Amazon, Diane Von Furstenberg, AOL: Intellectual Property

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), the world’s largest online retailer, received a patent on a technology that provides airbags and other forms of impact protection for mobile phones and other portable devices.

Patent 8,330,305, which was issued Dec. 11, covers both airbags and safety monitoring systems that can detect when a device is dropped.

According to the patent, one in three mobile phones is damaged or lost in the first year of ownership. Damages typically occur when the phone has an impact with a hard surface or becomes submerged in liquid.

Seattle-based Amazon said that “with the number of cellular phones in use exceeding several billion and repairs typically exceeding $25, the costs of damage and loss of cellular phones amounts to billions of dollars per year.”

The patent also covers a “rotational modifier” that could reorient the falling device so that the impact is less likely to cause damage because of the cushioning effect of the airbag.

Amazon applied for the patent in February, with the assistance of Novak Druce & Quigg LLP of Washington.

Cipla Gets Revocation of Merck’s Indian Asthma Drug Patent

Merck & Co. (MRK), the New York-based pharmaceutical company, has lost patent protection for an asthma drug, the Times of India reported.

The Merck patent had been challenged by Cipla Ltd. (CIPLA) of Mumbai, according to the newspaper.

In revoking the patent it granted in 2011, India’s patent office said the drug was “not inventive,” the Times reported.

The patent revocation was made in the light of interpretation of 2005 patent rules devised so that India could comply with regulations of the World Trade organization.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Diane Von Furstenberg Sues Distributor Over Deep Discounts

Diane von Furstenberg Studio LP sued a former distributor claiming it is selling the luxury brand’s inventory too cheaply to discounters such as TJ Maxx, Overstock.com Inc. (OSTK) and Marshalls.

Von Furstenberg terminated a license agreement with London- based ID Beauty International Distribution Ltd. on Nov. 5. The distributor has since disregarded its demands to cease sales of formerly licensed products, according to the complaint, which seeks a temporary restraining order until an arbitration panel can hear the case.

“ID Beauty’s malfeasance has not only destroyed the value of the fragrance brands, it also is spilling over to DVF’s core luxury ladies’ clothing and footwear brands,” lawyers for DVF said in the complaint filed yesterday in Delaware Chancery Court.

Diane von Furstenberg’s company’s products, including accessories and apparel, are sold at specialty and high-end retailers such as Saks Inc. (SKS) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN)

ID Beauty’s license agreement required the company to consult DVF for any retail channel less prestigious than the high-end space, according to the complaint. Lawyers for DVF said such consultation never occurred before ID Beauty sold products in Canada and the U.S. to mass market retailers, including TJX Cos. (TJX), the owner of TJ Maxx and Marshalls, without honoring a six-month exclusivity period of sale to specialty and high-end retailers.

ID Beauty sold DVF’s fragrance Love Diane to TJ Maxx and Marshalls before the October 2012 date it would have been available to first-tier stores, according to the complaint.

ID Beauty continued to sell products after the termination of the license agreement and failed to remove references to DVF and von Furstenberg from its websites and marketing literature, according to the complaint.

“I don’t think we are going to comment,” Armineh Lascu, ID Beauty’s vice president of sales, said in a telephone interview.

The case is Diane Von Furstenberg Studio LP v. ID Beauty International Distribution Ltd., CA8097, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

Group Seeks ‘Peace Through Strength’ Mark’s Cancellation

A conservative advocacy group based in Washington has responded to a trademark-infringement lawsuit brought by a similar organization.

The Center for Security Policy said in a Dec. 9 filing that its use of President Ronald Reagan’s stock phrase “Peace Through Strength” is legal and doesn’t infringe the trademark of the American Security Council.

The council, also based in Washington, filed the suit Nov. 7 in federal court in that city, saying it registered the phrase as a trademark, and that the center’s use of the phrase confused and deceived the public. The public was likely to assume, falsely, that a connection existed between the two groups, the council said in its pleadings.

It asked the court to bar any use of the phrase by the center, and for awards of attorney fees and litigation costs. The council didn’t seek money damages.

In its court papers, the center argued that Reagan’s phrase is used by “politicians, political parties, think tanks, the media and a wide range of organizations and individuals who identified with Reagan’s policy. That use has been “ongoing without interruption” since the Reagan presidency, the center said.

Co-defendant with the center is its founder Frank Gaffney, who was the acting assistance secretary of defense for international security policy during the Reagan administration. The center argued that Gaffney has also been publicly identified with the use of the phrase since 1988. Other national security specialists have also used the term in the past 24 years, the center said.

