Bloomberg News

Samsung, Toho, Pernod Ricard, Marvel: Intellectual Property (1)

September 11, 2013

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) was sued by Dyson Technology Ltd., the vacuum-cleaner maker founded by U.K. inventor James Dyson, over claims his company’s steering technology was infringed.

The dispute concerns an invention called “a cleaning appliance with a steering mechanism,” Wiltshire, England-based Dyson said in an e-mailed statement. It filed the case Aug. 29 in London.

Dyson won a patent lawsuit against Samsung in 2009 over its cyclone vacuum-cleaner technology. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung has been embroiled in patent and copyright disputes with Apple Inc. over smartphones and tablet computers on three continents.

“Samsung has many patent lawyers so I find it hard not to believe that this is a deliberate or utterly reckless infringement of our patent,” James Dyson said in the statement.

Samsung’s Korean press office didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail sent outside regular business hours.

The case is Dyson Technology Ltd. v. Samsung Electronics Co., High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC13A03838.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Toho Claims ‘Mechahopzilla’ Beer Infringes ‘Mechagodzilla’

Toho Co. (9602), maker of the Godzilla films, sued a New Orleans brewery for trademark infringement.

The Tokyo-based movie company objected to New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co.’s “Mechahopzilla” beer, saying it infringes trademarks associated with its “Mechagodzilla” character.

According to a complaint filed Sept. 6 in federal court in New Orleans, Toho introduced Mechagodzilla in 1974, and has used it in four additional films as well as comic books, video games and toys. Mechagodzilla is described in court papers as the mechanical doppelganger of Toho’s Godzilla, a monster resembling a giant lizard.

The film company said it has numerous U.S. copyright and trademark registrations related to Mechagodzilla that are infringed by the New Orleans brewery.

Included in the complaint are color photos of a can of Mechahopzilla and the pull-tap for Mechahopzilla draft, both of which appear to depict a giant mechanical lizard-like monster. Toho claimed this character, described on the back of a Mechahopzilla can as a “hop monster,” is aimed at latching on to the goodwill associated with Godzilla.

Toho claimed websites have discussed the similarity between Mechahopzilla and Mechagodzilla. The public is likely to be confused by the similarity, and assume incorrectly that the brewery has some association with Mechagodzilla and Godzilla, the studio said.

Toho asked the court to bar the brewery’s registration of a Mechahopzilla trademark and further use of “Mechahopzilla.” Additionally, the film company asked for an order for the destruction of all infringing promotional material, as well as for money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. The studio is seeking triple damages to punish the brewery.

Kirk Coco, president of the brewery, said in an e-mail that his company followed “all the proper legal requirements” in researching the name and is waiting for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register “Mechahopzilla” for use with alcoholic beverages.

Toho’s infringement suit is “an attempt to have us pull” the trademark application, he said. The brewery will “continue to use the proper legal process” to file for the trademark, Coco said.

Absolut Salon Passes Hat Online to Change Name, MyNorthwest Says

Pernod Ricard SA (RI)’s demand that the owner of a hair salon in Everett, Washington, change its name or face trademark litigation moved the shop’s owner to go online to raise money for the name change, the MyNorthwest.com news site reported.

Jessee Skittrall, owner of the Absolut Hair Salon, is using the GoFundMe.com website to raise the $20,000 he said the name change will cost, according to MyNorthwest.

Although he claimed the cease-and-desist notice he received July 31 from counsel for Pernod Ricard, the owners of Absolut vodka, was the first notice of any trademark issues, the shop’s former owner said that he knew when he bought the business in 2009 that she had been contacted by Absolut, according to MyNorthwest.

Skittrall acknowledged that although he had seen a 2005 letter from the liquor company’s counsel, he assumed it was no longer a problem because there had been no further contact from the company, MyNorthwest reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Beastie Boys Sampling Copyright Suit Allowed to Proceed

The Beastie Boys hip-hop group will have to face some infringement claims made by the owner of copyrights to four songs by the group Trouble Funk over song samples, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan in New York yesterday said that one sample was significant to both a Trouble Funk original and a Beastie Boys song. She also let a second claim go forward, while rejecting four other claims, including one she said covered a sampled sound typically used in cartoons for a falling object.

Nathan gave the parties two weeks to submit a new case-management plan.

In an initial complaint, the copyright owner said the alleged samples were “effectively concealed to the casual listener” and identified “only after conducting a careful audio analysis.”

Those statements were omitted from an amended complaint. Lawyers for the Beastie Boys said the statements were “binding as factual and legal admissions” through which the copyright owner “pled his way out of court.”

Nathan rejected that argument, saying it was “largely irrelevant” to the question of whether the protectable elements of the samples were “quantitatively and qualitatively significant to the original song.”

The case is Tufamerica Inc. v. Diamond, 12-cv-03529, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Disney’s Marvel Settles ‘Ghost Rider’ Dispute With Comic Writer

Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Enterprises unit and comic book writer Gary Friedrich settled their copyright lawsuit over the “Ghost Rider” character, according to a court filing.

Friedrich has said he first came up with the idea for Ghost Rider in 1968 and assigned his rights to Marvel, which published the first “Ghost Rider” comic book in 1972. Friedrich claimed in his suit that the rights to the character automatically became his after the initial copyright term expired in 2000.

Marvel argued that Friedrich assigned his renewal rights to it under a work-for-hire agreement he signed in 1978. In June, a federal appeals court reversed a lower-court ruling in favor of Marvel, granting Friedrich a trial on his claim.

In his suit, Friedrich sought an unspecified share of the money made by Marvel on “Ghost Rider.”

In 2007, Sony Corp. (6758)’s Columbia Pictures released a film version of “Ghost Rider,” starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. The film took in $228.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. A sequel, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” made $132.6 million.

According to the court filing, the parties submitted a letter to the court on Sept. 6 saying they resolved all claims. The court set a status conference for Sept. 12.

The case is Gary Friedrich Enterprises LLC v. Marvel Characters Inc., 12-00893, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

Grateful Dead Photographer Sues Over Web Sales of Garcia Picture

A photographer who specializes in images of the Grateful Dead filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against five named and 20 unnamed defendants for selling unauthorized copies of one of her photos on EBay Inc. auction website.

Roberta Kelly Madison Cohn, the music photographer formerly known as Robert Cohn, shot a photo of the late Jerry Garcia and Neil Young at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and registered her copyright for the image, she said in court papers.

According to the complaint filed Sept. 9 in federal court in San Francisco, unauthorized copies of the photo have been sold through various websites operated by the defendants and also on EBay. (EBAY:US) San Jose, California-based EBay isn’t a party to the suit.

She asked the court for money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs, and for an order barring the defendants from further infringement of her copyright. Additionally, she asked for the seizure of all unauthorized copies of the photo, together with Internet domain names, servers and computers used to publish, broadcast or archive copies of the picture.

The case is Madison v. Zeigler, 13-cv-04177, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Armenia’s Lawmakers Moves Against Copyright Misuse, Website Says

Armenian lawmakers passed legislation yesterday that would classify plagiarism as a misdemeanor, ArmeniaNow.com reported.

Violators who use others’ work or who fail to identify its original source would be subject to a fine, the website reported.

Ashot Melikyan, head of the legislature’s Freedom of Speech Protection Committee, said even though the law will need amending, it’s a first step toward improving copyright enforcement in the country, according to ArmeniaNow.com.

Before the bill was drafted, some media outlets tried to set up some voluntary anti-plagiarism measures, ArmeniaNow.com reported.

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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