Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), the world’s largest online retailer, received a U.S. patent on a method of improving employees’ performance.
Patent 8,121,888, issued Feb. 21, covers techniques for “facilitating improvement of results of human performance of tasks.”
Seattle-based Amazon said in the patent that those who perform a task in a fashion that is only partially satisfactory may be given only a partial payment rather than the full payment amount “associated with fully satisfactory performance of the task.”
The “task requester” can also use this technology to give the person who is performing the task information and opportunity to improve the results, and then receive the full payment.
Amazon applied for this patent in December 2007, with the assistance of the Seed IP Law Group LLP of Seattle.
Source Vagabond Systems Gets Additional Patent Case Sanctions
Source Vagabond Systems Ltd., an Israeli fabric manufacturer, was hit with an additional $12,745.35 in sanctions in a patent-infringement case.
Tirat Carmel, Israel-based Source Vagabond filed suit in federal court in Manhattan in August 2011, accusing Oakland, California’s Hydrapak Inc. of infringing patent 7,648,276. This 2010 patent covers a sealing device for a flexible container for liquid.
In a Feb. 21 court filing, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon added the sanction to the $187,308.65 in attorney fees for filing a frivolous suit. This brought the total award to $200,054. She said in her order that the additional sanction was for time and money Hydrapak and the court wasted on a motion to reconsideration of the verdict.
The case is Source Vagabond System Ltd. v. Hydrapak Inc., 1:11-cv-05379-CM-JLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Yankees Can Stop Others’ Use of ‘Baseball’s Evil Empire’ Phrase
An appeals board at the U.S. Patent office confirmed the Major League Baseball team’s right to bar a sportswear company from using “Baseball’s Evil Empire.”
According to the board’s opinion, Red Sox President Larry Lucchino said in 2002 that the Yankees’ “evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.” Lucchino was referring to the Yankee’s successful pursuit of Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras.
The team opposed a 2008 application by Evil Enterprises Inc. of Bridgehampton, New York, which sought to register “Baseball’s Evil Empire” for use on clothing and hats.
According to the board’s opinion, the Yankees brought in “hundreds of news articles, stories and blog entries demonstrating that ‘Evil Empire’ is used as a shorthand reference or nickname” for the Yankees. The team had also “implicitly embraced” the name by using music from “Star Wars” movies at games played in Yankee Stadium, the board said.
“Evil Empire” is a phrase most baseball fans would recognize as a nickname for the Yankees, the board said, thus entitling the term to a broad level of protection under U.S. trademark law.
The applicant’s plans to sell similar merchandise to what the team sells also worked against the application because the two entities’ goods would be marketed in similar ways, causing possible consumer confusion, the board said.
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Chu, Coble Start New Congressional Caucus for Content Industry
A member of the U.S. Congress who has many of the major motion picture studios in her district started a new organization focused on the content industries.
U.S. Representative Judy Chu, a California Democrat, has joined with U.S. Representative Howard Coble, a North Carolina Republican, to start the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, according to a statement from Chu’s office.
The statement specifies that the purpose of the caucus is to educate congress and the public about “the importance of preserving and protecting the rights of the creative community in the U.S.”
Chu acknowledged that the film industry has a “strong economic presence” in her district, producing 140,000 jobs in film and television in Los Angeles County, and the studio members of the Motion Picture Association of America paying $437 million to local businesses.
Coble, who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, said the works created by the content industries “are among our most precious exports” that “cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world.”
Google Raises Censorship Risk in EU Court Fight on Data Control
Google Inc. (GOOG) shouldn’t have to remove content from its search engine that was lawfully published elsewhere, the company argued in a case at the European Union’s top court that will set boundaries between freedom of expression and data-protection rights.
The operator of the world’s largest search engine isn’t a data “controller,” it is “a mere intermediary in terms of the data which it indexes,” Google lawyer Francisco Enrique Gonzalez-Diaz told a panel of 15 judges at the EU Court of Justice hearing yesterday. Direct requests for personal information to be removed from a search engine -- even if it was put online by a newspaper -- would be “a fundamental shift of responsibility from the publisher to the search engine” and “would amount to censorship.”
