Bloomberg News

Samsung, Louboutin, Humane Society: Intellectual Property (1)

September 30, 2013

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, offered to settle a European Union probe into whether it tried to use mobile-phone patents to hinder competition from Apple Inc. (AAPL:US)

“After lengthy discussions, Samsung has sent us a set of commitments seeking to address our concerns,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a Sept. 27 speech in New York. “We will formally market-test these proposed commitments with other market participants in the coming weeks.”

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, told Samsung last December that it may have violated competition rules by seeking injunctions against Apple products in various European countries based on so-called standard-essential patents, or SEPs, that it owns.

The EU is cracking down on patent abuses as Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Motorola Mobility Holdings (MMI:US) unit, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US), Apple and Samsung trade victories in divergent court rulings across the world on intellectual property. Almunia has said he’s targeting “rules of the game” to prevent companies from unfairly leveraging their inventions to thwart rivals.

If, after it has tested Samsung’s remedies with rivals and complainants, the commission concludes that the commitments address its concerns, “we will take a commitment decision which would -- I believe -- bring clarity on SEPs and injunctions across the industry,” Almunia said last week.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Almunia, declined to comment on the details of Samsung’s remedies.

Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, said it has been “in constructive” talks with the EU. It declined to comment on what remedies it has offered.

The Korean company began seeking injunctions against Apple in courts in EU countries in 2011, based on alleged infringement of patents for 3G technology, according to the commission. The two companies have filed dueling patent lawsuits around the world over a variety of intellectual property issues.

Under phone industry agreements on standards, companies owning the rights to essential technology must usually license it to competitors on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Louboutin Seeks Ban on Shoe Image in Anti-Islam Campaign Poster

Christian Louboutin Sarl is asking a Belgian court to order a campaign against immigration to quit using images of its famous red-soled shoes in posters denouncing Islam, Agence France-Presse reported.

Belgium’s Women Against Islamisation’s poster shows the legs of the former Miss Belgium, today a senator in a party that opposes immigration, wearing Louboutins, and lifting her skirt up high, according to AFP.

Superimposed on the image of the senator’s bare leg are a series of words related to skirt lengths, ranging from “Sharia compatible” at ankle height to “stoning” up on the thigh, the news service reported.

The French shoe company told a court in Antwerp that its reputation is tarnished by the poster and asked for an immediate ruling barring the use of the image of its shoes, AFP said.

Heineken Seeks to Block Chinese Company’s Use of Trademarks

Heineken NA (HEIA), the Dutch brewer, accused a Chinese sewing machine company of pirating its trademarks, the Financial Times reported.

Wujian Xili Machinery Factory is accused of using the Heineken name on sewing machines it’s exhibiting at a Shanghai trade show, according to the Financial Times.

A lawyer for Heineken, Joseph Simone of Hong Kong’s Simone IP Services, told the Financial Times a company that steals another’s trademark can block that company from entering the Chinese market and using Chinese factories to make products.

Wujian Xili’s legal officer, Cai Fuwei, said that the company hadn’t acted in bad faith in registering the mark and that the logo the brewer objected to was designed by an outside entity, the Financial Times reported.

Chateau Listran Changes Name to Fight Chinese Trademark Squatter

A Bordeaux chateau changed its name to sidestep the unauthorized registration of the name as a Chinese trademark, Decanter, the spirits and wine news publication, reported.

Chateau Listran, a Cru Bourgeois estate in France’s northern Medoc region, changed its name to L’Estran after an unauthorized party registered “Listran’ in China, according to Decanter.

The winemaker couldn’t enter China under its original name unless it managed to void the other registrant’s trademark or buy back the name, Decanter reported.

Trademark squatters in China will typically sell a mark for as much as 30,000 euros ($41,000), while the registration of the chateau’s new name as a trademark cost only 1,000 euros, according to Decanter.

Humane Society Loses Challenge to ‘Other White Meat’ Sale

The Humane Society of the U.S. lost its bid to challenge the purchase by the National Pork Board of the ‘‘Other White Meat” slogan and trademark.

A federal judge in Washington said the Humane Society, the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and an individual hog producer were all ineligible to sue.

The plaintiffs argued that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture shouldn’t have approved $35 million purchase of the slogan and trademarks from the National Pork Producers Council by the Pork Board. The 15-member board was established under the 1985 Pork Act to strengthen the industry and promote its products.

Pork producers in the U.S. are required to pay assessments to the board, with the money going to plans and projects.

The court said none of the plaintiffs could demonstrate either that the activities of the Pork Board were harmful to their interests. The suit was dismissed on Sept. 27.

Randy Spronk, the head of the National Pork Producers Council, told the Des Moines Register the case was a “waste of taxpayers’ money” resulting from a “vendetta” against the U.S. pork industry.

The case is Humane Society of the United States v. Vilsack, 12-cv-01582, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Singapore Copyright Infringement Defendant Cleared After Death

The defendant in a criminal copyright infringement case in Singapore was cleared of all charges 19 months after his death, the Straits Times reported.

A Singapore court found that infringement charges hadn’t been proven against the Michael Chew Choon Leng or his pest-control firm, Alterm Consortech, and ordered a refund of the fines Chew and his company paid, according to the newspaper.

He had been convicted of unauthorized distribution of drawings of a system aimed at preventing cockroach invasion into buildings, according to the newspaper.

His widow pursued the appeal to clear the name of her husband, who died two weeks after he was sentenced in 2012, the Straits Times reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-Motorola Engineer’s Trade Secret Conviction Upheld on Appeal

Hanjuan Jin, a former Motorola Inc. (MSI:US) software engineer, failed to win an appeal of her conviction and four-year prison sentence for trade secret theft.

She was convicted in 2011 of three counts following a nonjury trial. Indicted in 2008, Jin was accused of working simultaneously for Motorola and Kai Sun News (Beijing) Technology Co., also known as SunKaisens, which was affiliated with China’s military.

Jin filed an appeal, and on Sept. 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago said there was adequate evidence of her guilt and her sentence was actually much lower than recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors sought a term of as long as eight years while defense attorneys requested probation.

In the opinion written by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner, the court said that “given her egregious conduct, which included repeatedly lying to federal agents,” Jin was “fortunate” to have been given such a lenient sentence.

U.S. customs agents stopped Jin as she was about to board a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 28, 2007. In her possession were more than 1,000 Motorola documents, $30,000 in cash and a one-way ticket to China.

The technology at issue was related to Motorola’s Integrated Digital Enhanced Network, which is used in the “push-to-talk” system that enables handsets to act as walkie-talkies.

Motorola, now known as Motorola Solutions Inc., is a maker of communications equipment based in Schaumburg, Illinois, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Chicago.

While Jin “criminally betrayed” Motorola, prosecutors failed to convince the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that she was a Chinese agent.

Her defense attorney, John Murphy, told the court his client had survived bouts of meningitis, tuberculosis and cancer.

The judge who heard the case said Jin’s health was a factor in her punishment, and her sentence might otherwise have been longer. He assessed an intended loss of $10 million to $15 million, saying that only Jin’s interdiction by the customs agents prevented her from leaving the U.S. with stolen secrets.

The lower court case is U.S. v. Jin, 08-cr-192, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The appeal is U.S. v. Huanjuan Jin, 12-2013, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago).

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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