Sex Toys, Apple, Micron, Biogen, NFL: Intellectual Property

Walgreen Co. (WAG)’s Drugstore.com unit was named in a U.S. trade agency complaint filed by a Canadian company trying to halt imports of infringing sex toys.

Standard Innovation Corp., based in Ottawa, filed a complaint Dec. 2 with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, seeking an order that would block competitors from shipping the rival products into the U.S.

The dispute centers on the We-Vibe, described by Standard Innovation as a “couple device” worn by women during sex and presented in gift bags at the 2009 and 2010 Oscars, and the 2010 Super Bowl. The company said it has sold more than 1 million of the devices, including about 400,000 in the U.S.

The competing products, several of which are sold through Bellevue, Washington-based Drugstore.com, infringe two patents, including one for design, according to the complaint.

Among the companies named in the complaint were four manufacturers, four distributors and 11 retailers. Standard Innovation also sued one of the manufacturers, Leloi AB of Sweden, in federal court in Houston.

The ITC is a quasi-judicial agency with the power to block imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights. If it agrees to investigate a complaint, it typically completes its work in 16 to 19 months.

The ITC case is In the Matter of Kinesiotherapy Devices, Complaint No. 2862, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington). The civil suit is Standard Innovation Corp. v. Leloi AB, 4:11-cv-04172, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

Apple Seeks Patent on Technology for Audio-Cable Recharger

Apple Inc., maker of the iPod and iPhone, is seeking a patent on a technology that would let the user of a portable electronic device recharge it by wrapping the audio cable around a charging coil.

According to application 20110188677, filed in February 2010, this technology is comparable to that employed by some electronic toothbrushes that recharge through the use of an inductive receiving coil placed in proximity to a charging stand.

The advantage of the technology is that it can use a smaller charging stand and the size of the portable device can be decreased, Apple said.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, no outside counsel is listed on the application filed by Cupertino, California-based Apple.

Micron Sued by University of Illinois Over Chip-Making Patents

The University of Illinois sued Micron Technology Inc. (MU) for infringing patents related to the making of semiconductors.

According to the complaint filed Dec. 5 in federal court in Urbana, Illinois, Micron infringed patents 5,872,387, 6,444,533, and 6,888,204. The patents cover ways to treat silicon wafers with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, to limit chip degradation.

The university said it had made a presentation to Boise, Idaho-based Micron in 2004 on the benefits of using its patented technology.

The school asked the court for money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs, plus extra damages for what it claimed is deliberate infringement. The school didn’t request a ban on the manufacture or sale of products that allegedly infringe the patents. Micron representatives didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the suit.

The university is represented by Joseph Grear, George Summerfield, Keith Vogt, Rolf Stadheim and Steve Pedersen of Stadheim & Grear Ltd. of Chicago.

The case is Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. Micron Technology Inc., 2:11-cv-02288-MPM-DGB, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois (Urbana).

Samsung, Biogen Idec Agree to Set Up $300 Million Venture

Samsung Biologics Co. agreed to set up a $300 million venture with Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB) to develop and sell biomedical products as South Korea’s largest business group seeks to boost its health-care operations.

Samsung Group plans to begin making biosimilars in 2016, starting with Biogen and Roche Holding AG’s Rituxan, used to treat leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis, Kim said in February. Until then, Samsung Biologics plans to contract-manufacture medicines.

Rituxan has patent protection in the U.S. until 2018 and in the rest of the world through 2013, Nina Schwab, a Roche spokeswoman, said in May last year. It generated sales of $6.11 billion last year, making it the world’s ninth-best-selling medicine, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Samsung Biologics, a drugmaker set up in April by Samsung Group companies and Quintiles Transnational Corp., will own 85 percent of the venture, to be based in South Korea, according to a joint statement distributed by Samsung Group. The new company will develop, make and sell biosimilars, or copies of biopharmaceuticals, which won’t include versions of Biogen’s proprietary products, according to the statement.

The agreement lets Samsung Group work with the world’s largest maker of medicines for multiple sclerosis to make biologic drugs, one of five new businesses Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee has singled out as sources of future growth. Samsung Group said it plans to spend 2.1 trillion won ($1.9 billion) to generate more than 1.8 trillion won a year from biopharmaceuticals by 2020.

“We are taking a significant step toward becoming a major player in the biopharmaceutical industry and investing in an important growth engine for our company,” Kim Tae Han, chief executive officer of Samsung Biologics, said in yesterday’s statement.

Samsung Group ultimately aims to develop its own biopharmaceuticals after gaining experience in making them through partnerships with other companies, Kim said in February.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

NFL Sues Hamburger Chain Over ‘Raid A Nation’ Ad Campaign

The National Football League and the Oakland Raiders sued a closely held California hamburger chain for trademark infringement in its “Raid A Nation’s” advertising campaign.

In a complaint filed Dec. 2 in federal court in San Francisco, the league objected to Nation’s Foodservice Inc.’s use of the phrase “When Hunger Hits, Raid A Nation’s.” Oakland fans identify themselves as the “Raider Nation” and the team said it objects to a billboard that advertises Nation’s burgers adjacent to its stadium.

