IBM, Fujifilm, Buffalo Wings: Intellectual Property

International Business Machines Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Microsoft Corp. led the winners of U.S. patents in 2010, when grants of a main safeguard of intellectual property jumped 31 percent.

IBM, the world’s biggest computer-services provider, became the first company to get more than 5,000 patents in a year, according to data from researcher IFI Claims Patent Services. Samsung trailed IBM’s 5,896 patents with 4,551, while Microsoft received 3,094, IFI said in a statement yesterday.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office improved turnaround times by processing applications more efficiently, contributing to “the most significant annual increase on record,” IFI said. The gain also shows that the worst recession since the Great Depression failed to deter companies from continuing to innovate, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, a Hayward, California-based information technology researcher.

“Significant temporary blips in the economy can’t be something that derails dedication to technical excellence and the next new thing,” King said in a telephone interview.

The top 10 companies on IFI’s list -- all technology related -- each saw an increase from the year before. In all, the U.S. issued a record 219,614 utility patents in calendar 2010, according to the Wilmington, Delaware-based researcher.

IBM, the largest owner of U.S. patents, received protection last year for an earthquake-detection system, a way to predict traffic and a computer chip that combines electrical and optical devices on a single silicon wafer. IBM’s number of new patents rose 20 percent in 2010, putting the Armonk, New York-based company at the top of IFI’s list for the 18th straight year.

“Not all of our inventions get commercialized, but virtually all start with the research and intent to commercialize them,” Manny Schecter, IBM’s chief patent counsel, said in a telephone interview.

The company spends $6 billion a year on research and collects about $1 billion from its intellectual property, with patent licensing the most common part, Schecter said.

Camera company Canon Inc. and plasma-TV maker Panasonic Corp., both of Japan, rounded out the top five on the IFI list. Apple Inc., maker of the iPad and iPhone, broke into the top 50 for the first time, at No. 46, by almost doubling its number of new patents to 563, according to IFI. Samsung’s number increased 26 percent, while Microsoft’s rose 6.5 percent.

Just one of the top 50 companies saw a decrease, computer- memory chipmaker Micron Technology Inc., IFI said.

IFI, a unit of Wolters Kluwer NV, conducts the survey each year to rank 2,000 companies as part of its database system.

“The tremendous increase in patent issues in 2010 suggests that so far the economy doesn’t appear to have slowed patent flow significantly in the U.S.,” Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI, said in the statement. “There is still a backlog of patents pending, but the number of grants continues to grow even after a period of economic downturn.”

Fujifilm Wins Reversal of $3 Million St. Clair Patent Verdict

Fujifilm Holdings Corp. won reversal of a 2004 verdict in which it was told to pay a Michigan company $3 million for infringing patents on an invention that stores digital images in computer memory.

A judge erred in his interpretation of the patents owned by closely held St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said yesterday. Both sides had agreed that if the court sided with Fujifilm on the definition of key terms in the patents, then there was no infringement.

In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court said that under the correct interpretation of patent terms, there was no infringement, and reversed the jury verdict.

The case is St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants Inc. v Canon Inc., 2009-1052, 2010-1137, and 2010-1140, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants Inc. v. Canon Inc., 03CV241, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Intel to Pay Nvidia $1.5 Billion; Both Cross-License Patents

Intel Corp. and Nvidia Corp. agreed to a long-term cross- license agreement, ending a legal dispute over the use of each other’s technology.

Intel will pay Nvidia $1.5 billion over the next five years, and the companies will receive a license to each other’s patents, subject to certain terms, Santa Clara, California-based Intel said yesterday in a statement.

The dispute centered around Intel’s assertion in February 2009 that a license held by Nvidia didn’t cover future products. Nvidia, a maker of graphics chips, then accused its larger rival of breaching a contract that let the companies use each other’s capabilities.

Nvidia supplied so-called chipsets that support older model Intel microprocessors, providing a link to the rest of the computer and graphics. Intel now includes that functionality in its processors.

