Bloomberg News

GE, Yahoo, Samsung, Rawlings: Intellectual Property

July 09, 2012

General Electric Co. (GE:US) didn’t infringe a patent owned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) over a way to control the angle of wind-turbine blades to reduce wear and tear, a federal judge said.

The decision by U.S. District Judge John Antoon in Orlando, Florida, eliminates the need for a trial that was scheduled to begin later this month. Antoon ruled that GE’s turbines adjust the angle of the blades in a way that’s different than that covered by Mitsubishi Heavy’s patent.

The case is part of a legal battle in which GE, the biggest U.S. maker of wind turbines, is trying to block Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy from getting a toehold in the U.S. market. GE makes about half of all wind turbines installed, and the U.S. has the second-largest amount of wind capacity in the world behind China, according to the Global Wind Energy Council’s 2011 annual report.

The Orlando case was filed in 2010 after patent- infringement suits that Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE had filed in Texas and before the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2008.

“GE’s position throughout the litigation was that MHI’s claims were without merit,” Chet Lasell, a GE spokesman, said. “GE’s commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights includes a commitment to respect the intellectual property of others, and this ruling is evidence of that fact.”

A federal jury in Dallas told Mitsubishi Heavy on March 8 to pay GE $170 million for infringing a patent on a way to keep turbines connected to utility grids during voltage fluctuations without sustaining damage. Mitsubishi Heavy is challenging that decision.

A U.S. appeals court told the ITC to review whether the Japanese turbine-maker infringed a different patent, which covered a method of steadying the stream of energy from the turbine to the electrical grid. The initial opinion was issued in February and reissued July 6.

Mitsubishi Heavy also has accused GE of trying to monopolize the wind-turbine market. That case is on hold while GE’s patent-infringement complaints are being considered.

Mitsubishi Heavy had been selling about $2 billion worth of turbines a year until the litigation began, Sonia Williams, a spokeswoman for Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas has said. Since then, the company has only sold turbines from its inventory and hasn’t made others. Banks have been hesitant to lend money, and customers are concerned about buying products that are targeted by litigation, she said in a June 29 interview.

The case is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. v. General Electric Co., 10-cv-812, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Orlando).

Yahoo, Facebook Are Said to Reach Settlement in Patent Dispute

Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) and Facebook Inc. (FB:US) reached a settlement in a patent dispute, while agreeing to strengthen an alliance between the companies, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s interim chief executive officer, Ross Levinsohn, helped work out the terms, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Boards of both companies have agreed to the deal, one person said.

The agreement includes patent-portfolio cross-licensing, one person said, resolving a dispute kicked off in March, when Yahoo alleged that Facebook infringes patents covering such functions as Internet privacy, advertising and information sharing. Facebook, the largest social-networking service, countersued in April, accusing Yahoo of infringement.

The technology blog AllThingsD previously reported the settlement and deeper ties between Yahoo and Facebook.

The case is Yahoo! Inc. v. Facebook, 12-cv-01212, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Samsung Denied Request for Immediate Stay of Galaxy Tab Ban

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) lost an emergency bid to resume selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer in the U.S. while a patent-infringement suit filed by Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) is pending.

In a July 6 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied Samsung’s request to put the sales ban on hold immediately and ordered Apple to respond to Samsung’s appeal by July 12. A federal judge in San Jose ordered the ban last month. Notice of the Federal Circuit’s decision was posted on its website.

Samsung also has asked the appeals court to lift an order that it stop selling its Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the U.S. pending trial because of a different Apple case. The Federal Circuit made no decision on that request when ordering Apple to respond by July 12 in that case as well.

Apple and Samsung, the world’s two biggest makers of smartphones, are locked in a battle for market share that spans four continents. Together, they make more than half of the smartphones sold worldwide, according to IDC, a Framingham, Massachusetts-based market researcher.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh issued the ban on the Galaxy Tab June 26 after finding that Apple would probably win its claim that the Tab copied a patented design owned by the Cupertino, California-based smartphone maker. She had denied the request in December, and the Federal Circuit ordered her to reconsider.

Three days after the Galaxy Tab order, Koh imposed a ban on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, saying Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung hadn’t raised a substantial question that Apple’s patents in the case are invalid.

The Galaxy Tab case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-1506, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court Galaxy Tab case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

The Galaxy Nexus case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-1507, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court Galaxy Nexus case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 12-cv-00630, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

Amazon Said to Plan Smartphone to Vie With Apple’s IPhone

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US) is developing a smartphone that would vie with Apple Inc.’s iPhone and handheld devices that run Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Android operating system, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. (2038), the Chinese mobile- phone maker, is working with Amazon on the device, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. Amazon is seeking to complement the smartphone strategy by acquiring patents that cover wireless technology and would help it defend against allegations of infringement, other people with knowledge of the matter said.

