Riddell, Apple, Torrent, News Corp., Wikipedia: Intellectual Property

Riddell Sports Group Inc.’s Riddell unit said it won a lawsuit accusing Schutt Sports Inc. of infringing two patents for football helmets.

A federal jury in Madison, Wisconsin, awarded closely held Riddell almost $30 million in damages, Riddell said in a statement yesterday.

Riddell sued in December 2008, claiming that Schutt’s DNA, ION and AIR XP helmets infringed. That same month Schutt released a statement calling Riddell “desperate” and said the suit “hardly passes the sniff test.”

In dispute were patents 7,240,376 and 6,934,971, which cover concussion-reduction technologies in helmet design.

Riddell and Schutt were among four makers of commercially available helmets whose products were found to meet certification to protect football players against severe traumatic skull and brain injuries, NBC Sports reported July 23. The study was authorized by the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association.

Riddell, based in New York, was represented by Christopher G. Hanewicz and Debra R. Bernard from Seattle’s Perkins Coie LLP.

Schutt’s lawyers were Colleen M. Garlington, Emily Dempsey, Noah Franklin Webster, William A. Streff, James Brian Medek, Jordan Heinz and Robin McCue from Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Jeffrey A. McIntyre and Paul Cranley from Madison’s Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek SC; and in-house counsel Robert Erb.

The case is Riddell Inc. v. Schutt Sports Inc., 3:08- cv00711-bbc, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

Patent Office Gains U.S. Funding to Reduce Application Backlog

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will get an additional $129 million in federal funds to help reduce an application backlog that the Obama administration says is hindering innovation and job creation.

President Barack Obama signed a law yesterday that lets the agency retain fees collected in excess of its current $1.89 billion budget. Without the law, fees beyond the budget would be sent to the U.S. Treasury.

The administration has linked improved protection for intellectual property with helping economic growth. The patent office is struggling to reduce a backlog of more than 700,000 applications as of Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. On average, it takes 34.6 months to complete the process and issue a patent, and the office is seeking to cut that to 20 months by fiscal 2014.

In a posting on the patent office website, Director David Kappos said the agency will hire patent examiners, pay overtime for current examiners and support staff, and buy software to improve the efficiency of the office.

For more, click here.

Apple Enters Licensing Agreement With Liquidmetal Technologies

Apple Inc., the world’s biggest technology company by market value, completed a patent-licensing agreement with Liquidmetal Technologies Inc., a developer of metals technology.

Under the accord, Apple gets a perpetual license to all of Liquidmetal’s intellectual property, Rancho Santa Margarita, California-based Liquidmetal said yesterday in a regulatory filing. Terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

Liquidmetal manufactures and sells bulk amorphous alloys, which it describes as metal materials that are highly resistant to stress and corrosion. The company had $22 million in revenue and a net loss of $6.6 million in 2008, according to a filing. It hasn’t filed an annual report for 2009.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment on the filing. A representative of Liquidmetal couldn’t be reached.

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Torrent Reactor Says to Buy Rights to Rename Siberian Village

Torrent Reactor, the operator of a file-sharing website, said it will pay 4.5 million rubles ($148,000) for the right to rename the village of Gar in Russia’s Siberia region.

Torrent Reactor said in a statement on its website that the company hopes “other large Internet portals would follow our example to help many godforsaken places on Earth.”

Although Torrent Reactor says it’s making a humanitarian gesture, Russia’s lax copyright enforcement may provide a business motivation, the Moscow Times reported.

Pirate Bay, a competitor, has already set up a server in Russia in hopes of evading Swedish authorities’ copyright enforcement efforts, Moscow Times reported.

News Corp.’s Sun, Plymouth Herald Make End Run Against Ban

The U.K.’s Plymouth Herald newspaper sidestepped the Southampton Football Club’s new ban on news photographers on its playing fields by producing a story about an Aug. 7 game that was illustrated with cartoons.

The three cartoons illustrating the game story were drawn by Plymouth city historian Chris Robinson. Plymouth Argyle Football Club, the opposing team, released its official photos into the public domain, saying its players and sponsors “would have suffered” from the restrictions, according to the Herald.

News Corp.’s Sun, which also covered the game, produced what it called “the most one-sided match report in the history of The Sun.” Its coverage featured a photo of three players from the Plymouth Argyle team, and a headline that read “Opposition 0 Plymouth 1.”

The Sun’s report didn’t mention the Southampton team or any of its players by name. It did apologize to the team’s fans, “who have stuck by their club through thick and thin.”

For more copyright news, click here.


FBI Tells Wikipedia to Remove Seal; Website Refuses

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation demanded that Wikipedia stop using the FBI seal to illustrate its entry about the government agency, the BBC reported.

The FBI sent Wikipedia’s San Francisco office a letter saying the reproduction on the site was unauthorized and “prohibited by law,” the BBC reported.

The online encyclopedia responded by saying the FBI lawyers “misquoted the law” and that it hadn’t done anything wrong, according to the BBC.

Michael W. Godwin, Wikipedia’s general counsel, said his organization was “compelled as a matter of law” to deny the FBI request, and was ready to argue in court, the BBC reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Creteguard Told It Can’t Honor Non-Compete Agreement

Creteguard Inc., a California company that provides sealers for concrete slab floors, wrongfully discharged an employee at the request of her previous employer, a state appeals court found.

Rosemary Silguero, who was fired from Creteguard of Santa Fe Springs, California, at the request of Floor Seal Technology Inc., was wrongfully terminated, according to a ruling from the California Second District Court of Appeal.

Thomas Nucum, Creteguard’s chief executive officer, wrote to Silguero saying that she would be fired because of a non- compete agreement she had made with Milpitas, California-based Floor Seal, according to court papers. He added that although “we believe that non-compete clauses are not legally enforceable here in California” his company “would like to keep the same respect and understanding with colleagues in the same industry,” court papers showed.

The appeals court said Silguero had a valid claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The “understanding” Nucum wrote about “is tantamount to a no-hire agreement,” the court said. It also awarded Silguero attorney fees.

The case is Rosemary Silguero v. Creteguard Inc., B215179, Courts of Appeal of California, Second District, Division One.

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

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