Bloomberg News

Samsung, Nielsen, Cascadia, Google: Intellectual Property

November 29, 2012

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) plans to argue in a London trial that Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) smartphones use its protected technology without authorization.

Samsung claims Apple infringed patents key to how phones send and receive information on third-generation mobile networks. Apple argues the patents aren’t valid and, regardless, Samsung must license the technology’s use under fair terms if it’s vital for connecting to modern networks, according to the iPhone maker’s court filings.

The two companies continue to clash over the intellectual property behind the $219 billion smartphone market, even after Apple settled all its lawsuits with HTC Corp. (2498) earlier this month. Samsung is trying to hit back after a California court ruled in August it had to pay $1.05 billion for copying Apple products.

The Samsung-Apple patent war is “becoming wider and deeper than ever before,” Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. analyst Mark Newman said in a report this month.

The London trial, which started yesterday and deals only with the validity of Samsung’s patents and whether Apple infringed them, will last three weeks. Damages or royalties Apple may owe to Samsung won’t be decided until later.

“We have at all times met our obligations to the fair and reasonable licensing of our standards patents,” Samsung said in an e-mailed statement. “However, Apple has refused to negotiate in good faith, and continues to use our patented technologies without any license. We will continue to take all appropriate measures to put an end to Apple’s free-riding.”

Apple spokesman Alan Hely declined to comment.

Intel Corp. (INTC:US), which makes computer chips for Cupertino, California-based Apple, has been licensed to use the Samsung patents, Apple said in its court documents. Apple hasn’t shown any interest in buying a license to use the technology, Samsung countered in its court filings.

The trial starts the day after Ericsson AB sued Samsung in Texas, claiming the Suwon, South Korea-based company refused to pay a fair and reasonable rate for using its essential patents.

Under phone industry standards, companies owning the rights to essential technology must license it to competitors on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, known as FRAND.

“Determining whether license fees are FRAND is a thorny issue,” said Andrew Hockley, a London competition lawyer not involved in the case. “It’s very much on the radar” of regulators around the world.

Nokia Sues Research In Motion Over Swedish Arbitration Award

Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) sued BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) in California to enforce an international arbitration award governing the sale of WLAN-compliant phones.

A Swedish arbitration court ruled Nov. 6 that RIM isn’t entitled to make or sell products compatible with the WLAN standard without first agreeing with Nokia on royalties. Mobile phones with the technology allow users to switch to wireless local area networks where available.

“Nokia and RIM have not agreed on the royalty to be paid,” Nokia said in a complaint filed Nov. 26 in federal court in San Jose. “RIM and its U.S. subsidiary RIM Corp. nevertheless continue to violate the award and breach the underlying agreement.”

Crystal Roberts, a RIM spokeswoman, said the company will respond to Nokia’s petitions “in due course.”

“Research In Motion has worked hard to develop its leading-edge BlackBerry technology and has built an industry- leading intellectual property portfolio of its own,” Roberts said in an e-mailed statement.

Enforcement of the award is governed by the New York Convention signed by the U.S., Finland, Canada and Sweden, Nokia said. Nokia, based in Espoo, Finland, seeks a court order confirming the award and forcing Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM to pay its court costs and attorneys’ fees.

RIM filed the arbitration request in March 2011 after Nokia lodged patent-infringement suits against the company in Germany and a firm that now owns some Nokia patents sued RIM in federal court in Texas. RIM sought a decision that its 2008 licensing agreement covered all Nokia patents.

The arbitration panel ruled earlier this month that the agreement only covered patents deemed essential to three industry standards and Nokia acted within its legal rights when it transferred patents to a third party, knowing that company would sue RIM, according to the arbitration order.

The case is Nokia Corp. v. Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM:US), 12- 5992, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademarks

Warner Brothers Turns to Nielsen Results for Trademark Suit

Time Warner Inc. (TWX:US) has turned to Nielsen Holdings NV (NLSN:US)’s Nielsen National Research Group as part of its trademark- infringement lawsuit against the makers of a “mockbuster” film.

The company’s Warner Bros. Entertainment unit filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles against the Global Asylum Inc. of Burbank, California, objecting to Global Asylum’s “Age of Hobbits” film.

The public was likely to confuse Global Asylum’s film with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” based on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and set for theatrical release Dec. 14, according to court papers.

Global Asylum’s website describes its film as the story of a peace-loving tribe enslaved by flesh-eating dragon-riders.

In a Nov. 21 filing, counsel for Warner Bros. said that Nielsen’s National Research Group conducted a survey Nov. 18-19 of 1,200 moviegoers between the ages of 12 and 64. The survey respondents were divided into two groups, one of which was shown a movie DVD cover allegedly promoting “Age of the Hobbits” and a second one for “Age of the Java Men.” The artwork on both posters was identical, according to the filing.