The ad campaign is “ambush” marketing and an unauthorized attempt to hitch a ride on the team’s “goodwill, reputation and popularity,” the NFL and the Raiders said in the filing.

The league and team asked the court to bar El Cerrito, California-based Nation’s from using the phrase on its signs and in advertising, and to award money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

Nation’s didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

The team and league are represented by Bruce P. Keller of New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Dawn Newton, David C. Lee and Richard Thomas White of Fitzgerald Abbott & Beardsley LLP of Oakland.

The case is NFL Properties LLC v. Nation’s Foodservice Inc., 3:11-cv-05818-NC, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Apple May Have to Rename IPad in China, ZDNet Reports

Apple Inc. (AAPL), the maker of the iPod and iPad, lost a legal dispute in China over the “iPad” trademark, the ZDNet.com technology news website reported.

Proview Technology Co. registered the mark in China in 2000 and sued Apple in October seeking 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in damages, according to ZDNet.com.

Although Apple had bought the rights to the mark from Proview’s parent company, the Chinese patent court in Shenzhen, China, ruled in Proview’s favor, ZDNet.com reported.

Apple, which now may be forced to find a new name for the iPad tablet computer in China, didn’t comment on the ruling, ZDNet.com reported.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

RIAA Weighs in on ‘Fair Use’ in Righthaven Copyright Appeal

The Recording Industry Association of America, the music industry trade group, asked a U.S. appeals court for permission to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in a copyright case involving Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas.

Righthaven, which has attempted to enforce the copyrights of Stephens Media Group’s newspapers, has met with opposition by federal judges who say they are skeptical about whether it actually has standing to enforce the copyrights.

In its Dec. 5 filing, the Washington-based RIAA said its arguments “will assist the court in its analysis of the issues presented by the appeal.” The group said it wasn’t filing in support of any party to the dispute.

RIAA told the appeals court that the lower court, which said Righthaven lacked standing to sue, shouldn’t also have said the defendant’s posting of content on a blog constituted “fair use” under federal copyright law.

The parties to the case, because they didn’t have any authority to exploit the copyrighted work, “were in no position to present relevant arguments on the critical issue of the impact to the defendant’s use upon such exploitation,” the RIAA said in its filing.

The trade group said that if the trial court correctly determined Righthaven didn’t have to right to sue for copyright infringement, it should have stopped at that and not made any determination of whether the defendant’s actions constituted “fair use” or not.

By looking at “fair use” after deciding Righthaven didn’t have a right to sue, the trial court “reached a question it had no power to consider,” RIAA said in its brief.

The trade group’s brief was submitted by Steven J. Metalitz and J. Matthew Williams of Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, which has represented the RIAA in a number of cases involving use of its members’ content.

The appeal is Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn, 11-16751, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The lower court case is Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn, 2:11-cv-00050-PMP-RJJ, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

Apple, E-Book Publishers Probed by European Union Regulators

Apple Inc., the world’s biggest technology company, and five e-book publishers are being investigated by European Union antitrust regulators over deals that may restrict sales across the region.

The probe targets the iPad-maker’s deals with Lagardere SCA (MMB)’s Hachette Livre, News Corp. (NWSA)’s Harper Collins, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, Pearson Plc (PSON)’s Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan division, the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement. Publishers’ deals with retailers are also under scrutiny.

PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a January report that European e-book sales have been sluggish, partly due to the small range of non-English titles and fixed price agreements between publishers and stores in 13 countries.

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), the world’s largest Internet retailer, may sell as many as 5 million e-book readers in the fourth quarter, according to a report from Forrester Research Inc. Amazon sold about half of the 12.8 million e-book readers purchased worldwide last year, IDC said in March. E-books are also sold for media tablets such as the iPad and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy.

Piracy, price and a lack of content for non-English- speaking countries have stifled the spread of e-books in Europe, according to Mario Lombardo, a senior research analyst at IDC. In part because of the value added tax, many e-books cost the same or more than hard-copy editions, he said.

The probe isn’t Apple’s first encounter with the EU’s antitrust authority. The company settled an EU antitrust case in 2009 by agreeing to reduce prices for U.K. iTunes music downloads and was probed over restrictions on iPhone applications in a case the EU closed last year.

Some European newspapers also protested earlier this year against Apple’s proposed subscription model for the iPad. Apple and Samsung were recently quizzed by the commission over the use of smartphone patents, regulators said last month.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, Paris-based Lagardere and Macmillan declined to comment about the EU announcement.

French technology news website 01net.com reported in March that Editions Albin Michel SA president Francis Esmenard said raids by regulators on his company and others were triggered by a complaint from Amazon.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

Britain’s Office of Fair Trading, which opened an investigation in February, said in a statement on its website yesterday that it would drop its probe into e-books to allow EU officials to take the lead.

Harper Collins is “cooperating fully with the investigation,” according to an e-mailed statement from spokeswoman Siobhan Kenny. Simon & Schuster is also cooperating with the probe, spokesman Adam Rothberg said in an e-mail.

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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