Monsanto, Cisco, General Mills, Amaury, Men at Work: Intellectual Property

Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed company, can’t use a European patent on its Roundup Ready soybeans to block Argentinean soy meal imports, the European Union’s highest court said.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg follows Monsanto’s decision last month to withdraw a Dutch suit that triggered the EU court case. Yesterday’s decision is binding across the 27 EU nations and can’t be appealed.

“Monsanto cannot prohibit the marketing in the EU of soy meal containing, in a residual state, a DNA sequence” it patented, the EU court said.

Monsanto said last week its decision to settle the Dutch dispute was prompted by a preliminary opinion in March. The EU court agreed with the non-binding decision of Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi that the European patent for the trait that makes soybeans resistant to the company’s Roundup herbicide doesn’t extend to soy meal made from the patented seeds.

Argentine growers planted about 43 million acres of soybeans containing Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait last year, making the country the company’s second-biggest soybean market after the U.S., according to a Monsanto report. About 95 percent of soybeans grown in Argentina contain Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait, Jim Tobin, the company’s vice president of industry affairs, said in July.

“The case itself has already been settled between the two parties and this move in no way affects the outcome,” St. Louis-based Monsanto said in an e-mailed statement. “This ruling has only a limited meaning for the patent involved. Overall patent protection of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Soybean is not at issue.”

Monsanto said Argentina is “the correct place for a resolution in these matters” and it will continue to work on a fair solution.

A Dutch court on June 23 granted Monsanto’s request to withdraw its lawsuit against Cefetra Ltd. and Alfred C. Toepfer International. Toepfer is a unit of Archer Daniels Midland Co.

During 2005 and 2006, Monsanto had shipments of soy meal from Argentina impounded in Amsterdam. Tests showed they contained some of the patented seed traits and Monsanto sued the importers for infringement. A court in The Hague sought the EU tribunal’s guidance on the case in 2008.

While Monsanto had argued the patented trait in the soybeans remains under its protection after the beans have been processed into meal, the importers argued the patent’s scope isn’t that wide under EU biotechnology rules.

The EU court case is C-428/08 Monsanto Technology LLC v. Cefetra BV, Cefetra Feed Service BV, Cefetra Futures BV and State of Argentina and Monsanto Technology LLC v. Vopak Agencies Rotterdam BV and Alfred C. Toepfer International GmbH.

Cisco Loses Court Appeal of Telcordia Patent Verdict

Cisco Systems Inc., the biggest networking-equipment maker, lost its appeal of a $6.5 million verdict for infringing two Telcordia Technologies Inc. patents and must negotiate payments for future use of the technology.

The ruling upholds a 2007 decision that Cisco appealed, according to an opinion posted yesterday on the website of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Telcordia lost in its effort to revive a third patent claim that could have let it collect damages on an industry standard for data transmission.

Telcordia, the former research division of the Bell telephone companies, had been seeking $75 million in damages related to two patents. Cisco was found to infringe a patent for synchronizing phone data and eliminating sound dropouts, as well as another for re-routing voice, video and data when phone wires are cut, according to testimony in the 2007 trial.

Each side appealed aspects of the case that went against them. Piscataway, New Jersey-based Telcordia appealed the ruling that the third patent wasn’t infringed, while Cisco challenged the validity of that patent. The Federal Circuit said the judge erred in his interpretation of patent wording and remanded the case for further arguments on validity.

Telcordia sued Tellabs Inc. in another case pending in Delaware involving the same patent.

Kristin Carvell, a spokeswoman for San Jose, California- based Cisco, said the company had no immediate comment. Lawyers for Telcordia didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

Telcordia’s case was argued by Donald R. Dunner of Washington’s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP.

Cisco’s argument was presented by Edward R. Reines of New York’s Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

The case is Telcordia Technologies Inc. v. Cisco Systems Inc., 2009-1175 and 2009-1184, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Telcordia Technologies Inc. v. Cisco Systems Inc., 04CV876, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Apple Gets New U.S. Patent on ‘Workflow Widget’ Technology

Apple Inc., maker of the iMac and iPod, received a patent on “workflow widgets.”

Patent 7,752,556, which was one of 5,090 U.S. patents issued yesterday, is for a technology that enables computer users to perform common tasks and get fast access to information, even if their desktops are cluttered with icons.

