Google, Nortel, Apple, Anheuser-Busch: Intellectual Property

Paul G. Allen’s claims that 11 companies including Google Inc. (GOOG) and Apple Inc. infringed his business’s online-shopping technology should remain on hold while the U.S. government reviews the quality of its patents, the defendants said in a filing in federal court in Seattle.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman issued an order June 16 that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office be given time to evaluate whether the four patents cover novel inventions. Allen’s Interval Licensing LLC has asked that her decision to be reconsidered.

The defendants, which also include EBay Inc. (EBAY), Facebook Inc. and Netflix Inc. (NFLX), said July 5 that the judge’s decision “was correct and based on a reasoned analysis.”

In granting the request to put the case on hold, the judge, who has yet to rule on Interval’s request, said the agency review could “reshape” the patents. The patents, which mainly cover common electronic-commerce applications for displaying and categorizing product information, were obtained from a defunct computer-science and communications research business Microsoft co-founder Allen and David Liddle formed in 1992.

Allen, 58, controls Seattle-based Interval, a patent- licensing company that is seeking unspecified cash compensation and a court order to block further use of the inventions. The other six companies named in the lawsuit, filed in August, are AOL Inc., Office Depot Inc. (ODP), OfficeMax Inc. (OMX), Staples Inc. (SPLS), Yahoo! Inc. and Google’s YouTube.

Pechman said that since Interval doesn’t compete with the companies, it won’t lose any market share from the delay.

The companies in March had asked the patent office to take a second look at the patents and then asked the court to put the case on hold until that review could be completed. Interval said the case had progressed while awaiting the judge’s decision and in a June 24 filing called the delay “unproductive.” The patent office has rejected some of the arguments the companies put forth, Interval said.

The companies said people hired to analyze the case “could simply pick up where they left off” if the patent office upholds the patents in their current form, so no work would be lost.

Interval Licensing owns the patents from Interval Research, a computer-science and communications researcher that Allen shut in 2000. Interval Research helped fund outside projects, including work by Google founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, according to a statement announcing the suit. Allen has maintained ownership of the patents through companies he controls.

The lead case is Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL Inc. (AOL), 10cv1385, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (Seattle).

Canada Looking Into Whether Nortel Patent Sale Needs Review

Canadian Industry Minister Christian Paradis has asked his department to determine whether the country’s foreign investment review process applies to the sale of Nortel Networks Corp. patents to a group led by Apple Inc.

“The minister has asked his officials to look into how the Investment Canada Act may apply to this transaction,” Stefanie Power, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.

Under Canada’s investment legislation, foreign acquisitions of companies with assets worth more than C$312 million ($323 million) are reviewed by the federal government to determine whether the transaction is a “net benefit” to the country.

Siemens Osram Unit Claims Against LG, Samsung to Get ITC Review

Patent-infringement complaints filed by Siemens AG (SIE)’s Osram unit against LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and Samsung Electronics Co. over light-emitting diode technology will be reviewed by a U.S. trade agency.

The U.S. International Trade Commission said yesterday it had begun two investigations of complaints filed by Osram. One is against both companies and the other against LG alone, according to notices posted on the Washington-based agency’s website.

The patents involve technology used in LED displays for light-conversion and electrical and thermal connections in backlighting for TV sets and monitors, Munich-based Osram has said. LEDs, which require less energy than traditional lighting, are increasingly used in electronics, home lighting and automobiles.

The ITC typically completes its investigations in about 15 to 18 months and has the power to block imports of products found to infringe U.S. patents. In addition to LG and Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung, the complaints also name LG Innotek Co., which is part-owned by Seoul-based LG.

The LG case is In the Matter of Certain Light-Emitting Diodes and Products containing the Same, 337-784, and the case against both companies is In the Matter of Certain Light- Emitting Diodes, 337-785, both U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Apple Registers Freeway Number, Map Diagram as Trademark

Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is presently involved in a battle with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) over the “App Store” trademark, registered the number designating a freeway as a trademark.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple registered “280” as a trademark June 28.

The company, known for its iPad and iPhone portable devices, said it will use the mark for “computer software for use in searching, finding and viewing geographic locations and related contact information and for providing directions and traffic information sold as a feature of computers and handheld mobile digital electronic devices comprised of mobile phones, digital audio and video players, handheld computers, personal digital assistants, and electronic personal organizers.”

