Technicolor, GM, Jo-Ann, Amazon, CBS: Intellectual Property

Technicolor SA’s (TCH) Thomson Licensing unit lost its U.S. patent-infringement cases over liquid-crystal displays in computer and television screens against Taiwanese manufacturers including AU Optronics Corp. (2409) and Chimei Innolux Corp. (3481)

The companies didn’t violate Thomson Licensing’s patent rights, the U.S. International Trade Commission said June 15 in a notice posted on the agency’s website. Thomson had sought an order that would block imports of certain LCD products that infringe its patents, counting on the threat of an import ban to force the companies into a licensing agreement.

Patent licensing is the most profitable business for Paris- based Technicolor, which invented the color process used in “The Wizard of Oz” and other classic movies. The money-losing company is relying on its 40,000 video, audio and optics patents to finance a turnaround.

Thibault Peulen, a Technicolor spokesman, said the company had no comment.

Miaoli, Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux is Taiwan’s largest maker of LCDs and Hsinchu, Taiwan-based AU Optronics is second.

“This marks a complete victory for CMI at the commission, and we could not be more happy for them,” Chimei’s lawyer, Warren Heit of White & Case in Palo Alto, California, said in a statement.

MStar Semiconductor Inc. (3697), Qisda Corp. (2352), BenQ Corp. and Realtek Semiconductor Corp. also were named in the two complaints, which were consolidated because they involved the same issue and some overlapping patents.

ITC Judge Robert Rogers in January found that one of five patents in the case was infringed by certain Chimei products and any Qisda or BenQ monitors that incorporated the Chimei LCDs. Patent 5,648,674 that was found to be infringed was issued in 1997 to Xerox Corp. and covers a way to reduce distortions in LCDs. The other companies were cleared by the judge.

The commission said there was no infringement of that former Xerox patent. It upheld a finding of no violation of three other patents, and said a fourth patent -- 6,121,941 -- which expires Aug. 26, wasn’t infringed, though it ordered the judge to review its validity.

Although the notice of the agency’s findings was posted on its electronic docket Friday, the full ruling won’t become public until both sides have a chance to redact confidential business information.

Investors JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Vector Capital Corp. have made competing offers to boost their holdings in Technicolor to as much as 30 percent through a capital increase. Shareholders are scheduled to choose one of the two deals on the June 20 annual general meeting. Both investors have said they support management’s patent strategy.

The cases are In the Matter of Certain Liquid Crystal Display Devices including Monitors, Televisions and Modules, 337-741 and 337-749, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Merck Loses Nasonex Patent Case Against Apotex in N.J. Court

Merck & Co. (MRK)’s patent for the allergy drug Nasonex isn’t infringed by Apotex Inc., a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan said June 15 that Merck’s Schering unit had “failed to present credible evidence” of infringement, according to a court filing in Trenton, New Jersey. Sheridan also denied Apotex’s claim that Schering’s patent 6,127,353 was invalid.

Schering sued Apotex in 2009, claiming that it had filed a new-drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a generic nasal spray that would infringe Schering’s patents. The patent at issue in this ruling expires in 2018, Merck said in a statement last week.

“We’ll very likely appeal and seek an injunction,” Ron Rogers, a spokesman for Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck, said in a telephone interview. “As far as we know, the FDA has not approved Apotex’s application. We do not expect generic competition near-term.”

Elie Betito, a spokesman for Toronto-based Apotex, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on the ruling.

Apotex claimed that its proposed product -- a nasal spray to reduce symptoms of rhinitis -- has an active ingredient that’s different from Schering’s, according to court papers.

The case is Schering Corp. v. Apotex, 09-06373, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

GM’s Trademark Application Indicated ‘Electras’ May Return

General Motors Co. (GM), the world’s largest automaker, filed an application to register “Electra” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Detroit-based company had two previous “Electra” trademarks associated with its Buick division that expired. The first one dates from 1967 and the second was issued in 1989.

The new application was filed June 5, and GM said in the application that it plans to use the mark with automobiles.

Presently there are no Buicks made under that name. The model names listed on the Buick.com website for 2012 cars are “enclave,” “lacrosse,” “regal” and “verano.”

Jo-Ann Stores Says It Doesn’t Infringe ‘Peace Frog’ Trademarks

Leonard Green & Partners LP’s Jo-Ann Stores unit has responded to an infringement suit brought by the holder of the “Peace Frogs” trademarks.