The center accused the council of falsely claiming it was the owner of the trademark, overlooking the fact that others had used the phrase. It asked the court to order the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the registration for the trademark and for a declaration that it didn’t infringe.

The case is American Security Council Foundation v. Center for Security Policy, 1:12-cv-01486-RC, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

AOL’s Dismissal of Bloggers’ Lawsuit Upheld by Appeals Court

AOL Inc. (AOL) won an appeals court ruling upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit by unpaid bloggers seeking $105 million for their work on the Huffington Post.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York yesterday upheld a March ruling by a lower-court judge throwing out the suit, in which writers were seeking a share in AOL’s $315 million purchase of the news and opinion website run by Arianna Huffington. The appeals court agreed that the bloggers submitted pieces to the Huffington Post for the exposure, knowing they wouldn’t be paid.

“Plaintiffs were perfectly aware that the Huffington Post was a for-profit enterprise,” the appeals court said in a summary ruling. “Plaintiffs understood that they would receive compensation only in the form of exposure and promotion.”

The lawsuit was filed by a group of writers, led by Jonathan Tasini, who were seeking to represent a class of about 9,000 unpaid Huffington Post bloggers. The appeals court rejected claims that AOL, an online publisher based in New York, unjustly enriched itself by using their work and that the company engaged in deceptive business practices.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” Jeffrey Kurzon, a lawyer for the bloggers, said in a telephone interview after the ruling, adding that he will be “reviewing options.”

The case is Tasini v. AOL Inc., 11-2472, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

Same-Sex Marriage Opponent Gets Protective Order in Case

A federal court in Chicago has issued a protective order in a copyright case brought against an organization that promotes school prayer and is opposed to same-sex marriage.

The order, requested by the Public Advocate of the United States of Falls Church, Virginia, was granted “to protect the discovery and dissemination of confidential information which will improperly annoy, embarrass or oppress any party.”

Two residents of Montclair, New Jersey, sued Public Advocate in federal court in Denver in September after a photo of the two of them kissing was used without permission on mailers opposing same-sex marriage. According to court papers, the two plaintiffs had chosen that photo to commemorate their engagement and posted it on their blog to share details about their upcoming wedding with friends and family.

The mailers to which they objected were sent to Colorado residents as part of a campaign against state legislators who had supported a measure granting same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions.

Co-plaintiff with the couple is Kristina Hill of Brooklyn, New York, the photographer who took the photo. According to court papers, Hill said in a blog posting that it was “heart- breaking” to see her photo used that way.

In a Nov. 2 court filing, Public Advocate argued that its use of the photo was political speech permitted under the First Amendment and fell into copyright law’s “fair use” provisions.

The plaintiffs have asked the court for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is Kristina Hill v. Public Advocate of the United States, 1“12-02550-WYD, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado (Denver).

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Legislation

Putin Vetoes Proposed Breaks for Medvedev’s Innovation Hub

Russian President Vladimir Putin vetoed legislation passed by parliament on changes to the Skolkovo innovation hub, a project championed by Premier Dmitry Medvedev, threatening to widen a rift between the two men.

The bill, which proposed delaying mandatory residency requirements for Skolkovo, needs additional work to determine measures for evaluating the program’s effectiveness, the Kremlin said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The law also raises questions related to safeguards and regulations of intellectual- property rights, according to the statement.

Skolkovo, unveiled in 2010 and based outside Moscow, was a hallmark of Medvedev’s efforts to modernize the world’s biggest energy exporter by weaning Russia off its reliance on commodities and nurturing a knowledge-based economy that can compete globally. Medvedev, who was president before swapping jobs with Putin in May, has sought to model the technology hub after Silicon Valley, offering tax breaks and other incentives to lure investment.

“This may signal another fight between elite groups, and it’s a blow for Medvedev, who masterminded the project,” Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a Moscow-based political analyst, said by phone. “It’s unprecedented for Putin to veto a law that passed both houses of the parliament.”

IP Moves

Kilpatrick Hires Kellogg’s Brian O’Donnell for IP Group

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP hired Brian O’Donnell for its IP practice, the Atlanta-based firm said in a statement.

O’Donnell joins the firm from the Kellogg Co. (K) of Battle Creek, Michigan, where he oversaw the company’s patent and trademark portfolio. He also did IP-related transactional work for the cereal company.

He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Loyola University Chicago.

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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