The I-280 freeway runs from San Jose to San Francisco, skirting the San Andreas fault. It’s also known as the Junipero Serra Freeway, named in honor of the Franciscan friar who established a chain of 21 missions running from San Diego to Sonoma, California.

Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, are less than 500 feet from the I-280 freeway.

Apple’s trademark includes the red and blue shield that’s a symbol of the Interstate Highway System superimposed on the map of the freeway intersection next to Apple’s offices. The image also contains a gray and red pin symbol of the kind used on maps to pinpoint a particular location.

Anheuser-Busch Applies to Register Area Codes as Beer Trademarks

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), the world’s largest brewer, is seeking trademark registration for 14 clusters of numbers that appear to be area codes.

According to applications filed May 20 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the brewing giant seeks to use the marks with beer.

Among the numbers are 415, which is San Francisco’s area code; 314, which is used in St. Louis; 202, the area code for Washington, D.C., 713 for Houston; and 303 for Denver.

The area codes could be used as identifiers for regional craft beers. According to the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association, while beer sales fell 1 percent in 2010, craft beer sales rose 5 percent in the same period.

LVMH, Burberry Receive Canada’s Largest Trademark Judgment

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (LVMUY), the Paris-based luxury goods company, and London clothier Burberry Group Plc (BRBY) won the largest judgment in a Canadian trademark-infringement case, Agence France-Presse reported.

Canada’s federal court awarded the two companies a total award of C$2.5 million ($2.6 million), to be paid by three Canadian companies, Singga, Carnation Fashion and Altec, according to AFP.

The court said the defendant companies’ actions in creating and importing counterfeit merchandise was “egregious,” AFP reported.

Vuitton said in a statement that the defendants had been selling infringing merchandise since January 2008, according to AFP.

U.K.’s ‘Money Saving Expert’ Wins Trademark Battle Against CCL

A U.K. consumer expert won a trademark fight against a claims-management service, the Belfast Telegraph reported.

Martin Lewis, who operates the MoneySavingExpert.com website, sued Client Connection Ltd. of Swansea, Wales, for infringing his “money-saving expert” trademark, according to the Telegraph.

Lewis, who has 5 million readers for his consumer-advice website, persuaded the court that the mark was “distinctive to claimant,” the Telegraph reported.

The court said that Client Connection was “riding the coat tails” of the “money-saving expert” mark, to benefit from “its power of attraction, its reputation and its prestige,” according to the newspaper.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Stephens’ Righthaven Hit With Attorney Fees in Copyright Case

In another blow to Stephens Media Group’s copyright- infringement campaign against those who’ve posted some of its newspapers stories and photos on their websites without authorization, a federal judge in Las Vegas awarded attorney fees to a defendant’s lawyer.

The cases have been pursued by Las Vegas-based Righthaven LLC, which has claimed to own the copyrights to Stephens’ various publications content. That assertion of ownership has been at issue in some of the more than 200 cases Righthaven has filed.

In a case against the owners of the veteranstoday.com website, Righthaven claimed its copyright was infringed with the site posted a story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal about an Army veteran’s murder. That suit was filed in federal court in Las Vegas in September 2010.

In November Righthaven filed an amended complaint adding Denise Nichols, a member of veteranstoday.com’s board of directors, as a defendant.

In a May 2011 court filing, Righthaven dismissed Nichols as a defendant “in view of her extensive prior military service to the United States of America and in view of her apparent medical condition.”

Michael Leon, one of the other defendants, was dismissed from the case after the court determined in April 2010 that he hadn’t been served properly with a complaint. Leon’s attorney then sought an award of attorney fees, which was opposed by Righthaven.

Righthaven argued that because Leon was represented pro bono, the fees should be paid instead to a charitable organization.

In an order filed July 5, U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro disagreed. She said it was appropriate to award fees to Leon’s lawyer because denying the fees would discourage pro bono representation. She said the lawyer’s fees of $275 an hour are reasonable in the Las Vegas legal market, and that the 13.8 hours spent in Leon’s representation were also reasonable.

She ordered Righthaven to pay $3,815 in legal fees.

Leon is represented by James Malcolm DeVoy of the Randazza Legal Group of Las Vegas.

The case is Righthaven LLC v. Michael Leon, 2:10-cv-01672, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

For more copyright news, click here.

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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