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Apple, Sony, Elpida, Webzen: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc. (AAPL), the maker of Macintosh computers, received a patent for a computer user interface aimed at consolidating icons and making them easier to access.

Patent 7,526,738 B2, one of 3,919 U.S. patents issued yesterday, covers what it calls a “userbar,” which contains a number of different items or icons. A magnification function can be used with the bar.

The patent recounts the history of the development of graphic user interfaces, which were the subject of a heated battle between Apple and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In that fight, Apple unsuccessfully sued Microsoft for allegedly infringing the copyright for the Macintosh graphic user interfaces.

The patent may make passing reference to this dispute, as it says that success of the graphic user interface “is evident from the number of companies which have emulated the desktop environment.”

When a user has many different computer windows open at the same time, containing many displayed icons within, the “‘window overlap’ problem” can develop, according to the patent. Icons hidden by other windows are temporarily unavailable.

The patent is for an invention aimed at preventing this problem. Apple founder Steve Jobs is one of the three named inventors on the patent. The company applied for it in August 2007 with assistance from Pittsburgh-based Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC.

Sony Seeks Patent for Series of Complex Game Controllers

Sony Corp. (6758), maker of the PlayStation 3 game consoles, plans to offer a few new configurations for game controllers, according to a patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Application 20090298590 covers wand-shaped game controllers that can be yoked together in an “H” shape or linked end to end. The application covers a game controller with a flashlight or with a maraca at one end containing beads that rattle.

This controller can also be made with a thumb reader to verify the identity of the user.

Sony, based in Tokyo, said in the application that development of input devices is “usually lengthy and adding new features requires investments in time and research.”

Adding new features and complexity to a game controller “also raised the cost to the user, which may decrease the number of potential customers,” according to Sony’s application. “Some features may be useful for just a small community of players.”

Sony filed the application in April with assistance from Martine, Penilla & Gencarella LLP of Sunnyvale, California.

Elpida Says Talks With Taiwan Memory Are Ongoing

Elpida Memory Inc., Japan’s biggest computer memory-chip maker, said it’s continuing talks on possible cooperation with Taiwan Innovation Memory Co., the state-led chipmaker under fire from Taiwanese lawmakers.

“While we are awaiting the Taiwan government’s final decision, the talks are ongoing,” Elpida President Yukio Sakamoto said in a briefing in Taipei yesterday.

Elpida said April 1 it would work with Taiwan Innovation Memory, then called Taiwan Memory Co., to develop chips and share intellectual property rights. Taiwanese lawmakers last month rejected government requests to finance Taiwan Innovation’s development with public funds, as the $18.4 billion computer-memory industry will probably post its first gain in four years in 2010.

“The DRAM industry will be much, much better next year because of a limited supply” of the chips, Sakamoto said in the briefing. He forecast global demand for dynamic random-access memory chips -- the part of the personal computer that holds data temporarily -- will increase 50 percent next year while supplies expand 40 percent.

Sales in the computer-memory industry will probably climb 21 percent to $22.4 billion in 2010, the first gain in four years, after chipmakers scaled back production and as personal- computer demand rises, Keon Han, a Seoul-based analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote in a report dated Sept. 21.

QVC Sued Over Patent for Eyeglasses with LED Lights

Waters Industries Inc., a maker of hands-free lighting products that use light-emitting diodes, sued QVC Inc. and three other companies for patent infringement.

In dispute is West Dundee, Illinois-based Waters’s patent 6,612,695, which is for lighted reading glasses. Glasses sold by QVC, Mr. Christmas Inc. of New York, For Your Ease Only Inc. of Chicago and Niles, Illinois-based Hammacher, Schlemmer & Co. are all accused of infringing the patent.

Waters’s Panther Vision division sells glasses covered by the patent, which was issued in September 2003. The patent covers glasses with high-intensity lights, such as LEDs that are arranged in a “conical overlap area of light which is maximized in size in the range of normal reading distances.”

The Illinois-based company claims it’s harmed by the defendants’ actions, and asked the court to bar each company from further infringement. Additionally, Waters asked for money damages and requested they be tripled against Mr. Christmas and For Your Ease. Waters claims both continued to infringe after being informed of the patent.

Waters also asked for attorney fees and litigation costs.

Timothy P. Maloney of Chicago’s Fitch, Even, Tabin and Flannery represents Waters.

