Bloomberg News

Apple, Hynix, Kolon, Ferrero, AT&T: Intellectual Property

October 19, 2012

Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) lost a U.K. court appeal ruling over whether Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy tablet infringed the design of the iPad as a judge criticized divergent rulings in the global intellectual property fight between the two companies.

A three-judge panel in London upheld an earlier decision by a U.K. court that said several of Samsung’s Galaxy tablets weren’t “cool” enough to be confused with the iPad. The ruling described as “extreme” a German judgment from July granting Apple a Europe-wide injunction preventing Samsung from selling one model.

The ruling is the latest in a long line of disputes in courts across the globe as rivals including HTC Corp. (2498), Apple and Samsung fight for dominance in the smartphone and tablet computer markets. The cases in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands and Spain often lead to conflicting rulings as judges apply diverging national laws.

“If courts around Europe simply say they do not agree with each other and give inconsistent decisions, Europe will be the poorer,” Judge Robin Jacob said in the written ruling.

Samsung said in an e-mailed statement that it continues “to believe that Apple was not the first to design a tablet with a rectangular shape and rounded corners.”

The company said that “should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims in other countries based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited.”

Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment on yesterday’s ruling.

Apple must also publish notices in U.K. newspapers with details of the U.K. ruling, Judge David Kitchin said yesterday.

Jacob said a publicity order was necessary to avoid consumer confusion because of the news coverage of the “not as cool” judgment in the U.K. and the contrasting German court’s decision.

A link to the notice must appear on Apple’s website for one month and the company must publish it in the Financial Times and Daily Mail newspapers.

SK Hynix Seeks New Trial in Rambus Patent-Infringement Suit

SK Hynix Inc. (000660) is seeking a new trial in the memory-chip technology patent-infringement case that Rambus Inc. (RMBS:US) won in California six years ago.

SK Hynix yesterday asked U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte in San Jose, California, to consider new evidence that it says invalidates some of Rambus’s patents at issue in the case, according to a court filing. SK Hynix also requested a new trial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld Whyte’s previous denial of SK Hynix’s bid to throw out the 2006 verdict finding that the company infringed Rambus patents. It vacated a $397 million jury award against Ichon, South Korea-based SK Hynix, citing Rambus’s destruction of documents that might have been used as evidence in the case.

Whyte last month ordered both companies to file proposals on how much Rambus should be paid in royalty rates. As a sanction for Rambus’s document destruction, the judge said he wouldn’t allow a Rambus royalty that is “in excess of a reasonable and non-discriminatory” amount, according to court documents.

Linda Ashmore, a spokeswoman for Sunnyvale, California- based Rambus, had no immediate comment on SK Hynix’s court filing.

Rambus’s cases against SK Hynix, and another related case against Micron Technology Inc. (MU:US), are over the companies’ use of interfaces that are part of dynamic random access memory that acts as the main memory in computers. DRAM is built to industry standards and is interchangeable by product. SK Hynix and Micron claimed Rambus destroyed records that would have proved Rambus misled the board that sets that standard.

The case is Hynix Semiconductor Inc. v. Rambus Inc., 00-cv-20905, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

For more patent news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

DuPont’s Kevlar Trade Secrets Stolen by Kolon, U.S. Charges

Kolon Industries Inc. (120110) and five of its executives were charged with stealing trade secrets from DuPont Co. (DD:US) related to the manufacture of Kevlar, an anti-ballistic fiber used in police and military gear.

Kolon, based in Gyeonggi, South Korea, and the five officials were indicted in federal court in Richmond, Virginia. All were charged with one count of conspiracy to convert trade secrets, four counts of theft of trade secrets and one count of obstruction of justice. The indictment, which was filed Aug. 21 and unsealed yesterday, includes a forfeiture claim seeking at least $225 million in alleged criminal proceeds from the company.

This “should indicate that industrial espionage is not a business strategy and will not be tolerated by the United States Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said at a press conference announcing the charges.

A federal jury in Richmond in September 2011 awarded DuPont about $920 million in damages after finding that Kolon and its U.S. unit wrongfully obtained DuPont’s proprietary information about Kevlar by hiring some of the company’s former engineers and marketers. Kolon sells the Heracron line of so-called para- aramid fibers as a competitor to Kevlar.

Last month, a federal appeals court in Richmond considering the company’s challenge to the jury verdict put on hold a judge’s order that barred Kolon from selling para-aramid products for 20 years.

Prosecutors also allege that Kolon stole trade secrets related to a similar product made by Teijin Ltd. (3401), based in Osaka, Japan.

“Kolon sought to obtain trade secrets related to Kevlar and Twaron by hiring and attempting to hire former and current employees of DuPont, DuPont-Toray, and Teijin Twaron USA as ‘consultants,’ and by asking these ‘consultants’ to reveal information that was confidential and proprietary,” according to the indictment.

