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Microsoft, Amazon, Levi, Bing: Intellectual Property

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, is seeking a patent on a method of sponsoring artists such as musicians.

According to the application, the technology covered by the patent would permit an artist to sidestep “one of the commercial oligopolies, who therefore decide who will and who will not be popular regardless of the merit of the underlying product or its appeal to consumers.”

The technology would enable the issue of a virtual share by which participants can personally invest in an author or his or her content to receive ownership rights of future earnings, according to the application.

Under this system, sponsorship of the artist is more likely to be based on merit as seen by the consuming public “rather than based upon protectionist principles,” Microsoft says in its application.

The Redmond, Washington-based software company applied for this patent in November 2007, with the assistance of Amin Turocy & Calvin LLP of Cleveland, Ohio. The firm is now known as Turocy & Watson LLP.

Microsoft’s 20090138349 application was published May 28, along with 5,822 other applications for U.S. patents, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It’s one of 24 Microsoft applications published that day.

Amazon Gets U.S. Patent on Brick-and-Mortar Building Design Inc., the world’s largest online retailer, may have considered a brick-and-mortar presence, according to a U.S. patent that was issued May 26.

The Seattle-based retailer received patent D593,208, a design patent for a building. The drawings show a single-story flat-roofed building with an awning and a side opening.

The drawing appears to resemble a photo of a grocery pickup station that Amazon’s AmazonFresh unit operated briefly.

Amazon applied for the patent in October 2007, two months after it began offering delivery of produce items. Initially AmazonFresh offered both home delivery and pickup at a number of locations in the Seattle area. The pickup service was discontinued in February 2008, according to the AmazonFresh Web site.

The Seattle-based IP firm of Christensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC assisted Amazon, with the patent.

Sanofi’s Plavix Faces More Generic Copies in Europe

The European Medicines Agency’s committee on human medicines recommended approval for six generic versions of Sanofi-Aventis SA’s Plavix blood thinner.

Four of the six registrations are from Acino Holding AG, the Swiss generic-drug maker that began selling a lower-priced version of the blood thinner in Germany last year. Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Inc. and closely held Pharmathen SA, based in Athens, also won approval to sell versions of the medicine throughout Europe.

Acino is gaining two percentage points of market share a month on Plavix in Germany, taking 32 percent of the market in volume by late March, Chief Executive Officer Luzi Andreas von Bidder said in a May 7 interview. The Basel-based company’s version of the blood thinner, known generically as clopidogrel, has “huge growth potential next year,” Von Bidder said.

Plavix is second in worldwide sales only to Pifzer Inc.’s cholesterol-lowering Lipitor.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. sells the blood thinner in the U.S., where an appeals court in December blocked generic competition until 2011. In April a Bristol-Myers Squibb executive pleaded guilty to giving false information to U.S. regulators in efforts to delay generic competition for Plavix.


Levi’s Windows Support White Knot Marriage-Rights Campaign

Levi Strauss & Co., the closely held maker of Dockers pants and Levi’s jeans, is supporting the campaign for same-sex marriage rights through window displays in its San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York stores.

Mannequins in those store widows are wearing “white knot” ribbons that are part of a campaign for marriage equality for same-sex couples.

White Knot for Equality, an advocacy group based in West Hollywood, California, applied to register “” as a trademark on March 19, 2009, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The mark is to be used for an association “promoting the interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in obtaining equal rights under the law,” according to the application.

The group is already selling T-shirts, bumper stickers, boxer shorts, cooking aprons, mugs, clocks and water bottles marked with the trademark through the Web site.

Woori Loses Exclusive Trademark, Korea’s High Court Rules

Woori Finance Holdings Co., South Korea’s largest financial company, cannot exclusively use the world “woori” as a trademark for its Woori Bank unit, Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported May 30.

That nation’s high court said the term “woori eunhaeng,” which means “our bank” in Korean, confused the public when used as an exclusive trademark, according to JoongAng Daily.

If Woori had the exclusive trademark, other banks wouldn’t be able to use the phrase when speaking of their own financial institutions, the court ruled and JoongAng Daily reported.

The ruling didn’t bar the bank’s use of the term, only its exclusivity, according to JoongAng Daily.

