Rambus, Solar Aero, Novatec, RapidShare, Santa Cruz: Intellectual Property

Joaquin Almunia, the European Union’s antitrust commissioner, said he’s seeking more openness in the way industry standards are set for products such as mobile phones.

Almunia, who’s in charge of competition policy at the European Commission, said he wants to make sure the benefits of standards-setting are passed on to consumers, following recent cases concerning Rambus Inc. and Qualcomm Inc.

“Standards are becoming increasingly important in facilitating innovation -- in particular in the IT sector -- but an efficient, open and transparent standard-setting process is key to ensure effective competition,” said Almunia in an e- mailed statement yesterday.

U.S. memory-chip maker Rambus in December escaped an EU antitrust fine after it agreed to cut patent royalty fees for some products. The regulator earlier accused Rambus of hiding its intellectual property to demand royalties from other companies forced to use the same technology once it becomes a standard. The EU dropped a similar probe into Qualcomm in November.

The standards plan is part of an update to exemptions to antitrust laws for agreements between companies, such as research and development plans, that can bolster economic welfare.

The EU agency said it will adopt new rules by the end of the year after seeking views from companies and other groups.

Solar Aero Gets Patent for Tesla-Based Bladeless Wind Turbine

Solar Aero Research, an alternative-energy company based in Greenville, New Hampshire, received a U.S. patent for a bladeless wind turbine.

Patent 7,695,242, issued April 13, is based on inventions disclosed in two 1914 patents issued to inventor Nikola Tesla. Both Tesla patents -- 1,061,142 and 1,061,206 -- which cover a turbine with multiple disks spaced apart, with a fluid flowing in a spiral path between the disks.

The new patent covers a Tesla turbine configured to convert wind energy to mechanical power.

The advantage of a bladeless wind turbine is that it can be located at ground level, and will avoid injuring birds and other wildlife. According to the company Web site, such turbines are also quieter, and less likely to interfere with radar.

In January 2004, The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group based in Oakland, California, sued FPL Group Inc., the operator of a wind farm in California’s Altamont Pass area, alleging that many protected bird species were killed by the turbines. That case settled on undisclosed terms in August 2004.

That case is Center for Biological Diversity Inc. v. FPL G, 4:04-00132, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

Solar Aero applied for the patent in December 2006, with assistance from William H. Eilberg of Reno, Nevada.

Novatec, Conair Group Settle Patent-Infringement Litigation

Novatec Inc. and rival Conair Group settled a patent- infringement case, according to a May 3 court filing.

Novatec, a Baltimore-based maker of dryers used in plastic processing, sued Conair in June in federal court in Philadelphia.

Conair, of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, was accused of infringing Novatec’s patent 7,007,402, for a system of drying particulate materials. It was issued in March 2006.

The EnergySmart PET Drying System sold by Conair infringed the patent, according to court papers. PET is polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic resin often used to make beverage and food containers.

According to court papers, no award of litigation costs or attorney fees was made to either side.

Novatec was represented by Ronald J. Shaffer and Eric E. Reed of Philadelphia’s Fox Rothschild O’Brien & Frankel LLP. Conair’s lawyers were John M. McIntyre, Clay P. Hughes and Gene A. Tabachnick of Pittsburgh’s Reed Smith LLP.

The case is Novatec Inc., v. Conair Group Inc., 2:09-cv- 02887-JF, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

Copyright

RapidShare Off the Hook for Users’ Content-Loading Actions

RapidShare, a Cham, Switzerland-based file-hosting service, doesn’t have the responsibility to filter the content its users upload for potential infringement, DigitalMediaWire reported May 3.

A German appeals court said such actions would restrict fair use under copyright law, according to DigitalMediaWire.

The court determined that most uses of RapidShare were legal and the service places the responsibility on users to choose whether to publicize the content they have uploaded, according to the news service.

Under German law, sharing content with close acquaintances and copying it for backup purposes are permitted, the news service reported.

Trademark

Novatel Wireless Registers ‘MiFi’ Trademark for Use in U.S.

Novatel Wireless Inc., maker of wireless data-access cards for personal computers, registered “MiFi” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the San Diego-based company said in a statement.

