Bloomberg News

Virgin Atlantic, Qualcomm, Kim Dotcom: Intellectual Property (1)

July 05, 2013

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. said it will exit aircraft seat manufacturing, hours after losing a six-year legal dispute over the patent on its premium berths.

Virgin plans to sell the engineering department of its Threesixty Aerospace unit to Zodiac Aerospace SA (ZC) after the U.K. Supreme Court ruled that the French company -- the world’s biggest maker of aircraft seats -- isn’t liable for 49 million pounds ($75 million) in damages sought by the airline.

Founded as Reynard Aviation in 1998 to help Virgin compete with new products from British Airways, Threesixty worked with Contour Premium Aircraft Seating to produce the J2000 berth and its successor, the flat-bed Upper Class Suite. A rift developed when Contour, later bought by Zodiac, sought to supply seats of a similar design to carriers including Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL:US)

“The business needs to focus on what it does best, which is designing and delivering products that our passengers love,” Virgin said in an e-mailed statement.

Zodiac said separately that the purchase, for which it didn’t disclose a value, involves activities at Threesixty employing about 20 people.

Britain’s highest court ruled July 3 that Zodiac Seats U.K. Ltd. of Cwmbran, Wales, isn’t liable for damages even after an earlier hearing ruled in Virgin’s favor. That’s because the carrier amended the patent on its Upper Class seats following the original decision in the wake of a European Patent Office ruling that went against the U.K. judgment.

The July 3 ruling covers just one element of the intellectual property dispute, Virgin spokeswoman Louise Holding said in a separate statement, adding that the carrier invests heavily in innovation to differentiate its product from rivals.

Zodiac Aerospace acquired its U.K. business via last year’s purchase of Contour from Premium Aircraft Interiors Group Ltd., owned by a Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc investment vehicle. The company, based in Plaisir, near Paris, employs 30,000 people and has annual sales of 3.4 billion euros ($4.4 billion).

Threesixty Aerospace, based in Brackley, central England, referred questions to Virgin Atlantic.

Novartis Sues Intas Pharmaceuticals for Patent Infringement

Novartis (HCBA) AG sued Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (INTAS) for patent infringement, claiming it sought U.S. approval to sell a generic version of the immunosuppressant drug Myfortic before Novartis’s patents expired.

Novartis, in a filing July 3 in federal court in Washington, seeks to block Intas and its U.S. unit, Accord Healthcare Inc., from importing and selling generic Myfortic in the U.S. until its patents expire April 2017.

Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland, alleges its patents were violated when Intas filed a new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking to manufacture and sell 180 milligram delayed-release tablets of generic Myfortic, claiming Novartis’s patents are invalid.

The medication is used to treat patients who have had kidney transplants.

“Defendants products, if approved, will be administered to human patients in an amount effective to immunosuppress those patients, which administration constitutes direct infringement,” Frederick Haughey, a lawyer for Novartis, wrote in the complaint.

Chid Iyer, a lawyer for Ahmedabad, India-based Intas Pharmaceuticals at Sughrue Mion Pllc in Washington, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Novartis AG (NOVN) v. Accord Healthcare Inc. USA, 13-cv-01013, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Qualcomm Applies for Trademark to Be Used With SmartWatch

Qualcomm Inc., the maker of digital wireless communications equipment, may be planning to come out with a wristwatch mobile telephone, according to a recent filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The San Diego-based company filed an application with the patent office June 26 to register “Qualcomm TOQ” as a trademark.

The company said in its application that it will use the mark with “personal communication hub in the form of a wristwatch; portable electronic devices for transmitting and reviewing text, data, image, and audio files; hands-free devices for mobile phones; battery chargers.”

While Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) has filed a trademark applications in Japan for an “iWatch” trademark, as of July 3 the Cupertino, California-based company hadn’t filed a comparable application in the U.S., according to the patent office database.

Both Apple and Qualcomm may be coming late to the party, however. Pebble Technology Corp., a watchmaker that raised more than $10.2 million on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, has a smart watch that will beat both to the market. Pebble’s smartwatch will be available in Best Buy Co. (BBY:US) stores beginning July 7.

The $150 watch, which is compatible with devices that run both Apple’s iOS and Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Android mobile software, is already available on Best Buy’s and Pebble’s websites.

Nestle Barred From Registering Kit Kat Shape as U.K. Trademark

Nestle SA (NESN), the world’s biggest food company, can’t register the shape of its Kit Kat bar as a trademark in the U.K., Confectionery News reported.

