Medtronic, SonoSite, Hormel, Speedo: Intellectual Property

Medtronic Inc. (MDT) sought a permanent federal court injunction barring NuVasive Inc. (NUVA) from making, employing or selling medical devices used in spinal surgery that infringed patents held by a Medtronic subsidiary.

The filing in San Diego federal court Nov. 2 follows a Sept. 20 jury verdict in which Minneapolis-based Medtronic was awarded $101.2 million in damages after the jury found that San Diego-based NuVasive infringed three Medtronic patents.

The patents covered implants capable of being inserted between adjacent vertebrae, a plate and screw system used to stabilize vertebrae and a tissue retractor, according to court filings. The jury also found that Medtronic owes NuVasive $660,000 in damages for infringing a NuVasive patent for a nerve monitoring system for lateral spinal surgery.

Medtronic lawyers said they also planned to seek post- verdict damages dating from June 10, 2010, the ending date on which the jury’s finding was based, to the present. In the Nov. 2 court filings they said that NuVasive has failed to produce requested financial data upon which they would base those damages.

The $101.2 million Medtronic damages verdict, which was awarded after a two-week trial, was the 14th-largest jury award in the U.S. in 2011 and the fourth-largest in a patent infringement claim, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The largest patent jury verdict in 2011 was for $482 million in a lawsuit against a Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) unit over stents.

In its court filings, NuVasive asked U.S. District Judge Michael Anello to either reject the jury award or order a new trial. NuVasive said the patents aren’t infringed and the jury verdict wasn’t supported by the evidence.

The case is Medtronic Sofamor Danek USA v. NuVasive Inc., 3:08-cv-1512, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

SonoSite Is Said to Seek Buyers, Hold Talks With Samsung

SonoSite Inc. (SONO), a U.S. maker of bedside ultrasound and cardiograph equipment, is up for sale and in talks with potential buyers including Samsung Electronics Co., said three people with knowledge of the matter.

SonoSite, with a market value of $427 million as of yesterday, hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) to advise it on a possible sale, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. SonoSite, based in Bothell, Washington, is asking for second-round bids and aims to reach a sale agreement by mid-December, one of the people said.

SonoSite would be an attractive target for companies seeking to offer diagnostic tools that help customers reduce health-care costs, said Alan Robinson, an analyst at RBC Wealth Management in Seattle.

“It doesn’t surprise me that SonoSite management is making overtures to larger acquirers at this stage,” in part because the company will lose patent protection on its hand-carried ultrasound devices in 2016, he said.

“As their patent portfolio starts to come up to expiry, I think management will be increasingly focused on maximizing their technological lead, and to do this, I think they’ll need a deeper-pocketed partner,” Robinson said in an interview.

Marcus Smith, SonoSite’s chief financial officer, didn’t return a call seeking comment. Tasha Pelio, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, declined to comment.

“Samsung continuously reviews various business opportunities,” Jason Kim, a Seoul-based spokesman for the company, said by telephone. “However, we don’t comment on speculation or rumors about our business.”

For more patent news, click here.


Hormel, Zwanenberg Settle ‘Prem’ Packaging Trademark Dispute

Hormel Foods Corp. (HRL), maker of Jennie-O Turkey products, Stagg Chili, and Dinty Moore Beef Stew, settled a trademark dispute with a unit of Zwanenberg UK Food Ltd., according to a Nov. 1 court filing.

The meat packer, based in Austin, Minnesota, had objected to Zwanenberg packaging for its Prem product that Hormel claimed was too similar to the packaging used with Hormel’s Spam potted- ham product. Hormel said in its complaint that although Zwanenberg had altered the packaging of Prem for domestic markets, it was still using the objectionable packaging for the product in overseas markets.

Hormel had sought money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees, and a court order barring infringing packaging.

Other than a stipulation that both parties were to pay litigation expenses and their own attorney fees, terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The case is Hormel Foods LLC v. Zwanenberg Food Group (USA) Inc., 0:11-cv-00774-DSD-SER, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.