Microsoft’s Bing Steps on Writer Bing’s Name, He Says

Microsoft Corp., which introduced a new search engine May 28, applied to use “Bing” as a trademark March 2, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Spartan Brands Inc., of New York applied March 17 to register the term for text and numeric wireless digital messaging services. The company is known for selling ethnic cosmetics and headgear.

In January, Inspiration Beverage Co. of Lakewood Colorado registered Bing for energy drinks, fruit drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks, non-alcoholic beverages containing fruit juices, and fruit beverages.

Jeffrey A. Smith of Columbus, Ohio, registered the term in July 2002 for plush toys and stuffed animals.

Stanley Bing” is a name used by a business writer whose blog -- named “Bing” -- appears on a Fortune magazine Web site. The writer released a statement May 29 in which he expressed “moderate outrage” at Microsoft’s choice of name for the search engine. He’s been writing as Stanley Bing for Fortune since 1995, and for Esquire for 11 years before that, according to his blog.

Bing said he has “absolutely no intention of initiating any form of legal action against Bing (the Search Engine) unless he/it feels it would be mutually beneficial for us to do so.”


Heifer Replaces Top Executive amid Infringement Allegations

Heifer International, the philanthropic group that enables donors to give needy people farm animals, has appointed an acting chief executive to replace Janet K. Ginn.

Ardyth Neill, formerly the organization’s chief financial officer, has taken the top post on a temporary basis.

Ginn and the foundation “mutually agreed” she should resign “amid allegations of copyright infringement and plagiarism” according to a statement from the organization.

The decisions “follows a thorough investigation conducted by the Board and outside legal counsel,” Heifer said in the statement.

Heifer did not disclose information about the nature of the alleged infringement.

Ginn is the author of “Circles of Giving: Donors’ Stories of Wisdom,” which was published by Eudora Press LLC in June 2006. Eudora Press is based in Little Rock, Arkansas, as is the charity.

According to Ginn’s listing on the networking site, she is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, and ran a $75 million organization. She’s worked at the Heifer Foundation since 1998, according to the listing.

Canadian IP Report Recalled After Plagiarism Allegations

The Conference Board of Canada recalled three reports on IP issues, the Ottawa-based nonprofit research organization said in a statement.

The reports were recalled fallowing an internal review that “determined that these reports did not follow the high quality research standards” of the board, according to the statement.

Professor Michael Geist, who teaches IP law at the University of Ottawa, said in a March 25 blog posting that the report was cut and pasted from a report on Canada published by the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a U.S.-based advocacy for content owners.

He posted sections of the two reports side by side on his blog so that readers could compare the text.

“The lack of attribution in some instances, this work would face possible plagiarism sanctions in almost any academic environment,” Geist wrote in his blog posting.

The conference board statement doesn’t mention that the report was copied.

Dutch Music Rights Group Loses Copyright Fees in Investments

Buma/Stemra, a Dutch copyright-fee collection society for music authors and publishers, had to cut rights payouts to its members this year because of money it lost in its investments, Dutch News reported.

The society has withheld 10.4 percent of the 2008 payout of 140 million euros ($198 million) to cover investment losses and costs, according to Dutch News.

The organization has now reduced the percentage of its assets invested in securities from 30 percent to 20 percent, according to Dutch News.

Vietnam Warns Companies of Heightened Infringement Scrutiny

Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sent warnings of the consequences of software copyright infringement to 82 of the country’s largest companies, the Vietnam Bridge news Web site reported May 29.

The companies were asked to submit reports to the government on the numbers and brands of computers at their offices, software programs installed in those computers and software licenses, according to Vietnam Bridge.

In 2008, 85 percent of all software in Vietnam was pirated, the same rate as the previous year even after government copyright-enforcement efforts, Vietnam Bridge reported.

Beginning June 30, the top fine for copyright infringement in Vietnam will rise to 500 million dong ($28,000), according to the news Web site.

Korea’s TV Channels to Take on Web Sites for Infringement

Korea’s three national television channels warned 79 peer- to-peer sites and online-storage services they were in danger of being sued for copyright infringement, Korean Times reported May 29.

The sites and services were accused of failing to remove illegal videos from their networks, according to Korea Times.

SK Telecom Co.’s and sites are among those targeted by the television channels, Korea Times reported.

Beginning in July, Korea’s new copyright law will permit regulators to shut Web sites after a third copyright- infringement warning, even if there are no complaints from the copyright holders, according to Korea Times.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at

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