A smartphone would give Amazon a wider range of low-priced hardware devices that bolster its strategy of making money from digital books, songs and movies. It would help Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos -- who made a foray into tablets with the Kindle Fire -- carve out a slice of the market for advanced wireless handsets. Manufacturers led by Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple shipped 398.4 million smartphones and other mobile devices in the first quarter, according to researcher IDC.

Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon, declined to comment.

Mark Mahaney, an analyst at Citigroup Inc., said in November that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone.

Seattle-based Amazon considered buying wireless patents from InterDigital Inc. before the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania- based company said in June that it will sell the assets to Intel Corp. for $375 million, two people said. Amazon is taking pitches and setting up briefings with other sellers, the people said.

Amazon beefed up its patent prowess recently by hiring Matt Gordon, formerly senior director of acquisitions at Intellectual Ventures Management LLC, the company that was founded by former Microsoft Corp. Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold and owns more than 35,000 intellectual property assets. Gordon will be general manager for patent acquisitions and investments at Amazon, according to his profile on LinkedIn.

Adding patents would help Amazon protect itself against lawsuits alleging illegal use of technology. Amazon has been involved in five patent-related cases this year, and 20 cases last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Demand for mobile patents has increased, as shown recently by Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and its thousands of patents, which closed this year.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Rawlings Sues Wilson Over Gold Decor on Brandon Phillips’ Glove

Jarden Corp. (JAH:US)’s Rawlings Sport Goods unit sued Amer Sports Oyj (AMEAS)’s Wilson Sporting Goods unit for trademark infringement.

The suit, filed July 5 in St. Louis, is related to the “Gold Glove” award Rawlings gives to professional baseball players each year, and the trademarks associated with that award.

Wilson is accused of creating confusion in the marketplace and falsely giving some baseball fans the impression it is associated with the Gold Glove award. Rawlings claims this is the result of Wilson’s promotion in which it’s created a baseball glove for Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips that bears “metallic gold-colored webbing, stitching and lettering.”

Phillips, who is one of Wilson’s endorsers, has won the Rawlings Gold Glove award three times. His use of the Wilson gold-decorated glove represents the sporting goods company’s “intentional, willful, and malicious intent to trade upon the goodwill associated with the Gold Glove” trademarks, Rawlings said in its pleadings. Phillips is not a party to this suit.

Rawlings asked the court to bar Wilson’s sale of a baseball glove with gold features. Additionally, Rawlings seeks money damages, including profits related to the alleged infringement.

The company also asked for extra damages to punish Wilson for what it says is deliberate infringement.

Helsinki-based Amer Sports didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. v. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., 4:12-cv-01204, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

Royal Shakespeare Name Only Sweet for Theater Group, Court Says

Juliet asked Romeo, “What’s in a name?” in one of William Shakespeare’s most-famous plays. A European Union court ruled quite a lot is in a name, upholding the Royal Shakespeare Company’s EU-wide rights to its moniker.

On July 6 EU General Court sided with the theater company against Graz, Austria-based Jackson International Trading Co. Kurt D. Bruehl GmbH & Co. KG, which won the EU trademark rights in 2003 to use the Royal Shakespeare name for catering, food, alcohol and water.

The Austrian company “would benefit from the power of attraction, the reputation and the prestige” of the Royal Shakespeare name, the EU’s second-highest court ruled. The connotative link to the theater company “would give the applicant a commercial advantage over its competitors’ goods.”

Jackson International appealed after losing the rights in a 2009 decision by the EU’s trademark agency. The appeals board of the Office for Harmonization for the Internal Market had overturned the Austrian company’s claim because of the “strong likelihood” that it could “free ride” on the theater company’s “immense success and reputation in the U.K.”

Jackson International didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment on the decision.

The court’s July 6 ruling can be appealed to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The case is T-60/10, Jackson International v. OHIM - Royal Shakespeare Company.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Anti-Abortion Group Defeats Copyright Infringement Claim

The Center for Bioethical Reform, a California-based organization that opposes abortion, defeated a copyright infringement case brought by a family-planning clinic.

The case stems from the center’s use of “Every Day, Good Women Choose Abortion,” a film created by the Northland Family Planning Clinic of Southfield, Michigan. Northland sued the center in federal court in Los Angeles in May 2011, claiming the center used footage from the film without authorization and surrounded it with graphic footage of abortions.

These offending videos were posted on multiple websites, Northland said, and constituted multiple instances of copyright infringement. Northland asked the court to bar any use of the film content by the Center, and for awards for money damages and litigation costs.

In a June 15 order, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna granted the Center’s motion to kick out the case. He said the videos made by the Center didn’t harm Northland and that the use of content from “Every Day, Good Women Choose Abortion” fell within copyright law’s definition of fair use. He said it was “unthinkable” that anyone would think the videos created by the center were “a market substitute” for the original film.

The case is Northland Family Planning Clinic Inc., v. Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, 8:11-cv-00731-JVS-AN, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

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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