Bloomberg News

Mitsubishi Heavy, InterDigital, Nevro: Intellectual Property (1)

December 17, 2013

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and General Electric Co. agreed to settle their U.S. patent infringement dispute over wind-turbine technology by allowing each other to cross-license their products, according to a statement from Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy yesterday.

GE, the largest U.S. producer of wind turbines, and Mitsubishi Heavy agreed not to disclose details, the statement said. The settlement couldn’t be confirmed in court filings.

In 2008, Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging that Mitsubishi’s 2.4-megawatt turbines infringe its patents.

GE filed one suit with a district court in Texas in 2009, and a second in 2010, according to the Mitsubishi Heavy statement. Mitsubishi Heavy countersued the same year in Florida and Arkansas courts.

The GE lawsuits may have brought “enough uncertainty over MHI products to discourage developers from using them,” Justin Wu, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s head of wind analysis, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Mitsubishi Heavy said the settlement has a minor impact on earnings and it won’t revise its earnings forecast.

Officials at General Electric’s Tokyo office weren’t immediately available for comment.

The Texas case is General Electric Co. (GE:US) v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. 2:09-cv-00229. U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Corpus Christie). The Florida case is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. v. General Electric Co. 6:10-cv-00812. U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Orlando).

China Threatened InterDigital Over Huawei Patents, CEO Says

InterDigital Inc. (IDCC:US) Chief Executive Officer William Merritt said the Chinese government is threatening his company over its bid to collect patent royalties from phonemaker Huawei Technologies Co.

China’s antitrust agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, said it “couldn’t guarantee the safety of people” sent on behalf of the CEO or the company’s U.S. lawyers to a meeting scheduled for later this week, Merritt said in a telephone interview.

An investigation began in China after InterDigital, which owns patents on fundamental mobile-phone technology, filed an infringement complaint against Huawei and other handset manufacturers at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The U.S. agency, based in Washington, is scheduled to issue a final decision in the case Dec. 19. The meeting with Chinese officials was scheduled for the day before.

“From everything we heard, they wanted us over before that date” of the final U.S. trade decision, Merritt said. “There was some pressure being put on us in China to get ahead of the ITC case.”

InterDigital sent a letter to the Chinese officials saying they wouldn’t attend the meeting because of the threats. The letter was reported earlier by Reuters.

William Plummer, a spokesman for Shenzhen, China-based Huawei, said the company “cannot speak to whatever perceptions another company might have about whatever experience they are having with whatever proceedings in which they might be engaged.”

Huawei, China’s largest maker of phone-network equipment, has filed complaints in Europe and China accusing InterDigital of demanding excessive royalties and of failing to fulfill its pledge to license patents that are used in industry standards on fair and reasonable terms.

A U.S. trade judge in July found no violation of InterDigital’s patent rights by Huawei, ZTE Corp. (000063) or Nokia Oyj. (NOK1V) The judge rejected arguments that InterDigital breached its licensing obligations. The six-member commission is reviewing those findings and can order an import ban of any products found to infringe U.S. patents.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Urban Distillery’s ‘Spirit Bear’ Mark Raises Ire in Canada

The owner of a distillery in Kelowna, British Columbia, said he’s cynical about the trademark suit filed against him by the City of Terrace, British Columbia, and one of the First Nation tribes in the province, British Columbia’s Capital News reported.

Mike Urban of Urban Distilleries told the newspaper that he did due diligence on the “Spirit Bear” mark he uses on his vodka before he opened his company in 2010 and no one raised any issues at that time.

He said he thinks greed is the motivation of the suit and “I don’t know why else they would be doing this,” according to the Capital News.

The Kitsoo First Nation tribe and the city, which registered the mark in 2006 and 2004 respectively, said the association of “Spirit Bear” with alcohol isn’t considered an appropriate use of the mark, according to the newspaper.

NFL Panthers’ Coach Rivera Seeks to Register ‘Riverboat Ron’

Ron Rivera, coach of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers, filed an application to register “Riverboat Ron” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

His Coach Rivera LLC filed an application Nov. 18 to register the term for use on T-shirts, golf shirts and hats.

