Bloomberg News

Apple, Ford, Chilling Effects: Intellectual Property

April 08, 2013

Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), the maker of the iPhone and iPad, is seeking a patent on a technology that will make it possible to present street-level imaging in a mobile device.

Application 20130083055, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office April 4, is for position- tracking subsystems and onboard sensors that enable a mobile device’s virtual navigation of a location in panoramic imagery.

When the device is moved through space, translation data can be used to move up or down a street, or even into a commercial establishment, or navigate a turn at an intersection.

Cupertino, California-based Apple filed its patent application in September 2011.

Google Seeks U.S. Probe of Patent Privateering Defended by Nokia

Google Inc. (GOOG:US), joined by BlackBerry, urged U.S. regulators to investigate whether some competitors violate antitrust laws by hiring companies to file patent-infringement suits for them.

There’s been a rise of so-called privateers, which obtain patents from technology companies and then file infringement lawsuits against the sellers’ competitors, Google and BlackBerry said in an April 5 filing with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. (ELNK:US) and Red Hat Inc. (RHT:US), the largest seller of Linux operating- system software, also joined the submission.

The filing was part of broader comments by the companies on so-called patent assertion entities, which obtain patents for the sole purpose of extracting royalties. Such companies “impose an ever-rising tax on innovative industries,” Google, owner of the most widely used search engine, said in the filing.

“We are also concerned with, and suggest that the agencies should seriously examine, the outsourcing of patent enforcement by operating companies -- companies that develop technology and sell products -- to PAEs and the competitive implications of such activities,” Google and BlackBerry (BBRY:US) wrote. “So-called privateering amplifies the threat to innovation and competition already posed by PAEs.”

Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), Microsoft Corp., BT Group Plc (BT/A)’s British Telecom and Alcatel-Lucent are among companies connected with these licensing firms. Companies that would, in the past, assert their patents in lawsuits to protect their property now say they work with privateers to make money from past research.

In a typical lawsuit, competing companies accuse each other of infringing patents and then reach a cross-licensing agreement, which lowers the amount of money that has to change hands. That type of resolution isn’t possible when one side doesn’t make any products, and therefore doesn’t have to fear a retaliatory lawsuit.

By transferring patents to such a firm, for a cut of any revenue from a settlement or fees, a manufacturer can get a financial reward while insulating itself and its products from infringement claims and limiting its legal costs, Google and BlackBerry said.

Google said assertion entities can increase the cost of licensing because a portfolio can be split among multiple privateers, each demanding a royalty. That’s especially true when the larger company has patents that relate to technology used across the industry.

“These arrangements (and others) between operating companies and PAEs can, depending on the facts, transgress the antitrust laws,” Google and BlackBerry wrote.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Ford Seeks to Register ‘Inflatable Light Urban Vehicle’ Mark

Ford Motor Co. (F:US), the 110-year-old U.S. automaker, has filed an application to register the term “inflatable light urban vehicle (iLuv)” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

There is also a separate “iLuv” application filed on the same date in mid-March. The company said both will be used with autos.

Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, may be considering making a foldable car or a small three-wheeled electric vehicle for crowded cities, the Ford Inside News blog suggested.

Harare Dynamos Soccer Team’s Trademark Awarded to Creditor

A soccer club in Zimbabwe lost its trademark name and logo to a Cypriot financial company to which it owes money, the Harare Herald reported.

A civil court in Zimbabwe granted Qotho Finance a default judgment against the Harare Dynamos, according to the newspaper.

The debt is only $4,900, and club officials told the newspaper that the debt issue “is being attended to” and should be resolved within a week.

The order giving Qotho the trademark was handed down in mid-March, according to the Herald.

Bar Owner Drops ‘Husker’ Moniker After Complaint From University

The owner of Barry’s, a sports bar in the University of Nebraska’s home town of Lincoln, was told he had to drop the use of the university’s “Husker” nickname in the bar’s name, the Lincoln JournalStar reported.

Kevin Fitzpatrick told the JournalStar that while he is removing all references to “Husker,” he wonders why other businesses in the state -- including a crematorium, a steakhouse and a law firm -- are permitted the use of the term.

Michael Drucker of Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co., which licenses the school’s trademark, told the newspaper the issue with permitted use is whether customers might mistakenly think a ‘Husker’ business has a relationship to the university.

Because the bar is two blocks from campus, its use of the school colors and the “Husker” mark were more likely to give people the impression the school endorsed the bar, the JournalStar reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse Targeted in Takedown Requests

The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a project of San Francisco’s Electronic Frontier Foundation and several law schools, is the target of a number of takedown requests filed by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) and other content owners.

Function of Chilling Effects is the reporting of takedown requests made under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Those who have received cease-and-desist requests from content owners have been forwarding those notices for posting on the Chilling Effects blog.

According to Google Inc.’s Transparency Report, the search- engine company receives an average of two requests per week to take down content from the Chilling Effects website.

Google statistics indicate that Chilling-Effects takedown request have been received from Microsoft Corp., NBCUniversal, Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., and the brand-protection company Marketly LLC.

Prometheus, Penske Media Settle Source-Code Copyright Dispute

Prometheus Global Media LLC, a content company operated by Guggenheim Partners LLC, has settled a copyright-infringement suit brought by Penske Media Corp., according to a court filing.

The case was filed in federal court in Los Angeles in September 2011. Penske, which does business as PMC and is the published of Variety, accused Prometheus of copying the computer source code used on PMV’s TVLine.com website.

In the complaint, PMC alleged that Prometheus -- publisher of the Hollywood Reporter -- not only misappropriated the source code. The company also filed to remove the “digital fingerprints that identified the content as PMC’s.

In settlement of the case, Prometheus agreed to pay Penske $162,5000. Additionally, Prometheus was given the option of releasing a statement acknowledging that it had copied the source code, apologized, compensated PMC, and the dispute has been resolved. Each party was to pay its own attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is Penske Media Corp. v. Prometheus Global Media LLC, 2:11-cv-07560-FMO-MRW, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Vkontakte to Appeal Infringement Damages Award to Singer Maksim

Vkontakte, Russia’s largest social network, said it will appeal an order requiring it to pay damages to the Russian singer Maksim for unauthorized use of her music on the Vkontakte website, the Russia Beyond the Headlines news website reported.

Vkontakte has been the target of copyright-enforcement activities by Recording Industry Association of America, a music-industry trade group that has called the social media site one of the world’s worst pirates, according to the news website

The social media site blocks unauthorized file-sharing only after receiving a complaint from the owner of the content, Beyond the Headlines reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

-- With assistance from Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Mary Romano, Glenn Holdcraft

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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