Ford, Groupon, Pernod-Ricard: Intellectual Property

Ford Motor Co. (F) was accused in a lawsuit of infringing a 2008 patent covering a fuel-injection system in its F-150 trucks.

Ford allegedly began selling vehicles, including the F-150, that incorporated the patent’s fuel system design after telling the inventor the company had no interest in the technology, according to the complaint filed Aug. 29 in federal court in Philadelphia by TMC Fuel Injection System LLC. The company, based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, is seeking a court order barring Ford’s conduct, in addition to unspecified damages.

Ford’s discussions with Shou L. Hou, the patent inventor, began in December 2004, more than two years after an application was filed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the technology, TMC said in the complaint. Discussions about licensing the technology failed in 2008 when Ford said the company wasn’t interested in pursuing the system, according to the complaint.

In dispute is patent 7,318,414, which was issued in January 2008.

The technology addresses performance and fuel waste by increasing the fuel injection dynamic range, TMC said in the complaint. The system offers fuel savings of as much as 35 percent in city driving and also delivers a power boost option for acceleration, TMC said in papers filed with the complaint.

Todd Nissen, a spokesman for Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, said the company had “only just heard about the lawsuit,” and would have no comment at this time.

Ford’s F-150 is available with a fuel-efficient EcoBoost engine. EcoBoost, introduced in 2009, uses direct fuel injection and turbocharging to increase fuel economy.

Ford last year introduced its first EcoBoost engine for F- Series pickups. Trucks equipped with that engine accounted for 42 percent of the model line’s retail sales in July, the company said in its latest sales statement issued Aug. 1.

The case is TMC Fuel Injection System LLC v. Ford Motor Co., 12-cv-04971, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

Groupon, LivingSocial, Discount Marketers, Sued Over Patent

Groupon Inc. (GRPN) and LivingSocial Inc. were sued by a patent owner claiming the discount online marketers are infringing protected technology for mobile telephone advertising.

XcellaSave Inc., based in Middle Village, New York, asks for a jury trial and unspecified damages from Chicago-based Groupon and LivingSocial of Washington, according to two lawsuits filed Aug. 29 in federal court in Delaware. It’s accusing the companies of infringing patent 8,254,894, which was issued Aug. 28.

The infringing companies continue “to create and disseminate promotional and marketing materials” and technical information in applications including the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows-based mobile phones, without permission, XcellaSave alleges in court papers.

Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler declined to comment on the lawsuit. LivingSocial spokeswoman Maire Griffin didn’t immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The cases are XcellaSave v. Groupon, 12-cv-1085 and XcellaSave v. LivingSocial, 12-cv-1086, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Apple Win Over Samsung Seen Aiding InterDigital Patent Deals

InterDigital Inc. (IDCC) Chief Executive Officer Bill Merritt said Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s legal victory over Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) showed the value of patents, helping spur demand for the assets his company plans to sell.

Samsung was ordered to pay Apple about $1 billion on Aug. 24 for infringing intellectual property -- a verdict that validated businesses that rely on innovation, Merritt said Aug. 29 in an interview. InterDigital, a wireless technology developer, has been offering batches of its patents to buyers after abandoning a plan to sell the whole company last year.

“We’re encouraged by the value being placed on patents, and there’s strong opportunity in the market,” Merritt said at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. “As with any market that’s strong, you want to move quick.”

The company already agreed to sell about 1,700 patents, about 8 percent of its portfolio, to Intel Corp. (INTC) for $375 million in June. InterDigital, based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, said in its annual report that it received royalties from more than half of all 3G, or third-generation, mobile devices sold last year, including ones from Samsung, Apple, Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) and HTC Corp. (2498)

InterDigital, which has about 20,000 patents in total, said in July 2011 that it had hired Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR) and Barclays Plc (JNK) to explore a possible sale of the company, seeking to capitalize on a boom in demand for patent portfolios. The company found that buyers were more interested in portions of the portfolio worth less than $1 billion, Merritt said.

Buyers of mobile patents could include Samsung, Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Nokia Oyj or any mobile manufacturer, said Kevin Stadtler, president of Stadtler Capital Management LLC in Fort Worth, Texas, who owns about 20,000 shares of InterDigital.

“The real beneficiaries following the Apple-Samsung lawsuit are the companies that own intellectual property, the patent arms merchants,” Stadtler said. “People are seeing how this is disrupting Samsung’s momentum.”

A jury in San Jose, California, found Aug. 24 that Samsung infringed six of seven Apple patents at stake in the trial. The jury also determined that all of Apple’s patents at stake were valid. Apple won findings that Samsung devices diluted the value of its so-called trade dress, or how a product looks.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Pernod-Ricard Wins Chinese Trademark Case Over ‘Chivas’ Marks

Pernod-Ricard SA (RI), France’s largest distiller, won a trademark case in China, the British trade publication Drinks Business reported.