The case is Waters Industries Inc. v. Mr. Christmas Inc., 1:09-cv-07577, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Trademark

Webzen Sues The9 in South Korea Over MU Game Trademark

Webzen Inc. (069080), the South Korean creator of the MU multi- player computer game, sued The9 Ltd. (NCTY) for trademark infringement in Seoul District Court.

Shanghai-based The9, Webzen’s Chinese distribution partner, is accused in the lawsuit of violating a trademark transfer agreement. Webzen said it signed an agreement with The9 in 2003 mandating that all MU-related trademarks be transferred to the South Korean company.

Initially, Webzen allowed The9 to register MU trademarks under its own name in China “in order to provide smooth initial service distribution to China,” according to a Webzen statement. The agreement between the two companies soured when The9 revealed in June that it was developing “MUX,” a game intended to be the sequel to MU, Webzen said.

After MUX was revealed, Webzen told The9 to cease and desist any use of “MU” in connection with the new game, and quit stating that MUX is the MU sequel. The9 “has been avoiding commenting or taking any action,” according to Webzen.

Webzen said it will also file complaints against The9 to South Korean and Chinese copyright authorities.

Colonial Marble Sues Doe Defendants to Stop Negative Reviews

NTP Marble, which does business as Colonial Marble & Granite, is suing unidentified individuals and business entities for trademark infringement.

The company, based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, supplies stone countertops, fireplaces and mantles. It claims the unidentified defendants are competitors who are posing as dissatisfied customers and posting negative comments on various consumer Web sites.

The defendants have posted reviews on www.citysearch.com, www.indinsiderpages.com and www.yellowbot.com in which they disparage Colonial Marble. Some of their comments include “worst service in the world, “very bad experience,” “they are a dishonest company,” and “Do not shop here! Terrible Service.”

The defendants have posted “hundreds of false reviews” in the past 30 days, according to the complaint filed Dec. 4 in federal court in Philadelphia.

The fake reviews have injured Colonial’s reputation and goodwill among the public and caused lost earnings, revenue and income, according to court papers.

The company asked the court for money damages and requested that they be tripled. It also seeks an order barring defendants from making false statements about the company, its services, products and commercial activities.

David P. Helm of Philadelphia’s Bochetto & Lentz PC represents the company.

The case is NTP Marble Inc. v. John Does (2:09-cv-05783- CDJ, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

Copyright

Sarkozy Opposes Google Plan to Scan Books, Warns of ‘Heritage’

President Nicolas Sarkozy said he will block a Google Inc. project that scans books and makes an online version available in order to protect France’s “heritage.”

“It’s out of the question to be deprived of our heritage for the benefit of a large operator, however sympathetic, however important and however American they may be,” Sarkozy said yesterday at a round table meeting in the town of Geispolsheim, in eastern France. He suggested that a share of a multi-billion euro economic investment plan he will unveil Dec. 14 could be used to digitalize French books.

Google’s (GOOG) plan to scan millions of books to create a digital library was challenged in a French court in September by a publisher, Editions du Seuil, which says the project violates national copyright laws. Sarkozy joined opponents of the plan who say a U.S. corporation shouldn’t be allowed to digitalize French books just because France lacks funds for such a project.

Opposition to Google’s $125 million agreement with publishers and authors to establish a “Book Rights Registry” to identify and pay copyright holders has pushed the Mountain View, California-based company to modify the settlement to take account of international criticism.

Google has scanned more than 100,000 French works still protected by copyright, according to the Syndicat National de l’Edition, one of the two trade groups that have joined Editions du Seuil’s complaint. The court will rule on Dec. 18.

IP Moves

Eversheds Expands Munich IP Practice with Three New Hires

Eversheds hired three intellectual-property specialists from the Munich office of Hammonds, the international law firm said in a statement.

The three new hires are Hosea Haag, Matthias Wetzel and Sandra Waigand.

Haag, a patent litigator, will join Eversheds as a partner. He was educated at the universities of Relangen, Nottingham and Berlin.

Wetzel, who is also a patent litigator, joins Eversheds as an associate. He received his education from the universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg and Taipei.

Waigand, whose main focus is information technology, joins the firm as an associate. She was educated at the universities of Wurzburg, Munich and Poitiers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at vslindflor@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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