Whirlpool, Samsung, ‘Kookaburra,’ Casey Anthony: Intellectual Property

Whirlpool Corp. (WHR), the world’s largest appliance maker, said it won a six-month stay of litigation in a refrigerator-technology patent infringement lawsuit brought in Trenton, New Jersey, by South Korean rival LG Electronics Inc. (066570)

The postponement was related “to progress in separate proceedings challenging the validity of LG’s patents” in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, Michigan, said in an Oct. 7 statement.

“We expect LG’s patents to be found invalid under the re- examination proceedings,” said Marc Bitzer, president of Whirlpool’s North America Region. The stay order was filed by the court Oct. 5.

In dispute in the New Jersey case is LG’s patent 7,392,665, a patent for a refrigerator with an icemaker, issued in July 2009.

In another case, Whirlpool and Seoul-based LG halted proceedings in mid-trial last week in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

“The court’s ruling will be entered and made public in the near future, resolving the issues that were pending in this retrial” over a patent for refrigerator icemakers, Kristine Vernier, a Whirlpool spokeswoman, said in an Oct. 3 e-mailed statement. LG officials didn’t return messages seeking comment.

In the Delaware case, Whirlpool lawyers asked a jury to award $16.2 million in patent damages. In dispute in that case is Whirlpool’s patent 6,082,130, issued in July 2000 and covering an ice-making system for a refrigerator.

The Delaware case is LG Electronics v. Whirlpool Corp., 1:08-cv-00234, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

The New Jersey case is LG Electronics v. Whirlpool Corp., 2:09-cv-05142-GEB, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

Samsung Sues Apple in U.K., Follows France, Italy Filings

Samsung Electronics Co. sued Apple Inc. (AAPL) in a London court in the latest legal dispute between the two biggest makers of smartphones and tablet computers.

Samsung sued Apple’s U.K. retail unit on Oct. 6, the same day it asked courts to ban sales of Apple’s new iPhone 4S in France and Italy. Court documents laying out claims in the U.K. lawsuit aren’t yet available. The South Korean company in June filed another suit against the same Apple unit.

Samsung said in the French and Italian court filings that Cupertino, California-based Apple infringed two patents on wireless telecommunications equipment. The two companies have been at loggerheads since Apple claimed in April that Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung “slavishly” copied its designs for the iPad and iPhone.

Both companies are competing for a share of the fast- growing market for smartphones, which is projected to double by 2015 when a billion handsets will be sold, according to research firm IDC.

Adam Howorth, an Apple spokesman, had no immediate comment on the suit. Calls to Samsung representatives in the U.K. weren’t immediately returned.

The case is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. v. Apple Retail UK Limited & Anr, U.K. High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC11C03451.

For more patent news, click here.

Copyright

Men at Work’s ‘Kookaburra’ Appeal Rejected by High Court

Men at Work, the Australian pop band best known for its song “Down Under,” was told their country’s high court wouldn’t review a decision finding the band infringed the copyright of a song written for the Girl Guides, the Australian reported.

The song, “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree,” was composed more than 70 years ago, and the publishing company now holds its copyright, according to the Australian.

In 2010, a trial court found “Down Under” infringed the “Kookaburra” copyright and ordered the songwriters, and the band’s recording company -- EMI Songs Australia -- to pay the publishing company 5 percent of the royalties earned from the song since 2002, according to the newspaper.

Royalties from infringement couldn’t be collected before 2002 because of a statute of limitations issue, the Australian reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Toronto Diet Doctor Seeks Sealed Court in Trade Secrets Case

A Toronto physician specializing in weight-loss issues asked that court proceedings be sealed in a trade-secrets case against his former colleague, the Toronto Star reported.

Counsel for Stanley Bernstein told the court he could be seriously harmed if the treatment programs and methods he uses at his 60 weight-loss clinics are discussed in open court, according to the Star.

The judge expressed skepticism that the material Bernstein seeks to protect is confidential, noting that one of the manuals covers such commonly available information as statutory holidays and pay regulations in Alberta, the newspaper reported.

Bernstein is arguing that even though some of the material is common knowledge, the way it is put together is unique and should be protected, according to the Star.

Trademark

USPTO Rejects Company’s ‘Casey Anthony’ Application

A San Francisco company was thwarted in its attempt to register the name of Casey Anthony as a trademark.

Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in July following a trial in Florida state court in Pinellas County.

Grant Media of San Francisco filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office July 10, five days after Anthony’s acquittal. According to the application, Grand Media had planned to use the mark for “entertainment in the nature of an on-going special variety, news, music or comedy show featuring namely broadcast over television, satellite, audio, and video media.”

In a letter sent Sept. 27, the patent office said the application was rejected because it may “falsely suggest a connection with Casey Anthony.” She is “not connected with the services sold by the application under the mark.”

People who were unhappy with the verdict have created t- shirt designs through CafePress Inc.’s print-on-demand service without apparent regard for the trademark status of Casey Anthony’s name. While none of the designs use her full name, many of them reference the trial or her daughter.

