Bloomberg News

Rambus, Dainippon, Broadcom, Nike: Intellectual Property

March 05, 2012

Rambus Inc. (RMBS), a designer of high- speed memory chips, lost a ruling from a U.S. trade judge in its efforts to boost patent-licensing fees from inventions.

LSI Corp., (LSI) MediaTek Inc., (2454) and STMicroelectronics NV (STM) didn’t violate patent rights owned by Rambus, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Theodore Essex said in a one-page notice posted on the agency’s website. The judge’s findings are subject to review by the six-member commission, which has the power to block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents.

Rambus has sought to boost royalties from its designs by extending the reach of patent enforcement beyond personal computers -- where the Sunnyvale, California-based company has fought a decade’s worth of legal battles -- to communications devices and electronics.

The judge gave no reason for his determination. The findings will be released after both sides get a chance to redact confidential information.

The dispute in this case centers on a type of dynamic random access memory called SDRAM that acts as the main memory in computers. Rambus contends its inventions speed the transfer of data.

The memory controllers are used in networking gear, televisions, set-top decoders and other devices. The complaint also names customers of the three chipmakers, including Asustek Computer Inc. (2357), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), Garmin Ltd. (GRMN) and Hewlett- Packard Co.

LSI, based in Milpitas, California; Hsinchu, Taiwan-based MediaTek and Geneva-based STMicro denied infringing the patents and challenged their validity.

Broadcom Corp. and Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) also were part of the original case before they reached settlements of all pending litigation. Rambus asked the ITC to dismiss Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., which uses Broadcom and Nvidia, because of the settlements.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Semiconductor Chips and Products Containing Same, 337-753, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Dainippon Sumitomo Unit Wins Mylan Brovana Patents Ruling

Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co.’s Sunovion Pharmaceuticals (SEPR) unit won a court ruling invalidating five of seven Mylan Inc. (MYL) patents related to a compound used in the bronchitis and emphysema drug Brovana.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan also limited any damages that might be assessed on the two remaining patents, according to a filing. He granted Marlborough, Massachusetts- based Sunovion’s motion for partial summary judgment.

Koeltl said in his March 1 ruling that the two remaining patents had “substantially” changed during a review by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and so Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-based Mylan is barred from collecting damages related to sales before October 2011.

“Mylan is disappointed in today’s ruling and believes the court erred in its decision,” Mylan said in a statement March 1. “Mylan intends to appeal the decision.”

The company also said it intends to continue to “pursue damages and an injunction with respect to” the two patents on which the judge limited damages.

Mylan’s Dey unit sued Sunovion’s predecessor company, Sepracor, in 2007 to block the introduction of Brovana, which Dey said infringed its patent for a spray to open bronchial passages. Dey was owned by Merck KGaA (MRK) when the suit was filed.

The patents are related to the compound formoterol. Brovana’s active ingredient is a variation of formoterol.

The case is Dey v. Sepracor, 07-cv-02353, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Broadcom Wins Tentative Ban on Infringing Emulex Products

Broadcom Corp. (BRCM) won a tentative ruling prohibiting rival chipmaker Emulex Corp. from selling so-called controller chips for communications networks that were found to infringe two of its patents.

U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, issued a tentative decision before a hearing March 2 on Broadcom’s request for a permanent injunction. The judge said he will allow Emulex to sell the infringing products for another 18 months to existing customers who have ordered them, while paying Broadcom a 3 percent royalty.

A jury found after a three-week trial that Emulex infringed one of Irvine, California-based Broadcom’s patents. Selna, after the trial, agreed with Broadcom that Emulex was also liable for infringing a second patent. Emulex (ELX) objected to a court-ordered ban of sales of infringing products and asked for a mandatory royalty instead.

Katherine Lane, a spokeswoman for Costa Mesa, California- based Emulex, declined to comment on the ruling.

The case is Emulex v. Broadcom, 09-01310, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

GlaxoSmithKline Antitrust Probe Dropped by EU Commission

The European Commission said it ended an antitrust probe into GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) over possible collusion to keep cheaper copies of medicines off the market after a complaint against the company was withdrawn.

“The Commission examined whether there may have been violation of EU competition law by GlaxoSmithKline,” Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the regulator, said in an e-mail March 2. The case involving generic-drug producer Synthon BV concerned “possible anticompetitive agreements or concerted practices in order to delay or exclude generic competition,” he said. Colombani declined to elaborate on Synthon’s role in the probe.

The announcement came a day after European Union regulators dropped a similar probe into AstraZeneca Plc (AZN), the U.K.’s second- biggest drugmaker, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (4502)’s Nycomed unit over possible collusion to keep cheaper copies of medicines off the market. That case was brought to a halt because of a lack of evidence.

