Intellectual Ventures, Renault: Intellectual Property

Intellectual Ventures’ patent portfolio is the target of a new project begun by a Berkeley, California-based patent analytics firm.

IP Checkups Inc. is setting up “Case IV Thicket,” a crowd-funded crowd-sourced project aimed at revealing Intellectual Ventures’ patent portfolio and make it freely available to the public. According to IP Checkups Managing Director Matthew Rappaport, Bellevue, Washington-based IV has at least 40,000 patents, with the ownership hidden in a thicket of more than 1,200 shell companies.

Funding for the new venture is to be raised through the Indiegogo crowd-funding mechanism, and the database that will be developed is to be freely available to the public, Rappaport said. “We think we can put together the puzzle and identify the shell companies and the patents they own,” he said.

Closely held IV, which was started in 2000 by former Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold, has filed a number of patent infringement suits in the past two years. Among the companies IV has sued are Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Altera Corp. (ALTR), Motorola Mobility LLC, Canon Inc. (7751) and Sendai Nikon Corp. (7731)

“Patent data is supposed to be public,” Rappaport said in an Oct. 12 telephone interview. The system he is setting up will be “illuminating the land mines” that companies might encounter when they develop a product and are then sued for patent infringement by IV or one of its shell companies.

Rappaport said he had contacted IV to ask if he could publish the company’s patent portfolio, and got no response to a follow-up e-mail he sent.

Initial searches for IV’s patents will be conducted of patent databases of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the European Patent Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Rappaport said. Databases of the various state secretaries of state will also be done, in efforts to unmask the alleged shell companies, he said.

The goal of the project is to have the database of IV’s patents completed by Memorial Day, Rappaport said.

Co-founder of IP Checkups with Matthew Rappaport is his father, Irving Rappaport, former associate general counsel for intellectual property and licensing at Apple Inc. Rappaport is co-inventor with Kevin Rivette of the Aureka patent-mapping software.

Rivette, now managing partner of 3LP Advisors LLC, a Palo Alto, California-based IP strategy and transaction firm, said projects like IP Checkups’ are not new. “I’ve heard about this concept since ’05.”

“You’re actually talking about a lot of work,” he said in a telephone interview Oct. 12. “The really interesting part is that people want to make this formulaic, when it isn’t.”

The Case IV Thicket project is to be introduced today at the annual meeting of the Licensing Executives Society in Toronto, an organization of technology-transfer professionals.

No one from Intellectual Ventures was available to comment on the IP Checkups project, according to Michelle Craig, a spokeswoman.

‘Speak For Yourself’ App Patent-Infringement Suit Settled

A patent suit involving an app aimed at helping children with developmental difficulties communicate through Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad has settled, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Semantic Compaction Systems Inc. of Pittsburgh sued Speak for Yourself LLC for patent infringement in March, claiming the company’s Speak for Yourself app, distributed through Apple’s App Store, infringed patents 5,748,177 and 5,920,303. The patents covered a system for redefining keys on a keyboard to provide access to higher level keyboards, according to patent data.

Apple removed the app from the App Store in June.

The dispute was sent out for mediation and, according to the case file, the dispute was settled Oct. 10. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed and the court retains the jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement.

The case is Semantic Compaction Systems Inc., v. Speak for Yourself LLC, 2:12-cv-00248-GLL, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Apple Licenses 68-Year-Old Swiss Clock Design From SBB Railway

Apple Inc., which is fighting patent battles with competitors around the globe, agreed to license a 68-year-old design for a clock for Swiss railway stations to use in its iPhone and iPad devices.

State-owned railway operator SBB said last month that while Apple had infringed rights to the motif, it was “proud that Apple took an SBB design.” Apple will now be allowed to use the look of the station clock, designed in 1944 and featuring a “striking red second hand in the shape of a railway guard’s signaling disc,” on its mobile devices, SBB said in a statement Friday. The companies agreed not to disclose the fee.

“It is a design icon that has obviously lost none of its appeal in the digital age,” SBB said in an Oct. 12 statement. “It symbolizes the innovation and reliability that are key qualities attributed to both SBB and Switzerland as a whole.”

SBB has allowed companies such as watchmaker Mondaine Watch Ltd. to use the design under a license. Apple has been embroiled in patent battles with smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Co. in courts across four continents after Apple accused the South Korean company of copying its devices last year.

Officials at Apple, which included the design in the updated version of its iOS mobile operating system in September, didn’t immediately return phone calls for comment on the licensing agreement. Last month, London-based Apple spokesman Adam Howorth said the disputed design appears only on the iPad and isn’t on the iPhone.

Google Antitrust Suit Said to Be Pushed by FTC Investigators

U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigators are circulating an internal draft memo that recommends suing Google Inc. (GOOG) for abusing its dominance of Internet search in violation of antitrust laws, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The more than 100-page memo has been distributed to the agency’s five commissioners, who will decide whether to sue, two of the people said. A majority of commissioners, including FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, have expressed concerns internally about Google’s practices, and are deciding how to proceed, two of the people said.

The three people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Four of the five commissioners believe a case should be brought, Reuters reported Oct. 12.

The memo sums up the findings of the FTC’s 19-month investigation into whether Mountain View, California-based Google’s business practices stifle competition. Google and its rivals are starting to meet individually with commissioners to make their cases before a final vote on whether to pursue the lawsuit, two of the people said.

FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan declined to comment on the draft memo. Adam Kovacevich, a Google spokesman, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Labor, Greens Divided Over Changes to New Zealand Copyright Law

In the debate over changes to New Zealand’s copyright law, a member of the Labor Party has said changes proposed by a Green Party member could cost jobs and be too hard on business, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The proposed amendment, sponsored by MP Gareth Hughes, broadened exceptions for parody and satire, according to the newspaper.

Hughes told the Herald that present copyright law in his country doesn’t cover copyright and satire, which should be allowed as “legitimate public commentary.”

Labor Party parliament member Shane Jones said permitting parodies could lead to the destruction of brands and jobs, calling it “economic vandalism,” according to the Herald.

New Virus Masks as Enforcement Mechanism, TorrentFreak Warns

A virus purporting to be a warning that a computer was used for illegally downloading copyright-protected content is circulating under the guise of the defunct Stop Online Piracy Act, the TorrentFreak website reported.

Although SOPA, as the bill was known, was defeated earlier this year, the virus warns users of infected computers that their Internet Protocol address is on a blacklist of known infringers, and that the computer can be unlocked only after paying a $200 fee, according to the anti-copyright website TorrentFreak.

Accompanying the virus is a warning that if payment isn’t made within 72 hours, all data on the computer will be deleted, TorrentFreak reported.

Multiple sites can be found on the Internet that offer a program to remove the “Stop Online Piracy Automatic Protection System” virus, TorrentFreak reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Renault Prepared Statements in Anticipation of Employee Suicides

Renault SA (RNO) prepared statements to be issued if any of the three employees falsely accused of industrial espionage committed suicide, France 24 reported.

The documents surfaced a year after the botched investigation in which the employees were accused and fired, and Renault eventually issued a public apology, according to France 24.

The automaker prepared two different statements, one to use if one of the three employees’ suicide attempt was successful, and the other if it was botched and the employee lived, France 24 reported.

A Renault spokeswoman told France24 that preparation of the press releases was simply part of the company’s crisis- management strategy.

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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