Ziggo, MMPI, Velvet Underground Banana, MediaNews: Intellectual Property

Dutch Internet providers Ziggo BV and XS4ALL must block access to the Pirate Bay file-sharing website, a Dutch court ruled.

The Dutch entertainment industry association BREIN filed a lawsuit against The Pirate Bay, claiming that the exchange of music, movies and games on the site violates copyright laws.

“About 30 percent of Ziggo clients and 4.5 percent of XS4ALL subscribers have exchanged music, movies and games via The Pirate Bay,” the court in The Hague said in a statement yesterday.

The Pirate Bay site, which was founded in Sweden, enables downloading of digitized music and films using software called BitTorrent that enables complete works to be assembled from pieces on other users’ computers. Telenor ASA (TEL), Norway’s largest phone company, successfully argued in a Norwegian court in 2010 that the company shouldn’t be ordered to block the website.

Earlier this week Elisa Oyj (ELI1V), Finland’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers, temporarily blocked the site, after receiving an enforcement order from a Helsinki court.

University of Minnesota Files Infringement Suit Over MMPI Test

The University of Minnesota filed a copyright infringement suit in an effort to keep secret the details of a well-known personality test.

The suit, filed Jan. 9 in federal court in New York, is related to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test, generally known as the MMPI. The test is widely used to diagnose mental disorders.

Pearson plc’s Pearson Education unit is the exclusive licensee for the test and a co-plaintiff in the case with the university.

According to the complaint, test statements and scoring information have been published without authorization on several websites by a New Zealand resident.

The defendants are a web-hosting service and its customer, who provided the content the school found objectionable.

The web-hosting service where the allegedly infringing content was published appears to be caught in the middle of the dispute. New York-based Kazan Corp. complied with the school’s request to take down the objectionable content only to be met with a demand from the New Zealander Dec. 23 that it be restored.

Andrew Dobson, of Napier, New Zealand, claimed that the material he posted did not infringe the school’s copyright. In an e-mail to Kazan included with the case filings, he argued that the school didn’t possess the copyright to the content he posted. He said it was authored by someone else, who made the content available under what is known as the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation.

Dobson also told Kazan that should the university be able to prove that it owned the content he posted, he would remove the material. He demanded the content be restored.

The university asked the court to bar the web-hosting service from reactivating the link to the objectionable content. It also seeks an order barring any distribution of the test by the defendants, and asked for awards of money damages, profits defendants derived from the alleged infringement, and attorney fees and litigation costs.

The school is represented by Susan Progoff, Jonathan Montcalm, Stuart R. Hemphill and Jeffrey R. Cadwell of Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

The case is Regents of the University of Minnesota v. Dobson, 1:12-cv-00169-PAC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Velvet Underground Sues Warhol Foundation Over Banana Album

The Velvet Underground sued the Andy Warhol Foundation, accusing it of infringing the trademark for the banana design on the cover of the rock group’s first album in 1967.

The band’s founders, Lou Reed and John Cale, said that the foundation infringed the design by licensing it to third parties, according to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

The band, which was active from about 1965 to 1972, formed an artistic collaboration with Warhol, who designed the banana illustration for “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” which critics have labeled one of the most influential rock recordings of all time, according to the complaint.

The Warhol Foundation claimed it has a copyright interest in the design, according to the lawsuit. The Velvet Underground partnership said in the complaint that the design can’t be copyrighted because the banana image Warhol furnished for the illustration came from an advertisement and was in the public domain.

Warhol, one of the most celebrated Pop artists, began his collaboration with the band in 1965. The group performed at his New York studio, the Factory, and in his traveling light show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Warhol died in 1987.

Nina Djerejian, a spokeswoman for the New York-based foundation, didn’t return messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Warhol’s copyrighted works have a market value of $120 million and the foundation has earned more than $2.5 million a year licensing rights to those works, according to the complaint.

The Velvet Underground is seeking a judicial declaration that the foundation has no copyright to the banana design, an injunction barring the use of any merchandise using the artwork and monetary damages. The group is requesting a jury trial.

In the so-called Banana Album, the Velvets chronicled the 1960s hard-drug scene in songs written by Reed such as “Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Released by MGM Records, the album was a commercial failure, the complaint states. The catalog of MGM became part of Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music Group, which has re-released the album.

The case is The Velvet Underground v. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 12-0201, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Microsoft Sues Gome, Buynow Over Pirated Software in China

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s biggest software company, sued Shanghai Gome Electrical Appliances Co. in China, alleging the retailer had offered computers with pirated versions of its Windows and Office programs.

The lawsuit against Gome was filed at the Shanghai Huangpu District People’s Court, the Redmond, Washington-based company said in an e-mailed statement dated Jan. 6. Separately, Microsoft sued Clevo Co. (2362)’s Buynow retail unit at a court in Beijing, according to the statement.

Microsoft is boosting efforts to counter unauthorized use of its software in China, which surpassed the U.S. last year as the world’s biggest market for personal computers. About 78 percent of software in China was pirated in 2010, according to estimates by the Business Software Alliance.

Two computer vendors with stores in a Buynow mall in Beijing were offering products with pirated Microsoft software, the U.S. company said.

Philip Cheung, an investor relations manager at Hong Kong- listed Gome Electrical Appliances Holdings Ltd. (493), couldn’t confirm if Shanghai Gome is a unit of his company, or is privately owned by founder Huang Guangyu. He declined to comment on the case.

Buynow has measures to curb intellectual property infringement by vendors at its malls, and “regrets” the legal action by Microsoft, Buynow said in an e-mailed statement.

For copyright news, click here.

Patents

EU’s Barnier Says Deal Needed on Location of Patent Tribunal

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s financial services commissioner, said he was “launching an appeal” to the U.K., France and Germany to settle the location of a court that would rule on disputes concerning the region’s planned single patent.

Governments have agreed “all the most complex details” on the patent except the location of the main court, Barnier said in an e-mailed statement. EU companies have been waiting for the patent for 30 years, he said.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Oakland Trib Tells Occupy Oakland to Quit Using Newspaper’s Name

The Occupy Oakland movement has received a cease-and-desist letter from counsel for MediaNews Group (MNWG)’s Bay Area News Group.

The media organization, which published the Oakland Tribune newspaper, objects to its use of “Occupied Oakland Tribune” as a banner headline on its www.occupiedoaktrib.org website.

In the Jan. 6 letter Andrew Huntington, the Bay Area News Group’s general counsel, noted that the Oakland Tribune has been in existence for more than 100 years, and has registered “Oakland Tribune” as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Huntington says the unauthorized use of the newspaper’s name by the Occupy group creates confusion in the marketplace and diminished the value of its name. He demanded that the group immediately cease using “Oakland Tribune” and “Oakland Trib” in any materials related to the “Occupied” movement. Additionally, he asked that the website be disabled or be transferred to the newspaper.

When accessed yesterday, www.occupiedoaktrib.org was still operating and had the “Occupied Oakland Tribune” banner. The site is calling for a Labor Solidarity Day rally Jan. 15 at what Occupy Oakland calls “Oscar Grant Plaza.” The plaza, in front of the Oakland, California, city hall was given this name by the movement in memory of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by transit police in 2009.

Customs Seizes 18,000 Counterfeit High Tech Devices at Laredo

About 18,000 counterfeit items were seized by customs officials at the Laredo, Texas point of entry, Associated Press reported.

They included digital camcorders with memory cards, car radios and parts, and CD and MP3players, AP reported.

Customs officials said if the items were genuine, they would be worth more than $782,000, according to AP.

For more trademark 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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