BT Group, Mattel, Pirate Party, Gucci, Capcom, BYD: Intellectual Property

BT Group Plc’s British Telecommunications unit sued chipmaker Analog Devices Inc. in the U.S., demanding patent royalties for an invention related to data compression and encoding.

Analog Devices is making chipsets for mobile phones that violate a patent issued in 1992 for “encoding, decoding and transmitting data in compressed form,” London-based British Telecom said in a complaint filed July 21 in federal court in Boston. It asked the court to order compensation for the use of its invention.

BT Group, the U.K.’s largest telephone company, has filed a half-dozen lawsuits against chipmakers including Broadcom Corp., Texas Instruments Inc. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. in an effort to collect royalties on the patent, which expired in October.

Under U.S. law, patent owners can seek compensation over expired patents for infringements that occurred when the patent was in force. They can’t get a court order affecting sales.

BT Chief Executive Officer Ian Livingston has slashed jobs and replaced executives at the global-services unit to combat falling sales amid the economic slowdown. The company in May said it plans to increase its investment for a high-speed fiber network serving U.K. homes.

Officials with Norwood, Massachusetts-based Analog Devices didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

The case is British Telecommunications Plc v. Analog Devices Inc., 10cv11227, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

Nuance Sued by Vlingo Over Voice-Recognition Patents

Vlingo Corp., whose products help mobile telephones recognize voice commands, sued rival Nuance Communications Inc. alleging infringement of five U.S. patents.

Vlingo, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is seeking a jury trial, an order to stop the infringement and unspecified damages, according to a complaint filed July 21 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Nuance’s acts of infringement have caused harm, reparable and irreparable, to Vlingo” and “Nuance will continue to infringe” unless stopped by the court, the plaintiff’s lawyers said in court papers.

Nuance, with $950.4 million in sales last fiscal year, sued Vlingo in federal court in Texas in 2008, asserting its own patent against Vlingo. That case was transferred to Massachusetts in 2009 and is continuing with document gathering.

Richard Mack, a spokesman for Burlington, Massachusetts- based Nuance, didn’t immediately return voice and e-mail messages seeking comment on the Delaware lawsuit.

In dispute are patents 5,956,681; 6,563,911; 6,606,611; 6,671,354; and 6,813,603.

The case is Vlingo Corp. v. Nuance, 10CV621 U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Copyright

Mattel Loses Appeal Court Ruling on Bratz Dolls Copyright

Mattel Inc., which won the rights to rival MGA Entertainment Inc.’s Bratz dolls after a copyright trial, had them taken away by an appeals court whose ruling may force the Barbie-doll maker to retry the matter.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a December 2008 order that gave Mattel the rights to most of MGA’s Bratz products after a jury found the designer who created the dolls was working at Mattel when he conceived of them and made the initial drawings for them.

“It is not equitable to transfer this billion-dollar brand, the value of which is overwhelmingly the result of MGA’s legitimate efforts, because it may have started with two misappropriated names,” Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the appeals court panel in yesterday’s ruling.

The appellate court said it was likely that a significant portion of the jury verdict and damages award would need to be vacated and that the entire case will probably be retried.

Kozinski also said the trial court gave the designs too broad a range of copyright protection.

“Producing small plastic dolls that resemble young females is a staple of the fashion doll market,” he wrote. The expression of an attractive young, female fashion doll with exaggerated proportions is “highly constrained” because some exaggerations would make the dolls “freakish, not idealized,” he said.

Because of the narrow range of possible expression, the preliminary pattern for the doll “is entitled to only thin copyright protection against virtually identical copying,” Kozinski wrote in the court’s opinion.

“We look forward to a full trial on all Mattel’s claims against MGA,” El Segundo, California-based Mattel said in a statement. “We believe that such a trial will present a comprehensive and even more compelling case for Mattel than was possible with a divided trial.”

The trial court jury in Riverside, California, found that ex-Barbie designer Carter Bryant came up with the Bratz idea and made most of the original sketches for it while he was still at Mattel. It awarded Mattel $100 million in damages, 5 percent of the $2 billion the toymaker sought.

“This is a breathtaking opinion by a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit,” Thomas Nolan, a lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, who represented Van Nuys, California- based MGA during the trial, said in a statement. “The panel endorsed all of the arguments that MGA has been advancing throughout this protracted litigation.”

