Volkswagen, Krka, Pink Floyd: Intellectual Property

Brazil’s antitrust agency ordered an investigation into automakers Volkswagen AG, Fiat SpA and Ford Motor Co. to determine whether their policies toward autoparts providers are abusive.

The agency, known as Cade, wants to determine if the automakers are “abusing their economic power and illegally exercising their property rights on the auto parts,” Cade said yesterday in Brasilia.

The investigation was requested by Brazil’s federal association of autoparts makers, known as Anfape, which claims the automakers, based on their intellectual property rights, are using lawsuits and other means to hinder competition from independent manufacturers.

The automakers’ rights are supported by Brazil’s law on patents and intellectual property, and confirmed by multiple judicial decisions, Fiat and Ford lawyers said during Cade’s session today in Brasilia. Volkswagen’s lawyer made no comments.

Anfape is asking Cade to “restrict in a generic way” the law on intellectual property and patents, said Fiat’s lawyer Lauro Celidonio Gomes dos Reis Neto. The judicial system “has already considered Ford’s behavior legitimate,” said Ricardo Inglez de Souza, a lawyer for the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker.

Volkswagen gets the largest share of auto sales in Brazil, followed by Fiat, General Motors Co. and Ford, according to November data from the National Vehicle Manufacturer’s Association.

Fiat announced yesterday it will invest 3 billion reais ($1.77 billion) in a new car factory in Brazil, as it seeks to boost sales in the Italian company’s second-biggest market by revenue.

Krka Wins Ruling Over AstraZeneca in Denmark, Loses in Norway

Krka Group d.d., a Slovenian drugmaker, said a court in Copenhagen rejected a motion by AstraZeneca Plc to ban Krka from importing and selling a copy of the U.K. company’s Nexium in Denmark.

Separately, a court in Oslo ordered the Slovenian company to stop importing and selling the active ingredient in Nexium in Norway, citing an infringement of an AstraZeneca patent, the Novo Mesto-based company said in a statement to the Ljubljana stock exchange yesterday.

Sony Ericsson Seeks Patent on Mobile Device Image Projection

Sony Ericsson Mobile AB, the Lund, Switzerland-based maker of mobile phones, applied for a patent for a technology permitting mobile devices to project an image.

Application 20100309442, published Dec. 9 in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was filed in June 2009, with the assistance of Warren A. Sklar of Renner, Otto, Boiselle & Sklar LLP of Cleveland, Ohio.

Even though mobile devices are capable of such operations as showing movies, their built-in screens are often too small to permit optimal viewing, according to the application. Permitting the mobile device to project the image to a larger screen would enable more efficient use of the mobile device for such functions as “watching movies, surfing the Internet, working with documents,” according to the application.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Funeral Home Operators Sue Local Competitor for Infringement

Karen Sue Isaacs and William Terry Isaacs, the operators of the J.H. Churchill Funeral Home in Murray, Kentucky, sued a competitor in the same town for trademark infringement.

The suit, filed in federal court in Paducah, Kentucky, Dec. 9, alleges that Kenneth C. Imes and Churchill-Imes Funeral Home are making unauthorized use of the “Churchill” mark acquired when the J.H. Funeral Home was purchased in 1987.

The lawsuit claims the operators of Churchill-Imes registered multiple business names incorporating “Churchill” with the Kentucky Secretary of State.

The Isaacs say this “reflects a willful and intentional effort to interfere with, infringe upon, and misappropriate the good will and name recognition of the J.H. Churchill Funeral Home.”

Imes didn’t respond immediately to an e-mail seeking comment on the allegations in the complaint. His funeral home is presently known as the Imes-Miller funeral home, and, according to the company website, is operated by the sixth generation of the Churchill family and fourth generation of the Imes family.

The Isaacs say they are harmed by Kenneth Imes’ and his funeral home’s actions and that the public is confused. They asked the court to declare they’re the legal and rightful owners of the J.H. Churchill Funeral Home name, and to order Imes not to infringe the mark. They also seek money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs and an order to the defendants to withdraw names they’ve registered with the Kentucky Secretary of State that infringe.

They’re represented by Michael C. Merrick of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP of Cincinnati.

The case is William Terry Isaacs v. Churchill-Imes Funeral Homes Inc., 5:10-cv-00212-TBR, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Paducah)

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

China Said to Pledge Action Combating Software Piracy

China pledged to curtail piracy of U.S. software and ease rules that favor Chinese companies for government contracts, according to a person briefed on two days of negotiations in Washington.

