Bloomberg News

Google, Oracle, Spotify, Apple: Intellectual Property

August 20, 2012

Google Inc. (GOOG:US) said it didn’t pay people to write about Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US)’s lawsuit against it over Android software, although nonprofits, universities and trade groups receiving Google money have commented on the case.

Oracle said Google maintains a network of direct and indirect “influencers” to advance its intellectual property agenda, according to an Aug. 17 filing in federal court in San Francisco. Oracle has hired one writer, Florian Mueller, author of the FOSS Patents blog, as a consultant, not to blog about the lawsuit, Oracle said. Mueller has written extensively on the lawsuit.

Both companies filed papers in court Aug. 17 responding to a judge’s order to disclose payments to journalists, bloggers and commenters. U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who has presided over the lawsuit, said Aug. 7 that disclosure is needed to make clear whether anything written about the case is “possibly influenced by financial relationships to the parties or counsel.”

Google said there were no quid-pro-quo payments to people for coverage, and commentators at entities which receive donations or financial support from Google weren’t paid to write about the case.

“Google does not believe that individuals or organizations within these categories were intended to be encompassed within the scope of the court’s order,” Google lawyers said in the filing. They asked Alsup to let them know if he wants a “more comprehensive list.”

A jury found May 7 that Mountain View, California-based Google, owner of the world’s most-popular search engine, infringed Oracle’s copyrights when it developed Android software for mobile devices yet deadlocked on whether the copying was “fair use.” That denied Oracle the ability to seek as much as $1 billion in damages from the search engine company. The jury found May 23 that Google didn’t infringe two Oracle patents.

The case is Oracle v. Google, 10-3561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Apple Witness Claims Samsung Abused Its ‘Monopoly’ Over Patents

Samsung Electronics Co. used “monopoly power” to make exorbitant licensing demands of Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) over two patents the South Korean company accuses the iPhone maker of infringing, a witness told a jury.

Janusz Ordover, a New York University economics professor, said Samsung “distorted” the process through which a standard- setting body in Europe set industry requirements based on its wireless-technology patents. Ordover testified Aug. 17 at the end of a three-week-long intellectual-property trial in San Jose, California.

Ordover, hired by Apple as an expert witness, said Samsung “acted in a way that evidences it has gained monopoly power by making licensing demands to Apple that are inconsistent” with reduced licensing rates required of patents used by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to set technological requirements.

Samsung has declared the patents “essential” and is seeking as much as $399 million in royalties from Apple for infringing them, according to court testimony.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, sued Samsung in April 2011, accusing it of copying patented designs for mobile devices, and Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung countersued.

Testimony concluded Aug. 17 at the trial. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh limited each side to 25 hours and Samsung told the court that it declined to cross-examine Ordover because of the time constraints.

Koh said she aims to finish with jury instruction arguments by the end of today and to have the companies present closing arguments tomorrow.

The case is the first to go before a federal jury in a battle being waged on four continents for dominance in a smartphone market valued by Bloomberg Industries at $219.1 billion.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11- cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

Spotify Sued by Nonend Inventions Over Music-Sharing Patents

Spotify Ltd. was sued by Nonend Inventions NV over technology that allows Spotify users to get music from the streaming service and other subscribers.

Netherlands-based Nonend accuses Spotify of “making, using, offering to sell, and selling streaming music services to users which incorporate methodologies that infringe one or more claims” of certain patents, according to court papers filed in federal court in Delaware.

Closely held Spotify said in November it had 10 million registered users worldwide, and 3 million paying subscribers. Spotify said July 31 that 5 million more subscribers signed up for its ad-supported music service since January, with expansion into countries including Australia and New Zealand.

Spotify has content agreements with Sony Corp. (6758)’s Sony Music, Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music, EMI Group (EMIS) and Warner Music Group. Under those agreements, artists, record companies and publishers receive a cut of ad sales and subscriber fees.

Graham James, spokesman for Spotify, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment about the lawsuit.

The case is Nonend Inventions NV v. Spotify USA Inc., 1:12- cv-01041, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Heinz Sued Over Patent for Single-Serve Ketchup Packaging

H.L. Heinz Co. (HNZ:US), the Pittsburgh-based food company, was sued for patent infringement by an Illinois inventor.

Scott Alan White, in a suit filed in federal court in Chicago, said he invented a container to be used for condiments and made a presentation to Heinz, suggesting the company use the product for individual-serving ketchup packages.

He filed a patent application in October 2005, before his initial contact with the food company in July 2006, according to court papers.

Heinz said it wasn’t interested, and, told him his invention wasn’t patentable, White said. White continued in his efforts to seek a patent, which was issued July 31 as patent 8,231,026, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

After Heinz’s rejection of his design, White said he was surprised when Heinz began promoting single-serving ketchup in its “Dip’ & Squeeze” package, even featuring it on the cover of the food company’s 2012 annual report. The “Dip & Squeeze” packaging violates multiple claims of his patent, White said in his pleadings.