Warner Brothers said that of the group that saw the “Age of the Hobbits” DVD cover, 30.1 percent of those who responded to questions about the source of the film attributed it to the Tolkien work or the makers of the upcoming “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” film.

Of those who were shown the “Age of the Java Men” cover, only 6.42 percent of those who responded to a question about source identified the title with Tolkien or the makers of the “Unexpected Journey” film.

Warner Bros. is arguing that the survey response shows an overall confusion rate of between 30 and 40 percent with respect to the makers of “Unexpected Journey” and Global Asylum’s “Age of the Hobbits” film.

The case is Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., v. The Global Asylum Inc., 2:12-cv-09547-PSG-CW, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Steamworks ‘Cascadia’ Not Generic for Regional Beer, Experts Say

Steamworks Brew Pub, a pub and brewery in Vancouver, British Columbia, has registered a trademark that some beer fans claim is a beer style that shouldn’t be entitled to trademark protection, the Vancouver Sun reported.

The pub registered “Cascadia” as a Canadian trademark, and has contacted other small breweries to warn them against using the term with their products, according to the newspaper.

Beer fans maintain that “Cascadia” or “Cascadian” is merely a descriptive term properly used with the region’s dark ales, the newspaper reported.

Neither the Great American Beer Festival nor the Beer Judge Certification Program acknowledges “Cascadian” as a distinct category, saying beers that are so described are properly American-style black India Pale Ales, the Sun reported.

Ottawa Charity Sues Workplace Collective for Infringement

A charity that aids Canadians with developmental disabilities has sued the operators of a so-called workplace collective for trademark infringement, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

The Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities has sued Under One Roof Properties for infringing the “Under One Roof” trademark, according to the newspaper.

The collective, a seven-story office building in Ottawa, houses a number of progressive organizations under its roof, including a feminist legal practice, several union locals, and the Canada Without Poverty and Canadians for Choice organizations, the newspaper reported.

The charity filed suit in Canadian federal court seeking an order barring the collective from using the name it uses for a program that creates employment opportunities for disabled persons, according to the Citizen.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Google Says Germany’s Copyright Proposal Restricts User Searches

Google Inc. (GOOG:US) said a proposal in Germany’s parliament to extend copyright law would make finding information online more difficult and has implications for its business operations in Europe.

While existing law prevents copying of articles, the new proposals, sought by German news publishers, “would place restrictions on even a ‘snippet’ of an article,” such as is commonly found in search results, said Simon Hampton, Google’s director of public policy in Europe, in a post.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, is starting an information campaign “to give the facts about the proposed law” and invite debate, Hampton said. Germany’s parliament begins debating the proposal this week, he said.

Google, owner of the world’s largest search engine, is stepping up efforts to inform public opinion on policies that affect Web companies, including rivals Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO:US) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) The proposed law in Germany would force search engines, news aggregators and others to contract with publishers in order to show the snippets of information available, Hampton said.

“We want to build win-win ways to partner with publishers,” Hampton said in the post. “What we want to avoid is a system that puts the brakes on the open Internet, limits choice for people looking for information, and dramatically raises the cost of online innovation.”

The bill by Germany’s Justice Ministry proposes giving publishers one year during which they have the sole rights to commercially use their journalistic content. It pits website operators such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo against German publishers including Axel Springer AG (SPR) and Bertelsmann AG, which are trying to find ways to monetize content online.

The extended law would be a “complete reversal of the legal situation today” and a reversal of current Web practices, Hampton said. It also has implications for Google’s business in Europe, Hampton said.

Users clicking through to publishers’ websites from Google’s search and news pages is “significant” for the company because there is no advertising on the Google News service in Europe, Hampton said. The company’s “opportunity to make money is when users click on a link” and go to a media site, he said.

Google’s Web crawler currently allows publishers to decide whether their information can be used and “a further set of highly refined controls is also available,” Hampton said.

U.K. Student Makes Deal to Avoid Extradition in Copyright Case

Richard O’Dwyer, the U.K. student whose TVShack website allegedly gave others access to pirated films and television programs, has signed an agreement with U.S. authorities that would help him avoid extradition to the U.S., the BBC reported.

The U.K.’s High Court was told that O’Dwyer will travel voluntarily to the U.S. to complete what is known as a “deferred prosecution” agreement, will pay a small fine, and promise not to infringe copyrights in the future, according to the BBC.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had accused O’Dwyer of earning more than $230,000 in ad revenue through his TVShack.com website, the BBC reported.

His domain Internet name was seized in June 2010, according to the BBC.

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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