Symantec, Adobe, Joule, AB InBev, Canada Copyright: Intellectual Property

Symantec Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. were among 10 companies sued for patent infringement by Uniloc USA Inc., which has been in a legal battle over anti- piracy technology with Microsoft Corp. since 2003.

Uniloc USA and Uniloc Singapore Ltd., which owns the patent, also sued CA Inc., National Instruments Corp., Pervasive Software Inc., SafeNet Inc. and its Aladdin Knowledge unit, Avid Technology Inc.’s Pinnacle Systems unit, Sonic Solutions Inc. and Onyx Graphics Inc. The complaint was filed yesterday in federal court in Tyler, Texas.

The company, with U.S. offices in Irvine, California, has sued 60 companies and reached licensing agreements with more than 20, Chief Executive Officer Brad Davis said in a telephone interview. Uniloc won a $388 million jury verdict in 2009 that Microsoft violated a patent related to product activation technology. The decision was later thrown out by a trial judge.

Uniloc is contesting the decision to vacate, and arguments were heard on that case by an appeals court on Sept. 7. In the complaint filed yesterday, Uniloc is seeking unspecified cash compensation and a court order that would block further use of its technology. At issue is patent 5,490,216, for a system of software registration, issued in February 1996.

Uniloc originated with the work of Australian guitarist Ric Richardson, who in the 1990s created a way to distribute and buy music. His invention was licensed to International Business Machines Corp. and was used in “try and buy” compact discs distributed with computer magazines, Davis said.

Uniloc is represented by Jack Wesley Hill and Thomas John Ward Jr. of the Ward & Smith Law Firm of Longview, Texas.

The new case is Uniloc USA Inc. v. National Instruments Corp., 10cv472, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).

Joule Gets Biofuel-Production Patent After 5-Month Wait

Joule Unlimited Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biofuel company, received a patent for an organism that can produce biodiesel fuel in a single-step process.

The patent was issued only five months after the application was filed. In December, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office set up a program to accelerate the examination of applications for so-called “green” technologies. Previously, the average wait for patents in such areas was 40 months, according to a patent office statement.

Patent 7,704,969, one of 4,898 U.S. patents issued yesterday, covers bioengineered algae that uses sunlight, waste carbon dioxide and water to generate the fuel.

The algae are of the cyanobacteria class of blue-green algae found on earth as long as 3.8 billion years ago. The patent doesn’t specifically identify the organism.

According to a Sept. 14 company statement, the process by which the organism generated biofuel “produces more net energy than it consumes and yields sulfur-free, ultra-clean diesel.” The invention “clears the path for large-scale renewable fuel production,” Joule said in the statement.

Joule applied for the patent in April with assistance from Fenwick & West LLP of Mountain View, California.

Finisar Settles Infringement Dispute with Source Photonics

Finisar Corp. settled the lawsuit it brought in January that accused MRV Communications Inc.’s Source Photonics unit of infringing 11 patents related to digital diagnostics and transceiver modules.

Source Photonics, of Chatsworth, California, agreed to pay Finisar $14.5 million by Sept. 20, Finisar said in a statement yesterday. The payment will cover a license to some unspecified Finisar patents that will run through December 2015. The companies, which provide fiber-optic networks, also agreed not sue each other over certain products.

Finisar, based in Sunnyvale, California, was represented by Michael John Lyons, Daniel Johnson Jr., Harry Frederick Doscher and Michael Francis Carr of Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Source Photonics’ lawyers were Alan H. Blankenheimer, Jo Dale Carothers, Laura Muschamp, and Robert T. Haslam III of Washington’s Covington & Burling LLP.

The case is Finisar Corp. v. Source Photonics Inc., 3:10- cv-00032-WHA, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more patent news, click here.


AB InBev Backed by Court Advocate General on Trademark Review

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s appeal to get back the European Union-wide trademark on “Bud” for beer should be re-examined, an adviser to the EU’s top court said, rejecting a lower court’s decision to annul the protection.

“The appeal should be upheld” and “referred back” to the EU’s lower court for a re-examination before the region’s top tribunal can give a final decision, Pedro Cruz Villalon, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, said in a non-binding opinion yesterday. The Luxembourg-based EU court follows such advice in a majority of rulings.

The case is part of a fight that has raged for more than a century over the name-rights covering use of the Bud brand, pitting AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, against Czech competitor Budejovicky Budvar NP. A lower EU court in December 2008 upheld Budvar’s challenge to the EU trademark.

