Intellectual Property News - September 2009

$388 million patent verdict against Microsoft set aside – September 30, 2009

A $388 million patent infringement jury verdict against Microsoft has been set aside by U.S. District Judge William Smith. Uniloc Inc. had filed a patent infringement suit against Microsoft in 2003. This decision comes after a legal battle fought for about six years. Judge Smith wrote “The Court has reviewed the transcripts and evidence with painstaking detail in the light most favorable to Uniloc, careful not to act as the eleventh juror. What remains is a firm belief (indeed a certitude) that the jury 'lacked a grasp of the issues before it' and reached a finding without a legally sufficient basis." Smith further stated that the jury’s method of deciding how much Microsoft owed Uniloc was flawed.

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Web hosts liable for contributory trademark infringement – September 30, 2009

Eight California jurors delivered a $32 million judgment against two web-hosting companies – Akanoc Solutions and Managed Solutions Group – for aiding and abetting of counterfeit goods. Andrew J. Coombs, attorney for Louis Vuitton Mallettier spent six days explaining to the jury the doctrine of contributory infringement. This decision has paved a new ground for trademark owners struggling to force Web hosts to shoulder some of the burden of policing against counterfeits. Coombs stated that the jury grasped “the fundamental principles” of contributory trademark infringement and that “they were not impressed with this willful blindness.”

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Winnie the Pooh copyright claims against Disney dismissed – September 28, 2009

Copyright claims of Winnie the Pooh licensee Stephen Slesinger against Walt Disney co. were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper. This brings to an end a legal battle fought since 1991. Disney was sued by Singer’s heirs claiming the entertainment giant had comingled Pooh and Mickey Mouse revenue to avoid paying them more than $700 million in royalties. Cooper stated in her opinion that “The court is satisfied that under the clear terms of the parties' agreements, SSI transferred all of its rights in the Pooh works to Disney, and may not now claim infringement of any retained rights.” Disney said “We are pleased with the ruling of the federal court dismissing all of SSI's remaining claims.”

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IP Procure continues to add to its list of granted patents – September 25, 2009

Continuing to provide excellent services to its clients, IP Procure was successful in obtaining patents for two of its clients. Trigent Inc., a software company that provides software business solutions and offshore outsourcing services was granted a patent on the invention titled “Report Construction Method Applying Writing Style And Prose Style To Information Of User Interest” bearing Patent #7599899. The second patent application titled “Means For Transmitting Two Signals On The Same Frequency At The Same Time For Use In Mobile And Fixed Applications” bearing Patent #7590191, has been granted to an individual inventor Nigel Macrae.

Brazilian telecom company files trademark suit against Nokia – September 24, 2009

Nokia faces a trademark suit over the use of its services brand Ovi in Brazil. Ouvi Divulgacao, e Marketing em Celulaes Ltda, a Brazilian telecoms services firm stated that Nokia was abusing the Ovi brand in Brazil to compete directly with Ouvi, a brand that the Brazilian company has used since 2004. Tore Haugland, the Chief Executive of Ouvi, which is owned by Norwegian investment firm Diem Telekom stated that “We are sure that the Brazilian court will rule in our favor and we look forward to Nokia removing the Ovi brand from all the phones that have been shipped in Brazil and stopping using and mentioning this brand in Brazil.”

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Hearing of Google Books case postponed – September 24, 2009

The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and Google have been given more time to modify their proposed agreement to settle the copyright infringement lawsuit that is on-going for the past 4 years. The U.S. Department of Justice stated that the settlement needs to be reworked so that it complies with U.S. Copyright and Antitrust laws, as well as with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which governs the approval of class-action lawsuit settlements. Judge Denny Chin wrote that “Under all the circumstances, it makes no sense to conduct a hearing on the fairness and reasonableness of the current settlement agreement, as it does not appear that the current settlement will be the operative one.” The parties still need to be present in court on October 7 for a status hearing, during which they will work out a schedule on how to proceed.

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Copyright suit filed against Ebay – September 16, 2009

Founders of Skype, Niklas Zennstorm and Janus Friis, filed a copyright suit against Ebay. In the court filing, Joltid, a company owned by the Skype founders, claims that eBay violated copyright law by altering and sharing the peer-to-peer source code behind the free Internet calling service. The Skype founders maintained ownership of that source code after selling Skype to eBay in 2005, and licensed it to eBay. The law suit was filed on Wednesday in the US District of Northern California. John Pluhowski, an eBay spokesman, stated the suit’s allegations “are without merit and are founded on fundamental legal and factual errors. “We remain on track to close the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2009.”

