Bloomberg News

Samsung, Nordstrom, Budvar, Apple: Intellectual Property

January 16, 2013

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) is the leading corporate applier for patents on a new carbon substance for which two scientists at the University of Manchester won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics, the BBC reported.

The substance, known as “grapheme,” is a single layer of carbon atoms and, as the thinnest material ever created, has potential uses in a wide range of technologies, according to the BBC.

CambridgeIP, which has been tracking grapheme-related patent applications, reported that of the 7,351 patents and applications filed by the end of 2012, International Business Machines is second to Samsung in seeking patents on the technology, according to the BBC.

China is the country that is the source of the most patent applications -- 2,200 -- while the U.K. has only 54, a situation that has caused David Willetts, that nation’s science minister, to say “we need to raise our game,” the BBC reported.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Nordstrom Fails to Get Order Against ‘Beyond the Rack’ Mark

Nordstrom Inc. (JWN:US), the Seattle-based clothing chain, failed in its attempt to get a court to bar a Canadian retailer’s use of “Beyond the Rack.”

The Seattle chain filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit in August claiming that 755525419 Canada Inc.’s use of “Beyond the Rack” infringed trademarks related to Nordstrom’s Nordstrom Rack unit, which sells “clearance” merchandise.

Beyond the Rack sells clothing on the Internet through its “flash sale” site. For these sales, customers are alerted, typically by e-mail, and typically have 48 hours in which to make a purchase. Unlike Nordstrom, Beyond the Rack has no brick- and-mortar presence, according to court papers.

The public probably would be confused and the Canadian company was trying to piggyback on the Seattle chain’s fame and prestige, Nordstrom said in its pleadings filed in federal court in Seattle.

U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly was unpersuaded by Nordstrom’s arguments. He said that many stores use “rack” somewhere in their names, and more than 500 registered U.S. trademarks also contain the word. Nordstrom’s “Rack” and “The Rack” trademarks “occupy a crowded field of similar marks, with each member of the field enjoying a relatively weak ability to prevent use by others in the crowd,” he said.

Zilly determined that Nordstrom failed to present sufficient evidence that consumers were actually confused by the similarity of names used by the Seattle and Canadian companies.

Nordstrom also failed to demonstrate it would suffer irreparable harm if the Canadian company was to continue to use “Beyond the Rack,” Zilly said.

“Nordstrom has provided no analytic or evidentiary support for the contention that its reputation or goodwill has been or will be diminished” by the Canadian company’s continued use of “Beyond the Rack,” he said in denying the request for a court order.

The case is Nordstrom Inc. v. 7525419 Canada Inc., 2:12- cv-01387, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).

Apple, Amazon Settlement Talks Scheduled in ‘Appstore’ Case

Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) and Amazon.com Inc. were ordered to hold settlement talks to try to resolve the iPhone maker’s trademark- infringement lawsuit over the online retailer’s use of the term “app store.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco directed the companies to confer on March 21 and to bring their lead attorneys and people who have full authority to negotiate and settle the case, according to a court filing yesterday. A trial is scheduled for August.

Apple is seeking a court order to block Amazon from using the term Appstore in its service to sell software for devices running Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Android operating system. Apple alleges the online retailer infringes its trademark and violates unfair competition laws.

Apple started its App Store in 2008. Amazon, which started its service in March 2011, says the term is a generic one that Apple doesn’t have exclusive rights to. Amazon won dismissal this month of Apple’s claim that the use of the term is false advertising.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California- based Apple, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the order. An e-mail message seeking comment sent to Seattle-based Amazon’s press office wasn’t immediately returned.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Amazon.com Inc., 11-01327, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

Both Budvar and Anheuser-Bush Permitted ‘Budweiser’ Name in U.K.

Budejovicky Budvar NP and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) may both sell beer in the U.K. under the Budweiser name, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

The court said it rejected Anheuser-Busch’s request to reverse a lower court ruling, which said Czech Republic-based Budvar could keep the name, according to AP.

State-owned Budvar told AP that Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch won’t be permitted to appeal the Supreme Court ruling.