The suit, filed in federal court in Newport News, Virginia, in February, was brought by Crispies Co. of White Marsh, Virginia. That company sells its merchandise through catalogs, stores, licenses and its website, www.peacefrogs.com.

According to court papers, Jo-Ann infringed the trademark through the sale of a fleece fabric with an image of a frog and a peace symbol. The PeaceFrogs website depicts a frog with two upraised “fingers” in a V shape.

Jo-Ann said in its court filing that the disputed fabric is “dissimilar” to the Peace Frog marks. The company, which sells fabric and craft items in 49 states, said the fabric to which Peace Frogs objects doesn’t fall into the class of foods for which the mark is registered.

Additionally, Jo-Ann told the court there is a “wide array” of competitive products that feature design elements similar to those related to the trademark, “resulting in a crowded field.”

It asked the court to dismiss the case and for awards of attorney fees and costs.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the dispute is set for trial beginning Oct. 2.

The case is Crispies Co. v. Jo-Ann Stores Inc., 4:12-cv- 00011-HCM-FBS, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Newport News).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Knoxville Resident Enters Guilty Plea to Copyright Infringement

A resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, has pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement and trafficking in counterfeit labels.

Ernest Chief Ekwuribe, 49, pleaded guilty in federal court in Knoxville June 14, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

He was indicted following a complaint lodged with the Knoxville Police Department by the Motion Picture Association of America, the film industry’s advocacy group, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In conjunction with the case, the police department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized hundreds of fake CDs, DVDs and DVD case inserts, the government said.

Ekwuribe is set for sentencing Oct. 4.

The case is USA v. Ekwuribe, 3:11-cr-00103, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville).

Amazon Said to Start Cloud Music Service to Challenge Apple

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) reached agreements with the four major U.S. record companies to start a music service that lets users store songs on a remote server and access them online, people familiar with the matter said.

Amazon plans to start the U.S. service during the first week of July, with Europe availability shortly after, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.

With the agreements, Amazon’s music service will work similarly to Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iTunes, allowing multiple devices to access a centrally stored music collection. Amazon, whose Kindle Fire sells for $199 -- a lower price than Apple’s least expensive iPad tablet computer -- is seeking to make money by offering higher-margin digital content on the device, such as books, music and movies.

Sally Fouts, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Amazon, declined to comment. Vivendi SA (VIV)’s Universal Music Group, Sony Corp. (6758)’s music business, EMI Group Ltd. and billionaire Len Blavatnik’s Warner Music Group declined to comment in e-mail statements.

Stock in Amazon, the world’s biggest Web retailer, has climbed 26 percent this year.

The company first offered a cloud music service in March 2011 that circumvented the need for agreements with individual record companies. Legally, the service required users to upload tracks to Amazon’s servers, a lengthy and cumbersome process depending on Internet speed. It also had limited playback options.

With the new agreements, customers who buy music through Amazon’s music store will be given a free amount of storage, while those who choose to store their entire collections, including tracks purchased elsewhere, will pay an annual fee, the people said.

Amazon’s music service will also be available on iPads and iPhones through the Kindle application for the Apple devices, the people said.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

CBS Bid to Stop ‘Glass House’ as a ‘Big Brother’ Copy Denied

A judge tentatively denied a CBS Corp. (CBS) bid to halt “The Glass House,” an ABC network reality television show set to premiere June 18, while the networks fight over whether it’s a copy of CBS’s “Big Brother” and claims former CBS employees broke agreements by helping make it.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feess in Los Angeles, presiding over a hearing June 15 on CBS’s request for an injunction based in part on its claim of copyright infringement, said the network is unlikely to win the lawsuit on the merits.

CBS, based in New York, last month sued Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, alleging “The Glass House” infringes on its reality series, in which a group of contestants spend months secluded in a house, evicting each other one-by-one on camera.

In its complaint, CBS said that two former supervising producers and a former co-executive producer of “Big Brother,” as well as 16 other ex-producers and staff from the series, are working on “Glass House” and have disclosed CBS’s trade secrets and confidential information in violation of their non- disclosure agreements.

ABC said in a June 11 filing that the alleged similarities between “Big Brother” and “Glass House” are “generic staples of the reality show genre” and can’t be protected under copyright. ABC also said there is no “secret sauce” in “Big Brother’s” production process.

The case is CBS v. ABC, 12-4073, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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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