Spansion, Zynga, De Beers: Intellectual Property

Spansion Inc. lost a patent- infringement ruling in its efforts to block imports of devices that contain Samsung Electronics Co. flash-memory chips.

Samsung didn’t violate Spansion patent rights, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Charles Bullock found, according to an agency website posting Oct. 22. The decision is subject to review by the full six-member commission.

A ruling in Spansion’s favor may have led to an order banning products with Samsung chips, including Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry devices and Lenovo Group Ltd. computers. Spansion claimed that Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung infringed its patent on flash memory, used to store images and music on portable electronics, to “unjustly enrich Samsung by many hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“We are disappointed in the judge’s ruling,” Michele Landry, a spokeswoman for Sunnyvale, California-based Spansion, said in an e-mailed statement. “However, this is only a first step in the decision process.”

“We will continue to fight any violations of our technology patents,” she said. The company said it has four other patent-infringement lawsuits filed against Samsung in August at the ITC in Washington.

Samsung had no comment on the ruling, according to a spokeswoman, Chris Goodhart.

Samsung, Asia’s biggest maker of semiconductors, had agreed in 2009 to pay Spansion $70 million to end the dispute. That agreement was rejected by a U.S. judge who was presiding over Spansion’s bankruptcy. Spansion, a former unit of Advanced Micro Devices Inc., filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in March 2009, and emerged from bankruptcy in May 2010.

Samsung has patent-infringement claims against Spansion at the ITC, and a trial is scheduled to be held in December, according to information on the ITC’s website.

The current case is In the Matter of Certain Flash Memory Chips and Products Containing the Same, 337-664, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Zynga Seeks U.S. Patent For Virtual Currency for Online Game

Zynga Game Network Inc., the company that created the “Farmville” game for Facebook Inc.’s social network, is seeking a patent on virtual currency to be used in a multiplayer online game.

Application 20100227675, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Sept. 9, covers a method of receiving, at a server, a purchase order for virtual currency from a player, and crediting the player’s account with the virtual currency.

According to the application, the virtual currency can only be used within the context of the game. The virtual currency can buy virtual objects within the game. This technology also covers virtual chips to be used in an online gambling game.

San Francisco-based Zynga filed the application in March with the assistance of Baker Botts LLP of Dallas.

For more patent news, click here.

Copyright

Photographer’s Suit Against Harcourt, Donnelley Moved to Chicago

A copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Vivendi’s Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. and R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. by a Chicago-based travel photographer was transferred to a federal court in Chicago.

Robert Frerck claims Houghton Mifflin infringed copyrights to photos he licensed to the book publisher by exceeding the terms of the license. He said he wasn’t compensated for the unauthorized use of these photos. Co-defendant Donnelley is accused of infringing because it printed the Houghton Mifflin books, according to the complaint.

The complaint was initially filed in federal court in Pennsylvania and was transferred on Oct. 22, according to court records.

The defendants argued in an Aug. 24 filing seeking dismissal of the complaint that Frerck didn’t state a case. They said he failed to assert that the copyright was registered for some of the photos he said were infringed.

The court hasn’t yet ruled on the dismissal request, or on Frerck’s Sept. 22 filing asking that Houghton and Donnelley be barred from publishing books containing the disputed photos.

The case is Frerck v. Houghton Miffling Harcourt Publishing Co., 1:10-cv-06897, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Stonehenge Guardian Says It Must be Paid for Commercial Photos

The Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England, which operates as English Heritage, issued a statement Oct. 22 after it was hit with a storm of protest from amateur photographers following a warning it gave the PhotoLibra open- access photo stock agency.

English Heritage, which has the responsibility for more than 400 British sites of historical and archeological interest, sent PhotoLibra an e-mail saying that no images of Stonehenge could be used for commercial interest without permission. Stonehenge is a 5,000-year-old ring of standing stones in Wiltshire, in the U.K.

PhotoLibra, which is based in Wales, responded in a blog posting, listing four stock agencies that sell more than 500 images apiece of Stonehenge on a royalty-free, unrestricted use basis. “If anyone buys a royalty free image from one of these suppliers, then he’ll be using as, where and when he likes, without asking English Heritage’s permission. How will they stop that?”

PhotoLibra also listed for five other stock agencies that sell rights-managed images for a specific time-limited usage. Each of the listed agencies -- including Hellman & Friedman’s Getty Images and Corbis Corp. -- had inventories of more than 100 Stonehenge images apiece.

“Has every picture library with images of Stonehenge received this e-mail?” PhotoLibra asked in the blog posting. “If we really are breaking the law by selling images of Stonehenge to be used for any commercial interest, then of course we will cease and desist immediately.”