The agreement comes after Intel settled an antitrust case with rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and the U.S. government. Intel is also fighting fines imposed by the European Union.

The patent case is Intel Corp. v. Nvidia Corp., CA4373, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Buffalo Wild Wings May Face Canada Infringement Suit, Star Says

Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., the Minneapolis-based restaurant chain, is on the verge of being sued for trademark infringement by a Canadian sports-bar chain, the Toronto Star reported.

Wild Wing, of Aurora, Ontario, which has 75 outlets in Ontario, registered “wild wing” as a Canadian trademark in 2003 and has successfully opposed Buffalo Wild Wings’ attempts to register the mark in Canada, according to the Star.

A spokesman for the U.S. chain told the Star it wouldn’t comment until after a suit is filed.

Buffalo Wild Wings said in August that it would open 50 company-owned and franchised restaurants in Canada, the Star reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

China Burns Books, Destroys CDs to Fight Piracy, Xinhua Says

China destroyed 5.2 million pirated books and CDs yesterday as part of an anti-piracy campaign, Xinhua reported.

Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Guandong and Sichuan were the scenes of the various book-burnings and CD destructions, Xinhua reported. The books were burned and CDs crushed to demonstrate the country’s commitment to IP protection, according to Xinhua.

The government said more such events will be held before World Intellectual Property Day April 26, the news service reported.

China Internet Game Companies Form Copyright Group, Xinhua Says

China’s Copyright protection Center set up a coalition aimed at protecting the country’s online game companies, Xinhua reported.

Among the first 16 members of the coalition are Perfect World Co., Shanda Games Ltd. and NetDragon Websoft Inc., according to Xinhua.

The new Online Games in China Copyright Protection Alliance is intended “to promote the healthy development of China’s online game industry,” according to Xinhua.

Nigerian Candidate Claims Slogan Infringed, World Stage Says

A candidate for the presidency of Nigeria accused his opponent of misappropriating his campaign slogan, Nigeria’s World Stage Ltd. news service reported.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, a candidate from the Action Congress of Nigeria, accused the campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo of infringing the “A new Nigeria is possible” slogan in its TV spots, according to World Stage.

The Ribadu campaign claims it has used the slogan for the past six months and that the Jonathan/Sambo campaign’s use of the term represents “a serious breach” of IP rights, World Stage reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

Winston & Strawn Hires IP Litigator from Milbank Tweed

Winston & Strawn LLP hired Michael Murray for its IP litigation practice, the Chicago-based firm said in a statement.

Murray, who joins from New York’s Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, represents clients in patent and IP strategy issues. His clients’ technology includes semiconductors, consumer electronics, software and business methods.

He has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Manhattan College and a law degree from Georgetown University.

Womble Carlyle Expands Transactional IP Practice With New Hires

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC hired three IP transactional specialists, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina- based firm said in a statement.

The new hires are Matthew Cash, Jocelyn Fina and Jennifer Williston.

Cash, who joined from Atlanta’s Weinstock & Scavo PC, does trademark and technology licensing work. He also represents clients on advertising, marketing and promotional issues, including contests, premium giveaways, rebates, customer loyalty, gift-card programs, e-marketing and direct-mail offerings.

He has an undergraduate degree in journalism and public relations from the University of Georgia and a law degree from Emory University.

Fina joins from Moore & Van Allen PLLC of Charlotte, North Carolina. She does technology and software licensing work, clinical research services agreements, and confidentiality agreements.

She has an undergraduate degree in public health and a law degree from the University of North Carolina.

Jennifer L. Williston, who joins from Pittsburgh-based Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC, has also worked as a trademark examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and as an interim associate general counsel at Ascend Therapeutics. She does trademark and copyright work for clients in the life sciences, biotech, pharmaceutical, agri-chem, software, food and beverage, apparel, and information technology industries.

She has an undergraduate degree in communication and political science and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Miami and a law degree from the University of North Carolina.

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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