Apple, FormFactor, Microsoft, Sony BMG, Universal: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc., the maker of the iPad and the iPhone, sued three sellers of computer equipment for infringing a design patent.

Brilliant Store Inc., of Fremont, California, and Sunvalleytek International Inc., and Inc., both of Santa Clara, California, are accused of infringing Apple’s patent D478,310, which was issued in August 2003.

The patent covers the ornamental design of a power adapter that’s used for Apple’s portable computers, such as the MacBook. The complaint was filed July 9 in federal court in San Francisco.

Apple said it “takes great creativity” to create designs that focus on “all the details in a product that customers will touch and see.” It’s suffered “irreparable harm” from the three retailers’ sale of knockoffs, the Cupertino, California- based company claimed in its pleadings.

In addition to seeking a court order barring future infringement, Apple asked the court for an award of litigation costs and money damages.

Apple’s represented by Rosemary Theresa Ring, Andrew Winston Song, and Gregory P. Stone from Los Angeles-based Munger Tolles & Olson LLP and Perry J. Saidman from the Saidman Designlaw Group LLC, of Silver Spring, Maryland.

The case is Apple Inc., v. Brilliant Store Inc., 3:10-cv- 02996-JCS, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

FormFactor Settles Patent Dispute with Micronics Japan

FormFactor Inc., a maker of devices used to test computer chips during the manufacturing process, settled a patent infringement dispute with Tokyo-based Micronics Japan Co., according to court filings.

FormFactor, of Livermore, California, sued Micronics in federal court in San Francisco in November 2008, alleging infringement of four patents for chip-testing technology. The company earlier filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, seeking to halt importation of what it said was infringing technology.

The Trade Commission said in November 2009 that there was no violation of FormFactor’s patent rights.

As recently as June 14, the patent-infringement case in federal court was far from resolution, with a hearing on the scope of the patent set for June 2011. The court document indicating settlement had been reached was filed June 21.

According to a July 9 FormFactor statement, no details of the settlement agreement were released.

The disputed patents were 6,509,751, 6,246,247, 6,624,648, and 7,073,254.

The case in federal court was FormFactor v. Micronics Japan Co, 3:06-07159-JSW, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Microsoft Seeks Patent on ‘Virtual Page Turn’ for Devices

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, has applied for a patent on a technology that will give users the ability to flip a page in a digital reading device just as they can in a book.

Application 20100175018, which was published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office July 8, is for what Microsoft calls a “virtual page turn.”

The technology covered by the patent gives the electronic device the ability to recognize a page-turning gesture by the user. The device will then curl a portion of the virtually lifted page to reveal the back side.

This invention could be used with a “surface computer, tablet computer, mobile communications device, personal data assistant, desktop computer with a touch screen, laptop computer with a touch screen, or virtually any other computing device that utilizes a touch display,” Microsoft says in its application.

The Redmond, Washington-based software company filed the application in January 2009.

For more patent news, click here.


Judge Cuts Sony BMG Illegal Downloading Award by 90 Percent

Sony BMG Music Entertainment and four other major music labels were dealt a blow in their fight against illegal music downloading and file sharing by a federal judge who cut their damages award by 90 percent.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner said, in a 62-page order July 9, that the $675,000 Joel Tenenbaum was ordered to pay was too high, and cut it to $67,500.

The labels sued Tenenbaum in federal court in Boston in 2007, claiming they were damaged by his alleged copyright infringement. Although Judge Gertner tried to open up the proceedings to television coverage, she was rebuffed in April 2009 by a federal appeals court that accused her of exceeding her discretion.

She said in her July 9 order that reducing Tenenbaum’s damages sent the message that the U.S. Constitution’s due- process clause protected “ordinary people” just as it protected large corporations “from grossly excessive punitive awards.” She could not find “any plausible rationale” for Tenenbaum to pay $675,000 damages, she said, with the asymmetry between the award and the music companies’ actual damages “so extreme as to jar the court’s sensibilities.”

She maintained that a penalty of $67,500 is, for Tenenbaum, “significant and harsh.”

The case is Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, 1:07-cv-11446-NG, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

Universal, Snoop Dogg Accused of Infringing Henderson’s Music

Universal Music Group Inc. and the rap performer known as Snoop Dogg are among the defendants in two copyright infringement suits filed by jazz musician Michael Henderson.