According to the patent, users often find it “difficult to navigate to a particular user interface element or to locate a desired element among a large number of onscreen elements,” particularly when they have overlapped or minimized screens.

Users with too many things up on their computer screens at one time may suffer from “information overload” and may no longer be able to operate their computers efficiently, Apple says in the patent.

A widget is a graphical user interface device that can enable data manipulation. The widget can provide additional functionality or act as an information repository.

Apple, of Cupertino, California, applied for the patent in May 2006 with assistance from Boston-based Fish & Richardson PC.

For more patent news, click here.


General Mills Says ‘My Dough Girl’ Infringes ‘Dough Boy’ Mark

General Mills Inc., the Minneapolis-based maker of consumer food products, is trying to block a Salt Lake City cookie shop’s use of the name “My Dough Girl,” the Utah City Weekly reported.

The shop’s name, which was inspired by the pin-up girl images used as “nose art” on World War II bombers, is accused of infringing the food company’s Pillsbury ‘Dough Boy” mark, according to the newspaper.

The owner of the shop says she will comply with General Mills’s demands because she would be “broke and homeless” before the case is finished, the newspaper reported.

The dispute has become the subject of a consumer-led campaign against the Dough Boy that is being waged on Facebook Inc.’s social-media site, according to the Weekly.

Golden Balls Withstands Trademark Challenge by Amaury Unit

Golden Balls, a London-based maker of underwear and t- shirts, defeated a trademark challenge brought by the French organizers of an award for the European soccer player of the year, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.

Amaury Sport Organisation’s Intra Presse unit, which annually awards the Ballon d’Or, or ball of gold, to the best soccer player, claimed the underwear company infringed its trademark, the newspaper reported.

Because of the trademark challenge, the closely held underwear company missed out on a chance to license the name to Endemol NV for a game show, according to the Telegraph.

The company began selling its clothing during the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and had to close its London shop during the trademark dispute, the newspaper reported.

For more trademark news, click here.


Men at Work Ordered to Pay 5 Percent for Lifting Riff

Men at Work, the Australian band that won a Grammy award in 1983, must pay 5 percent of the royalties collected on their hit “Down Under” for using a flute riff from a 1934 song “Kookaburra Sits in The Old Gum Tree.”

Australian Federal Court Judge Peter Jacobson in Sydney, who ruled in February that “Down Under” infringed the copyright of “Kookaburra,” rejected Larrikin Music Publishing Pty’s claim for as much as half the royalties the band earned from the song.

“The sample of Kookaburra is not an immediately recognizable part of the 1981 recording,” Jacobson wrote in his 39-page ruling. “To most listeners the similarity can only be heard after this is pointed out to them.”

“Down Under” topped the charts in the U.S. and U.K., according to Billboard, and was the theme song for the victorious Australia II yacht team in the America’s Cup in 1983, the year the band won the Grammy for Best New Artist.

It celebrates Australia as a land where beer flows and “women glow” and remains a favorite on jukeboxes more than 25 years later.

Published first in 1979, “Down Under” gained popularity following a 1981 recording that added the flute riff, which the judge found had been lifted from “Kookaburra.” Both “Kookaburra” and “Down Under” are “iconic” in nature, the judge said.

EMI Music Publishing Australia Pty, the song publisher, was also a defendant in the suit. EMI is owned by Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., a private-equity firm.

John Anderson, managing director of EMI Music Publishing and Adam Simpson, Larrikin’s lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The damages weren’t awarded for copyright infringement, rather because of misrepresentations made to the Australasian Performing Rights Association and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society, Jacobson wrote.

The misrepresentations were that “Down Under” didn’t infringe the copyright of any other work and that the composers and publishers were entitled to all of the income from the song, the judge said.

The case is Larrikin Music Publishing Pty v. EMI Songs Australia Pty, NSD145, Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).

Harry Reid Accused of Infringing Opponent’s Copyrights

U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, was accused of copyright infringement by a Republican candidate for his senate seat.

Counsel for Sharron Angle sent the Reid campaign a cease- and-desist letter on July 2, claiming the campaign set up the website as a mirror image of one belonging to Angle.

The letter, sent by Cleta Mitchell of Milwaukee’s Foley & Lardner LLP, demanded an immediate removal of the content, and the forwarding of any names and e-mail addresses “improperly captured by the fake website.”

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.