The court at the time said an EU trademark agency had wrongly issued the U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch, now part of Leuven, Belgium-based AB InBev, with region-wide rights to use Bud on beer and other alcoholic beverages over the objections of Budvar. The decision left the right to use the name “Bud” to be determined in individual countries.

AB InBev said in an e-mail it’s pleased with the outcome, which “validates” its “right to register the Bud trademark in the European Union.”

“A positive decision from the Court of Justice would move Anheuser-Busch InBev one step closer to securing rights to either Budweiser or Bud throughout” the EU, the company said.

AB Inbev owns national trademark rights for Bud or Budweiser in 23 of the 27 EU countries. Budvar says it owns the rights because its beer comes from Ceske Budejovice, which is called Budweis in German.

The case is C-96/09 P, Anheuser-Busch v Budejovicky Budvar, OHMI.

Lego Can’t Get EU-Wide Toy Trademark After Court Loss

Lego A/S, Europe’s biggest toymaker, lost a court challenge seeking European Union-wide trademark rights for the shape of its toy bricks.

The ruling by the EU’s highest court in Luxembourg yesterday puts an end to Lego’s chances to get a trademark to protect the shape of its building blocks in the region’s 27 nations. The dispute has its origins in 1999, when Billund, Denmark-based Lego won an EU trademark on the blocks’ shape which Mega Brands Inc., Lego’s biggest competitor in snap- together toys, then succeeded in overturning.

A shape such as Lego’s toy brick that “merely performs a technical function cannot be registered as a trademark,” the European Court of Justice ruled yesterday. “Such a registration would unduly impair the opportunity for competitors to place on the market goods whose shapes incorporate the same technical solution.”

Lego had claimed the knobs on top of its toy bricks make them “highly distinctive” and eligible for a trademark. The EU trademark agency said the toy can’t be protected because its shape serves a technical purpose, a decision backed by a lower EU court in 2008.

“It is naturally a matter of concern to us that use of the brick by others can dilute the trademark,” Peter Kjaer, head of Lego’s intellectual property department, said in a statement on the company’s website. “The worst aspect is that consumers will be misled.”

“Analyses show that 40 percent to 60 percent of shoppers believe they are buying a Lego product when in fact they are purchasing a different product,” said Kjaer.

Mega Brands, based in Montreal, Canada, said in a statement that the ruling “has no impact on Mega Brands’ extensive footprint” in the EU, because it confirms previous decisions by a lower court and the region’s trademark agency.

The EU court in 2002 clarified for the first time that shapes used for a so-called technical result can’t be protected under EU trademark law. The court rejected Royal Philips Electronics NV’s bid to block Spectrum Brands Inc.’s Remington Products from selling shavers with a triangle-shaped rotating head similar to those made by Philips.

The Lego case is C-48/09 P Lego v OHIM.

For more trademark news, click here.


U.K. ISPs May Bear Some Infringement Enforcement Costs

In the U.K., Internet service providers would have to pay 25 percent of the cost of notifying suspected copyright infringers, with the remainder paid by content owners, the Telegraph newspaper reported.

Ed Vaizey, the government’s minister for communications, told the Telegraph that that cost structure is part of the implementation of the Digital Economy Act passed earlier this year, and that it is intended to protect valuable content industries that have suffered losses from infringement.

Internet service providers have said that shouldering the 25 percent cost may drive up the price of consumers’ broadband service, according to the newspaper.

Access Copyright Seeks Flat Fee for College Student Copying

Canadian college students may have to pay a fee of C$45 dollars ($44) per academic year for a copyright license, under a tariff plan proposed by the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, known as Access Copyright.

Activities the tariff would cover include the copying of encyclopedia entries, newspaper articles, reproductions of artistic works, a chapter of a book, and providing a link or hyperlink to a digital copy.

Professor Michael Geist, who teaches Internet and E- Commerce law at the University of Ottawa, wrote in the Toronto Star that the fees may be excessive, given that many of the ways students and teachers access content -- such as reading an open- source journal -- are outside the authority of Access Copyright.

Godard Says He Doesn’t Believe in Intellectual Property

Jean-Luc Godard, the French-Swiss director of such films as “Breathless” and “Contempt” denies the existence of intellectual property and donated about $1,300 to the legal defense fund of a man accused of illegal downloading, the Atlantic Monthly’s blog reported.

Godard also said he was opposed to the inheritance of creative works by anyone but the creator’s minor children, according to the blog. The director said he was opposed to Hadopi, France’s government agency charged with copyright enforcement, the blog reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

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

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