility must accept to be forced to grant a license. In their December verdict the Mannheim judges rejected Apple’s offer, saying it didn’t adequately take Motorola Mobility’s interest into account.

The case is OLG Karlsruhe, 6 U 136/11.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Hermes’ Request for Chinese Trademark Cancellation Rejected

Hermes International (RMS), the French maker of luxury goods, lost a trademark challenge against a Chinese company using a name similar to its Chinese name, Malaysia’s Sun newspaper reported.

The Paris-based maker of silk scarves, neckties and leather goods had sought cancellation of the Chinese trademark for a menswear company from Guangdong province on the grounds of too much similarity, according to the Sun.

China’s Trademark Appeal Board said Hermes failed to prove the menswear company had acquired its mark illegally or that it was generally well known, the newspaper reported.

Hermes is known in China as “Ai Ma Shi,” according to the Sun.

Koch’s Invista’s Trademark Enforcement Bears Fruit in Poland

Koch Industries Inc.’s Invista unit, maker of Coolmax and Supplex fabric, said in a statement that Polish customs has seized and destroyed more than 2,000 pairs of trousers falsely bearing Lycra hangtags.

Invista is the owner of the Lycra brand.

The trousers were imported from China, and the stretchy fiber in the pants wasn’t Lycra, according to the Wichita, Kansas-based company. The hangtags were counterfeit as well, the company said.

The items were destroyed in December near Opole, Poland. The company said it is presently running “prove your identity” trademark campaigns in China, Turkey, and Thailand.

CitisecOnline.com Changes Name to COL Financial Group

CitisecOnline.com (COL), a provider of online stock trading services, said that the Securities and Exchange Commission has approved its name change to COL Financial Group Inc., the Manila-based BusinessWorld reported.

The Pasig City, Philippines-based company changed its name in the wake of a trademark infringement suit brought in Makti City Regional Trial Court in the Philippines by Citigroup Inc. (C) of New York, according to BusinessWorld.

The court ordered Citisec.com to comply with an agreement to adopt and register certain names for its operations in the Philippines and Hong Kong without using “citi” as part of the names, the publication reported.

CitisecOnline began in 1999, and is presently the only brokerage listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange, according to BusinessWorld.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Righthaven.com Website Comes Back Online Under New Ownership

The new owner of the Righthaven.com domain name has posted a letter to content creators on its website.

The domain name was put up for auction after Righthaven LLC failed to pay court-ordered attorney fees for a defendant it sued in a copyright-infringement case. The Las Vegas-based company filed more than 100 infringement suits in 2011, chiefly its attempts to enforce copyrights for content from Stephens Media Group’s newspapers.

The suits targeted blogs and websites that posted content without authorization. Courts failed to buy Righthaven’s argument that it had standing to sue for infringement, noting that the copyright assignment documents between the newspaper and Righthaven indicated that Stephens still retained control of the content.

The domain name was sold at auction Jan. 6 for $3,300. The new owner is OrtCloud GmbH, which appears to be a Web-hosting service based in Zug, Switzerland. Spineful Web Hosting is a unit of OrtCloud.

The letter published on the website has an image of a jellyfish inside the red circle-slash design that stands for negation. It warns content producers, whom it addresses as “Most Revered Content Creator,” that “to much of the economy today and certainly to most politicians, you have become little more than a means to an end.”

The letter announces a partnership with Mark Randazza and his Randazza Legal Group, which has represented defendants in copyright-infringement cases, including some of those brought by Righthaven. The partnership extends to Brown White & Newhouse LLP, a Los Angeles firm with a criminal-defense focus.

Righthaven.com said it has teamed with a domain name service that has “a history of treating third party requests skeptically, but respectfully.” The website also contains a link to a page it posted as part of the webwide protests against proposed U.S. copyright legislation.

On Feb. 21 a writ of execution was entered against Righthaven for $34,045.50 in attorney fees. This permits seizure of Righthaven’s personal property, real property, or a lien against real property.

The case is Righthaven LLC v. Wayne Hoehn, 2:11-cv-00050- PMP-RJJ, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

For copyright news, click here.

Elsevier Backs Down From Support for Research Works Act

Reed Elsevier Plc (REL), the London-based publisher of technical and scientific journals, has withdrawn its support of a U.S. bill barring mandated open access to government-funded research.

The publisher said in a statement yesterday that while some publishers and learned societies supported the proposed Research Works Act, “some Elsevier journal authors, editors and reviewers” oppose the measure.

They told the company that the proposed legislation “seemed inconsistent with Elsevier’s long-standing support for expanding options for free and low-cost public access to scholarly literature.”

This statement comes in the wake of the establishment of the Cost of Knowledge website and a boycott by opponents of Elsevier’s publishing policies. By yesterday, that site had more than 7,500 academic signatories who are opposed to Elsevier’s support for the RWA and proposed copyright legislation. They were also complaining about what they said was “exorbitantly high prices” for some of Elsevier’s scholarly journals.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

States Keep Film Incentive Amounts Under Wraps as Trade Secrets

At least two-thirds of the states that offer financial incentives to film companies to shoot movies with their states maintain that the amount of money they offer is a protected trade secret, the Kansas City Star reported.

States that don’t require public disclosure often get preference over those that reveal how much they offer, according to the Star.

A Massachusetts state lawmaker has sponsored legislation that would mandate disclosure of the identity of those who receive tax credits, including film companies, the Star reported.

Among the films nominated for the 2011 Academy Awards, “The Help” received a spending rebate of $3.5 million from Mississippi,” and “The Tree of Life” received $434,000 in incentives from Texas, while “The Artist” -- winner of the best picture award -- received none, according to the Star.

IP Moves

Departing Shook Hardy Patent Lawyers Start New Kansas IP Firm

Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP (1171L) of Kansas City, Missouri, lost a group of patent lawyers who left to form Erise IP, the Kansas City Business Journal reported.

Partners Eric Buresh and Adam Seitz led a group of five associates and one patent agent to the new firm, according to the publication.

The Business Journal reported that Shook Chairman John Murphy acknowledged that client Garmin Ltd. (GRMN), the maker of global positioning navigation systems, has gone with the departing lawyers to Erise IP.

Buresh and Seitz were non-equity partners at Shook, Hardy, the journal reported.

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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