Coach, Apple, Skechers, Medicis, General Electric: Intellectual Property

Coach Inc., a maker of luxury leather handbags and wallets, sued the city of Chicago for allegedly sustaining a street market where counterfeit goods are sold.

The city failed to halt the sales at its New Maxwell Street Market on Chicago’s West Side after being told about them by the company, according to a complaint filed May 19 in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

“Defendants are well aware of the extraordinary fame and strength of the Coach brand, the Coach trademarks, the Coach trade dresses and the Coach design elements and the incalculable good will associated therewith,” according to the complaint.

Chicago is the third-largest U.S. city, with a population of about 2.8 million people. The Maxwell Street market has roots in 19th-century Chicago and features almost 400 sellers of food and merchandise, according to the city’s website.

The city charges vendors $50 for a license to sell goods at the year-round site. A spokeswoman for the city, Melissa Stratton, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment on the filing.

Company investigators have bought fake handbags bearing the company’s trademarked logos from vendors there for as much as $27 this year, according to the complaint. Authentic Coach handbags retail for $200 to $600, according to prices appearing on the Macys Inc. website.

The New York-based leather goods maker is seeking statutory damages of $2 million for each counterfeit item and mark, as well as a court order directing the city to “recall” and deliver to Coach all of the offending items. Coach’s annual sales exceed $3 billion, Coach’s lawyers say in the complaint.

The case is Coach Inc. v. City of Chicago, 1:10-cv-03108, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Apple Applies to Trademark the Design of its Retail Stores

Apple Inc. wants more than just a trademark on its now- iconic apple. The Cupertino, California-based company applied May 12 to trademark the design of its stores as well. According to the application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company claims that both the “distinctive design and layout” of its stores, along with the gray and brown colors used, are features of the mark the company seeks.

Asics Sues Skechers in California Over Striped Sneaker Design

Asics America Corp. of Irvine, California, and Asics Japan filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Skechers USA.

The May 11 suit, filed federal court in Santa Ana, California, accuses Skechers, based in Manhattan Beach, California, of using a stripe design similar to that used by Asics in its sneakers. Asics general counsel Michael Zall said the company became aware of the shoes at issue about four months ago.

Skechers General Counsel Philip Paccione said that “Asics is basically alleging that they are the only shoe company that can criss-cross stripes on shoes.” He added that this is the second lawsuit brought by Asics against Skechers in the past three years. The first was settled. Paccione said Skechers plans on “defending this lawsuit vigorously.”

The case is Asics Corporation v. Skechers USA Inc., 8:10- cv-00636, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

Patents

Medicis Sues Nycomed Over Generic Form of Vanos Cream

Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp., a maker of acne and wrinkle treatments, sued Nycomed GmbH to block sales of a generic form of its Vanos steroid-based skin ointment.

Nycomed, based in Konstanz, Germany, and a subsidiary are seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a generic version of the treatment before three patents held by Medicis expire, according to the complaint filed May 19 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Vanos, an anti-inflammation cream, is used to treat psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, according to the complaint. In November, Medicis settled with Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. over similar claims on the treatment. Under terms of that settlement, Glenmark will be able to sell its version of Vanos under license from Medicis as early as December 2013.

Mindy Kirsch, a spokeswoman for Nycomed in Melville, New York, said the company had no comment on the complaint.

The case is Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. v. Nycomed U.S. Inc., 10-00419, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

GE Accused of Trying to Monopolize U.S. Wind Turbine Market

General Electric Co. was accused by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of trying to monopolize U.S. sales of wind turbines through litigation, intimidation and fraud, claims GE dismissed as “outrageous.”

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and General Electric Co. are each claiming that the other has infringed their patents for wind turbines. GE filed an amended complaint against Mitsubishi on May 17 in federal court in Dallas; Mitsubishi filed its patent suit in federal court in Florida and an antitrust suit in federal court in Arkansas yesterday.

