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Proview, Sazerac, Mecca Cola: Intellectual Property

February 16, 2012

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Corrects Chrysler item in Copyright section to remove reference to Daimler in story published Feb. 15.)

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Proview International Holdings Ltd., which claims ownership of the iPad trademark in China, is asking that nation’s customs bureau to block imports and exports of Apple Inc.’s tablet computer.

Proview, a Hong Kong-listed maker of computer displays, owns the trademark through its Shenzhen unit and has been unable to reach an agreement with Apple over use of the name, Roger Xie, a lawyer representing Proview, said by telephone yesterday.

“We are applying to customs to stop any trademark- infringing products from imports to China and also for exports,” said Xie, who is based in Shenzhen. “Apple wants to postpone and continue infringement of the iPad in China.”

Carolyn Wu, Apple’s Beijing-based spokeswoman, said the Cupertino, California-based company bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 countries, including China. The iPad is manufactured in China by Foxconn Technology Group.

“Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China,” Wu said. “Our case is still pending in mainland China.”

A halt to exports from China would be “catastrophic” for Apple because it would mean a global halt to iPad sales, said Stan Abrams, an intellectual property lawyer and a law professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing.

“There’s got to be a settlement, and fairly soon,” Abrams said. “I can’t see how much more incentivized to settle Apple could be.”

Apple sued Proview’s Shenzhen-based unit in 2010, claiming ownership of the iPad trademark in China. The Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court rejected Apple’s claims on Nov. 17, Proview said in a Dec. 15 regulatory filing. Apple appealed that ruling to the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong province on Jan. 5, Proview said in a Jan. 27 filing.

Proview also filed a trademark-infringement case against Apple in Shanghai trying to halt iPad sales at Apple’s own stores in China, said Xie, a partner with the Grandall Law Firm. That case is scheduled to begin Feb. 22.

Separately, Proview filed trademark infringement complaints seeking enforcement from at least 20 local government agencies, some of which have started seizing iPads in local markets, Xie said.

Proview “hasn’t yet decided the final claim amount to Apple,” Xie said. A December report by China’s official Xinhua News Agency saying Proview would seek 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) was “preliminary,” he said.

Sazerac Sues Maker of ‘SinFire’ for Trademark Infringement

Sazerac Co., the 162-year-old Louisiana distillery, sued an Oregon company for trademark infringement.

The suit, filed Feb. 10 in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, is related to marks used with cinnamon-flavored alcohol. Sazerac says a variety of names used with Hood River Distillers Inc.’s SinFire Cinnamon Whiskey infringe its “Fireball” and “Fire Water” trademarks.

Both “SinFire” and “Fireball” are used with cinnamon- flavored whiskey, and Sazerac uses “Fire Water” for its cinnamon liqueur, according to court papers.

Hood River filed an application to register “SinFire” as a trademark in Aug. 17, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. On Jan. 18, Sazerac filed what is known as an opposition with the patent office, attempting to block registration of the Oregon company’s mark.

Sazerac, based in New Orleans, says it uses a “sin” theme to promote the Fireball product, which is marketed as a “challenge shot” or an “I dare you to try it” beverage that is “targeted to the adult demographic who enjoy ordering and drinking these types of beverages.” It registered the first of its “Fireball” marks in June 2004.

Distribution of the Hood River product is set to begin this month, and Sazerac says the public will be confused by the similarity in names, and that it’s likely to lose control of its “hard-earned reputation” if Hood River is allowed to produce and sell a product under the “SinFire” name.

It asked the court to bar Hood River’s use of “SinFire” and any trade dress, marks or graphics confusingly similar to what closely held Sazerac uses with its Fireball and Fire Water products.

Additionally, Sazerac asked that Hood River be barred from registering its mark, and for awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

Hood River didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

Sazerac is represented by Todd S. Bontemps of San Francisco’s Cooley LLP and Scott P. Zoppoth of the Zoppoth Law Firm of Louisville.

The case is Sazerac Co. Inc., v. Hood River Distillers Inc., 3:12-cv-00079-CRS, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).

Emirates High Court Says No to ‘Mecca’ as Cola Drink Trademark

The Federal Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates barred a soft drink company from using the word “Mecca” in the name of a cola beverage, the National, Abu Dhabi’s English- language newspaper, reported.

The court reversed a lower court’s decision, finding it was unacceptable to use the name of Islam’s holy city as a trademark, according to the National.

Mecca Cola World Co. of Dubai, which began producing Mecca Cola in 2003, argued the marks had already been registered in the country, and that consumers were used to that name for the product, the National reported.

The lower court found the use of the mark acceptable because “Mecca” can also refer to a geographic location, according to the National.

GM Files Four Applications to Register ‘App Shop’’ Trademarks

General Motors Co. filed four trademark applications containing the word “app” according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The applications, filed Feb. 6, cover “app shop,” “appshop,” “Chevrolet app shop” and “Chevrolet appshop.”

The marks are to be used with software applications and an online retail platform where people can acquire such software, General Motors said in its applications.

Apple Inc. sued Seattle’s Inc. in March in attempts to block the online retailer from using the term “App Store.” Amazon argues that the term is generic and can’t be protected by trademark law.

