Bloomberg News

Apple, Chick-Fil-A, Levi Strauss: Intellectual Property

April 24, 2013

Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) averted an order that could have hindered imports of the iPhone 4 into the U.S. after persuading a U.S. trade agency to invalidate a patent owned by Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Motorola Mobility unit over a phone sensor.

The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington upheld a judge’s findings that the Motorola Mobility patent is invalid April 22, though for different reasons. The disputed patent 6,246,862 covers a sensor that prevents the phone from accidentally hanging up or activating an application when close to a person’s face.

The decision is the latest instance in which neither Cupertino, California-based Apple nor Google has been able to strike a decisive blow against its competitor in a squabble that began more than two years ago. Each has claimed the other is infringing patents, and Apple accused Motorola Mobility of breaching obligations to license some of its most widely used technology on fair terms.

Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Google, said the Mountain View, California-based company was disappointed and is “evaluating our options.” Amy Bessette, a spokeswoman for Apple, said the company had no comment.

The dispute with Motorola Mobility predates its acquisition by Google last year. Apple contends phones running on Google’s Android operating system copy the look and features that make the iPhone unique. In addition to Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics Co., Apple sued Taiwanese handset maker HTC Corp. (2498) in a case that settled in November with royalty payments and a pledge that HTC wouldn’t copy Apple designs.

Apple is appealing the loss of its own case against Motorola Mobility at the agency over touchscreen technology, and both companies are challenging a decision by a judge in Chicago to toss infringement claims they filed against each other. A federal judge in Miami presiding over another dispute between the two called them “obstreperous and cantankerous” and said they were more interested in never-ending litigation as a business strategy than in resolving disputes.

Google paid $12.4 billion for Motorola Mobility in large part to get access to its trove of more than 17,000 patents and gain leverage against Apple.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music and Data Processing Devices, Computers and Components Thereof, 337-745, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Chick-Fil-A’s ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ Trumps Kale-Promotion Slogan

A Vermont-based artist’s attempt to register “Eat more kale” as a trademark has been thwarted by efforts of the Chick- fil-A Inc. fast-food chain.

Robert Muller-More was informed by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that his mark was likely to be confused with the chain’s “eat mor chikin” marks.

The trademark examiner said in the refusal letter that the perceived similarities between kale and chicken “are more important than the differences.”

Both parties’ marks “have a similar concept -- encouraging those that encounter the marks to eat more of something. The marks urge action in the same way, only as to different substances and both of them are commonly consumed types of food,” the examiner said.

Muller-More had argued in his submissions to the patent office that his mark was intended to “invoke the message of buying and eating locally grown produce and living close to the earth and the farmer” while the Atlanta-based chicken chain’s mark simply seeks to persuade the consumer to eat chicken instead of beef.

Levi’s Red-Tab Trademark Infringed by Swiss Company, Court Rules

Levi Strauss & Co., the San Francisco company known for its blue jeans, has won a challenge to its trademark of a red tab in a pocket seam, the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper reported.

Colloseum Holding AG, a Swiss company, had begun selling its brand of blue jeans with a red tab stitched into the seam of one of its back pockets, and argued that its use of its name on the tab precluded consumer confusion with the Levi mark, according to the Telegraph.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice ruled that Levi’s red tab is integral to the California company’s brand, the newspaper reported.

Golden Nugget Sued Texas Resident Over Domain-Name Registration

The Las Vegas-based operator of the Golden Nugget casinos sued a Texas resident for trademark infringement.

GNLV Corp. said Alisa Lesueur of San Antonio has registered 10 infringing domain names that link to casino and gambling websites. Among the names are www.online-golden-nugget- poker.com, www.golden-nugget-online-casino.com and www.goldennuggetonlineslots.com.

The casino company said that Leseur was sent a cease-and- desist letter. Her registration of the allegedly infringing names is evidence of a “bad-faith intent to profit from” the casino’s trademarks, GNLV said in its complaint.

Consumers are deceived by the names and likely to think, falsely, that an affiliation exists between Leseur’s domain names and the Golden Nugget casinos, according to court papers.

