Soccer Schedules, Claiborne, Gucci, PACCAR, Lexmark: Intellectual Property

U.K. soccer leagues claimed victory against Yahoo! Inc.’s U.K. unit in a court ruling that said their match schedules can be protected by copyright law.

Justice Christopher Floyd at the High Court in London ruled April 23 that the schedules of the English and Scottish leagues are subject to “database copyright” law.

Media companies and betting firms must now pay to use the information, said DLA Piper LLP, the law firm representing the leagues and Football DataCo Ltd., the group that markets and licenses the data. They had brought the case against Internet company Yahoo! U.K. and a number of betting firms.

The court’s ruling “confirmed that there are indeed enforceable IP rights in these lists,” Simon Levine, the lawyer for the leagues and DataCo, said in an e-mailed statement. “It also clarifies any existing confusion as to whether the use and publication of the fixture lists have a commercial value.”

The lists encompass the schedules of teams from Manchester United, rated the most valuable club in the world by Forbes magazine, and Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers to lower-tier teams. As well as claiming copyright for the lists as a database, the claimants sought a ruling that the information was covered by general copyright, according to the judgment.

“It seems to me that the only way the fixtures lists could conceivably attract copyright is by virtue of the collection and arrangement of the data contained in them, that is to say as a database,” Floyd said in his ruling.

Olswang LLP, the law firm for the defendants, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

“It is reassuring to note that U.K. law has recognized the intellectual efforts of the professional football administrators, police, supporters associations and others who expend a great deal of time and effort in compiling and checking the fixtures,” David Folker, DataCo’s general manager, said in an e-mailed statement.

The case is TLC 705/09 Football Data Co. Ltd. v. Stan James (Abingdon) Ltd. & ors.

Patents

Microsoft Wins Nuance Voice-Recognition Patent Suit

Microsoft Corp.’s Tellme Networks unit defeated a patent- infringement lawsuit brought by Nuance Communications Inc. over speech-recognition software used in telephone systems.

Nuance’s patent for a way to eliminate problems associated with background noise and poor audio quality is invalid because it didn’t cover a new invention, U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson in Wilmington, Delaware, said in an April 20 decision. The case had been scheduled for a May 3 trial. Instead, the judge closed the case in Microsoft’s favor.

The dispute was over Tellme software sold to AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. for their directory assistance services. Nuance’s 1991 patent 5,033,088 covered a method in which recorded speech would be transmitted to a person if the computer couldn’t understand what was said.

“It is axiomatic that a human operator will demonstrate superior speech recognition abilities to that of the existing computerized recognition systems” Robinson said in her ruling.

Microsoft is pleased with the decision, said Kevin Kutz, a spokesman. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, bought Tellme in 2007.

Nuance, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, provides speech-recognition software for call centers and reported $950.4 million in revenue for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Richard Mack, a spokesman for the company, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

The case is Nuance Communications Inc. v. Tellme Networks Inc., 06cv105, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Trademark

Liz Claiborne Hit With $300,000 Trademark Infringement Verdict

Liz Claiborne Inc., the maker of Lucky Brand jeans and Kate Spade handbags, will have to pay a Miami-based clothing manufacturer $300,000 in a trademark-infringement case, a jury in federal court in New York decided April 22.

New York-based Claiborne’s Lucky Brand unit sued Marcel Fashion Group for trademark infringement in July 2005, claiming Marcel’s “Get Lucky” sportswear line infringed its marks.

In Marcel’s court filings, the company argued it had used “Get Lucky” as early as 1985, and registered the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1986.

The jury found that Claiborne and Lucky Brand sold garments that infringed the “Get Lucky” mark, and awarded the Florida company damages, its law firm said in a statement April 22.

Lucky Brand was represented by Ann Schofield Baker and Katherine Baggett Thornburgh of Dallas-based McKool Smith.

The case is Lucky Brand Dungarees Inc. v. Ally Apparel Resources LLC, 1:05-cv-06757-LTs-MHD, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Magistrate Hands Gucci Privilege Request Off to Judge

In the ongoing trademark fight between Guess? Inc. and Gucci Group, a magistrate judge said he didn’t have the authority to order Gucci to produce a list of privileged documents between Gucci and its Italian trademark counsel.

Magistrate Judge James L. Cott said in an April 21 court filing he’d have to refer this issue to the federal judge assigned to the case, U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin.

The year-old case, in which Guess is accused of using a network of wholesale buyers to sell knockoffs of Gucci designs, hit a roadblock earlier in April when the Italian firm acknowledged to the court that it fired its in-house director of legal affairs after finding he didn’t have a current law license.

