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Nokia, Motorola Mobility, Stichting: Intellectual Property
Nokia Oyj (NOK) said it filed patent- infringement lawsuits against HTC Corp., Research in Motion Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp. in the U.S. and Germany over inventions in mobile devices including phones and tablets.
One complaint was filed against HTC at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, which has the power to block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents. HTC and ViewSonic were sued in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, while all three companies were named in German lawsuits. Nokia said in a statement it claims infringement of 45 patents in all.
Nokia, which lost its 14-year title as world’s biggest seller of mobile phones last year to Samsung Electronics Co., is trying to expand revenue from its patent portfolio. The company’s royalty income is on pace to reach 500 million euros ($658 million) a year, Chief Financial Officer Timo Ihamuotila said last month.
Six of the patents asserted in the new round of litigation were also part of a global fight Nokia waged with iPhone maker Apple Inc., (AAPL) said Mark Durrant, a spokesman for Nokia. The two companies settled their dispute a year ago, with Apple agreeing to a one-time payment and royalties.
The patents in the new round of litigation cover hardware inventions for dual-function antennas, power management and multimode radios, and software features including application stores, multitasking, navigation, conversational message display, dynamic menus, data encryption and retrieval of e-mail attachments on a mobile device.
Nokia has linked up with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) to make Lumia smartphones that run on the Windows Phone platform, which competes with Google Inc.’s Android operating system. HTC, based in Taoyuan, Taiwan, makes phones for both Android and Windows Phone. The suits in Delaware target the HTC (2498) Flyer tablet and a range of smartphones including the HTC Sensation 4G, Vivid, and Inspire 4G.
HTC and Nokia have been partners in fighting patent- infringement claims by IPCom GmbH, a licensing company that obtained mobile-phone patents from Robert Bosch GmbH in 2007.
RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, developed its own operating system for its BlackBerry phones. Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for RIM, said the company doesn’t comment on litigation.
ViewSonic, based in Walnut, California, makes tablet computers that run on Android. In the case against ViewSonic in Mannheim, Germany, Nokia claims infringement of four patents that relate to industry standards on 3G and Wi-Fi technology, Durrant said. None of the others are for inventions that are essential components of standards.
Officials with HTC and ViewSonic didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.
Motorola Mobility Wins German Ruling on Microsoft Windows, Xbox
Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) won a patent ruling allowing it to ban Microsoft Corp. from selling its Windows products or Xbox gaming systems in Germany.
In a case that prompted Microsoft to move its European logistics center to the Netherlands from Germany, the Mannheim Regional Court found the company violated patents related to industry standards for video compression. Last month, a U.S. court ordered Motorola Mobility not to enforce a ban if it won yesterday’s ruling while a related dispute in Seattle is pending.
The suit is part of a wave of global patent litigation as companies seek a greater share of smartphone and handheld device sales. The total market for mobile devices, which includes tablet computers and e-readers, is projected to reach $360 billion this year, according to Carl Howe, an analyst with Boston-based advisory firm Yankee Group.
Last month, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, said it was moving its European logistics center to the Netherlands from Germany because of the patent fight. The German unit is the central distribution point for software and other Microsoft products in Europe, so the adverse German ruling may have threatened deliveries through much of the continent.
Motorola Mobility, a Libertyville, Illinois-based phone maker, is being acquired by Google Inc. (GOOG), the maker of Android software.
Rovi Sues Mitsubishi Electric Over TV Program Guide Patents
Rovi Corp. (ROVI), a provider of digital entertainment guides, sued three television makers claiming infringement of patents for its technology and parental-control chips that block television content.
Rovi argues that Mitsubishi Electric Corp., LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and Vizio Inc., the first American brand in over a decade to lead in LCD high-definition TV sales in the U.S., misappropriated its on-screen guides that allow users to browse channel listing and upcoming shows, according to a complaint filed May 1 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.
The companies’ alleged infringement “presents significant and ongoing damages to Rovi’s business,” lawyers for the Santa Clara, California-based company said in court papers. “Rovi’s long-term financial success depends on its ability to establish, maintain, and protect its proprietary technology through enforcement of its patent rights.”
Rovi contends that Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Electric is violating three of its patents, according to court documents. Two patents cover viewing the TV program schedule and “on- demand” content. Another patent involves “V-chip” technology that restricts access to certain shows or networks deemed inappropriate.
The company argues that LG, based in Seoul, Korea, is infringing five patents including three of the four asserted against Irvine, California-based Vizio.
Rovi also filed a U.S. International Trade Commission complaint yesterday against the three companies as well as Netflix Inc. and Roku Inc. alleging infringement of as many as seven patents.
Mark Scott, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Electric U.S., declined to comment on the lawsuit. Jim Noyd, a spokesman for Vizio, and John Taylor, a spokesman for LG, weren’t immediately available to respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Rovi is asking for jury trials and unspecified damages based on the companies’ importation or sales of television sets, according to court papers. The company said in the complaint that any damages awarded should be tripled, claiming the infringement was “willful and deliberate.”