Apple Sued in Russian Court Over Use of Russian Railways Mark

Apple Inc., maker of the iPad and iPhone, was sued for trademark infringement in a Moscow court yesterday, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The suit was brought by Russian Railways, which objected to what it said was unauthorized use of its logo in Cupertino, California-based Apple’s App Store, according to RIA Novosti.

The logo allegedly shows up in the “Railway Tariff” app, which provides estimates related to cargo delivery in Russia, RIA Novosti reported.

Although RIA Novosti failed to reach Apple for comment by its deadline, the news service reported that Moscow’s Court of Arbitration confirmed the filing of the suit.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

MIT Embrace of Web Freedom Clashes With Hacking Case Criticism

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- the first university to require professors to make their work freely available after publication -- has posted class materials online for a decade. Last year, it joined with Harvard to offer free courses on the Web. MIT’s faculty includes a hacker who was fined $10,000 for releasing a computer virus.

Yet when Aaron Swartz broke into an MIT network to download millions of research articles he intended to post publicly, he found himself in a tricky legal area that MIT itself hasn’t resolved. U.S. prosecutors indicted him on fraud charges. Swartz, who advocated that access to information shouldn’t be restricted to people who can afford it, faced as long as 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. The 26-year- old hanged himself in his Brooklyn, New York, apartment Jan. 11.

Now students, faculty and top administrators at MIT are asking why the campus, known for its openness, got involved in the case in the first place.

MIT President Rafael Reif said Jan. 13 that he ordered an investigation of the institute’s role in Swartz’s case. The school declined to comment beyond that statement “both out of respect for those grieving Aaron’s death and because we do not want to get ahead of the forthcoming analysis,” spokeswoman Kimberly Allen said in an e-mail.

In 2009, MIT’s faculty voted to require that professors make their work publicly available after publication.

MIT has been a haven for computer hackers and advocates of free access to information. Richard Stallman, who founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985, was an MIT computer scientist. Robert Tappan Morris, who was fined $10,000 and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service for releasing a “worm” computer virus in 1988, is on MIT’s computer-science faculty.

Swartz was accused in a 2011 federal indictment of gaining unauthorized access to JSTOR, a subscription-service for academic journals, and downloading more than 4 million of them. According to a federal indictment, Swartz made a number of attacks on the JSTOR system from Sept. 24, 2010 to Jan. 6, 2011, while he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, according to the indictment.

While JSTOR settled its claims with Swartz, the Justice Department charged him with wire fraud, computer fraud, unauthorized access to a protected computer and computer damage.

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz dismissed the case yesterday in a federal court filing, citing Swartz’s death.

The case was U.S. v. Swartz, 11-cr-10260, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

Warner Music Sued by Composer Gershwin’s Heirs Over Royalties

Warner Music Group Corp. was sued by George Gershwin’s heirs over claims they’re owed $4.5 million in royalties and interest from works of the late composer of “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Porgy and Bess.”

The claims relate to the rental of Gershwin’s works outside the U.S. and Canada, worldwide licensing of ballets, worldwide licensing of concert grand rights and Warner Music’s failure to register copyrights in a timely manner, according to the complaint filed Jan. 11 in New York state court in Manhattan.

The heirs, including a nephew and niece of George and Ira Gershwin, said in the complaint that in 2007 they reviewed Warner Music’s books and records, which they said revealed “significant non-payments and/or underpayments of royalties and other amounts” as well as other contractual breaches.

The heirs are also conducting two other examinations related to other “worldwide and traditional income issues” and may bring additional claims, they said in the complaint.

James Steven, a spokesman for Warner Music, declined to comment Jan. 14 on the lawsuit.

George Gershwin died in 1937. Besides “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Porgy and Bess,” he is known for his “An American in Paris” symphonic work, and at least 15 musical comedies performed on Broadway.

The case is Gershwin v. WB Music Corp., 650117/2013, New York State Supreme Court, County of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at vslindflor@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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    (Nordstrom Inc)
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    (Apple Inc)
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