Jeff Randall, a Washington-based attorney who represents Kolon, said his client denies doing anything illegal and will fight the charges.

Much of the product information the government claims are trade secrets had been made publicly available by DuPont in patent applications and technical journals, Randall said in a telephone interview.

“Kolon is entitled to reasonably rely on the consultants’ representations that they were engaged in legitimate consulting activities and were only providing information that DuPont had already publicly made available, and that they were not disclosing any proprietary information,” said Randall, a partner at Paul Hastings LLP.

The case is U.S. v. Kolon Industries, 12-cr-137, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).

Trademark

Ferrero Tells Burrito Chain to Take ‘Nutella’ Off Menu, Signs

Ferrero Spa, the maker of Nutella and TicTac candies, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a chain of burrito restaurants, the Boston Herald reported.

Alba, Italy-based Ferrero objects to the Nutella milkshake offered by Boston-based Boloco, according to the newspaper.

John Pepper, Boloco’s chief executive, told the Herald that dropping the word “Nutella” will cost “thousands of dollars in menu reprints and new menu boards.”

He said his restaurant will also lose sales as the Nutella frozen drink was a “top seller of all our shakes and smoothies by some margin,” the Herald reported.

St. Regis Loses Singapore Battle Over ‘Park Regis’ Trademark

The St. Regis hotel in Singapore has lost a battle to keep a down-market hotel from registering “Park Regis” as a trademark, Agence France Presse reported.

The luxury-brand St. Regis had claimed that customers would be confused by the similarity of the names, according to AFP.

Singapore’s High Court ruled that customers would be unlikely to confuse the name and that the St. Regis brand would not be damaged by registration of “Park Regis,” the news service reported.

Rooms at the St. Regis cost as much as 3,000 Singapore dollars ($2,460) per night, while the StayWell Hospitality Group Ltd.’s Park Regis rooms got for as little as 179 Singapore dollars, AFP reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

AT&T Joins Verizon in Sending Piracy Alerts to Customers

AT&T Inc. (T:US), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US) and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US) are among Internet-service providers that will take a more active role in fighting online piracy under a program due to start within the next two months.

The service providers, which also include Time Warner Cable (TWC:US) and Cablevision Systems Corp. (CVC:US), will send as many as six electronic alerts to customers whose accounts show signs of being used to download or distribute illegal music, movies or television shows over peer-to-peer networks.

Customers who receive repeated alerts may have their Internet speed temporarily reduced or be required to review educational materials about copyright. The measures don’t include terminating a customer’s account, said Jill Lesser, executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, a Washington-based group that’s coordinating the effort.

“If this is successful it really reduces the need to have government involvement in these issues,” Lesser said in an interview. “These voluntary efforts allow us to be far more nimble and customer-focused than broad legislation.”

The voluntary system follows the demise of Hollywood-backed online piracy legislation in Congress earlier this year. Lawmakers shelved the anti-piracy bills in the House and Senate in January after Google Inc. (GOOG:US) and Wikipedia led an Internet protest that eroded political support for the measures.

The bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate, were backed by the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America.

Under the copyright alert system, which has been in development for more than a year, the MPAA and RIAA will, working with MarkMonitor Inc., look for illegal content sharing on peer-to-peer networks and identify Internet-protocol addresses engaged in the activity, according to Lesser. The addresses will be turned over to the service providers, which will link the addresses to the customer accounts in question and begin sending the copyright alerts, she said.

Customers will be allowed to seek review if they believe the alerts were sent in error, according to a news release on the program. There is a $35 fee for requesting a review, which can be waived by an independent review body, according to a fact sheet on the program.

Verizon will outline its alert process to customers in the next week or so, Richard Young, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail, referring further questions to the Center for Copyright Information. Comcast supports the effort and “will roll it out in the near future,” Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesman, said in an e-mail, declining to offer specifics.

Dawn Benton of AT&T, Justin Venech of Time Warner and Jim Maiella of Cablevision didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gallaudet Says Gay Marriage Opponents Infringe School Copyright

Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, claims its copyrights are infringed by a television ad produced by a Maryland group opposed to same-sex marriage, the Associated Press reported in an article published in the Washington Post.

The ad features a video of the school’s chief diversity officer who was suspended for signing a petition to hold a referendum on the state’s gay marriage law in November, according to the AP.

Kathleen Murphy, the college’s director of communications and public relations, said the school has asked its legal counsel to request that the Maryland Marriage Alliance quit using the ad, the AP reported.

A spokeswoman for the organization says it won’t remove the video and that it hasn’t received a formal complaint from the school, the AP reported.

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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Companies Mentioned

  • AAPL
    (Apple Inc)
    • $99.93 USD
    • -0.82
    • -0.82%
  • RMBS
    (Rambus Inc)
    • $12.24 USD
    • -0.24
    • -1.96%
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