Bloomberg News

SOPA, Dolce & Gabbana, Becton: Intellectual Property

April 13, 2012

Hollywood-backed legislation to fight online piracy, shelved this year after an Internet protest led by Google Inc. (GOOG:US) and Wikipedia, is “dead,” said the head of the trade group for the largest movie studios.

The Stop Online Piracy Act, known as SOPA, is “history,” Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Washington-based Motion Picture Association of America, said in an interview for “Conversations with Judy Woodruff” on Bloomberg Television set to air this weekend. “It’s gone. In my view, it’s dead.”

The organization representing studios including Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US) and Viacom Inc. (VIAB:US)’s Paramount Pictures had built bipartisan backing for the bill in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate through late last year. The bills would have given government and copyright holders more tools to crack down on non-U.S. websites that offer pirated content.

Congress shelved the legislation in January after Google and Wikipedia led an Internet protest against the bills, saying the measures would promote online censorship, disrupt the Web’s architecture and harm their ability to innovate.

“The issue hasn’t gone away,” said Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who served three decades in the U.S. Senate. “In fact, even those from the technology community, the overwhelming majority, believe that we must do something about intellectual property.”

Dodd called the Internet protest a “watershed event” that globalized an issue that previously didn’t have a large audience. He said the Stop Online Piracy Act “went further than it probably should have.”

The anti-piracy bills supported by the studio trade group would have let the Justice Department seek court orders forcing Internet-service providers, search engines, payment processors and online ad networks to block or stop doing business with non- U.S. sites linked to selling counterfeit goods.

The measures would also have let private copyright holders seek court orders to require payment services and advertising companies to cut off such websites.

Asked about a compromise, Dodd said there is a “constant conversation,” without providing detail.

“Right now we’re in an election year,” he said. “The Congress has got a lot of other things on their minds other than copyright and intellectual property. But there’ll be a new session next year.”

For more copyright news, click here.

Patents

Depomed Sues Impax, Par in Patent Case Over Gralise Copy

Depomed Inc. sued the generic-drug makers Impax Laboratories Inc. (IPXL:US) and Par Pharmaceutical Co. (PRX:US) to prevent them from selling copies of Gralise, a medicine that treats pain after shingles infections.

Impax and Par are seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to sell generic versions of Gralise, according to a complaint filed April 10 in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey. Depomed, based in Menlo Park, California, said the copies for 300 and 600 milligram tablets would infringe six patents. It seeks a court order to prevent sales until the patents expire.

Impax, based in Hayward, California, confirmed in a statement yesterday that it filed an FDA application challenging the patents. Allison Wey, a spokeswoman for Par, based in Woodcliff, New Jersey, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

On March 2, Depomed also sued Actavis Group Hf, Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Incepta Pharmaceuticals Co., claiming they infringed the same six Gralise patents.

The case is Depomed Inc. (DEPO:US) v. Impax Laboratories, 12-cv-2154, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).

Germany Beating Texas as Preferred Venue for Patent Fights

Germany’s court system is becoming a venue of choice for international patent disputes, PC World reported.

The country has specialized judges to hear patent cases, and its courts handle hundreds of patent disputes every year, some rendering decisions within less than a year, according to PC World.

Mannheim and Munich’s courts act twice as fast as the U.S. International Trade Commission, which has the power to bar imports that infringe U.S. Patents, the magazine reported.

Joachim Henkel, a professor specializing in technology and information management at the Technical University of Munich, told PC Magazine that companies that seek an order to halt sales of infringing products prefer German courts, while those in search of money damages prefer the U.S. court system.

Mitek Systems Sues USAA Over Wireless Check-Deposit Patents

Mitek Systems Inc. (MITK:US), a document-imaging company, sued United Services Automobile Association, known as USAA, and accused it of infringing five patents for making check deposits with mobile electronic devices.

USAA, an insurer based in San Antonio, agreed to use San Diego-based Mitek’s software, then developed its own mobile- deposit system by creating “a knockoff product,” lawyers for Mitek said in a federal court complaint filed yesterday in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mitek contends it “will continue to suffer irreparable harm” because USAA is wrongly using technology protected by its patents and has violated a contract that limits transaction- volume.