In its Oct. 22 statement, English Heritage said that while it has “no problem with photographers sharing images of Stonehenge on Flickr and similar not-for-profit image websites,” it has a different stance with commercial photographers.

“If a commercial photographer enters the land without our care with the intention of taking a photograph of the monument for financial gain, we ask that they pay a fee and abide by certain conditions,” English Heritage said in the statement.

“We regret the confusion caused by a recent e-mail sent to a picture library,” the organization said in the statement.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trademark

Fakes Seized, Sellers Charged at North Carolina State Fair

More than $80,000 worth of fake merchandise for sale at the North Carolina State Fair was discovered and seized by law enforcement officials, the Triangle Business Journal reported.

Items seized included plaques and other items featuring Disney characters and professional sports team logos, the business journal reported.

At a second sales booth at the fair, fake designer handbags were found and seized, according to the business journal.

Residents of Jensen Beach, Florida, and Gladstone, Missouri, were charged with criminal trademark violations in collection with the sale of the fake merchandise, the business journal reported.

DeBeers ‘Forevermark’ Diamond Brand to be Extended to Jewelers

DeBeers registered the term “Forevermark Jewellers” as a U.S. trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and trademark Office.

The mark, which was registered Oct. 12, is for jewelry and also for retail stores, wholesale stores and wholesale distributorships for jewelry.

The company already has several U.S. trademark registrations for the term “Forevermark,” and also “Forevermark Dimantaire.” The term “Diamantaire” means “diamond cutter,” according to Patent Office documents.

De Beers began selling Forevermark-branded diamonds in Hong Kong, China and Macau in 2008, the company said.

According to a De Beers statement, its Forevermark diamonds are “natural, untreated and only come from sources that are committed to the highest business, social and environmental standards.” By the end of 2010, Forevermark diamonds will be sold in Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean, the company said.

Forevermark is a separately managed unit, according to the company statement, with the responsibility for “driving diamond demand in key markets and maintaining consumer confidence in diamonds.” Forevermark diamonds are inscribed with a unique identification number, invisible to the naked eye, the company said.

For more trademark news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-DuPont Employee Gets 14-Month Sentence for Trade Secret Theft

A former DuPont chemist was sentenced to 14 months in prison for trade secret thefts, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

Hong Meng, 44, received the sentence from U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson in connection with the misappropriation of DuPont trade secrets related to organic light-emitting diodes.

According to the government statement, Meng took trade secret information and chemical compounds whose structures had not been publicly disclosed by DuPont. He transferred these to China, and solicited Chinese government funding to commercialize research he was allegedly conducting at Peking University that was based on the stolen trade secrets.

The government said Meng also gave false information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he was interviewed about the removal of the chemical compound samples.

The case is U.S. A. v. Meng, 1:10-cr-00056-SLR, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware.

Winston-Salem Says Baseball Team’s Financial Data Stays Secret

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, city officials say they are barred by trade secrets law from revealing financial figures for the performance of the Dash minor league baseball team at BB&T Ballpark, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

The team has claimed detailed financial information should be protected under trade secret law, City Manager Lee Garrity told the newspaper.

Mayor Allen Jones told the Journal he will talk to team owners and hopes to find some information that can be released “that won’t be damaging to the team.”

Members of the city’s Citizens Baseball Stadium Review Committee were required to sign an agreement not to disclose financial information designated as trade secrets, the newspaper reported.

Drill Companies Identify Fracking Fluids to Wyoming Regulators

Oil drilling companies operating in Wyoming are, for the most part, cooperating with new state regulations requiring them to list, with their drilling applications, the chemical ingredients of the drilling fluids they use, New West reported.

The only potential problem is that some of the drilling companies’ suppliers of fluid want to keep the ingredients a trade secret, Tom Doll of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission told New West.

The two major blenders of drilling fluids -- also known as “fracking fluids” -- are applying for trade secret status, Doll told New West. If granted, the status would require the commission to be given the ingredients list, and hold it confidentially.

The State Department of Environmental Quality will be given the list of ingredients if it asks, New West reported.

IP Move

McMannis Faulkner Hires Retired Judge for IP Practice Group

McMannis Faulkner hired Gregory Ward for its IP practice, the San Jose, California-based firm said in a statement.

Ward, who previously served as a judge in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, is also a former federal prosecutor. Before his appointment to the state court bench in 1990, he was the attorney-in-charge of the San Jose branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. There his focus was on high-tech intellectual property and business disputes.

He has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and a law degree from Harvard University.

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

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

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