Bloomberg News

Google, Casella, Havells, Bachelor: Intellectual Property

January 08, 2013

Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s requirement to make new patent-licensing offers to Apple (AAPL:US) Inc. and Microsoft Corp. under its settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission probably won’t resolve lawsuits among the technology giants, according to patent lawyers.

Last week’s agreement requires Google to offer competitors “fair and reasonable” terms for using its patents included in industrywide standards for smartphones, tablet computers and other electronic devices, and to give them time to respond.

Microsoft and Apple rejected earlier royalty demands, accused Google’s Motorola Mobility unit of misusing its patents, complained to U.S. and European regulators and filed breach-of- contract suits in federal court.

The global litigation has become central to shaping the worldwide market for mobile devices, which includes phones, tablets and e-readers.

The FTC agreement resolved claims that Motorola Mobility, which Google bought for $12.4 billion last year, abused patents essential to industry standards to extract higher royalties. Industry-standard technology helps ensure products such as mobile phones can operate together when made by different manufacturers, meaning companies making those products must conform with the standards.

Under the FTC settlement, Google can’t try to block sales or imports of competitors’ products during the license-offer process and must report to the FTC on steps it’s taken to comply.

In a filing with the U.S. International Trade Commission yesterday, Microsoft (MSFT:US) said that means Google must drop two video- coding patents from a case in which it seeks to block imports of the Xbox gaming system. The third patent, for a way to establish communication between the Xbox and accessories, doesn’t relate to any industry norm, so wouldn’t be affected by the FTC agreement.

“As a result of the settlement Motorola and Google have entered with the FTC, Microsoft expects that Motorola will immediately dismiss from this investigation its claims” related to the two patents, Microsoft said in the filing.

The commission already has cleared Apple of claims it infringed Motorola Mobility patents for wireless technology.

Microsoft, which said the FTC agreement does little to resolve issues it raised over Google’s business practices, probably will decide it would rather wait to hear from a federal judge in Seattle who is considering what the appropriate royalty should be, he said. Apple, in a different case, has told a judge in Wisconsin that it won’t pay Motorola Mobility more than $1 per handset.

Apple also is trying to get Motorola Mobility and other makers of phones that use Google’s Android operating system to stop what it calls copying of the iPhone.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, said the Cupertino, California-based company had no comment.

Retractable Rejected by U.S. High Court on Becton Patent Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Retractable Technologies Inc. (RVP:US) in its patent suit against Becton, Dickinson & Co. (BDX:US) over technology used to protect health-care workers from accidental needle sticks.

Retractable was seeking to overturn a federal appeals court decision that struck down part of a $5 million jury award.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in July that Becton’s 3-milliliter Integra syringe doesn’t violate Retractable’s patents. The appeals court upheld the jury’s separate finding against Becton over its 1-milliliter Integra product. The patents cover Retractable’s VanishPoint-brand syringes, which contain spring-loaded needles.

Retractable, based in Little Elm, Texas, is also pressing an antitrust case against Becton, based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

The case is Retractable Technologies v. Becton Dickinson, 11-1154.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Artist Seeks Benelux Trademark Registration for ‘Allah’

An artist in The Netherlands has filed an application to register “Allah” as a trademark, Dutch News reported.

The application was filed at the Benelux IP office in The Hague, according to the newspaper.

Teun Castelein, 32, of Amsterdam, expressed surprise that his is the first attempt to register what he says is an “incredibly beautiful name” as a trademark, according to Dutch News.

The Dutch News reported that Castelein’s application has received a preliminary decision to refuse registration.

Casella Withdraws Opposition to ‘[Kra-ze]’ Trademark Application

Casella Wines Pty Ltd., an Australian wine producer, has withdrawn its opposition to a Connecticut-based vodka distiller’s trademark application, the Norwich Bulletin reported.

Yenda, New South Wales-based Casella had objected to the use of brackets for the “[Kra-ze]” liquor-based vodka made by KC Brang’s Food & Beverages LLC of Oakdale, Connecticut, according to the Bulletin.

Casella’s “[yellow tail]” wines are the most popular wines imported into the U.S., with 8 million cases shipped annually, the Bulletin reported.

Carl Brown, chief executive officer and co-founder of KC Brang’s, said the legal dispute cost “an abundant amount of money,” according to the Bulletin.

Havells India’s ‘Havells’ Trademark to Return to Company in 2016

Havells India Ltd. (HAVL), a maker of electrical components and small consumer electrics, said in a statement that it will acquire its “Havells” trademark from one of its marketing companies.