Mitsubishi, based in Tokyo, is seeking damages that may exceed $1 billion in the antitrust complaint that claims “GE embarked on an unlawful anticompetitive scheme to drive Mitsubishi suppliers out of the U.S. market.”

The lawsuit, which focuses on patent claims GE first lodged against Mitsubishi in 2008, escalates a dispute between the two industrial companies over the burgeoning U.S. market for wind turbines. GE had sought to block imports of Mitsubishi’s machines in a U.S. International Trade Commission complaint, and filed a separate lawsuit after losing that case in January.

“GE is attempting to kill competition” for variable-speed wind turbines, Sonia Williams, a Mitsubishi spokeswoman, said in an interview. “We want to restore a level playing field.”

The claims “alleging improper conduct by GE in obtaining and enforcing our patents are meritless and outrageous,” and the company will “vigorously defend” itself, said Dan Nelson, a GE spokesman. “GE’s conduct has been appropriate in all circumstances.”

GE’s suit against Mitsubishi is General Electric Co. v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., 3:10-CV-276-F, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas). The antitrust case filed in Arkansas is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. v. General Electric Co., 5:10-cv-05087, U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas (Fayetteville). The patent case filed in Florida is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries v. General Electric Co., 6:10-CV-812, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Orlando).

Infineon, Elpida Settle Feud Over Memory-Chip Patent

Infineon Technologies AG, Europe’s second-biggest chipmaker, said it settled a patent dispute with Japan’s Elpida Memory Inc. over semiconductor technology.

The companies agreed to license each other’s semiconductor patents. Financial terms won’t be disclosed, Monika Sonntag, a spokeswoman for Neubiberg, Germany-based Infineon, said yesterday in a phone interview.

Elpida, Japan’s biggest maker of computer-memory chips, and Infineon have been battling in court and before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington over inventions related to microcontrollers. The product combines the processing unit of a chip and the memory onto one integrated circuit.

“We look forward to a lasting peace between the companies,” said Hermann Eul, an Infineon management board member responsible for sales marketing and technology, said in a statement. “This outcome is further affirmation of our ongoing efforts to protect our intellectual property rights and business interests.”

Infineon filed a patent-infringement case against Elpida with the ITC in February seeking to block imports of products that include Elpida’s dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips, which act as the main memory in computers. Infineon said Tokyo-based Elpida had vowed to become the top DRAM supplier in the world and was seeking to fulfill that pledge using Infineon technology.

Elpida responded last month with two patent-infringement lawsuits, saying Infineon refused to take a license to its patents. One of the two lawsuits cited Infineon microcontrollers used in Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

“Elpida intends to do business in the U.S. as it did before and continue to protect its intellectual property,” a lawyer representing Elpida, Roger Taylor of Finnegan Henderson in Atlanta, said in a phone interview.

The first case is Elpida Memory Inc. v. Infineon Technologies AG, 10cv152, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Norfolk); the second case is and 10cv327, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria). The Infineon case is In the Matter of Random Access Memory Semiconductors and Products Containing Same, Including Memory Modules, 337-707, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Patent Office Expands Expedited Reviews of Green Technology

The U.S. plans to expand a program that reduces by 12 months the processing time for patents on inventions intended to improve the environment.

The program is designed to fast-track as many as 3,000 applications related to technology that promotes renewable energy and conservation. The Patent and Trademark Office is broadening the criteria for participation so more applications qualify, according to a notice to be published in the Federal Register today and scheduled to take effect immediately.

Increased use of alternative energy has been a key policy issue for Barack Obama since he became president in 2009. His administration’s $787 billion stimulus plan passed last year to end the deepest recession since the Great Depression dedicates $80 billion for energy programs including efforts to expand the use of renewable fuels and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The patent office is altering the expedited-review initiative because too many applications tied to clean-energy were being turned away from participation. Almost 60 percent of the 951 petitions for the expedited process were dismissed or denied partly because the patent office was using narrow categories for the program, according to the agency.

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

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