Antitrust regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are focusing on how patent infringement settlements between companies that make branded medicines and generic-drug producers might harm consumers. The EU opened a probe into Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Novartis AG (NOVN) in October and is also investigating Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and its Cephalon Inc. unit over possible efforts to hinder generic drugs.

Glaxo didn’t respond to a voice-mail message and Synthon, based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

RIM Persuades USPTO to Reject ‘Crackberry’ Trademark Application

Research in Motion Ltd., the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry mobile device, defeated a Florida company’s attempt to register “Crackberry” as a U.S. trademark.

According to a Feb. 27 ruling from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the fact that “Crackberry” was already a widely accepted slang expression for the RIM product meant there was already “similar commercial expression for both marks.”

The board noted that the term “crackberry” -- alluding to the addictive nature of the BlackBerry’s use -- was selected as the “Word of the Year” in a 2006 survey of new words. “There is a strong association among members of the relevant public between these two terms in the field of wireless handheld devices,” the board said.

The applications to register “Crackberry” were filed by Axel Ltd. of Inverness, Florida. The company said it wanted to use the mark for a variety of computer, wireless and marketing purposes in addition to clothing. Many of those uses were too close to services provided by RIM under the “BlackBerry” mark, the board said.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM was represented by Jeffrey J. Morgan, William. R. Towns and Monica M. Moussighi of Novak Druce & Quigg LLP (0004251D) of West Palm Beach, Florida. Axel Ltd. was represented by Matthew H. Swyers of the Swyers Law Firm PllC of Vienna, Virginia.

Nike Sued by Clothing Company Over ‘Fuelband’ Marks

Nike Inc. (NKE), the world’s largest sporting goods maker, was sued for trademark infringement by a South Carolina clothing company.

The suit, filed Feb. 27 in federal court in Columbia, South Carolina, is related to trademarks belonging to Fuel Clothing Co., of Hilton Head, South Carolina.

The clothing company objects to Nike’s applications to register “Nike + Fuel,” “Nike + Fuelband,” and “Nikefuel” trademark applications. The Beaverton, Oregon-based sporting goods company’s advertisement of products as “Fuel” to promote its wearable sport band is also infringing, according to court papers.

Nike is accused of using “Fuel” to target consumers in the same consumer demographic area that comprises the South Carolina company’s consumer base.

According to the Oregonian newspaper’s OregonLive website, Nike introduced its Fuelband Feb. 22. It’s a $149 digital device that measures and records all sorts of body movement.

The South Carolina company claims that Nike is using the name to trade on “the substantial goodwill and reputation” that Fuel Clothing built in the use of the term. It said it had sent Nike a cease-and-desist letter warning of possible infringement, and that the Oregon company had apparently ignored the demands.

Fuel Clothing asked the court for awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

Nike didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Fuel Clothing is represented by John E. Schmidt III and Melissa Copeland of Schmidt & Copeland LLC of Columbia, South Carolina.

The case is Fuel Clothing Co. v. Nike Inc., 3:12-cv-00555- MBs, U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina (Columbia).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Aereo’s Internet TV Service Infringes Copyright, Networks Claim

Aereo Inc. will violate copyrights with its service for subscribers in New York City to watch broadcast television programs on personal computers and smartphones, television networks said.

Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ABC and other networks said in two separate complaints filed March 1 in federal court in Manhattan that Aereo has no right to any of the programs that it offers through its subscription-only Internet service scheduled to start March 14.

“Although other distributors, including cable and satellite operators and telephone companies, pay to retransmit the same programming, Aereo’s business is based on circumventing the carefully balanced distribution system mandated by congress,” the networks said. “That is infringement.”

The networks seek a court order blocking Aereo’s service as well as unspecified damages.

Aereo, based in Long Island City, New York, is backed in part by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. (IACI) The company lets its subscribers access network television broadcasts and local stations on Web-enabled devices with a remote antenna and digital video recorder. The company’s membership fee is $12 a month.

“Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues,” Mike Schroeder, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use.”

The cases are American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, 12-1540, and WNET v. Aereo, 12-1543, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

For copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

SNR Denton Brings in Ex-Howrey Patent Litigator Robert Kramer

SNR Denton LLP (1159L) hired Robert F. Kramer for its IP practice, the Chicago-based firm said in a statement.

Kramer, a patent litigator, was formerly a partner at the now-defunct Washington firm of Howrey LLP (1196L). He has also practiced with San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster LLP, serving in Japan for three years as a registered Gaikokuho-Jimu-Bengoshi (foreign legal consultant).

He has represented clients whose technologies have included electronics, networking and data transmission systems, light emitting diodes telecommunications, and semiconductors in federal courts and before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Kramer has an undergraduate degree from New York University and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.

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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