Nebraska’s attorney general wrote to a Texas law firm accusing it of sending patent-infringement demand letters that could constitute unfair patent enforcement.
In a July 18 letter to Georgetown, Texas-based Farney Daniels LLP, Attorney General Jon Bruning said that the firm is making infringement assertions that “are unsubstantiated and contain false, misleading or deceptive statements.”
The firm’s actions may violate the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act, Bruning wrote. He demanded that Farney Daniels “immediately cease and desist the initiation of any and all new patent infringement enforcement efforts within the state of Nebraska.”
Bruning’s letter follows a suit the state of Vermont filed against a patent licensing company that is a Farney Daniels client. The suit, brought in state court in May, claims the patent-infringement demand letters sent to its citizens violate the state’s consumer protection laws, and accuses the company of being a patent troll.
Bryan Farney of Barney Daniels LLP defended the enforcement attempts in Vermont and said that the client was “simply trying to get people to license to use the technology.”
Farney said in an e-mail that while Nebraska’s attorney general “may have concerns about the U.S. patent system and how it works or particular types of patent owners, we are confident that any fair investigation will conclude our firm has lawfully and honorably represented our clients in upholding their rights.”
Bruning’s actions “should be of concern to every firm in the country that works to protect and enforce the lawful rights of U.S. patent owners,” Farney said.
The Vermont suit is State of Vermont v. MPHJ Technology Investments LLC, 282-5-13, State of Vermont, Superior Court, Washington Unit.
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Entrepreneur Media, Nashville Entrepreneur Center Settle Dispute
Entrepreneur Media Inc., an Irvine, California-based magazine publisher, settled a trademark dispute with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.
The California company sued Nashville Entrepreneur Center in federal court in Santa Ana, California, in February, claiming its Entrepreneur trademarks were infringed. It objected to the Tennessee company’s Internet domain name, www.entrepreneurcenter.com. The website’s look and feel was confusingly similar to the site belonging to Entrepreneur Media, according to court papers.
The Tennessee company’s applications to register “EntrepreneurCenter” as a trademark was also a concern for Entrepreneur Media, according to the complaint.
Nashville Entrepreneur Center, a Nashville-based non-profit that provides aid to startup companies, countersued in federal court in Nashville in May. The Tennessee company said it was unaware of any consumer confusion caused by its domain name and said that the publisher has a reputation as a trademark bully that “attacks small businesses, individuals, and non-profit organizations that offer services to entrepreneurs after these entities logically choose to include the term entrepreneur in their name.”
It asked the court to declare it wasn’t infringing the publisher’s trademarks.
Both cases were settled, according to court filings. Terms weren’t disclosed.
The Tennessee case is Nashville Entrepreneur Center v. Entrepreneur Media Inc., 13-cv-00529, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville). The California case is Entrepreneur Media Inc., v. Nashville Entrepreneur Center, 13-cv-00248, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).
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Aereo Plans to Expand Online Service to 12 New TV Markets
Aereo Inc., the Barry Diller-backed service that sends broadcast TV signals online to subscribers, will announce start dates for 12 new markets in the next several weeks, Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia said.
Aereo’s goal is to reach a quarter of the U.S. population in five to seven years, Kanojia said July 22 at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado. The New York-based company uses tiny antennas to capture broadcast signals for its customers.
Owners of broadcast networks and TV stations, including CBS Corp. (CBS:US) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US), are battling Aereo in court, saying the service steals their programming and resells it. Chase Carey, chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox Inc. (FOXA:US), has said if the courts don’t stop Aereo, Fox may become a cable channel to block the service. Kanojia said he expects the federal government would intervene in such a case.
Aereo is available in New York, Boston and Atlanta, according to the company’s website, with plans to expand to 18 more cities. Aereo doesn’t operate in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Idaho or Montana, where a U.S. District Court blocked a similar service in December.
The pace of closely held Aereo’s expansion will fall short of a company forecast earlier this year that the service would be available in 22 markets in three months, Kanojia said. Aereo will be available in about 20 cities, he said.
“We have a very patient investor base,” Kanojia said.
Kanojia said Aereo won’t take sides in a fee dispute that threatens to cut off CBS and its Showtime network for customers of Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC:US) The companies’ contract expires on July 24, and a spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable, Maureen Huff, told the New York Times the company would recommend Aereo to its New York customers if CBS goes dark.
Disagreements such as the one between CBS and Time Warner Cable will become more common as broadcast networks seek higher fees from pay-TV systems for the right to retransmit local TV signals to subscribers, Kanojia said.
Finnish Lawmakers to Look at Crowd-Sourced Changes to Copyright
Finland’s parliament will consider a crowd-sourced set of proposed changes to that nation’s copyright law, PCWorld reported.
The “Common Sense in Copyright Act,” received input from more than 1,100 people who voted, commented on or contributed to the draft, and was then vetted by volunteer lawyers who checked for its conformity to European Union copyright directives, according to PCWorld.
Impetus for the project is Finland’s 2006 legislation that classified downloading from peer-to-peer networks as a felony, carrying penalties similar to those imposed for involuntary manslaughter, PCWorld reported.
The proposed changes would reduce the penalties and permit teachers to use any copyright protected materials for teaching purposes, according to PCWorld.
Oracle Sues Computer Service Company for Copyright Infringement
Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US)’s Oracle America unit sued a California computer-service provider for copyright infringement.
Terix Computer Co. is accused of misrepresenting itself as an authorized provider of support for Oracle hardware and Oracle’s Solaris operating system, according to the complaint filed July 19 in federal court in San Jose, California.
Oracle, based in Redwood City, California, said Terix has falsely claimed to Solaris users that it’s authorized to access and deliver Solaris updates. Oracle required customers to buy an annual support agreement to receive that support and hasn’t made Terix a partner in the venture, the company said.
Support is made available to Oracle customers through a password-protected website that bars the disclosure and transmission of Oracle programs to others, according to court papers. Oracle says that Terix has accessed the support website to provide software to those who aren’t authorized for its use.
Terix is also accused of telling customers that they don’t need to buy the annual support agreement Oracle sells in order to have access to support and updates.
Terix, based in Sunnyvale, California, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.
Oracle asked the court to bar further infringement by Terix, and to order the return of its property, including its software and support materials and the destruction of all infringing materials.
The company also requested money damages, including extra damages to punish Terix for its actions, as well as awards of Terix’s profits attributable to the alleged infringement and attorney fees and litigation costs.
The case is Oracle America Inc. v. Terix Computer Co., 13-cv-03885, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
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