A search for the name “Casey” brings up one shirt printed with “Innocent? No way Jose” and another with “Dear Mom, Justice Awaits You, Love Caylee.” A third makes reference to the unpopular verdict, saying “Some village in Pinellas County is missing their 12 idiots,” and a fourth says simply “Casey did it.”

Mark Lippman, the Orlando, Florida-based attorney who represented Casey Anthony’s parents, filed an application in May to register “Caylee Anthony” as a trademark.

According to the patent office database, he was sent a letter Sept. 6 telling him he must submit a letter specifying that the name isn’t associated with a living individual. Caylee Anthony’s body was found in the woods near her home in December 2008, five months after she was reported missing.

Liberty Media’s Corbin Fisher Buys ‘Gay.XXX’ for $500,000

Liberty Media Holdings LLC’s Corbin Fisher unit paid $500,000 for one of the new “XXX” domain names associated with adult content, the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper reported.

The domain name -- “gay.xxx” -- is the most expensive name sold in advance of the public sale of the XXX domain names, according to the Daily Mail.

The price is significantly lower than what the Mail said is the most expensive domain name ever sold, “sex.com,” which went for $13 million in 2010.

The registry selling the names has compiled a list of 4,300 celebrities including Britney Spears, Brad Pitt and even the late Osama bin Laden -- whose names cannot be sold with XXX addresses, the Mail reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

IP Moves

Patent Lawyer Demand Rises Following U.S. Legislative Overhaul

Patent attorneys, who typically have degrees in fields such as engineering as well as law, are in such demand that their specialty may account for more than 15 percent of law firm job openings while representing just 3 percent of U.S. lawyers.

Some law firms are almost doubling recruitment fees to meet the growing demand for intellectual property specialists, particularly in the technology sector, said T.J. Duane, a principal at legal recruitment firm Lateral Link.

“There is a boom in IP with many openings in what is usually a niche practice,” Duane said in a telephone interview.

There are more than 230 open positions for patent lawyers among the more than 1,400 nationwide for all attorneys, with the majority in the San Francisco Bay area, home to Silicon Valley, Duane said. About 60 posts have been open since July. Another 25 were added last month, he said.

“The quantity of qualified attorneys who can perform this work is limited,” Duane said.

Lateral hires among law firms are on the rise after two years of decline. They jumped 38 percent last year after plummeting 52 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to a report by the National Association of Law Placement. Hiring among law school graduates continues to weaken as large law firms filled fewer positions. The employment rate among U.S. law school graduates fell 4.7 percent last year, NALP said.

The IP lawyer demand can be attributed in part to the America Invents Act, the biggest overhaul to the U.S. patent system in six decades. The legislation, which changes how patents are processed and reviewed, is spurring a race among law firms for star talent in a small pool of patent attorneys.

About 40,000 patent attorneys and agents are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, having passed a separate patent bar examination, according to the office.

While patent agents have taken the patent exam, they aren’t lawyers who have taken state bar tests, the patent office said on its website. Agents can prepare patent applications and conduct cases before the patent office, though they can’t litigate in court or draw up contracts.

“These are hard people to find,” Barton E. Showalter, chairman of the IP department at Baker Botts LLP in Dallas, said of qualified patent attorneys.

About 1.2 million lawyers are licensed in the U.S., according to the American Bar Association.

The patent act, the culmination of more than a decade of negotiations and lobbying, is putting a high premium on the best patent lawyers, Showalter said.

“It’s an exceedingly complex law now with a number of new procedures,” Showalter said. “That puts a premium on highly technical-skilled patent lawyers.”

In addition to patent reform, law firms are being pressured by technology clients who have expanded into new growth areas such as cloud computing, Mark J. Itri, head of the IP practice group at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, said in a telephone interview from his office in Irvine, California.

Some companies have also consolidated the number of patent lawyers they work with to cut costs, Itri said.

“Near term, you’ll see a big demand to hire to meet some of those client needs,” Itri said.

McDermott has hired 28 patent attorneys and patent agents so far this year, adding roughly a dozen last month alone, as it seeks to expand its patent prosecution practice. The firm plans to hire another 20 by next spring, Itri said. Finding the right talent for the group hasn’t always been easy, he said.

The most highly sought degrees held by patent attorneys are in electrical engineering, computer science and computer engineering, Duane said.

The ideal candidate would hold a doctoral degree in electrical engineering, have graduated from a top 10 law school and have worked for four years at a strong law firm, Duane said.

“That person could get a job anywhere,” he said.

The pool of potential hires narrows once you subtract retirees and non-practicing lawyers from the registered patent attorneys in the U.S., Itri said. Broken down by specialty, the most sought-after now are those with experience in software, telecommunications and the Internet, Itri said.

If the talent isn’t available, Duane said, “some firms may end up closing their positions or repurposing the general practice attorneys to focus on the nontechnical sides of these complex cases.”

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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