The mark is presently licensed to QRG Enterprises Ltd., the company said.

Havells license agreement with QRG is set to expire in the fiscal year 2015-2016, and the agreement specifies that the trademark is to be transferred back on April 1, 2016.

There will be no money changing hands with respect to the trademark, Noida, India-based Havells said.

Virginia Seller of Fake Sports Jerseys to Pay Restitution

The owner of two Virginia sporting goods stores was ordered to pay $10,000 restitution for selling fake sports jerseys, the Virginia Pilot reported.

Police seized more than 1,200 fake National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball jerseys from two Player Sports Nuts stores in Chesapeake, Virginia, according to the newspaper.

Keith Carter, owner of the two stores, said he merely bought what he thought were authentic jerseys from distributors and that he “didn’t do anything wrong,” the newspaper reported.

He acknowledged that he sold the jerseys for lower prices than his competitors, saying he had lower overhead and wasn’t interested in making as much of a profit as his competitors, according to the Pilot.

For more trademark news, click here. British Photojournalist Creates Watermark App for IPhones

John D. McHugh, a London-based photojournalist best known for his work in Afghanistan, has developed and released a watermarking application for Apple Inc.’s iPhone as a way of halting theft of images through social network sites, the British Journal of Photography reported.

He told the Journal he “can’t describe how frustrating it is to find my images online without any credit or byline.”

McHugh’s app, known as “Marksta,” is available through Apple’s App Store for free for the next few days, and eventually will cost 1.4l British pounds ($2.40), the Journal reported.

The app makes it possible for photographers to add text to their images with a choice of fonts, colors and sizes, according to the Journal.

For copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Second Trade Secret Suit Filed Over ‘Bachelor’ Spoilers Posts

The operator of a blog who posts alleged “spoilers” about “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” reality television programs was sued for a second time for trade secret misappropriation.

Texas resident Stephen Carbone, whose “Reality Steve” blog covers the two programs that air on the Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US)’s ABC television network, was previously sued by the reality shows’ producers in federal court in Los Angeles in December 2011.

“The Bachelor” and its spinoff “Bachelorette” each feature a principal character who chooses a potential marriage partner from among 25 contestants selected by the producers. The identity of the chosen person -- who is given the “final rose” -- isn’t revealed until the final show of the series.

In the first suit, the producers claimed Carbone offered at least one participant $2,500 to reveal information about the show.

Although Carbone was sent a cease-and-desist letter in August 2011, and a second in November of the same year, he continued to solicit confidential information from participants in the program, according to court papers.

In a statement posted on his website, Carbone acknowledged that he did approach three former contestants and “offered them compensation in return for information regarding the show.” He said all three refused and that he never paid for any advance information he revealed about the program.

On June 1, the producers filed court papers saying they sought to dismiss the suit. Under terms of the agreement signed by Carbone, he can’t initiate contact with the cast, crew or other employees of the program concerning any non-public details of the show.

In his website posting, Carbone said that although he will abide by the agreement, it “does not prevent me from spoiling the show, and I will continue to do so like I have for the past three years.”

The new complaint, filed Dec. 21 in the same court, the producers said that beginning in September 2012, Carbone began posting details about the newest “Bachelor” show, which began its new series last night.

The producers said Carbone obtained confidential details about the unaired programs by contacting and soliciting information from participants, cast, crew and/or other employees of the series. Carbone did post the name of the alleged winner - - namely the woman chosen by the current Bachelor Sean Lowe -- on his blog on Nov. 26, saying the winner is Catherine Giudici of Seattle, an employee of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US)

In the new complaint, producers ask for a court order barring Carbone from revealing the secret information and for damages of $10,000 for each alleged breach of the settlement agreement from the first case.

Additionally, they ask for extra money damages, and awards of litigation costs and attorney fees.

Carbone responded in a Jan. 3 blog posting, saying that the producers think he got the information he posted by violating the previous settlement agreement and acting illegally. “They have shown me no proof I violated the agreement because they have none,” he said.

He claims that by filing the suit, the producers are confirming the accuracy of the information he has posted. “Do you honestly think if I gave away the wrong ending, and wrong eliminations, and wrong details about the dates they would sue me?” Carbone asked on his blog.

The new case is NZK Productions Inc., v. Stephen Carbone, 2:12-cv-10887-JAK-FFM, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). The earlier case is NZK Products Inc., v. Stephen Carbone, 2:11-cv-10118-GHK-E, 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: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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