Mitek seeks a jury trial, unspecified damages and a court order to stop the infringement by USAA, which provides banking, insurance, and retirement services to the U.S. military and their families.

The case is related to a lawsuit filed by USAA against Mitek on March 29 in federal court in San Antonio alleging it, not Mitek, invented the technology.

Paul Berry, a spokesman for USAA, said he hadn’t seen the suit and couldn’t immediately comment.

The case is Mitek v. USAA, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Dolce & Gabbana Claims Dolce & Banana Infringes Trademark

Dolce & Gabbana Industria SpA, the Italian luxury clothing brand, filed a trademark infringement suit in a South African court against a retailer of beach-themed costume jewelry, Women’s Wear Daily reported.

The Legnano, Italy-based company objected to use of “Dolce & Banana” as the name of the shop, and accused the proprietor of diluting the brand, according to WWD.

The proprietor said she’s changing the name because she can’t afford the cost of the lawsuit, the newspaper reported.

Dolce & Gabbana’s law firm sent the store’s proprietor two warnings before the company filed suit, WWD reported.

The proprietor used Twitter Inc.’s short messaging service in unsuccessful efforts to defuse the dispute, according to the newspaper.

Becton Dickinson Tube Top Design Can’t Be Trademark, Court Rules

Becton Dickinson & Co. (BDX:US), the medical device maker, lost a challenge to a ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In a decision handed down yesterday, a federal appeals court said the patent Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board acted properly in refusing to register the design of a closure cap for blood collection tubes as a trademark.

The Washington-based court said the features of the cap that Becton Dickinson claimed were distinctive were either functional or insignificant. It affirmed the patent office’s board’s decision.

The Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based medical-device company’s argument was made by Richard Z. Lehv of New York’s Fross, Zelnick, Lehrman, & Zissu PC. The patent office’s case was argued by Christina J. Hieber, assistant solicitor, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The case is In re: Becton Dickinson, 11-01111, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

For more trademark news, click here.

IP Talk

China Record on Intellectual Property Troubling, Locke Says

China’s lack of protection for intellectual property rights is hampering companies doing business in the country and strengthening enforcement needs to be a top priority, U.S. officials said.

The stakes in protecting intellectual property are “enormous,” and solving the problem will take time, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said yesterday at a press conference in Beijing.

China has pledged to improve copyright enforcement in the world’s second-largest economy, where almost four out of five computer programs used are pirated, according to the annual report of the Business Software Alliance released in May

The $7.78 billion commercial value of software pirated in China in 2010 was second only to the $9.52 billion lost in the U.S., the Business Software Alliance said in its May report.

In trade talks with the U.S. in November, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan pledged to improve monitoring of intellectual property rights.

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 from October 2010 to June 2011, according to China’s State Council, or cabinet. That campaign led to prosecution in 2,176 cases.

Catherine Leung, general manager of music and entertainment at Baidu Inc., owner of the nation’s biggest search engine, said the said the perceived importance of IPR is increasing. Last year, Baidu signed an agreement with Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp. and Sony Corp. (6758) to pay owners of copyrighted material as part of a deal to make half a million songs available in China through mp3 search and the ting! social music platform.

The percentage of software in China that is pirated dropped to 78 percent in 2010 from 79 percent in 2009 and 92 percent in 2003, according to the Business Software Alliance. While the proportion of stolen software has declined, its value has increased as the Chinese software market expands, the group’s report said.

In the 2012 China Business Climate Survey Report by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, published last month, 24 percent of the respondents cited intellectual property rights infringement as one of the “top business challenges” in the country.

China’s enforcement of intellectual property rights was labeled ineffective by 79 percent in the survey, up from 70 percent a year earlier.

IP Moves

McCarter & English Expands IP Practice With Patent Specialist

McCarter & English LLP (1389L:US) hired Harry K. Ahn for its IP practice, the Newark, New Jersey-based firm said in a statement.

Ahn, who joined from New York’s Abelman, Frayne & Schwab, does both litigation and patent-related transactional work, including patent acquisition.

He has represented clients whose technologies have included telecommunications, electronic circuits, semiconductors, software, business methods, optics, and medical devices. Before he was a lawyer, he worked as a systems engineer focused on electronic switching systems and integrated services digital networks.

Ahn has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, a master’s degree in business from New York University and a law degree from Fordham University.

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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