Akamai, Yankees, Time Warner, Toshiba: Intellectual Property

Akamai Technologies Inc. (AKAM) persuaded a U.S. appeals court to reconsider whether Limelight Networks Inc. infringed a patent over software that speeds delivery of Web videos.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in December Limelight didn’t infringe the patent. In an order posted on the court’s website April 21, the Federal Circuit said the dispute will be considered by all of the court’s active judges.

Akamai’s lawsuit in 2006 accused Tempe, Arizona-based Limelight of building its business on technology developed by Akamai’s founders at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

The case was filed as Akamai faces increased competition from Limelight, Level 3 Communications Inc. (LVLT) and Cotendo Inc. over CDNs, which are content delivery networks that distribute movies, music and software to computers on behalf of services such as Hulu LLC and Netflix Inc. (NFLX)

The Federal Circuit in Washington, which specializes in U.S. patent law, will consider whether a company should be found liable for infringing a patent if separate entities perform different steps in an invention.

A federal jury in Boston in 2008 sided with Akamai before the judge reversed the $45.5 million verdict. The judge ruled that Limelight’s actions alone didn’t use the Akamai technology, meaning it couldn’t be held liable. Three judges of the Federal Circuit affirmed that decision in December.

The appeals court tossed out the panel’s decision April 21 and ordered lawyers in the case to submit new written legal arguments. It gave no date for when the case would be heard. Limelight said April 21 it didn’t infringe the Akamai patent.

“Limelight believes the decision of the panel was correct and should be affirmed,” the company said in a statement. “This was not an issue of first impression for the panel -- its ruling affirmed the court’s precedent from earlier decisions. Limelight Networks welcomes the opportunity to assist the Court in addressing this area of the law.”

The case is Akamai Technologies v. Limelight Networks, 2009-1372, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Akamai Technologies v. Limelight Networks Inc. (LLNW), 06cv11109, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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Copyright

New York Yankees Team Sued Over Top Hat, Baseball Bat Logo

The New York Yankees Major League Baseball team was sued for copyright infringement by Tanit Buday, a descendant of the man she claims designed the team’s top hat and baseball bat logo.

According to the complaint filed April 18 in federal court in Manhattan, the logo was designed by the late Kenneth Timur in 1936 at the request of Jacob Ruppert, who owned the team at that time.

In 1952, Del Webb, then owner of the Yankees, commissioned Timur to update the design to celebrate the team’s 50-year anniversary of playing in New York City, according to court papers.

Timur is characterized in the complaint as a “modern day herald” who was never compensated for his work. According to the complaint, he signed his work by using a letter “p,” and in the 50th anniversary Yankees logo, signed it by substituting a “p” for the number “9” in the logo so that the date is written as “1p03-1952,” Buday said in her pleadings.

She said the team management “understood the value of including Timur’s distinctive ‘P’ signature on their Yankees logo and uniform patch. It could not have been accidental,” she claimed.

Buday, of Yonkers, New York, said she consulted with the New York-based packaging design firm Wallace Church Inc. She claims an expert she retained from that firm to analyze the logo concluded that the logo now used by the team is “clearly derived” from Timur’s original design. The opinion, by Wallace Church’s Rob Wallace, is appended to the complaint.

She asked the court for awards of money damages, including extra damages to punish the Yankees for their alleged infringement, and attorney fees and litigation costs.

Alice McGillion, a spokeswoman for the Yankees, told Ad Week that there was “no proof” of Buday’s claim.

Buday is represented by Kevin T. Mulhearn of Orangeburg, New York.

The case is Tanit Buday v. New York Yankees Partnership, 1:11-cv-02628-DAB, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Trademark

Time Warner’s CNN Objects to Haitian News Network’s Name

Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Cable News Network sued a company that broadcasts radio and television programming to the Haitian community worldwide.

Haiti Live Networks LLC is accused of infringing CNN’s “HLN” marks, which the cable news network uses for its headline news programming.

CNN, which began using “Headline News” in 1982, has offered the service under its HLN marks since 2008, according to the complaint filed April 14 in federal court in Atlanta. Haiti Live Network used “HLN” and “HLNTV” for its broadcast services and goods, and on its website, CNN said.

Lodi, New Jersey-based Haiti Live Networks is using HLN “willfully, intentionally and maliciously” in efforts to cause confusion and trick the public into believing there’s an affiliation to CNN, according to court papers.

CNN asked the court to bar Haiti Live Networks’ use of “HLN” and “HLNTV,” and to be transferred the company’s hlntv.com domain name. Additionally, Cable News Network asked for money damages, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

Claiming the alleged infringement is deliberate, CNN requested that the money damages be tripled to punish Haiti Live Networks for its actions.

Haiti Live Networks “has rejected any allegations of intentional wrongdoing” and calls the case “a typical bullying tactic from a big corporate company trying to run us out of business,” Executive Vice President Stephan Jean said in an e-mailed statement. “Our message to CNN would be to pick a fight with someone their own size and to leave us be.”

He said his company provides a service that CNN doesn’t offer “to a community that craves it.” Haiti Live Networks wants to “work something out with CNN if they are willing to talk,” Jean said. He acknowledged his company is “too small to challenge CNN and will most likely lose in court.”