The U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office in a June 20 ruling, rejected the application from the Vevey, Switzerland-based company, which had been opposed by Mondelez International Inc. (MDLZ:US)’s Cadbury unit, according to Confectionery News.

The U.K. ruling is at odds with a finding from the Board of Appeals Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market, which registers trademarks in the European Union and allowed registration of the shape, Confectionery News reported.

The hearing officer for the U.K.’s IP office said the reason his ruling excludes the registration is that he was provided more expert evidence than the Board of Appeals had, according to Confectionery News.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Dotcom Spars With N.Z. Prime Minister at Heated Spy-Law Hearing

Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom accused New Zealand Prime Minister John Key of lying as the two clashed at a parliamentary hearing on new spying laws.

Dotcom came face-to-face with Key July 3 for the first time since armed police stormed his Auckland-suburb mansion in January last year and his cloud-storage Internet site was shut down by the U.S. on piracy charges. He sparred with Key, who denied knowing about the Internet entrepreneur before the raid.

Key knew of him “well before the raid,” Dotcom said. “You know I know,” he said, turning to the prime minister and drawing laughter from the gallery. “Why are you turning red prime minister?”

“Why are you sweating?” Key replied.

“It’s hot,” Dotcom retorted.

The confrontation took place at a hearing into new legislation that was prompted by Dotcom’s arrest in what the U.S. calls the biggest copyright infringement case in its history. New Zealand’s foreign intelligence agency, the Government Communications & Security Bureau, was revealed to have illegally spied on Dotcom as part of the U.S.-led operation.

Key argues that New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service can already collect information on citizens, and that the laws governing the GCSB need to be clarified and brought up to date in a rapidly changing cyber-security environment.

The new law is “morally indefensible” and would set New Zealand on the same path as the U.S., which is facing accusations of mass cyber surveillance after leaks by former national security contractor Edward Snowden, Dotcom said.

“We should avoid blindly following the U.S. into the dark ages of spying abuse,” he said.

Key apologized to Dotcom in September for the GCSB’s activity. Dotcom, 39, has sued the GCSB for intercepting his communications. He is scheduled to face a hearing on his extradition to the U.S. next month.

Dotcom was indicted in January 2012 in Virginia on charges of racketeering, money laundering, copyright infringement and wire fraud.

The New Zealand case is Between Kim Dotcom and Attorney General. CIV2012-404-001928. High Court of New Zealand (Auckland). The U.S. case is USA v. Dotcom, 12-cr-00003, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

For more copyright news, click here.

Obituary

Douglas Engelbart, Computer Mouse Creator, Visionary, Dies at 88

Douglas Engelbart, the visionary electrical engineer who invented the computer mouse decades before the influx of personal computers into homes and workplaces, has died. He was 88.

He died July 3 at his home in Atherton, California, the New York Times reported, citing his wife, Karen O’Leary Engelbart. The cause was kidney failure.

Engelbart’s work at the Stanford Research Institute, today’s SRI International, resulted in 21 patents. The last one, No. 3,541,541, filed in 1967 and granted in 1970, was for the computer mouse, or as it was described in technical terms:

“An X-Y position indicator control for movement by the hand over any surface to move a cursor over the display on a cathode ray tube, the indicator control generating signals indicating its position to cause a cursor to be displayed on the tube at the corresponding position.”

He had devised the palm-sized, wheel-based instrument in 1963 as a way to move a computer-screen cursor by means other than arrows on a keyboard. Other alternatives being weighed at the time were a light-pen pointed at the screen, a tracking ball and a joystick.

On Dec. 9, 1968, at a computer conference in San Francisco, Engelbart unveiled his team’s work in a presentation that became known in tech circles as “the mother of all demos.” During the 90-minute session, linked to his lab by a homemade modem, Engelbart showed off then-novel feats including interactive computing, video conferencing, windows display and hypertext -- plus the rectangular, three-button controller he used to control the cursor on the screen.

“I don’t know why we call it a mouse,” he told his audience that day. “Sometimes I apologize. It started that way and we never did change it.”

The rationale for the name, he said in other interviews, was quite simple: the device resembled the rodent, with its cord as a tail. He said nobody on his team could remember who used the term first.

Engelbart had four children -- daughters Gerda, Diana and Christina, and son Norman -- with his first wife, the former Ballard Fish, who died in 1997. He married the former Karen O’Leary in 2008.

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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