The two suits, filed July 6 in federal court in Detroit, related to the segments of Henderson’s music he claims is used without his permission.

Henderson, who is known for having played fusion jazz with Miles Davis, said Snoop Dogg’s “Ego Trippin’” album contained a song “Flashbacks” in which his music is “featured prominently” without his permission. Nick Carter’s “Fornever” album is also accused of using unauthorized samples of Henderson’s work.

In addition to asking for money damages, Henderson seeks seizure and destruction of all infringing products, and an order barring any future use of his work without authorization by the defendants. He also requested awards for litigation costs and attorney fees.

The musician is represented in both cases by Jeffrey P. Thennisch of Dobrusin & Thennisch PC of Pontiac, Michigan.

The case against Snoop Dogg is Henderson v. Calvin Broadus, 2:10-cv-12674-RHC-MAR, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit). The other case is Henderson v. Carter, 2:10- cv-12675-SFC-VMM, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit)

For more copyright news, click here.


Dueling Loch Ness Monster Attractions Settle Trademark Dispute

A trademark dispute between two competing attractions focused on the mythic Loch Ness monster has been settled, the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law’s Scots Law News reported.

The Official Loch Ness Exhibition Centre claimed the public was confused by the similarity between its name and that of the Original Loch Ness Monster Center, which are about 100 yards about in the Scottish town of Drumadrochit, according to Scots Law News.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Loch Ness Exhibition Center will be known as the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition, the Scots Law News reported.

The Original Loch Ness Monster attraction has been renamed the Nessieland Castle Monster Centre, according to the news.

Indiana Black Expo to Restrict Unauthorized Trademark Use

The Indiana Black Expo, a 40-year-old Indianapolis event celebrating African American Culture, is beginning to enforce its trademark rights against unauthorized vendors at its future events, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Merchants that hadn’t signed an agreement with the exposition by July 9 will be ordered to shut down, the newspaper reported.

Unsanctioned bars and clubs will be asked not to use the exposition’s name or logo, according to the Star.

Exposition officials hope to generate revenue for scholarships and programming from licensing the trademarks, the newspaper reported.

Toyota Loses Internet Domain Name Trademark Appellate Case

Toyota Motor Corp. lost a trademark-infringement case to a California auto broker unrepresented by counsel.

Toyota sued Lisa and Farzad Tabari in federal court in Los Angeles in 2003, objecting to their Fast Imports auto brokerage’s use of photos of Lexus cars on their website. The automaker also objected to the inclusion of “Lexus” in their Internet domain names.

The district court found that the Tabaris had infringed the Toyota marks and ordered them to quit using “Lexus” anywhere in the domain names.

The Tabaris filed an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, and argued the case on their own in August 2009.

In a July 8 ruling, a three-judge panel said the trial court reached too far. The panel noted that the domain names -- “ and “independent-lexus- -- wouldn’t confuse a reasonable company into thinking the Japanese automaker sponsored the sites.

“Prohibition of such truthful and non-misleading speech” didn’t protect consumers, the appeals court said. “In fact, it undermines the rational by frustrating honest communication between the Tabaris and their customers.”

The appeals panel told the trial court to modify its order to allow at least some use of the Lexus mark in the Tabaris’ domain names. “Trademarks are part of our common language and we all have some right to use them to communicate in truthful, non-misleading ways,” the panel said.

The appeals court also addressed the fact that the Tabaris represented themselves. “Many of the district court’s errors seem to be the result of unevenly-matched lawyering, as Toyota appears to have taken advantage of the fact that the Tabaris appeared pro se,” Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the panel.

He suggested that to avoid similar problems in the future, the court “might consider contacting members of the bar to determine if any would be willing to represent the Tabaris at a reduced rate or on a volunteer basis.”

The case is Toyota Motor Sales v. Tabari, 07-55344, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco).

For more trademark news, click here.

University Technology Transfer

Spherix Takes License to University of Kentucky’s Technology

Spherix Inc.’s Biospherics unit has taken a license to patent applications for a technology to lower level of triglycerides found in blood, the company said in a statement.

The agreement will give the Bethesda, Maryland-based company the rights to international patents for five drug formulations developed at the university. More than 140 nations are signatories to the patent cooperation treaty governing these patents.

The connection between 43-yedr-old Spherix and the university comes by way of its president, Professor Robert Lodder of the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy.

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

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