Bloomberg News

Kodak, Budweiser, Caesar’s, Oracle: Intellectual Property

July 05, 2012

Eastman Kodak Co. (EKDKQ:US), the photography pioneer that seeks to sell digital-imaging patents, won court approval to auction the assets as part of its bankruptcy restructuring.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in Manhattan said at a hearing July 2 that he would approve an order allowing a sale process for more than 1,100 patents.

Kodak is selling its digital-imaging patents as part of a plan to shrink the company and focus on printing rather than photography.

The 124-year-old company, based in Rochester, New York, is moving ahead with the sale amid a fight with Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) over ownership of 10 of the patents being sold. Kodak sued Apple to block ownership claims by Apple, while Apple has filed counterclaims against Kodak over the patents.

Timothy Lynch, Kodak’s chief intellectual property officer, said in a statement that the sale of the patents can proceed even if the dispute with Apple isn’t resolved by the time any deal is completed.

Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment. The Cupertino, California-based company said in a court filing that Kodak “unlawfully” used confidential disclosures by Apple to obtain patents and claimed Apple’s technology as its own.

Kodak said in June that 20 parties had signed confidentiality agreements and had been given access to an electronic data room. Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy in January, hired Lazard Ltd. (LAZ:US) to help find a buyer for the assets.

Kodak has generated more than $3 billion since 2001 from licensing the digital-imaging patents to users, including Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and Nokia Oyj (NOK:US), the company said.

Under the sale process, interested buyers must submit bids by July 30, and if there’s more than one qualified bid, Kodak may conduct an auction Aug. 8, according to rules outlined in court papers.

The identities of unsuccessful bidders will be kept secret from other bidders and the public, Kodak said. Only the winning bidder and the amount of the bid will be announced.

The case is In re Eastman Kodak Co., 12-10202, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Czech Brewer’s Budweiser Trademark Upheld by U.K. Appeals Court

A U.K. appeals court refused an attempt by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) to invalidate a trademark held by Czech competitor Budejovicky Budvar NP over use of the name Budweiser for its beers.

Three appellate judges ruled in the latest round of the three-decade-old legal battle that an earlier Budvar appeal was valid and the company could continue to use the Budweiser trademark in the U.K.

“This litigation has gone on quite long enough,” Judge Robin Jacob said handing down the ruling in London July 2.

Budvar and AB InBev began selling Budweiser in Britain in the 1970s and have since made numerous challenges to each other’s right to use the brand. The European Union’s top court said in September that both firms could continue to use the name because consumers were aware of the difference between the products.

The July 2 decision won’t have any effect on AB InBev’s use of the Budweiser name or its business in the U.K., the Leuven, Belgium-based company said in an e-mailed statement. AB InBev can still appeal the matter to the U.K. Supreme Court.

The judgment “allows the trademark register to reflect the reality of the situation in the marketplace -- that both brands co-exist with minimal consumer confusion, and have done so for many years,” Mark Blair, a lawyer for Budvar, said in an e- mail.

Caesar’s Entertainment Settles ‘Octavius Tower’ Dispute

Caesar’s Entertainment Corp. (CZR:US), the Las Vegas-based casino company, settled a trademark dispute with an entertainment company owner over the “Octavius Tower” mark, according to court papers.

The casino company sued Marcel July of Bornheim-Hersel, Germany, and his Octavius Tower LLC in federal court in Las Vegas in April 2011, claiming he had applied to register the “Octavius Tower” mark two days after the company announced plans to expand its hotel in Nevada with an “Octavius Tower” addition.

In October, the court denied July’s request for an order barring Caesar’s use of his trademark. He failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to the order, the court said, adding that Caesar’s had made “strong arguments” against July’s use of the mark.

On July 2, the court granted the parties’ request to dismiss the case, ordering that each side pay its own costs related to the dispute. Other terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the two “Octavius Tower” trademarks registered to July were canceled June 21. Caesar’s World has one pending “Octavius World” application that was filed in December 2010.

The case is Caesar’s World Inc., v. July, 11-cv-00536, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Oracle Can’t Stop Software License Resales, EU Court Says

Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US), the largest maker of database software, should lose a court challenge seeking to prevent a German company from reselling Oracle software licenses, the European Union’s top court said.

