Samsung, Rovio, Apple, Stephens Media: Intellectual Property

A U.S. trade agency said it will consider AU Optronics Corp. (2409)’s patent-infringement claims against Samsung Electronics Co. over liquid-crystal displays used in televisions, computer monitors and mobile phones.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has the power to block imports of Samsung LCDs if the products are found to infringe any of the six AU patents in the case. Notice of the investigation was posted on the Washington-based agency’s website July 21.

AU, Taiwan’s second-biggest maker of LCDs, is seeking to block products including Samsung’s 46-inch (117-centimeter) LCD television, Captivate smartphone and 10.1-inch laptop screen. The complaint also names companies that use or sell those products, including AT&T Inc. (T), Best Buy Co. and BrandsMart USA Inc.

Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of TVs and flat-screen panels, has its own case against Hsinchu, Taiwan-based AU Optronics over LCD monitors that is being reviewed by the ITC. The semi-judicial agency typically completes its investigations in 15 to 18 months.

The companies also have filed civil lawsuits against each other, seeking cash compensation. The ITC doesn’t have the authority to order monetary damages.

The AU case is In the Matter of Certain Flat Panel Display Devices and Products Containing the Same, 337-793, and the Samsung case against AU is In the Matter of Liquid Crystal Display Devices, 337-782, both U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Rovio, Maker of ‘Angry Birds,’ Added to Lodsys Patent Suit

Rovio Mobile Oy, the maker of the hit mobile-phone game “Angry Birds,” was added to a patent infringement suit by a Texas-based patent-licensing company.

Lodsys LLC, which filed a patent infringement suit against seven developers of applications for Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone May 31, has added Rovio to the list of defendants in the case.

In its July 21 filing, Lodsys claims Rovio has infringed patents 7,620,565 and 7,222,078 B2 Atari SA (ATA), Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS), Rovio Mobile Ltd., Square Enix Holdings Co., and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. are the other new defendants.

Shortly before the initial complaint was filed Apple sent a letter warning the company to leave the developers alone. In the May 23 letter, Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell said Apple has a license to the Lodsys patents and, by extension, its application developers were covered as well.

In its letter, Cupertino, California-based Apple claimed that Lodsys was trying to get paid twice for the same use of its patents, and asked Lodsys to “immediately withdraw all notice letters” sent to third-party developers.

“Because Apple is licensed under Lodsys’ patents to offer such technology to its App Makers, the App Makers are entitled to use this technology free from any infringement claims by Lodsys,” Sewell wrote.

Apple filed a motion to intervene in the case June 9. The company said its ability to represent its interests would be impaired if it were barred from intervening. The court has not yet ruled on that motion.

The case is Lodsys LLC v. Combay Inc., 11cv272, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

Cypress Case Targeting Routers With GSI Chips to Get ITC Review

Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (CY)’s patent claims against GSI Technology Inc. (GSIT) will be reviewed by the U.S. International Trade Commission, in a case that seeks to block imports of routers and switches made by companies including Alcatel-Lucent SA and Motorola Solutions Inc.

Cypress claimed in a June filing that static random-access memory chips produced by GSI infringe four patents, and it sought to prevent the products, as well as devices containing the chips, from being sold in the U.S. The ITC, a Washington- based arbiter of trade disputes, said in a notice July 22 it would investigate, a process that typically takes 15 to 18 months.

The dispute over technology used to store instructions or data targets at least 12 companies including GSI, Alcatel, Motorola, Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Nokia Oyj’s and Siemens AG’s phone-equipment venture. Arrow Electronics Inc. (ARW), which distributes GSI circuits, was also named by Cypress, a San Jose, California-based maker of chips used in mobile devices.

Cypress also filed a lawsuit against Sunnyvale, California- based GSI in March, alleging infringement of five patents.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Static Random Access Memories and Products Containing Same, 337-792, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

The civil suit is Cypress Semiconductor Corp. v. GSI Technology Inc., 11cv789, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (Minneapolis).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Changes to U.K. Trademark Law to Be Considered by Law Commission

The Law Commission, an independent body established in 1965 to review U.K. laws and make recommendations for reform, will consider some changes to trademark law designed to protect those who receive “unjustified threats of intellectual property litigation,” according to the group’s program of reform, which was printed by the House of Commons July 19.

The commission will look at whether to repeal, reform or extend four provisions of IP law that impose liability to pay damages on the makers of an unjustified threat of certain types of IP litigation.

This would include sections of the Registered Designs Act 1949, a section of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, a section of the Trademarks Act 1944, and a part of the Community Trademark Regulations 1996.

Additionally the commission will look at how well the reforms made in 2004 to the threat provisions in the Patents Act 1977 are operating in practice.

This project will begin in April 2012 and end in 2014, according to the program. The commission will work with the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office in developing possible reforms.

Kunming Starts Inspection of All Electronics Stores, Xinhua Says

Kunming, the southwestern Chinese city where three unauthorized Apple Stores were discovered, started inspecting all local electronics shops, Xinhua News Agency said, citing an unidentified worker at the municipal industrial and commercial department.

Inspectors will look at business licenses, permits authorizing brand use and purchasing channels, the official news service reported.

Scoopon, Groupon Settle Australian Trademark Dispute

Scoopon, the Australian company sued for trademark infringement by Chicago-based Groupon Inc., has settled its dispute, the Australian edition of ZDNet reported.

Although financial terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, ZDNet reported that Scoupon’s owners rejected an offer to buy their company name for $286,000.

Groupon will have the right to use its name and its group.con.au domain name, according to ZDNet.

The Chicago company has been operating in Australia as Stardeals during the dispute and will change the name back to Groupon at an undetermined date, ZDNet reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Potential Amicus Asks to Participate in Stephens Media Suit

Stephens Media Group’s series of copyright-infringement cases have found a new opponent, according to court filings.

Citizens Against Litigation Abuse Inc., a South Carolina nonprofit public interest group has asked for permission to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a case related to a blog posting of a photo from the Denver Post.

The suit, filed by Righthaven LLC, is one of the more than 250 copyright-infringement cases the Las Vegas-based company has filed since March 2010.

The public interest group noted in a court filing that many of the defendants in these cases are politically oriented, including the Democratic Party of Nevada, the Democratic Underground, Free Republic LLC, Americans for Democratic Action Inc., the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, America’s Independent Party of Iowa, and Americans for Immigration Reform.

These cases “directly implicate freedom of speech and have an obvious chilling effect on core political speech on the Internet,” the group said in its court filing.

The group is represented by Todd Kincannon of the Kincannon Firm of Columbia, South Carolina.

In its proposed friend-of-the-court brief, the group argued that Righthaven isn’t a legitimate plaintiff in the case; it is a “law firm in disguise.” In the real world, the arrangement between Stephens Media and Righthaven “is called a ‘contingency fee representation agreement,’” according to the brief.

The agreement between Righthaven and Stephens Media, which has already been questioned by a federal judge in Nevada, “is nothing but corporate doublespeak, deployed in an attempt to camouflage an arrangement that is totally impermissible outside the context of a lawyer-client relationship,” the organization said in its brief.

The group quotes a blog posting made by Sherman Frederick, the former chief executive officer of Stephens Media. In that posting, Frederick made reference to the unsuccessful campaign of Sharon Angle for the U.S. Senate. He said “I even sued her for lifting our material.”

The brief argues that this statement by Frederick shows that “the Righthaven-client relationship is a sham.”

The court hasn’t yet ruled on the group’s motion.

The case is Righthaven LLC v. Wolf, 1:11-cv-00830-JLK, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado (Denver).

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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