IP Bewertungs, NBC, Foxconn: Intellectual Property

IP Bewertungs AG, a German fund spun off from Deutsche Bank AG, and Israeli patent law firm Luzzatto & Luzzatto have joined forces to bring early stage clean-energy technologies to market in Israel.

Hamburg-based IPB, which manages about 200 million euros ($254 million), will provide cash and expertise in renewable energies and Luzzatto will “introduce patent owners in the greentech field to the patent fund,” Amir Palmery, an adviser from Luzzatto said yesterday in an e-mail.

The law firm/investment fund venture aims to find Israeli researchers with patents and buy them, finance their development and bring them to market. About 2 million euros will be invested in each project, Palmery said. Entrepreneurs will be paid for the patent, royalties and a percentage of the final sale, said Palmery.

“This idea is an alternative to the venture capital model which is not always suitable, and is expected to bring interesting projects to realization,” Palmery said.

Kfir Luzzatto, partner at Luzzatto, said in an e-mail yesterday that “we agreed to become the exclusive representative of the patent fund in Israel because we saw a need for a funding source for patent owners in the greentech arena who either did not want typical venture capital funding, or who did not meet the criteria of the venture funds.”

Established in 2001, closely held IPB is active in the chemistry, food, biotechnology, medical technology, pharmacology, engineering and automotive technologies, in addition to renewable energy.

Tesla Gets U.S. Patent for Electric Car Battery-Charging Method

Tesla Motors Inc., the Palo Alto, California-based maker of battery-powered cars, received a patent on a method of charging an electric vehicle’s battery that will permit the return of some of the electrical energy to a municipal grid.

Patent 7,782,021, which was one of 5,120 U.S. patents issued yesterday, covers a battery charging method based on cost of energy and the life of the battery. The method involves the use of a timer circuit to provide a time signal to the charging cost circuit.

This system will begin charging when the cost cycle is below a certain threshold, given that in some parts of the world, energy costs are lower at night when fewer demands are placed on the power grid. The battery can be charged at a lower cost while the car’s user is sleeping.

The energy stored by the battery can be converted so that it can be used by a municipal grid, according to the patent.

Tesla applied for the patent in July 2007, with the assistance of the Law Office of David G. Beck of Mill Valley, California.

The company agreed in May to pay $42 million to buy a closed Toyota Motors Corp. factory in Fremont, California, as an assembly site for its battery-powered cars.

For more patent news, click here


Carrefour Files Chinese Trademark Suit Against Anhui Jiale

Carrefour SA, the French retailer second in size only to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., sued a Chinese supermarket chain for trademark infringement, Agence France Presse reported.

Anhui Jiale Supermarket Chain Co. was accused of using Carrefour’s Chinese name -- “Jialefu” -- and logo at supermarkets in China’s Anhui province, according to AFP.

In addition to asking the court to force Jiale to change its name, Carrefour is asking for 6 million yuan ($883,000) in damages, AFP reported.

Jiale has countered that Carrefour’s Chinese name, which translates to “happy family,” isn’t distinctive enough to be covered by trademark law, according to AFP.

NBC and Trump Sue Lithuanian Beauty Pageant Over ‘Mrs. Universe’

NBC Universal Inc. and Donald Trump sued the organizers of a Lithuanian beauty pageant for trademark infringement, Associated Press reported.

They object to Pramogu Akademija’s Mrs. Universe pageant, saying it infringes on the trademarks for the Miss Universe pageant they own, according to AP.

Lithuanian patent organizers claim that NBC Universal’s claims are unfounded because ‘universe’ is a generic word and not entitled to trademark status, according to AP.

In addition to seeking a court order barring further use of the term “Mrs. Universe,” Trump and NBC are demanding cash compensation for damage they say was done to their mark, AP reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

BYD Can Pursue Foxconn Conspiracy Claims, Hong Kong Judge Says

BYD Co., the Chinese car and battery maker in which Warren Buffett has a stake, won court approval to pursue claims that Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. gathered false evidence and conspired to injure BYD’s business.

“I think this plea should be allowed to develop and be decided by the trial judge who would be able to hear all the evidence,” Hong Kong Judge Louis Chan said Aug. 23. Foxconn, the world’s largest contract maker of mobile phones, had argued that BYD’s claims were scandalous and frivolous.

BYD made the allegations after two Foxconn units sued three years ago claiming BYD recruited former employees and stole the companies’ trade secrets including operation manuals. In its countersuit, BYD accused its rival of unlawful interference with its business and conspiracy to injure. Shenzhen, China-based Foxconn planted documents and coerced a former employee to confess he had stolen secrets, according to BYD’s claims.

BYD’s claims include that a security manager of one of Foxconn’s units illegally intimidated a former employee to make a false statement by accompanying her on a 20-hour train journey with four public security officers, according to yesterday’s 24- page ruling.