Software copyright owners can’t oppose the resale of “used” licenses that enable the use of software downloaded from the Internet, the European Court of Justice said July 2. Oracle is trying to prevent Munich-based UsedSoft GmbH from selling computer software and licenses no longer used by the original buyer.

“Even if the license agreement prohibits a further transfer the rightholder can no longer oppose the resale of that copy,” the court in Luxembourg said in a statement advising the German judges who will ultimately rule on the matter.

Oracle said the ruling ignored the value of innovation and intellectual property to Europe’s economy. The Redwood City, California-based company said in an e-mailed statement that customers faced unnecessary risks by buying second-hand software licenses without knowing if the originals were purchased legally.

UsedSoft said the ruling also applied to computer programs sold by Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE:US)

“This decision is a milestone for free trade in Europe,” said Peter Schneider, the managing director of UsedSoft. “This is particularly good news for customers who can finally benefit from low software prices without restrictions.”

The court judgment set limits on software resales, saying the original buyer must make his own copy unusable when he sells it. Resellers also aren’t authorized to divide a license for several users and to sell them separately, the court said in the statement.

The case is C-128/11 Axel W. Bierbach (liquidator of UsedSoft GmbH) v Oracle International Corp.

Canada Denies Bid to Charge Copyright Fees on Memory Drives

Canada will exempt certain memory cards from a levy charged to consumers to compensate copyright holders, Industry Minister Christian Paradis said, denying an industry group’s request.

The federal government won’t impose levies on microSD memory cards, which are removable devices that can be used to store music on mobile phones, Paradis said July 3 in an e-mailed statement.

“Placing a new fee on devices with removable memory cards, such as BlackBerrys and smart phones, would increase costs for Canadian families and impact the adoption of the latest technologies,” Paradis said in the statement.

Canadian consumers pay a levy on blank audio recording media such as compact discs, and the money is distributed to music-rights holders.

The Canadian Private Copying Collective, an industry organization that collects the fee and distributes it to rights holders, had proposed that the levy be extended to microSD memory drives.

Dish Tells Judge TV-Ad-Skipping Case Should Be Tried in New York

Dish Network Corp. (DISH:US), the third-largest pay-television provider, told a judge that lawsuits over its service allowing viewers to watch ad-free TV should be heard in New York instead of Los Angeles, where the major broadcast networks filed their complaints.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan heard arguments July 2 on whether the lawsuit by Dish, filed in New York against the television networks, should continue. In May, Swain ordered a temporary halt to the networks’ suits filed in California.

“This controversy belongs in New York,” Peter Bicks, a lawyer for Dish, told the judge. Dish said the cases should be in New York because its complaint was the first filed and its contracts with the networks require litigation to be heard there.

TV broadcasters including CBS Corp. (CBS:US), Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US)’s NBC and News Corp. (NWSA:US)’s Fox sued Dish in May, claiming that its new Auto Hop digital video-recording feature, which allows viewers to automatically skip through commercials on recorded programs, infringes their copyrights and breaches Dish’s contracts with them. At issue is the broadcasters’ advertising revenue.

“Dish admitted it filed its declaratory judgment suit because it was operating under the threat of imminent litigation,” Richard Stone, a lawyer for Fox, told the judge.

Paul LiCalsi, a lawyer for CBS and NBC, said in court that Dish’s complaint “serves no useful purpose” and should be dismissed. “It misses crucial issues,” he said.

The networks are trying to stifle innovation, Dish said in its complaint. Auto Hop “complies with Dish’s bargained-for contractual rights,” it said. Dish added that it pays the networks “hundreds of millions of dollars per year in retransmission fees, collected from its subscriber base, for the right to rebroadcast these signals.”

It seeks a judicial ruling that it didn’t violate contracts or copyrights.

The fourth major broadcast network, Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US)’s ABC, didn’t sue in Los Angeles. It is a defendant in Dish’s complaint in New York. Kevin Baine, a lawyer for ABC, told the judge that the company doesn’t object to litigating in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles cases are Fox Broadcasting v. Dish Network LLC, 12-4529; NBC Studios LLC v. Dish Network Corp., 12-4536; and CBS Broadcasting Inc. v. Dish Network Corp., 12-4551, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). The New York case is Dish Network LLC v. American Broadcasting Cos., 12-04155, 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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