Warnaco’s Speedo Unit Gets Shut-Down of Aussie Porno Sites

Warnaco Group Inc. (WRC)’s Speedo unit persuaded Australia’s Federal Court to issue a shut-down order to pornographic websites featuring Speedo bathing suits and trademarks, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The swimsuit maker had accused the sites’ owner of infringement and causing harm to the company’s reputation, the newspaper reported.

The sites’ owner, known on-line as the “Bisexual Blogger,” had offered paid subscriptions to some of his sites, according to the newspaper.

The court ordered the site owner to pay Speedo’s litigation costs, and to transfer his domain names to the bathing-suit company, according to the Herald.

Fonterra Takes Battle Over ‘Tip Top’ Trademark to High Court

Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., the world’s largest dairy- product exporter, asked New Zealand’s High Court to re-examine a ruling by the country’s assistant commissioner of trademarks that the name of a Dunedin, New Zealand cafe didn’t infringe the “Tip Top” trademarks used by Fonterra’s ice cream division, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The Auckland, New Zealand-based dairy co-op is arguing that its customers are likely to think falsely that an affiliation exists with the Tip Top Restaurant, according to the newspaper.

The trademark official had found that while many New Zealanders did associate “Tip Top” with Fonterra’s ice cream business, others associated the name with the restaurant in Dunedin, according to the Herald.

The association between “Tip Top” and ice cream dates back to 1926, when Tip Top Ice Cream, acquired by Fonterra 10 years ago, was formed, the newspaper reported.

Xylem Responds to ITT Suit, Says Use of ‘Xylem’ Name Infringes

Xylem Group LLC, a maker of sinks and faucets, has responded to a trademark infringement suit filed in August by ITT Corp. (ITT)

ITT, maker of Bell & Gosset water systems, Sanitaire waste- water treatment systems, and Jabsco bilge pumps, asked a federal court in White Plains, New York, to declare it didn’t infringe trademarks held by Xylem of Roswell, Georgia.

It argued that using the name Xylem for its spinoff water- technology business wouldn’t infringe Xylem’s trademarks. It said the two companies didn’t compete and it had no intention of entering the market for the kinds of goods sold by White Plains- based Xylem.

In an Oct. 31 statement, Xylem claims that ITT’s use of the Xylem name “has already caused confusion among our customers and vendors.” The New York company argued that “we have relationships with a similar customer base and vendor base, all in the same plumbing, hospitality and commercial sectors.”

Xylem said it “intends to vigorously defend this suit and counterclaim for the establishment of its prior and superior rights to the exclusion of ITT’s new spinoff.” It would also seek damages, Xylem said.

The case is ITT Corp. v. Xylem Group LLC, 7:11-cv-05783-VB, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains).

Apple Complains to WIPO About Domain Names Linked to Pornography

Apple Inc. (AAPL), maker of the iPhone and iPod, has filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization in its effort to block some domain names that link to mobile pornography sites, Domain Name Wire reported.

The Cupertino, California-based company objected to domain names containing “iPhone” that link to porn sites, according to Domain Name Wire.

The names to which Apple objects are,,,,, and, the website reported.

According to Domain Name Wire, registrants for these sites used a privacy service to shield their ownership records.

For more trademark news, click here.


Colombian Lawmakers Try to Block New Copyright Enforcement Law

Lawmakers in Colombia have introduced a measure to block a draft copyright law aimed at online music-sharing, according to the Colombia Reports news website.

Critics of the law say it would limit free browsing and sharing of information and place heavy burdens on the Internet service providers, according to Colombia Reports.

Colombian Senator Roy Barreras said the law makes it difficult to get “a clear vision of what is legally possible to insure the protection of copyrights on the Internet,” the news website reported.

At least six Colombian senators from a number of different political parties are involved in efforts to derail the law, according to Colombia Reports.

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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