The three-year suit ended with a court ordering two companies to pay 500,000 yuan ($78,745) for the unauthorized use of Pernod-Ricard’s “Chivas” trademarks and trade dress, according to Drinks Business.

The suit targeted “Elysee Royal” whisky made by Yantai Aowei and Yantai Chivas, the publication reported.

Earlier this year, a Chinese court turned away a Pernod- Ricard challenge to the use of “Chivas” by a clothing manufacturer, according to Drinks Business.

China Says It May Blacklist Unauthorized Trademark Applicants

China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce is considering developing a blacklist of those who apply for trademark rights in unauthorized efforts to exploit the names of famous businesses, athletes and other celebrities, China Daily reported.

Last year, two Chinese swimsuit companies applied to register the names of two medal-winning members of that nation’s Olympics team without permission, the newspaper said.

Other athletes whose names have been used in unauthorized trademark applications are Liu Xiang, a hurdler on the Chinese team, and National Basketball Association players Jeremy Lim and the now-retired Yao Ming, the newspaper reported.

In some cases, names were registered well in advance of an athlete’s fame, such as badminton player Lin Dan, whose name was registered in 1997 for a brand of animal feed, according to China daily.

Hadassah Sues San Diego Group for Trademark Infringement

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc., filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit against a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that seeks to build girls’ self-esteem.

The Hadassah Project has been asked repeatedly to stop using the name, according to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in San Diego. The group’s website indicates that it plans to offer a home for emancipated teen mothers.

The San Diego group says it uses “Hadassah” -- a Hebrew form of the name of the Biblical Queen Esther -- because its program “represents a girl’s mental and physical transition from that of like a ‘prisoner-exile’ to a ‘Queen.’”

The 100-year-old Zionist group, based in New York, said the Hadassah Project’s use of the name in connection with services targeted at women and girls will probably cause the public to assume falsely that the two entities are affiliated.

It asked the court to bar the San Diego group’s use of the world “Hadassah” and for the destruction of all allegedly infringing promotional material and content. Additionally, Hadassah seeks the transfer of the Hadassahproject.org domain name and awards of damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

The Hadassah Project didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc. v. The Hadassah Project, 12-cv-02139, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

‘Spider-Man’ Producers to Settle Taymor Lawsuit, Filing Says

The producers of the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and the show’s fired director, Julie Taymor, agreed to settle a lawsuit over royalties and creative control, according to a court filing.

Terms of the agreement in principle weren’t disclosed in the order filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court.

Taymor, 59, was removed from the $75 million spectacle in March 2011, after critics lambasted it during an extended 182- performance preview period. She sued the producers in November, saying they violated her intellectual-property rights by making changes without her permission and didn’t pay royalties due her as a co-book writer.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s Dale Cendali, a lawyer for the lead producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, declined to comment on the filing. Taymor’s spokesman, Chris Kanarick, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.

The case is Taymor v. 8 Legged Productions LLC, 11-cv- 08002, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Paramount Asks Judge to Uphold Puzo’s ‘Godfather’ Contract

Paramount Pictures Corp., the maker of the films based on Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather,” asked a judge to reject an attempt by the author’s estate to terminate its contract with the studio.

Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount sued Anthony Puzo, Mario’s son and executor, in February to prevent the publication of a new sequel to “The Godfather,” claiming it wasn’t authorized. Puzo countersued in April to cancel the contract, saying Paramount had breached it.

“There is no affirmative obligation of Paramount’s that can be said to be breached here,” Richard Kendall, a lawyer for the studio, told U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan at a hearing yesterday in Manhattan on a motion to dismiss Puzo’s claim. “All Paramount has done is assert and affirm its rights under the contract.”

The first “Godfather” film came out in 1972 and won Academy Awards for best picture and adapted screenplay, for which Puzo shared the credit. Francis Ford Coppola directed the three “Godfather” movies.

Paramount contends that it owns the book and movie rights. Anthony Puzo claims that the Los Angeles-based studio breached a 1969 agreement with his father. The contract reserved certain rights, including book publishing, for the author, the estate said in court filings. Mario Puzo died in 1999.

Paramount said in its complaint that after Puzo died, the company agreed to allow Bertelsmann AG’s Random House to publish a single Godfather sequel, “The Godfather Returns,” which came out in 2004.

The estate published another novel, “The Godfather’s Revenge,” in 2006 without Paramount’s approval, the studio said. Paramount sued after the estate announced a plan to publish a third sequel, “The Family Corleone,” this year.

That sequel, by Ed Falco, was published in May by Grand Central Publishing. Under terms of an interim settlement between Paramount and Puzo, proceeds from the book will be put in escrow pending the outcome of the litigation, according to court papers.

Paramount claimed Puzo’s estate infringed its copyright by publishing the novel and infringed its trademark with the design of the book.

The case is Paramount Pictures v. Puzo, 12-01268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at vslindflor@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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