Guess is arguing that because the fired lawyer didn’t have an up-to-date license, he wasn’t a lawyer and communications with him weren’t privileged.

In an April 8 ruling, Judge Cott denied Gucci’s request to keep sealed its filings relative to the lawyer’s filing. He said the request came too late, and the press had already published numerous stories about the firing. Quoting an appeals court opinion, Cott said the court didn’t have the power “to make what has thus become public private again.”

He said that while he understood Gucci’s desire not to air publicly a sensitive personnel matter, the court “cannot accommodate a desire to shield that information without ‘undermining the tradition of an open judicial system.’”

Gucci is represented by Louis Sherman Ederer and Matthew Thomas Salzmann of Washington’s Arnold & Porter LLP. Guess? is represented by Andrew Jay Frackman, Daniel M. Petrocelli and Robert Craig Welsh of Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

The case is Gucci America Inc. v. Guess? Inc. 1:09-cv- 043763-SAS-JLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

PACCAR Must Produce Truck Wiring Diagram, Kansas Judge Rules

PACCAR Inc., the maker of Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks, must produce the wiring schematics for one of its 2005 model Peterbilt trucks, a federal judge ruled.

An Oregon resident sued PACCAR in federal court in Wichita, Kansas, in November 2008 after the Peterbilt truck he bought in 2005 suddenly burst into flames as it was being driven, and was destroyed.

The truck owner asked the court to order Bellevue, Washington-based PACCAR to produce the wiring diagrams for the truck, and the manufacturer refused, claiming this was both a trade secret and commercial information.

Magistrate Judge Donald W. Bostwick disagreed, saying PACCAR failed to demonstrate any unfair competitive advantage it would give to others to have the wiring diagram for a five-year- old truck disclosed. The manufacturer also failed to address whether the information the truck owner sought could be purchased through the Internet or could be reverse-engineered by a knowledgeable person, he found.

The truck owner is represented by Eldon L. Boisseau of the Law Offices of Eldon L. Boisseau of Wichita. PACCAR is represented by Amy M. Decker, Kenneth R. Lang, and Matthew K. Holcomb of Hinkle Elkouri Law firm LLC of Wichita.

The case is K R. Smith Trucking LLC v. PACCAR Inc., 6:08- cv-01351-WEB-DWB, U.S. District Court, District of Kansas (Wichita).

Law Firm Avoids $1 Mln Sanction in Lexmark Trade Secrets Case

Meisenheimer Herron & Steele persuaded a federal appeals court to lift a $1 million sanction against the firm for its part in a trade-secrets case.

In an April 21 ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the San Diego firm didn’t act in bad faith in its representation of BDT AG and its BDT Products unit against Lexmark International Inc.

BDT Sued Lexmark in federal court in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1999, alleging the printer maker had misappropriated its secret for a printer tray. The court found, in an August 2008 ruling, that the suit was without merit, that no secret had been taken. The court then issued an order for BDT and its law firms to pay sanctions of more than $5 million.

Meisenheimer asked that its sanction be lifted, claiming it didn’t act in bad faith in representing its client, and that courts can’t sanction firms, only individuals, for bad-faith litigation.

The court agreed, noting that Lexmark “has simply been unable to point to” any evidence that the firm acted in bad faith. The court also agreed with Meisenheimer that the law provided only for the sanctioning of individuals, not law firms.

BDT’s case was argued by William L. Montague of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP of Cincinnati. The law firm’s argument was made by Elizabeth S. Hughes of Lexington’s Gess Mattingly & Atchinson PSC, also of Lexington.

The case is BDT Products Inc., v. Lexmark International Inc., 86-6140, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Cincinnati).

The lower court case is BDT Products Inc. v. Lexmark International, 5:99-cv-00061-JMH-JBT, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky (Lexington).

Judge Backs Down on ‘Trade Secret’ Ruing in Bear Country Case

Lawyers representing media outlets had questioned a South Dakota state court judge’s decision to close files and all court proceedings to the public in a case involving operation of an animal-park tourist attraction, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Judge John Delaney of the 7th Circuit Court rescinded an earlier order closing the proceeding on the request of a lawyer representing Bear Country U.S.A., who had argued that proprietary information would be discussed in the suit over the value of shares of Bear Country stock, according to the newspaper.

The judge agreed April 21 to let the media and public into the courtroom unless financial information was being discussed, according to the Rapid City Journal.

He said he would “draw the line” at financial data, and “I’m going to protect it until the Supreme Court says otherwise,” the newspaper reported.

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

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