Facebook, Abercrombie, Apple `Sexting', Honeywell: Intellectual Property

The western New York man who claims a 2003 contract with Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg entitles him to 84 percent of the company asked a federal judge to send the case back to state court.

A lawyer for Paul Ceglia argued yesterday that the suit against Facebook and Zuckerberg, 26, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, should be returned to the court in Belmont, New York, where Ceglia filed it in June.

The federal court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit, James Grable Jr. argued, because Zuckerberg’s legal domicile is his parents’ home in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and not in Palo Alto, California, as he claims. U.S. law permits federal courts to hear cases between citizens of different states in which more than $75,000 is at issue.

“He’s got one foot in New York and one foot in California,” Grable told U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara in a one-hour hearing in Buffalo, New York.

Ceglia’s lawsuit claims Zuckerberg signed a contract in 2003 that entitles Ceglia to control what has become the world’s biggest social networking website. Zuckerberg maintains he hadn’t conceived of Facebook when Ceglia says the contract was signed in 2003. Zuckerberg started the site in 2004 as a Harvard University sophomore, he says. He couldn’t have signed away rights to a site he hadn’t yet thought of, the company has said.

Closely held Facebook, based in Palo Alto, may be worth as much as $27.8 billion, according to Sharespost.com, an online marketplace for companies not traded publicly.

The case is Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, 1:10-cv-00569, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York (Buffalo).

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Patents

Solvay Wins Honeywell Appeal Over Chemical Patents

Solvay SA won an appeals court ruling in its patent- infringement case against Honeywell International Inc. over a way of making an insulation agent used in refrigeration and heat-storage systems.

A judge erred in invalidating certain elements of a patent owned by Solvay for pentafluoropropane, a substitute for ozone- depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in a ruling posted on its website yesterday. The court upheld the judge’s finding that Honeywell infringed those aspects of the patent and sent the case back to the trial judge for further proceedings.

The appeal hinged on the question of whether Honeywell could be considered another inventor of the technology because of work it did in the 1990s. Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell can seek to invalidate the patent on other grounds when the case returns to the trial court.

“We will continue our vigorous defense of this claim and are confident that we will prevail,” said Peter Dalpe, a spokesman for Honeywell.

Officials with Brussels-based Solvay didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

The case is Solvay SA v. Honeywell International Inc., 2009-1161, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Solvay SA v. Honeywell Specialty Materials LLC, 06CV557, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington.)

U.S. Patent Office Awards ‘Sexting’ Patent to Apple

Parents need no longer fret that their children are sending racy text messages. Apple Inc., on Oct. 12, received patent 7,814,163 for a “text-based communication control for personal communication device” that allows parental control over texting.

According to the abstract, the method patented allows a message to “be blocked (incoming or outgoing) if the message includes forbidden content. In other embodiments, the objectionable content is removed from the message prior to transmission or as part of the receiving process. The content of such a message is controlled by filtering the message based on defined criteria. The criteria may be defined according to a parental control application.”

The application, according to the filing would also address academics and could encourage children to send texts in a foreign language.

An Apple spokesperson didn’t return calls seeking comment.

To read the patent application, click here.

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Trademarks and Copyright

Abercrombie Suing Over Alleged Trademark, Copyright Infringement

Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has filed suit against manufacturer Seena International Inc. in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, alleging copyright and trademark infringement. Abercrombie is seeking both monetary and injunctive relief in the suit filed Oct. 8.

On Oct. 7, the New Albany, Ohio-based company reported year-to-date net sales of $2.1 billion, a 17 percent increase from net sales of $1.8 billion last year. The complaint alleges that it has “realized over $1.4 million from sales of T-shirts bearing the designs that the defendants are using.”

Seena is a privately held company based in New York. Seena’s senior vice president, Jay Schwartz, said that while the company hadn’t been served with the suit it is “talking to” in-house counsel at Abercrombie and hopes to have the case resolved quickly. Joey Thomas, a spokesperson for J.C. Penney Co., another defendant in the lawsuit, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation. The third defendant, R.A.G. Inc., couldn’t be located.

David Bloomfield, a partner in the Columbus office of Porter Wright Morris Arthur, whose name is on the complaint, didn’t return a call seeking comment. Eric Cerny, director of investor relations at Abercrombie, declined to comment.

The case is Abercrombie & Fitch Co. v. Seena International Inc., 2:10-cv-910, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).

For more trademark news, click here. For more copyright news, click here.

Government Action

Italy Drops Charges Against Ex-Curator Marion True

Italy has dropped charges of conspiracy and handling looted artifacts against Marion True, former antiquities curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, according to a Getty spokeswoman.

“It’s our understanding charges have been dropped,” the Getty spokeswoman, who declined to be named, said. “We are pleased that charges against Marion True have been dismissed, and we wish her the very best as this long and difficult ordeal is coming to a close.”

The news was greeted with enthusiasm in some quarters of the collecting community.

“It was a politically motivated trial just to send the message: Don’t deal with Italian cultural patrimony or we’ll create a headache for you,” said Torkom Demirjian, president and founder of Ariadne Galleries in New York, which specializes in antiquities. “This whole thing is a bureaucratic and ideological overreach. It’s a political decision to discourage private collecting of antiquities.”

The Getty Museum in August 2007 agreed to return 40 objects to the Italian government, leading Italy to drop civil suits against True. True still faced criminal charges.

The statute of limitations ran out on those charges, and a Rome judge agreed with True’s defense team that the trial should no longer proceed, according to an earlier Associated Press report.

True has denied the charges against her. She had been on trial in Rome for the last five years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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