The cases are Rovi v. Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (6503), 12-cv- 547); Rovi v. LG Electronics Inc., 12-cv-545; Rovi v. Vizio Inc., 12-cv-546, all U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Products Containing Interactive Program Guide and Parental Control Technology, Complaint No. 2894, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
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Stichting BDO’s Trademark Challenge to Philippines Bank Rejected
Stichting BDO, the Netherlands-based accounting firm, has lost a trademark challenge to the Banco de Oro Unibank in the Philippines, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
The Mandaluyong court said the bank was the first to use the “BDO” trademark, and there was no intent on the bank’s part to deceive the market, according to the newspaper.
The accounting firm filed the infringement claim in 2009, saying it had used the mark since 2004, the Inquirer reported.
The court said the Philippines’ Intellectual Property Office has also now canceled the Dutch company’s registration for the “BDO” trademark, according to the Inquirer.
China’s Trademark Registry System Often Causes Outsiders Grief
Waitrose Ltd., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)’s Asda unit, and J Sainsbury Plc (SBRY) are among the U.K. companies whose names were registered in China without their consent by unrelated entities, the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper reported.
In China, whoever registers the mark first has the right to use it, according to the newspaper.
Fights by non-Chinese companies to regain the rights to their name are seldom successful, trademark lawyers told the Telegraph.
Many companies have been forced into doing business in China under a new brand, the Telegraph reported.
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Software Copyright Allows Reverse Engineering, EU Court Says
Software companies can’t rely on copyright rules to prevent rivals from “reverse engineering” computer programs, the European Union’s highest court ruled.
SAS Institute Inc., the world’s biggest closely held software company, lost a bid at the EU Court of Justice to extend copyright protection to the functions of a computer program. World Programming Ltd. infringed SAS’s copyright by developing a system that copied the company’s manuals, SAS said at a September hearing.
Copyright protection doesn’t extend to the functionality of a computer program or the programming language and the format of a program’s data files, according to a statement from the court yesterday.
“There is no copyright infringement” when a software company without access to a program’s source code “studied, observed and tested that program in order to reproduce its functionality in a second program,” the court said in the statement.
SAS, based in Cary, North Carolina, is an independent maker of so-called business intelligence programs, which spot patterns amid vast stores of data. WPL, based in Romsey, England, makes a software product that analyzes and processes data.
It’s the first time the EU’s top court has been asked to define the scope of copyright protection for computer software. The High Court in London in 2010 referred the case to the EU tribunal for guidance on how to interpret the region’s software and copyright laws. The court said WPL’s system didn’t breach SAS’s copyright.
Calls and e-mails to SAS offices in North Carolina and England weren’t immediately answered before U.S. business hours. WPL didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The ruling means “that competitive and interoperable computer programs can continue to be developed without threat of legal liability,” said Thomas Vinje, a spokesman for the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, a group representing International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and other software developers.
The case is C-406/10, SAS Institute Inc. v. World Programming Ltd.
Oracle Claims $777 Million Damages in SAP Infringement Case
Oracle Corp. said it will claim damages of $776.7 million in its retrial of a copyright-infringement lawsuit against SAP AG (SAP), the biggest maker of business-management software.
Oracle decided in February to pursue a new trial rather than accept U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton’s reduction of a 2010 jury verdict the company won from $1.3 billion to $272 million. The retrial is scheduled for June 18 in Oakland, California.
Oracle said in a court filing that it has a right to pursue actual damages measured by the “fair market value of the rights infringed.” To do so, the company has asked Hamilton, to let it present evidence of a “hypothetical license” that would establish that value. If not, Oracle said, it will pursue damages based on $656 million in SAP’s profits and $120.7 million in Oracle’s lost profits, according to the April 26 filing.
Oracle said its damages claim will be supported at trial by an “updated analysis and additional evidence to support the infringers’ profits and lost profit amounts.”
“We think Oracle’s damage estimate is overstated,” Jim Dever, a spokesman for Walldorf, Germany-based SAP, said in an e-mail. SAP estimates damages at $28 million, he said.
Oracle, based in Redwood City, California, sued in 2007 after discovering that SAP’s software-maintenance unit had downloaded and copied its software. SAP didn’t contest that it was liable for the infringement by its TomorrowNow unit, which the company closed in 2008.
The jury award of $1.3 billion was based on the value of a hypothetical license that SAP would have needed to use Oracle’s software. Hamilton threw out the verdict, calling it “grossly excessive” and not supported by the evidence.
TomorrowNow pleaded guilty in September to U.S. charges of unauthorized computer access and SAP paid the unit’s $20 million fine.
The civil case is Oracle Corp. v. SAP AG, 07-1658, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).
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