Leseur said in an e-mail that “our lawyers are talking” and that she was “not aware of the infringement until I got the notice from the Golden Nugget.”

GNLV asked the court for an order barring further infringement and for the transfer of Leseur’s domain names. Additionally, the casino company seeks money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is GNLV Corp. v. Lesueur, 13-cv-00679, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

Kansas to Promote Goods With ‘From the Land of Kansas’ Mark

The Kansas Department of Agriculture Agricultural Advocacy has applied for a new trademark and begun using the mark to promote the state’s agricultural products, manufacturers, and restaurants “serving one primary Kansas food product,” according to the department’s website.

The database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates that the application for the “from the land of Kansas” mark was filed in February. The state said in its application that it plans to use the mark with wood products, clothing, and non-food agricultural products such as fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides produced in Kansas, in addition to food products.

Retailers and farmers’ markets that register with the state will be permitted to use the mark, which featured a single stock of golden wheat on a circular blue background.

The program is intended to “brand, support and celebrate Kansas agricultural products and services from the farm all the way to the fork,” according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website.

The state has already set up a page on Facebook Inc. (FB:US)’s social-media site promoting the “From the land of Kansas” campaign.

Specialty Fertilizer Claims ‘Manure Plus’ Infringes Trademark

Specialty Fertilizer Products LLC, an agricultural chemical company, has sued a Minnesota competitor for trademark infringement.

The complaint, filed April 17 in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri, accused ProfitPro LLC of infringing the “More than Manure” trademark.

ProfitPro, of Albert-Lea, Minnesota, produced a product under the name “Manureplus.” Specialty said this product is directly competitive with its More Than Manure product, and that the public is likely to be confused and deceived by the name similarity.

The alleged infringement has been “deliberate and willful,” and ProfitPro has refused to comply with Specialty’s cease-and desist letters, the Kansas company claims in its pleadings.

Specialty, of Leawood, Kansas, asked the court to bar ProfitPro’s alleged infringement and for awards of money damaged, attorney fees and litigation costs. Additionally, the Kansas company requests that any damages award be tripled and that extra damages be added to punish ProfitPro for its actions.

ProfitPro didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is Specialty Fertilizer Products LLC v. ProfitPro LLC, 4:13-cv-00381-BCW, U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri (Kansas City)

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Yandex Loses Copyright Challenge to Skan.ru’s App Distribution

Yandex LLC, owner of Russia’s largest search engine, has lost its attempt to prevent the operator of the Skan.ru website from distributing an app to which Yandex had exclusive rights, the Russian Legal Information Agency reported.

The Sverdlovsk Regional Commercial Court rejected Moscow- based Yandex’s copyright infringement claim and demand for 1 million rubles ($31,640) in compensation for the unauthorized use and distribution of its program, according to the news agency.

Skan.ru had distributed an amended version of the program, which itself wasn’t developed by Yandex and which contained outside elements, the news agency reported.

Kenya Destroys Electronic Equipment in War Against Piracy

Kenya’s Copyright Board, working with that country’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Center, destroyed electronic equipment used in the production of pirated material or illegal distribution of television broadcast signals, Nairobi’s Star newspaper reported.

In announcing the destruction of the equipment, the board said that there is a 98 percent piracy rate in the music and broadcast industry in Kenya, according to the Star.

In the past year, the board has investigated more than 120 cases of piracy and prosecuted 108, Marisela Ouma of the board told the Star.

Ouma said the high rate of piracy impeded the growth and development of Kenya’s creative industries, the Star reported.

Copyright Agency Claims Councils Lack Licenses to Make Copies

The U.K.’s Copyright Licensing Agency said that at least a third of local city and town councils risk copyright infringement charges because they lack licenses for staff-made copies of print and digital media, the U.K.’s Local Government Chronicle reported.

The agency released this data in the wake of a dispute in which the city of Brighton & Hove was ordered to pay licensing and legal fees, according to the publication.

The Local Government Chronicle reported that the Copyright Licensing Agency’s fee is 29.20 British pounds ($44.55) per professional employee.

Brighton & Hove Chief Executive Penny Thompson told the Local Government Chronicle that the alleged infringement occurred on a small scale in 2009 and 2010.

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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