Bloomberg News

Google, Cisco, Amazon, RIM, Weinstein: Intellectual Property

June 04, 2012

Google Inc. filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) and Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), saying the companies are using patents to thwart competition.

The complaint focuses on a transfer Nokia and Microsoft made last year of some 2,000 patents and patent applications to Mosaid Technologies Inc., a Canadian company known for its patent litigation, said Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Google. Most of the patents relate to industry standards for wireless technology, and Microsoft has publicly pledged it wouldn’t use such patents to block competitors from the market.

“Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers, creating patent trolls that side- step promises both companies have made,” Mountain View, California-based Google said in an e-mailed statement, using a pejorative term for companies that use patents only to demand royalties rather than to make products.

Microsoft and Nokia get a share of any proceeds Mosaid raises from licensing the patents.

Google’s complaint may prompt an investigation by the same European Union antitrust authority that is probing Google’s Motorola Mobility over its use of so-called standard-essential patents in litigation against Microsoft and Apple Inc. The EU investigations were triggered by complaints by those two companies.

A copy of Google’s complaint wasn’t available.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, confirmed that regulators had received the filing and said they would examine it.

Nokia hasn’t yet seen the “frivolous” complaint, Mark Durrant, a spokesman for Nokia, said in an e-mailed statement.

Companies get together to establish standards so that products can work together, such as for Wi-Fi, video compression or digital transmissions. Those that help establish the standards pledge to license their patents on fair and reasonable terms.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has criticized Motorola Mobility, which Google acquired earlier this month, for its use of standard-essential patents to seek orders that would block sales of Microsoft’s products. The software maker is awaiting a judge’s ruling on claims Motorola Mobility breached its obligations.

Mosaid hasn’t seen Google’s complaint and so couldn’t comment, said Michael Salter, a Mosaid spokesman. The company was taken private in December in a transaction led by Chicago- based Sterling Partners.

Mosaid’s Core Wireless unit, which holds the patents obtained from Microsoft and Nokia, filed a patent suit in February against Apple over some of the standard-essential patents.

Mosaid sold five patent families for $11 million in September. Google was later identified as the buyer.

Cisco Seeks Court Ruling DVRs Don’t Infringe TiVo’s Patents

Cisco Systems Inc. sued TiVo Inc. (TIVO:US) seeking a court order declaring it hasn’t infringed patents relating to digital video recorders.

TiVo, maker of set-top boxes that can record and play back television programs, has sued companies that purchase DVRs made by Cisco alleging they infringe TiVo patents, Cisco said in a complaint filed in federal court in San Jose, California.

Cisco, a maker of computer-networking equipment, said the companies have had discussions in which TiVo indicated “that it did not want to broadly license TiVo technology to Cisco because providing any such license to a DVR manufacturer such as Cisco would interfere with TiVo’s” patent lawsuits against Cisco customers.

Cisco, based in San Jose, is seeking a court order that its DVR technology doesn’t infringe TiVo’s patents to halt the set- top maker from continuing to sue Cisco customers, according to the complaint

Jessica Loebig, a spokeswoman for Alviso, California-based TiVo, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment about the lawsuit.

AT&T Inc., a Cisco customer, agreed to pay at least $215 million in January to settle a TiVo patent lawsuit over DVRs. TiVo has cases pending against Microsoft Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., according to the Cisco complaint filed May 30.

The case is Cisco v. TiVo, 12-2766, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

Amazon Gets ‘Electronic Gifting’ Patent for Downloadable Media

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US), the world’s largest online retailer, received a patent on a technology that may help put an end to unused gift cards and gift certificates.

According to a March 2011 Bloomberg report, as many as 20 percent of plastic gift cards are never or only partially used, and the average U.S. household has about five such cards on hand with a total value of more than $100.

Amazon’s patent 8,190,519, issued May 29, covers what the Seattle-based retailer calls “electronic gifting.” The patent notes that it “is not unusual for a gift certificate not to be redeemed by a recipient, wasting the money the giver spent.”

Electronic gifting covers a method of giving electronically transferrable items such as music, games, movies, ring tones, magazines or books. Recipients of such gifts can select and transfer items within minutes, without leaving their homes or waiting for physical delivery through the mail.