The company markets its MiFi device as “the world’s first intelligent mobile hotspot.” The brand covers compact wireless routers that enable connectivity between multiple users and to devices such as laptops, cameras, gaming devices and multimedia players, according to the statement.

Novatel applied for the mark in December 2008 and it was registered April 6. The company has seven pending trademark applications containing “MiFi” according to the patent office database.

A Swedish company previously registered MiFi as a U.S. trademark for household cleaning equipment and fiberglass fabric. That mark, registered in December 2002 to Homecare Service AB of Vasteras, Sweden, was abandoned in July 2009.

Novatel’s MiFi mark may not fly in the U.K. Telecoms.com news reported in September that 3UK is selling its own wireless modem device and calling it “MiFi.” In April, 3UK began selling a version of its MiFi device for cars, according to the IntoMobile.com technology news Web site.

‘Drill Baby Drill’ Wanes in Popularity as Registered Trademark

“Drill Baby Drill,” the phrase often chanted at Republican presidential rallies in 2008, won’t be coming soon to t-shirts and bumper stickers, if the trademark database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is any indication.

In October 2008, two different entities applied to register the phrase as a trademark. Elijah Jacobs LLC sought to use the mark for stickers. Houston’s Texas Tea Clothing Co. applied to use the phrase as a mark for a wide range of clothing, including t-shirts, sandals, panties, thermal underwear, pajamas and beanies. That company’s logo features an oil rig superimposed over a map of Texas, and the Web site motto is “Keep Pumping that Sweet ‘Texas Tea!’”

Both applicants have since abandoned their applications, in July 2009 and January 2010 respectively, well before the April 20 oil-rig explosion that is leaking as much as 200,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

A Wisconsin company does have a “Drill Baby Drill” registration dating from September. T-Z Group LLC uses the mark for maintenance and repair of concrete slabs and foundations, according to the Patent Office database.

Santa Cruz Surfing Club Settles Trademark-Infringement Suit

A trademark dispute between members of a 64-year-old surfing club and the grandson of one of its members was settled, according to court documents filed May 3. Terms weren’t disclosed.

The Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society sued Ryan Rittenhouse for trademark infringement in federal court in San Francisco in 2008. The club alleged that Rittenhouse, grandson of original club member Robert Rittenhouse Jr., registered “Santa Cruz Surfing Club” as a trademark without authorization.

He was also accused of making false representations to one of the club members so he could use the member’s collection of historic surfing photos and memorabilia as t-shirt designs.

The club said in its complaint that it began using the name in 1936, and that Rittenhouse falsely told the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office he had the right to its use.

When the suit was filed, Rittenhouse responded in a statement that the preservation society didn’t represent all the original members of the club, and that the group made “evil misconstrued lies and false accusations” against him.

Yesterday, the Patent Office database still showed the “Santa Cruz Surfing Club” mark registered to Rittenhouse.

The San Jose Mercury reported May 3 that under the settlement the club will have the rights to the name, that the owner of the historic photos will retain the rights to his collection, and that Rittenhouse would turn his clothing operation to a third party and receive compensation from its sale.

The club was represented by Steven James Johnson and Michael B. Smith of Los Angeles-based Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Rittenhouse was represented by James M. Chadwick of Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP and Jose Anthony Montalvo of San Francisco’s Cesari Werner & Moriarty.

The case is Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society v. Rittenhouse, 3:08-cv-05783-SI, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

IP Moves

University of Virginia Hires Technology Transfer Expert

The University of Virginia hired the past president of the Association of University Technology Managers as executive director and associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization, the school said in a statement May 3.

M. Mark Crowell, who led the technology managers group in 2005, joins the university’s Office of the Vice President for Research from the La Jolla, California-based Scripps Research Institute, where he was vice president for business and technology development.

Before he joined Scripps in December 2008, he served as associate vice chancellor for economic development and technology transfer at the University of North Carolina for eight years. During his tenure at UNC, more than 40 companies were spun off from faculty research.

Crowell has an undergraduate degree in international studies and a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of North Carolina.

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

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