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Turbine Inc. named in patent infringement law suit – September 16, 2009

Turbine Inc., a leading maker of Internet-based, multiplayer video games has been named in a patent infringement suit filed by Paltalk Holdings Inc. The current lawsuit targets a number of the world’s largest online gaming firms. Paltalk claims that the data-sharing technologies that are used in the games made by Turbine violate patents owned by Paltalk that cover technologies for sharing data among many connected computers so that all users could see the same digital environment. The lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court in Marshall, Texas. Christopher Donnelly, a partner at Donnelly Conroy & Gelhaar LLP said that “The eastern district of Texas is considered a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction.”

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Interplay sued by Bethesda over “Fallout” trademark – September 14, 2009

Interplay has been sued by Bethesda who alleges trademark infringement over the Fallout license. Bethesda’s main complaint is over the re-release of older Fallout games by Interplay without its permission. Interplay published The Fallout Triology – which contains Fallout 1, Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics. Bethesda alleges that The Fallout Triology is confusingly similar to Fallout 3 and may affect sales. Bethesda also complains about Interplay licensing the first Fallout games to systems like Steam and GoodOldGames without seeking prior approval. In a legal document, Bethesda states that “The benefits to Bethesda in obtaining a permanent injunction are equal to or outweigh the potential harm, if any, which Defendant Interplay would incur if this Court were to issue a permanent injunction." 

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Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook cleared of copyright infringement claims – September 11, 2009

Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, was cleared of copyright infringement accusations regarding her cookbook “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food,” which suggested that parents add pureed fruits and vegetables to basic recipes. The book has been published by Harper Collins in October 2007. Mrs. Seinfeld was accused of plagiarism by Missy Chase Lapine, the author of “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals,” published in April 2007 by an imprint of Perseus Books Group. Judge Laura Taylor Swain of Federal district Court wrote in her review that “Lapine’s cookbook is a dry, rather text-heavy work,” while Ms. Seinfeld’s “cookbook has a completely different feel and appears to be directed to a different audience.”

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McDonalds loses exclusive right to use prefix “Mc” – September 9, 2009

McDonald’s lost an eight year long trademark battle against McCurry after Malaysia’s Federal Court allowed the latter to use prefix “Mc.” McCurry, which is short for "Malaysian Chicken Curry," serves Malaysian staples including fish head curry, according to the company website (www.mccurryrecipe.com). Chief Judge of Malaya Ariffin Zakaria, reading the verdict of the three-person Federal Court in the administrative capital, said McDonald's had failed to properly frame its questions when applying to challenge the Appeals Court's earlier verdict. Ariffin stated that "It is unfortunate that we have to dismiss the application with costs." 

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Open Invention Network seeks to acquire certain Microsoft patents – September 8, 2009

In order to avoid possible infringement suits by Microsoft, the Open Invention Network is seeking to acquire certain patents that were previously owned by Microsoft. Recent suggestions from Microsoft indicate that companies using the Linux computer-operating system might be infringing patents owned by Microsoft. The Open Invention Network consists of companies such as International Business Machines Corp, Red Hat Inc. and Sony Corp. Linux is a free open-source operating system that has gained ground since its blueprint is open to users and can be customized according to one’s needs.

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Flickr adopts less-severe method to deal with copyright claims – September 2, 2009

After a controversy that erupted about a photograph of President Barack Obama modified to look like The Dark Knight’s rendition of the joker comic-book villain, Flickr has adopted a less severe method of handling copyright infringement claims. Flickr’s director, Heather Champ stated that “Upon receipt of a complete NOI (notice of infringement), the U.S. Copyright Team will replace the image with a new static image that bears the following copy: 'This image has been removed due to a claim of copyright infringement.”

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Web hosting companies held liable for contributory trademark & copyright infringement – September 1, 2009

Two web hosting companies – Akanoc Solutions Inc. and Managed Solutions Group Inc., based in Fremont, California, and their owner, Steven Chen, have been held liable for contributory trademark and copyright infringement. The companies have been ordered to pay more than $32 million in damages for selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton goods on their websites. Louis Vuitton’s counsel Andy Coombs said that "It represents a positive contribution to existing case law and marks the first time statutory damages have been awarded against those found contributorily liable for trademark infringement."

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