Mattel’s case was argued by Daniel Paul Collins of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP of Los Angeles. MGA’s case was argued by E. Joshua Rozenkranz of San Francisco’s Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

The case is MGA Entertainment Inc. v. Mattel Inc., 09- 55673, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco). The district court case is Bryant v. Mattel, 2:04-09049-DOC-RNB, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside).

Pirate Party to Set up ISP Through Sweden’s Parliament

The Pirate Party, which opposes copyright and other forms of intellectual-property law, said it will become an Internet service provider for a search engine used for music and film downloading, the Stockholm News reported.

The party plans to host the site through Sweden’s parliament because the nation’s constitution guarantees that members of parliament cannot be sued or prosecuted for actions that are part of their political mandate, according to Stockholm News.

In a statement published in Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper, the party said this act would buy its Internet customers “a short respite from the copyright industry’s legal barrage,” according to Stockholm News.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trademark

Gucci Stops Founder’s Descendant From Using Name for Hotel

Gucci, the luxury-goods company owned by PPR SA, said it won an injunction preventing unauthorized use of the Elisabetta Gucci name, thwarting plans by the great-granddaughter of the founder to open a chain of hotels under her moniker.

The use of Elisabetta Gucci’s name “has caused customer confusion and has been harmful to Gucci’s business,” the company said in an e-mail yesterday that was confirmed by a spokeswoman. The ruling by a Florence court “will hopefully act as a significant deterrent for those who intend to unlawfully license or commercially exploit the Gucci trademarks.”

Calls and e-mails to Elisabetta Gucci’s Dubai office weren’t immediately answered. Lorens Ziller, managing partner of her eponymous company, didn’t immediately return e-mails seeking comment.

Elisabetta Gucci had plans to open an 87-suite hotel in Dubai by the end of the year, Ziller said last month. Branded as EG Hotels & Resorts by Elisabetta Gucci, the property was to showcase furniture she designed and to be built by Formitalia Srl, Ziller said.

Ziller and Formitalia must “immediately cease any use of the mark at issue as well as of the domain name ‘Elisabetta Gucci’ for any business or advertising purpose,” Gucci said. The same applies to Mirabili Srl and Formitalia Group SpA, it said. The court imposed a penalty for any violation and awarded Gucci legal fees, the company said.

The Dubai hotel will be the first of 40 to open globally in the next 15 years, Ziller said last month. Elisabetta Gucci’s partner is Baitek International Investment, owned by Saudi Arabian investor Abdulla Al Sayegh.

Capcom Looks to Enter Social Networks, Application Indicates

Capcom Co., an Osaka, Japan-based video-game developer, may be planning to enter the social-network space, if a recent trademark application is any indication.

The company, publisher of the “Resident Evil” and “Street Fighter” game series, said in May it was planning to introduce a game on Facebook Inc.’s social-network site.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Capcom filed an application July 16 to register “Comuken” as a trademark. The company said it plans to use the mark for online social-networking services, providing computer games to others that may be accessed via the Internet, and computer software for use in social-networking database management.

The application was submitted on Capcom’s behalf by Curtis B. Hamre of Minneapolis-based Hamre Schumann Mueller & Larson PC.

The patent office database indicates Capcom submitted an additional trademark application in July, this time to register “Lil’ Pirates” for computer game software.

Vietnamese Province Urged to Get Trademarks for Coffee, Tea

Vietnam’s Lam Dong province should obtain a trademark for its coffee as a key to further economic development, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a meeting of the province’s leaders, according to the Voice of Vietnam news website.

The prime minister said that with the province’s potential for organic farms and food processing, brand names should be built for coffee and tea, Voice of Vietnam reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Hon Hai Sues BYD Employees in Illinois Over Trade Secrets

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. sued three employees of Chinese competitor BYD Co. in an Illinois court, alleging they participated in an international conspiracy to steal its trade secrets and hire away company employees.

Stella K. Li, Michael Austin and Sun Jian are alleged to have orchestrated the actions while employed at BYD in order to gain business from Taipei-based Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, according to a copy of the complaint filed yesterday in state court in Chicago.

Hon Hai is seeking return of its proprietary and confidential information as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

BYD didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

Hon Hai is represented by J. Patrick Herald, Michael L. Morkin and Michael C. McCutcheon of Baker & McKenzie LLP.

The case is Hon Hai Precision Industry Ltd. v. Stella K. Li, 2010-L-008374, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Chicago).

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

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