CNN contacted Haiti Live Networks right after the Haitian earthquake in January 2010 to see feed for their broadcasting, Jean said. “Now they claim the acronym to our name is confusing to our Haitian community,” he said.

CNN is represented by Alicia Grahn Jones, Allison Michelle Scott and James A. Trigg of Atlanta’s Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.

The case is Cable News Network v. Haiti Live Networks LLC, 1:11-cv-01247-RLV, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

Toshiba Tells USPTO It Wants to Call Tablet PC Device ‘Thrive’

Toshiba Corp. (6502) plans to call its tablet PC device “Thrive,” according to a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Toshiba filed an application April 7 to register the term for use with a tablet computer.

Other pending applications for the term include one filed April 11 by Minerva Organics LLC of Seattle, to use the term in connection with restaurant services. Freedom Innovations LLLC of Irvine, California, filed an application in January to register the term for use with prosthetic feet. Whole Foods Market IP of Austin, Texas applied April 11 to use “Thrive” with computer application software for mobile phones and mobile devices. Venture Inc., of Appleton, Wisconsin filed an application Jan. 12 to use the term for gear and motor oils.

Avanoo Inc. of Palo Alto, California, successfully registered “Thrive” as a trademark April 19, for use with computer services related to an on-line community.

Tokyo-based Toshiba’s tablet device is set for release in June, at a price competitive to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad, Associated Press reported Jan. 4.

Rovio Adds Product Placement Ads to ‘Angry Birds’ Application

Rovio Mobile Ltd., maker of the popular mobile phone application “Angry Birds,” has begun inserting product- placement ads within the game, the Kotaku electronic-game news website reported.

The game, which featured animated birds launched from slingshots to destroy animated pigs, now contains ads for the Internet communications program developed by Skype S.a.r.l., and Google Inc. (GOOG)’s YouTube video-sharing service, according to Kotaku.

The ads were found in a paid version of the game that is an application for Apple Inc.’s iPhone, Kotaku reported.

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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

MGA Wins $88.4 Million Award Against Mattel in Bratz Trial

MGA Entertainment Inc. won an $88.4 million award against Mattel Inc. (MAT) from a jury that ruled MGA didn’t steal the idea for Bratz dolls from the rival toymaker or infringe its copyright.

The federal court jury in Santa Ana, California, found Mattel, the maker of the Barbie doll, liable for stealing closely held MGA’s trade secrets when its representatives used fake identities to gain access to MGA’s showrooms at toy fairs.

Jennifer Keller, a lawyer for Van Nuys, California-based MGA, said the company can seek punitive damages that may triple the award because the jury found Mattel’s conduct was “willful and malicious,” as well as attorney fees.

The jury rejected Mattel’s claim that MGA stole its trade secrets in 2000, when MGA made an agreement with Carter Bryant, the designer who Mattel says worked for it when he came up with the idea for Bratz and made the first sketches. It also rejected claims that the dolls MGA started selling in 2001 violated Mattel’s copyright.

Michael T. Zeller, a lawyer for Mattel, said the company will ask the judge to set aside the jurors’ findings and rule in favor of the Mattel claims they rejected. .

The jury awarded Mattel $10,000 in damages on its claims that MGA interfered with the contract of Mattel’s former employee. The jury also found that that Mattel should have known as early as 2002 about the contract interference.

The judge will have to determine whether the damages are barred by the statute of limitations, Thomas McConville, another lawyer for MGA, said after the verdict was read.

A federal appeals court last year overturned a 2008 verdict in Mattel’s favor. A jury in Riverside, California, awarded Mattel $100 million in damages after agreeing that Bryant made most of the initial sketches for the dolls while he worked for El Segundo, California-based Mattel. Mattel had sought as much as $1 billion in damages.

In the current trial, Mattel claimed lost profit of $314 million to $544 million.

“We are disappointed by the verdict, but we remain committed to protecting the intellectual property that is at the heart of business success,” Mattel Chief Executive Officer Robert Eckert said in an e-mailed statement. “Mattel’s first priority is, and always has been, to make and sell the best toys in the world.”

The jury calculated a total of $88.5 million on MGA’s trade-secret claims. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter said he may revise that amount because the total, based on 26 instances of trade-secret theft for which the jury awarded $3.4 million each, was $88.4 million.

Carter also said that one of the $3.4 million trade-secret theft findings appeared to be duplicative and that he probably will strike it.

Bryant has always maintained he came up with the Bratz idea and made the first drawings in 1998, while he was living in Missouri with his parents between two periods of working for Mattel, MGA’s lawyers told the jurors.

The appeals court, in ordering a second trial, said the lower-court judge erred in ruling that Bryant’s employment agreement entitled Mattel to the designer’s drawings as a matter of law. The appeals court also found that the judge, Stephen Larson, who has since returned to private law practice, incorrectly awarded Mattel the rights to most of MGA’s Bratz products.

The case is Bryant v. Mattel, 04-09049, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

IP Moves

Mayer Brown Expands Silicon Valley IP Group, Hires Molano

Mayer Brown LLP hired Michael A. Molano for its Silicon Valley IP practice, the Chicago-based firm said in a statement.

Molano, a patent specialist, joins from Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. He had also previously practiced at Mayer Brown.

He has done both patent acquisition work and litigation in federal courts and before the International Trade Commission.

Molano has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Northwestern University and a law degree from St. Louis 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: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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