Foxconn declined to comment on the ruling, said Vincent Tong, a spokesman for the handset maker. Foxconn will “follow through with the proceedings as we move along with the legal process,” Tong said in a telephone interview.

BYD will assert its claims and defend the claims brought by the Foxconn units as the court proceedings continue, according to Sandra Mak, a spokeswoman for BYD.

“However we hope that the matter can be concluded so that we can dedicate our entire effort to our business,” she said in a statement on behalf of the company.

Hong Kong-listed Foxconn faces competition from BYD for orders of handset components from customers including Nokia Oyj. The company, which is the worst performer on the benchmark Hang Seng Index this year, said BYD, China’s largest maker of rechargeable batteries, doubled its revenue from its handset business in 2005, 2006 and 2007 after obtaining Foxconn data.

Foxconn shares are down 37 percent year-to-date, versus a 5.5 percent slide in the benchmark index. Shenzhen-based BYD is down 35 percent in Hong Kong this year.

Three former Foxconn employees, including a former chief operating officer of one of the contract manufacturer’s units, had been previously convicted of infringing Foxconn’s business secrets in a separate proceeding in Shenzhen.

The case is HCA2114/2007, BYD Co. et al and Shenzhen Futaihong Precision Industry Co. et al in the Hong Kong Court of First Instance.


Bowling Green University Professor Says Dissertation Was Copied

A professor at Ohio’s Bowling Green University sued another academic for copyright infringement.

Montana C. Miller of Perrysburg, Ohio, is a tenure-track professor who claims significant portions of her doctoral dissertation were copied by an Ohio resident who is a member of the adjunct faculty at four regional educational institutions.

In May 2010, Ohio State University’s Committee on Academic Misconduct held a hearing on the alleged infringement of Miller’s work by Elizabeth Nixon, who received her doctorate from OSU, according to the complaint filed Aug. 23 in federal court in Columbus, Ohio.

The committee concluded that Nixon had plagiarized Miller’s dissertation. It asked that the university’s board of trustees to revoke Nixon’s doctorate and asked the school’s libraries to remove all copies of Nixon’s dissertation, Miller said in her pleadings.

According to a website of the university libraries’ technical services department, a request was made from the graduate school to remove a dissertation from the library and its catalogue as the author’s degree had been rescinded. The website doesn’t specifically name Nixon or her dissertation.

Nixon “knew or reasonably should have known that Ph.D. dissertations contain (or at least should contain) the original thought and expression of the ideas of the author,” Miller said in her complaint. Miller included copyright notices on her thesis and claims Nixon “knew or reasonably should have known that Ph.D. dissertations generally are works protected by copyright.”

Nixon didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Miller asked the court to order Nixon to stop copying the Miller work or creating derivative works based on it. She also seeks seizure and destruction of all infringing materials, and for money damages and any profits Nixon may have derived from her allegedly infringing actions.

She also requested awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

Nixon is represented by Amanda L. Wickline, T. Earl LeVere, Robert A. Gilcrest, and Amy R. Tulk of Schottenstein Zox & Dunn Co. LPS of Columbus, Ohio.

The case is Montana c. Miller v. Elisabeth Nixon, 2:10-cv-00759-JLG-EPD, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).

Gawker.com Unit Will Fight Over Jennifer Anniston Photo

Jezebel.com, a Gawker.com blog that focuses on fashion and celebrity news, received a cease-and-desist letter after it published what it said was the original of a photo of actress Jennifer Anniston that appeared on the cover of an Australian fashion magazine.

In what Jezebel said was the original photo, Anniston appears to be deeply tanned with lines on her forehead and around her mouth. The magazine cover version shows a lighter- skinned Anniston, with most of the lines absent.

The website, which has previously published articles about the use of Adobe System Inc.’s Photoshop program to alter celebrity photos, responded to the letter by saying that posting the photo fell into copyright law’s fair use exception to infringement.

In its response, Jezebel said one of its “most significant areas of interest is the Photoshopping of women who appear in magazines, catalogs, or in any other publication. It’s an important factor that shapes the beauty standard, and it affects how women view themselves, for better or worse.”

According to the cease-and-desist letter, which came from the Management + Artists +Syndication agency, the photo that Jezebel claims is the original was in fact doctored, while the magazine cover is the original. On the Jezebel website, an agency watermark is visible atop the photo that Jezebel says is the original, un-retouched photo.

An e-mail from Nick Denton, founder and proprietor of Gawker.com, to the Jezebel staff is posted on the Jezebel website. In that e-mail he says, “This one I want to fight. Simply because they claim that the comparison photo was doctored, doesn’t mean they can shut down discussion of this issue. It’s incumbent on them to underpin their claim.”

For more copyright news, click here.

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

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