He claims he’s damaged by Heinz’s alleged infringement, and asked the court for an order barring further infringement. Additionally, he seeks awards of money damages, and asked they be tripled to punish the food company for its actions.

Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen characterized the case as a “frivolous lawsuit,” and said the company will prove that the allegations are “groundless and without merit.” The company “worked for years’” to develop the “Dip & Squeeze” package, he said.

The case is Scott Alan White V. H.J. Heinz Co., 1:12- cv-06074, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

For more patent news, click here.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Coldwell Banker Infringed Architectural Renderings’ Copyright

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate and Sard Custom Homes LLC, a Connecticut home builder, infringed an architecture firm’s copyrights by making unauthorized use of architectural renderings, a federal appeals court ruled Aug. 15.

Although Prudential Connecticut Reality is also listed as a defendant, according to a footnote in the court opinion, the issues pursued in the appeal do not involve matters that were litigated by Prudential on the trial court level. The court said Prudential didn’t participate in the appeal “although it remains technically a party.”

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reversed a lower court ruling that no infringement occurred because the renderings weren’t sufficiently detailed to enable construction of houses based on them.

Scholz Design Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, filed the infringement suit in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, in October 2012, saying the unauthorized use of the renderings for marketing and advertising constituted copyright infringement. In July 2011 that court granted all three motions to dismiss the case, saying the drawings weren’t sufficiently detailed to warrant copyright protection.

The appeals court disagreed, noting that “copyright protection of a pictorial work, whether depicting a house, or a flower, or a donkey, or an abstract design, does not depend on any degree of detail.” The court said it saw “no reason” why the renderings should be treated differently from any other pictorial work for copyright purposes.

Although paintings by Claude Monet of the Rouen Cathedral, and by Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper of houses weren’t sufficiently detailed to enable construction of the buildings they depicted, that lack of detail wouldn’t justify the denial of copyright protection, the court said.

Instead, all that is required is “independent creation and originality,” and the renderings qualified, the court ruled.

The court vacated the lower court’s dismissal of the infringement claim and of a breach-of-contract claim made by Scholz. It also awarded litigation costs to the architectural firm.

The appeals court case is Scholz Design Inc. v. Sard Custom Homes, 11-3291, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The lower court case is Scholz Design Inc. v. Sard Custom Homes LLC, 3:10-cv-01681-JBA, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (New Haven).

MTN Group Responds to Politician’s Ringtone Infringement Suit

MTN Group (MTN) has responded to a copyright suit by the former mayor of Kampala, Uganda, by saying its use of recordings of his speeches doesn’t infringe, according to the AllAfrica.dom website.

The Cresta, South Africa-based telecommunication company is arguing that while it’s Al Haji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala’s voice on the ringtones, he isn’t the author of the recording and ringtones, since they were “fine-tuned” into transferable material, AllAfrica.com reported.

The recordings are the product of the engineer who shaped the raw speech, the telecom company said, according to AllAfrica.com.

Sebaggala, who filed the infringement suit in July, is demanding the proceeds MTN realized from selling the ringtones, which the company makes available to telephone users for a 30- day period for 500 Ugandan shillings ($.20), AllAfrica.com reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

CBS Drops Infringement Suit Against ABC Over ‘Glass House’

CBS Corp. (CBS:US) dropped a lawsuit alleging that “The Glass House,” an ABC network reality television show, is a copy of CBS’s “Big Brother,” according to a court filing.

CBS, based in New York, sued Burbank, California-based Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US)’s ABC in May, alleging that “The Glass House” infringed on its own reality series, in which a group of contestants spend months secluded in a house, evicting one another on camera.

CBS filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in federal court in Los Angeles yesterday. The broadcaster said in a statement that it reserved the right to re-file its claim.

“The viewers have spoken and delivered the ultimate form of justice against ‘The Glass House,’” CBS said in the statement. In the week ended Aug. 12, “The Glass House” ranked 87th among broadcast shows in TV ratings based on viewers, with an audience of 1.59 million, according to Nielsen data.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feess in June denied CBS’s request to block the ABC show, saying that he wasn’t convinced CBS would prevail in its copyright suit. The harm to ABC and the people working on “Glass House” caused by stopping the show would outweigh the harm to CBS from allowing it to air, he said.

Two former supervising producers and a former co-executive producer of “Big Brother” plus 16 other ex-producers and series staff are working on “Glass House” and disclosed CBS trade secrets and confidential information in violation of nondisclosure agreements, CBS said in its complaint.

CBS said the contract and trade-secrets claims against the ex-producers will continue in arbitration.

Representatives of ABC didn’t immediately respond to e- mailed requests for comment on the dismissal.

The case is CBS v. ABC, 12-4073, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net.


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