Amazon applied for the patent in September 2008 with the assistance of Irvine, California’s Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear LLP.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

RIM Can Continue to Use ‘BBM’ for BlackBerry Messenger Service

Research In Motion (RIM), the Waterloo, Ontario-based maker of the BlackBerry mobile device, can continue to use “BBM” as an acronym for its BlackBerry Messenger Service, the Toronto Star reported.

A Canadian federal court dismissed the trademark- infringement case brought by BBM Canada, an organization based in North York, Ontario, which provides radio broadcast rankings, according to the Star.

The court said that the two entities’ operations were in sufficiently distinct segments of the economy that no infringement occurred, the newspaper reported.

BBM Chief Executive Officer Jim MacLeod told the Star his company hadn’t decided whether to review the decision, and that BBM Canada could be forced to change its name.

Weinstein Co. Wins Dismissal of ‘Soul Men’ Trademark Suit

Soul singer Sam Moore’s trademark-infringement case against the Weinstein Co. was dismissed by a federal judge in Tennessee.

Moore sued the New York-based Weinstein Co. motion picture production company in 2009, claiming its 2008 “Soul Men” film starring Samuel L. Jackson infringed his trademarks and publicity rights.

In court papers accompanying her order dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger said Moore -- best known as a member of the Sam & Dave singing duo -- presented witnesses whose testimony didn’t meet federal standards for admissibility, and that the marks he claimed were infringed were weak at best.

Additionally, she found the film to which Moore objected is fictional, so the performer’s privacy rights weren’t violated.

The case is Moore V. Weinstein Co., 3:09-cv-00166, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Google Loses Bid to Dismiss Claims in Digital Book Case

Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s bid to dismiss claims by groups including the Author’s Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers in two lawsuits over electronic books was denied by a judge in New York.

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, sitting as a federal trial judge in the case, rejected Google’s arguments that the groups lacked standing to sue over claims the search engine company’s digital scanning of millions of books infringed the copyright owners’ rights.

Chin also granted a request for three individual plaintiffs to represent a nationwide class of copyright holders in the Author’s Guild suit.

“Given the sweeping and undiscriminating nature of Google’s unauthorized copying, it would be unjust to require that each affected association member litigate his claim individually,” the judge said.

The suits stem from Google’s plan, announced in 2004, to digitally scan books from public and university libraries to provide short snippets of text to people who use its Internet search engine. The Authors Guild, individual authors and publishing companies sued in 2005, claiming the Mountain View, California-based company hadn’t sought authorization from the owners of the works.

“As we’ve said all along, we are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with copyright law,” Maggie Shiels, a Google spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. The decision “ doesn’t determine the underlying merits of the case, nor does it resolve the lawsuit.”

Google has argued that the display of snippets of text is fair use under copyright law. Chin asked Google June 1 why it was important at this stage of the case to determine the ownership of the copyrights.

Google said in a February court filing that it has scanned more than 20 million books, and that Web users can see excerpts in English from more than 4 million of them. The project began with the digitizing of books from the libraries of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library.

The judge last year declined to approve a proposed settlement, saying it was “an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court.” The authors’ case is Authors Guild v. Google, 05-08136; the visual artists’ case is American Society of Media Photographers v. Google, 10-02977; U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Wiley Sues Doe Defendants Over BitTorrent Book Downloading

John Wiley & Sons Ltd. (A:US), a publisher of technical and scientific texts, filed two copyright-infringement suits in federal court in Manhattan on May 30.

The two cases are against unnamed defendants who allegedly used the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol to download and distribute copies of two Wiley books without authorization. Most of the other unauthorized-downloading cases in the past have involved music or films instead of books.

One suit claims 22 unnamed defendants used BitTorrent to share Wiley’s “Windows 7 Secrets.” The other suit was filed with regard to Wiley’s “The Six-Figure Second Income,” and lists 24 unnamed defendants.

In both cases, the Hoboken, New Jersey-based publisher says the defendants’ actions threaten its profitability, and a decline in sales, should the unauthorized distribution continue unchecked, could cause some of its authors “to stop writing books altogether.”

Wiley asked the court to order the defendants to halt their infringing activities, and for awards of money damages, including extra damages to punish the defendants for their actions.

The publisher is represented by William Irvin Dinnegan and Benjamin Daniel Liebowitz of Dinnegan & Scileppi LLC of New York.

The cases are Wiley v. John Doe, 1:12-cv-04231-PAC and 1:12-cv-04232-PAC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

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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