The dispute raises questions about the scope of EU privacy rules when it comes to personal data on the Internet; the rights of search engines to use any online data to remain commercially successful; and who ultimately is in charge of what happens with the data. The Luxembourg-based court’s ruling will be binding on courts across the 27-nation bloc.
The case was triggered by about 200 instances of Spain’s data-protection authority ordering Google to remove information on people. The information in yesterday’s case concerned a Spanish man whose house was auctioned off for failing to pay taxes. Newspaper La Vanguardia published the information in 1998 and years later it could still be found via a Google search.
Mountain View, California-based Google is liable because it allows easy and quick access to information that wasn’t easily found online before, he said.
“People shouldn’t be prevented from learning that a politician was convicted of taking a bribe, or that a doctor was convicted of malpractice,” Google said in a blog post.
Data protection is presently policed by separate regulators across the EU. The bloc’s executive body wants to simplify the system so companies deal with only one.
The case is C-131/12, Google Spain, S.L., Google Inc. v. Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja Gonzalez.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Ex-Netgear Employee Gets Prison Sentence in Trade Secrets Case
A former employee of Netgear Inc. (NTGR) was given a prison sentence following his conviction for trade-secret theft.
Suibin Zhang was sentenced to three months in prison, a three-year term of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and he is required to pay $75,000 in restitution to Marvell Semiconductor Inc. by May 13.
In May 2012 Xhang was convicted of trade secret theft related to downloading of trade secrets from a secure database. According to a government statement released yesterday, Zhang used his position as a project engineer at San Jose, California’s Netgear to get access to Marvell’s secure database.
He used his Netgear account to download trade secret information and loaded it into a laptop issued by Broadcom Inc. (BRCM) of Irvine, California, a Marvell competitor for which he went to work after leaving Netgear, the government said.
Among the purloined trade secrets were hardware specifications, datasheets, application notes, board designs, and design guides, the government said.
Zhang received a less severe sentence than the government sought. According to a sentencing recommendation the government filed with the court, a 15-month prison term was sought, together with $150,000 in restitution and a $5,000 fine.
The case is U.S. v. Zhang, 5:05-cr-00812-RMW, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
Obama Order Not Enough to Shield Networks From Hacks, Aide Says
Legislation beyond President Barack Obama’s executive order is needed to protect critical U.S. networks from cyber-attack, said Michael Daniel, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator.
“An executive order is actually very limited in what it can do,” Daniel said yesterday at a computer security conference in San Francisco. “We definitely need Congress to act and to update our laws and our statutes.”
Daniel didn’t elaborate and wasn’t available for an interview after speaking.
Obama issued an executive order Feb. 12 outlining policies for greater sharing of government hacking data with companies, particularly operators of vital infrastructure such as power grids. The executive order directs the government to develop voluntary cybersecurity standards for those companies and instructs U.S. agencies to consider putting those standards into existing rules.
Cyber espionage targeting U.S. companies gained renewed attention last week when network security firm Mandiant Corp. reported China’s army may be behind a hacking group that has attacked at least 141 companies worldwide since 2006.
Obama’s order reflected provisions of a Senate bill blocked last year by Republicans after being opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobby. Opponents said the bill’s voluntary standards would amount to burdensome regulation and fail to keep pace with evolving threats in cyberspace.
Since the executive order was released, administration officials have said they support certain liability protections for companies that incorporate the voluntary standards and share cyber threat information with the government and each other.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, and the panel’s top Democrat, C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, reintroduced a proposal Feb. 13 to give legal protection for companies that share cyber threat information with each other. The bill passed the House last April and failed to advance in the Senate after Obama threatened a veto, saying the measure didn’t go far enough to boost computer defenses and failed to protect privacy of consumer data.
The White House has declined to comment on the reintroduced Rogers-Ruppersberger bill while saying any cybersecurity measure must incorporate privacy and civil-liberties protections.
Administration officials including U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel pledged last week to put diplomatic pressure on countries implicated in thefts of trade secrets and seek stronger international enforcement of intellectual-property protections.
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