The Panthers are 10-4 so far this season, after defeating the New York Jets 30-20 on Dec. 15.

Rivera told ABC Sports that he and his wife plan to use the mark to raise money for the charities they support.

The nickname had its origins in a Photoshopped image of the coach as a riverboat gambler created in November by Jim Kennedy of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Bob Marley’s Estate Sues Baton Rouge Restaurant Over ‘One Love’

The musical estate of Bob Marley, the Jamaican reggae star who died in 1981, sued a Louisiana restaurant chain for trademark infringement involving the title of one of his best-known songs.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Massachusetts, Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd. accused Raising Cane’s USA LLC of infringing the “One Love” trademark. Fifty-Six Hope Road owns the “One Love” mark in the U.S. and has pending applications to register it for several other categories.

Marley and the Wailers released “One Love” in 1977, and it has been included in compilations including “Legend,” which has sold more than 13.5 million copies in the U.S., according to court papers. The song has also been licensed to the Jamaican Tourist Board, where it’s the official theme song of Jamaican tourism, the estate said in its pleadings.

The estate objected to the Baton Rouge-based chain’s “Cane’s One Love” trademarks and the use of the term “Cane’s One Love” on the menu to promote and sell chicken fingers. It said the mark is confusingly similar to the one associated with Marley and the public is likely to be confused.

Raising Cane is deliberately using “Cane’s One Love” to capitalize on the fame of Marley and his song, according to the estate, which said the restaurant uses the mark on clothing, a category of goods in which it also sells products.

The estate asked the court to bar the chain’s use of “Cane’s One Love,” cancel the “Cane’s One Love” trademarks and award money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Raising Cane’s spokeswoman Julie Perrauld said in an e-mail that her company “will continue to defend our rights” to its trademark. She said the chain had used the mark since 2001 without conflict and had met with a member of the Marley family in an effort to resolve the dispute before the case was filed.

The case is Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd. v. Raising Cane’s USA LLC, 13-cv-13110, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyrights

German Law Firm Sends Demand Letters to Streaming Site Users

Urmann & Collegen Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH, a Bavarian law firm, sent warning letters to as many as 30,000 households in Germany, stating that users have viewed adult films through the RedTube.com streaming website without authorization, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported.

Each letter requested payment of a 250 euro fine ($344) to a Swiss media agent that claims ownership of the copyright to the films, according to the Guardian.

The firm’s Thomas Urmann said this was its first attempt to go after people who used a streaming site as opposed to a site through which content is downloaded, according to the newspaper.

RedTube.com said in a statement that the company finds no foundation for the claims and considers the law firm’s sending the letters to be a violation of privacy, the Guardian reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets

Boston Scientific Sues Ex-Employee Who Now Consults for Nevro

Boston Scientific Corp., a medical device maker based in Natick, Massachusetts, sued a former researcher for trade secret misappropriation and violation of his employment contract.

The suit, filed Dec. 13 in Boston federal court, accused Dongchul Lee of taking to Nevro Corp. of Menlo Park, California, confidential information relating to spinal cord stimulation for the treatment of chronic pain.

Lee signed an employment agreement with Boston Scientific in October 2009 that bound him not to disclose its proprietary information outside the company, according to court papers.

During his exit interview, Lee was reminded of the agreement’s restrictions and told certain jobs elsewhere might be out of bounds because they’d “necessarily entail disclosure” of Boston Scientific’s trade secrets.

Boston Scientific said Nevro is a direct competitor and the information possessed by Lee “would be very valuable to Nevro.” Its disclosure would be “profoundly damaging,” Boston Scientific said in court papers.

Boston Scientific asked the court to bar Lee work related to the computer modeling of the human nervous system that would disclose his former employer’s proprietary information.

Additionally, the company asked for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Nevro isn’t a party to the litigation.

Neither Lee nor Nevro responded immediately to a request for comment e-mailed through the California company’s website.

The case is Boston Scientific Corp. v. Dongchul Lee, 1:13-cv-13156-DJC, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston)

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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Companies Mentioned

  • GE
    (General Electric Co)
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  • IDCC
    (InterDigital Inc/PA)
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