In July, U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton denied Cupertino, California-based Apple’s request for an order temporarily barring’s use of the term.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Inc., 4:11-cv-01327- PJH, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

For more trademark news, click here.


Boeing Sued for Infringement by McDonnell Family Member

Boeing Co., Chicago-based maker of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft, was sued for patent infringement by a company led by a member of the family that founded McDonnell Aircraft Corp.

Advanced Aerospace Technologies, the St. Louis-based company suing Boeing, is owned by William Randall McDonnell. His family founded McDonnell Aircraft, which Boeing acquired in the 1997 purchase of McDonnell Douglas.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 8 in federal court in St. Louis, is related to launch and recovery systems for unmanned aircraft. Money damages being sought are estimated to exceed at least $160 million, according to court papers.

In dispute are patents 6,874,729, issued in April 2005, and 7,097,137, issued in August 2006.

Boeing’s Insitu unit is accused of infringing the patents through the “Skyhook” retrieval system used on at least six types of Insitu’s unmanned aircraft.

McDonnell’s company said it sent Insitu a copy of a pending patent application for a hook design for catching the aircraft in 2000. Advanced Aerospace accuses Insitu of modifying its own design based on the patent application. Bingen, Washington-based Insitu’s patent 7,059,564, was issued in June 2006, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Insitu is accused of gamesmanship with the patent office. In its application, Insitu cited McDonnell’s patent application “as one of more than one hundred other references to further obscure its significance,” he said.

More than a month before Boeing acquired Insitu in 2008. McDonnell said he advised the planemaker in writing that it was using his patented technology without authorization. Boeing “should have known that Insitu was building its business on infringing technology,” according to court papers.

Boeing won’t comment on the specifics of the case because litigation is pending, John Dern, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday

“However, we believe our products do not infringe the plaintiff’s patents and that the court will agree with us,” Dern said.

McDonnell’s company asked the court for money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. He didn’t request a court order barring use of his patented technology.

Advanced Aerospace is represented by Lindsay S.C. Brinton, Craig S. King, Anthony W. Shaw, Richard J. Webber, Kevin R. Pinkney and Taniel E. Anderson of Washington’s Arent Fox LLP.

The case is Advanced Aerospace Technologies Inc., v. Boeing Co., 12-cv-00226, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

For more patent news, click here.


Australia Names Legal Academic to Head Copyright Inquiry

Professor Jill McKeough, dean of the law faculty at Australia’s University of Technology Sydney, was named to head the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Copyright Law, according to a university statement.

McKeough, a specialist in intellectual property law, will lead efforts to look at copyright law in the digital environment. The issues are “complex and challenging for both creators and users of copyright material,” McKeough said in the university’s statement.

The commission will review whether Australia’s present copyright law is “adequate and appropriate” in the digital environment, according to a commission statement. Among the issues to be examined are private copyright when format- shifting, time-shifting or for special purposes.

Chrysler Ad Pulled From YouTube, Allegedly on NFL Complaint

Chrysler’s Super Bowl advertisement featuring Clint Eastwood was temporarily taken down from Google Inc.’s YouTube video-sharing service Feb. 13 following an infringement claim from the National Football League, the Baltimore Sun reported.

YouTube told the Sun it removed the video after receiving an infringement notice from either a copyright owner or a third- party agency acting for the owner.

The league told the Sun it hadn’t filed the claim and that it asked Google to put the ad back up again immediately.

The ad featured Eastwood discussing hard times in America, the Sun reported.

For more copyright news, click here

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Total’s SunPower Sues SolarCity Over Trade-Secret Pacts

Total SA’s SunPower Corp. sued SolarCity Corp. for unfair business practices, claiming five former SunPower employees illegally used trade secrets.

SunPower said an investigation after the five left the company showed they had copied “tens of thousands of files” and moved information to SolarCity computers, according to a lawsuit filed Feb. 13 in federal court in San Jose, California.

“Defendants have willfully interfered with SunPower’s ownership and possessory rights to such property without lawful justification,” SunPower said in a complaint. The company is seeking unspecified damages.

SunPower, based in San Jose, makes solar panels, and San Mateo, California-based SolarCity is a distributor of such panels and related equipment, SunPower said.

Jonathan Bass, a SolarCity spokesman, didn’t immediately return voice and e-mail messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

In addition to SolarCity, SunPower is suing its five former employees: a managing director of operations and four project developers.

The suit alleged the proprietary information -- which included market analysis, quotes, proposals, business analysis - - was taken through the connection of USB storage devices to company computers. The use of such devices was a violation of company policy, according to court papers.

SunPower seeks a return of its confidential information, and an order barring its further disclosure and use. Additionally, it asked for an award of profits SolarCity derived from its unauthorized use of the proprietary information, money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

The company is represented by Michael K. Friedland and Boris Zelkind of Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP of Irvine, Calironia.

The case is SunPower v. SolarCity, 12-cv-694, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

--With assistance from Edmond Lococo in Beijing and Phil Milford in Wilmington, Delaware. Editors: Stephen Farr, Mary Romano

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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