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Cisco, Hershey, CBS, Cameron, Fox Sued Over Avatar: Intellectual Property

Cisco Systems Inc., the biggest maker of computer networking equipment, was told by a jury to pay $3.7 million in patent royalties to Commil USA LLC for using that company’s wireless-transmission technology without permission.

A federal jury in Marshall, Texas, said Cisco infringed a Commil patent that ensures computers and mobile phones maintain their connection to wireless networks as their users move about. The closely held company, which filed its lawsuit against Cisco in 2007, had been seeking $53 million in the trial before Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham.

“The verdict itself of infringement was very gratifying to us,” said Commil lawyer Richard Sayles of Sayles Werbner in Dallas. “The damage award was disappointing. Sales of the Cisco products are rising, so this is just round one.”

The patent, issued in 2002, covers a way of maintaining network connections through a series of base stations so a person with a laptop computer, mobile phone or device with a wireless-transmission feature such as Bluetooth doesn’t lose the signal while walking through a building. The invention also applies to Wi-Fi technology so a seamless connection to the Internet can be maintained, Sayles said.

Cisco denied infringing the patent, and said it was invalid. The case targeted San Jose, California-based Cisco’s wireless local-area network products.

“While we disagree with the jury’s finding of infringement and expect to appeal the result, we are pleased that the jury rejected plaintiff’s excessive damage claim,” said John Earnhardt, a spokesman for Cisco. The company “will continue to aggressively defend” its intellectual-property rights, he said.

Aruba Networks Inc., a builder of wireless networks that was also a defendant in the case, settled with The Woodlands, Texas-based Commil as the trial began.

The case is Commil USA LLC v. Cisco Systems Inc., 07-cv- 341, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

Trademarks

Hershey Sues Williams-Sonoma Over Brownie Pan, AP Says

It’s not all sweetness when it comes to protecting Hershey Co.’s trademark. The Pennsylvania company sued Williams-Sonoma Inc. over a brownie pan of the retailer’s that is divided into 12 smaller rectangles, the Associated Press reported.

The confectionary company says the pan too closely resembles its signature chocolate bar and constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition, the news agency reported. The complaint was filed May 11 in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

A Williams-Sonoma spokeswoman had no comment yesterday, the AP said.

The case is The Hershey Company v. Williams-Sonoma Inc., 1:10-cv-01011, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).

CBS Says It Holds ‘48 Hours’ Trademark, New York Times Reports

CBS Corp. sent a “cease and desist” letter to a group of journalists who tried to put together a magazine in 48 hours, the New York Times reported.

CBS was unhappy that the group named the magazine “48 Hr: Hustle” since CBS still airs a show called “48 Hours,” according to the Times’s Media Decoder blog.

The editors of the magazine were unaware that 48 Hours was still produced, according to the blog item.

CBS general counsel Louis Briskman told the Times that the editors had not yet responded to the initial May 11 letter.

Victoria’s Secret Wins Ruling From Appeals Court Panel, AP Says

A federal court ruled yesterday that a store originally called “Victor’s Secret” cannot use the name without infringing the trademark of Victoria’s Secret, one of the Limited Brands Inc. retail chains, the Associated Press reported. A split panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the name chosen by the Elizabeth, Kentucky, store -- which sold “sexual toys, videos and other soft-core pornographic products” -- diluted the Victoria’s Secret mark, AP said. A lower court had issued an injunction in 1998. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 overturned that ruling and remanded the case. The case is V Secret Catalogue Inc. v. Victoria’s Secret Stores Inc., 98-cv-00395, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Cincinnati).

Trade Secrets

FDA Transparency Plan Should Guard Trade Secrets, Official Says

While drug rejections would be shared with consumers for the first time under a new plan from U.S. regulators, an architect of the disclosure proposal said trade secrets should be protected.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed 21 steps yesterday to expand the public’s knowledge of medicines, medical devices, food and cosmetics, including when they fail to meet federal standards. Public comments on the proposals will be accepted until July 20.

Lawmakers, doctors and consumer groups criticized the FDA under former President George W. Bush for failing to disclose heart risks associated with GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s diabetes pill Avandia and Merck & Co.’s painkiller Vioxx. The FDA created a Transparency Task Force in June in response to the Obama administration’s call for government agencies to be more open with information.

The task force, led by FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, recommended that the agency start disclosing when products are tested in people, submitted for marketing authorization, withdrawn or denied approval. This would include releasing so-called complete response letters sent to drugmakers explaining why their products are rejected.

“Trade secrets should remain confidential and such information should be redacted from documents proposed for disclosure,” Sharfstein said. “The proposals reflect what the task force believes is an appropriate balance for the agency to strike between disclosure and confidentially in support of public health, clinical practice and innovation.”

Copyright

James Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox Sued Over Avatar

James Cameron, the director of Avatar, along with Twentieth Century Fox and the film’s producers, face a copyright lawsuit over the blockbuster movie.

Kelly Van, who wrote “Sheila the Warrior: The Damned,” filed a complaint on May 17 in federal court in San Diego, claiming that the movie infringed her copyright for the book.

Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for Cameron and Fox, said in an e-mail that “this suit is absolutely baseless. Jim Cameron’s treatment for Avatar was written before Ms. Van alleges she even started to write her book.”

The suit was first reported on Gawker.com.

The case is Van v. Cameron, 3:10-cv-01051, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York, at erosen14@bloomberg.net.

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