Bloomberg News

Patent Legislation, Apple-Samsung: Intellectual Property (1)

November 19, 2013

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Senator Michael Lee, a Utah Republican, introduced legislation to protect businesses and innovators who are targeted by so-called patent trolls.

The objective of the bipartisan Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 is to increase transparency in patent ownership, make procedural reforms in patent litigation, combat frivolous demand letters and improve resources for small businesses that are targeted in patent infringement suits, among other provisions, according to a statement yesterday from Leahy’s office. 

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, is an original co-sponsor of the bill.

Leahy said in a statement that “America’s patent system is the envy of the world, but unfortunately some bad actors are misusing the system to sue unsuspecting consumers or extort monetary settlements by making misleading demands.”

Apple Can Seek U.S. Block of Samsung Smartphones, Court Says

Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) can pursue a ban on sales of some Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) products found to infringe its patents on smartphone features, after winning a U.S. appeals court ruling.

The patents cover features that Apple says make its iPhone unique, such as multitouch technology. The Cupertino, California-based company can’t block Samsung products for infringing patented designs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted yesterday on its website. The ruling gives Apple another chance to curb sales of its top competitor in the $279.9 billion market for smartphones.

Apple must prove the features were a factor customers used in selecting which smartphone to buy, though it doesn’t have to show that it was the single driving factor, the court ruled. The trial judge, in rejecting Apple’s request for a sales block on Samsung phones, said Apple would have to prove that each feature drove sales of smartphones.

“To the extent these statements reflect the view that Apple was necessarily required to show that a patented feature is the sole reason for consumers’ purchases, the court erred,” the three-judge panel in Washington ruled. “Rather than show that a patented feature is the exclusive reason for consumer demand, Apple must show some connection between the patented feature and demand for Samsung’s products.”

While many of the phones in this case are no longer sold, Apple has another case against Samsung going to trial in March over newer models, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Should U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who is presiding over the case, impose a ban on the older models, Apple could argue that newer phones are the same products gussied up with new names.

The question sent back to the judge “concerns a very narrow scope of evidence presented by Apple,” Adam Yates, a Samsung spokesman, said in a statement. The company is confident it can avoid any sales ban, he said.

Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

For more, click here.

Emerson, ABB Rebuffed by Top Court in $111 Million Patent Case

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand a $111 million award won by SynQor Inc. in a patent-infringement suit against nine makers of computer-system power converters, including units of Emerson Electric Co. (EMR:US) and ABB Ltd. (ABB:US)

The justices yesterday turned away an appeal by the defendants, leaving intact a jury verdict and appeals court decision favoring SynQor, a manufacturer based in Boxborough, Massachusetts.

The dispute involved safety features that control how much electricity goes to large computer systems, as well as to telecommunication and data communication equipment.

Under the judgment in the case, Emerson’s Artesyn and Astec units had to pay $14 million of the award and ABB’s Power-One unit more than $25 million. The companies also were told to pay additional damages for infringement.

The case is Artesyn Technologies v. SynQor, 13-375.

For more patent news, click here.

Trade

Port-to-Facebook Sales Mission Shows Pacific-Trade Deal Jeopardy

The mounting resistance in the U.S. to a Pacific-region trade deal can be found in the travel itinerary of its chief salesman: Michael Froman.

Over the past week Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, has touted the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the Port of Los Angeles, at Paramount Pictures Corp. studios in California, a breakfast hosted by Facebook Inc. (FB:US) in San Francisco and an “armchair discussion” about trade with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at that city’s Commonwealth Club.

As chief negotiators from the 12 nations drafting the accord meet for discussions in Salt Lake City, Froman today will make the pitch at two events in Washington, including a lunch hosted by the World Wildlife Fund, which says the agreement must have provisions to discourage illegal trade in timber and animals. The countries negotiating the pact want to reach an agreement by the year’s end, as opposition from Congress, consumer groups, automakers and labor unions mounts over a range of issues.

“What we do in TPP will matter for the global trading system,” Froman said Nov. 16 after a visit to the Port of Los Angeles. “Ultimately, TPP can serve as a platform for regional integration, and support and bolster the multilateral trading system.”

Republicans in Congress have said President Barack Obama’s administration isn’t doing enough to advance its trade agenda, including obtaining approval from Congress this year to put the TPP and other future trade deals on a fast track for congressional approval without amendment.

The Pacific accord, which would cover a region with about $28 trillion in annual economic output, would go beyond usual trade pacts dealing with tariffs and traditional goods like agriculture. It would establish rules for trade in digital commerce and include environmental standards and protections for companies that compete against government-backed businesses.

The other nations involved in the discussions are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The U.S. is also pursuing a separate free-trade accord with the 28-nation European Union.

The Pacific talks have run into a series of obstacles. The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Nov. 13 released a 94-page document said to be a draft of the intellectual-property chapter of the accord. Froman’s office declined to comment on the release.

For more, click here.

Copyright

Novelist Loses Copyright Infringement Dispute Over Horror Movie

A plaintiff’s copyright-infringement claim based on alleged similarities between his psychological-thriller novel and a defendant’s horror film was appropriately dismissed by the district court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held Nov. 13 in an unpublished opinion.

The plaintiff, Daniel Segal, wrote a psychological thriller about a psychiatrist in California who specializes in regression therapy -— a form of therapy that looks to traumatic events in past lives to explain ailments being suffered in a patient’s current life. One of the patients is believed to be haunted by the spirit of her identical twin, who died as an infant. The novel is called “Transfers,” which is also the name of a subsequent screenplay that was written and registered by Segal.

In 2009, the movie “The Unborn” was released to a nationwide audience by the defendants. The movie, the Ninth Circuit said, is “about a Jewish family haunted over generations by a dybbuk -— that is, an otherworldly spirit from Jewish mysticism that enters this world through twins.” The movie, like the novel, also features a set of twins, with one living and the other dying in infancy.

“Other than the generic plot feature of twins and hauntings, the selection and sequencing of these works have no relationship to one another —- identical, fraternal, or otherwise,” the appeals court said in dismissing the case.

The case is Segal v. Rogue Pictures, 12-55587, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Los Angeles).

For more copyright news, click here.

For trademark news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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