Chinese officials agreed to phase out rules that discriminate against intellectual property not developed in China under programs called indigenous innovation, said the person, who requested anonymity before an official announcement. Representatives of the nations discussed trade issues at the annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

China is the third-largest U.S. export market with $69.5 billion in U.S. sales in 2009. Sales of goods and services by U.S. multinational companies operating in the Asian nation have reached $98.4 billion, more than a fourfold increase from 2000, according to the U.S.-China Business Council, a Washington-based group that represents companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Citigroup Inc.

The Business Software Alliance, a Washington-based trade group that represents companies such as Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., complains that previous commitments by China to curb piracy haven’t led to a reduction in their losses to unlicensed sales. Before the meeting, the alliance pressed Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to seek from the Chinese a guarantee that U.S. software sales to China would increase 50 percent in two years.

“It’s time for a new strategy for U.S. trade with China because software companies are bleeding there,” Robert Holleyman, the group’s president, said in a statement Dec. 1.

Religious Group Says Film Against Christian Zionism Infringed

A religious group known as We Hold These Truths and opposed to the movement known as “Christian Zionism” sued a film producer for copyright infringement.

The suit is related to the film “Christian Zionism: the Tragedy and The Turning, Part 1.” Christian Zionism is a religious movement that sees the rise of the state of Israel as a fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy.

According to the complaint filed Dec. 13 in federal court in Phoenix, We Hold These Truths Ltd. of Phoenix accused Jason Shelton of pirating the film “even before it was even finished,” according to court papers.

We Hold These Truths claims Shelton, an Arizona resident, posted “preview” versions of the video on his website, and promoted the film as his own work. The organization said it sent Shelton a letter suggesting he “consult a competent copyright attorney” and explore copyright law’s “work for hire” provisions.

Instead, Shelton contacted Google Inc.’s YouTube video- sharing site, complaining that a trailer We Hold These Truths has posted violated his copyright, according to court papers.

As a result, We Hold These Truths’ video was removed from the YouTube site, and hasn’t been reinstated, the organization complains.

We hold These Truths asked the court to bar Shelton from infringing the copyright to the film, and to order the destruction of all infringing copies. Additionally, it seeks Shelton’s profit derived from the alleged infringement and awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

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

We Hold These Truths is represented by Maria Salapska of the Law Office of Maria Salapska PLLC of Phoenix.

The case is We Hold These Truths Ltd. v. Jason Shelton, 2:10-cv-02659-JAT, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

Pink Floyd’s Right to Control Music Downloads Affirmed in U.K.

Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd.’s EMI Group lost a copyright case brought by the 45-year-old British rock band Pink Floyd.

In a ruling handed down Dec. 14 in the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, EMI was told that Pink Floyd’s contract gave it the right to bar the music company from selling single songs from their albums online without permission.

The case grew out of an audit of royalty statements conducted on behalf of the band covering the period from July 2002 to September 2007. The accounting firm presented an opinion that 15 areas of under-accounting amounted to a loss of royalty income of more than 10 million British pounds ($1.5 million).

Many of the band’s claims were already settled, leaving the appeals court to deal with the issue of online downloads, according to the court opinion.

Pink Floyd had claimed its contract permitted it to control the artistic integrity of the work, and that this barred downloads of individual songs.

The band won the dispute in a U.K. trial court earlier in 2010, and the high court rejected EMI’s appeal of that ruling.

The case is Pink Floyd Music Ltd. and Emi Recods Ltd. 2010 EWCA Civ 1429, Royal Courts of Justice.

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

Anderson Kill Adds Gina A. Hough to Its IP Practice Group

Anderson Kill & Olick PC hired Gina A. Hough for its IP Group, the New York-based firm said in a statement.

Hough joins from Washington-based Dickstein Shapiro LLP. She has also worked as vice president and deputy general counsel at Fannie Mae. Her area of expertise is intellectual property issues affecting the financial services industries.

She has also worked in-house for Digital Equipment Corp. and practiced at Sherin & Lodgen LLP of Boston. She served as a judicial clerk to the justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court.

Hough will also work with Anderson Kill’s anti- counterfeiting/brand integrity group, according to the statement.

She has an undergraduate degree from Smith College and a law degree from Boston College.

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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