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Best Buy, Bridgestone, Time Warner: Intellectual Property

Retailers including Best Buy Co. (BBY) and JC Penney Co. (JCP) lost a bid in court to invalidate patents owned by a Texas licensing company over prepaid electronic gift cards.

A federal jury in Marshall, Texas, on May 3 upheld two patents owned by closely held Alexsam Inc. The other defendants in the case were Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS), Gap Inc., McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), Toys R Us Inc. and Home Depot Inc. Later trials will be held to determine whether the patents were infringed by the companies.

Patents 6,000,608, issued in 1999, and 6,189,787, issued in 2001, cover systems to activate and recharge stored-value cards, such as gift and phone cards. The trial focused only on the validity of the patents, with the retailers arguing that they didn’t cover a new idea and that Alexsam isn’t entitled to enforce the patents because of misstatements during the application process.

Alexsam first sued the companies in 2010, and the retailers joined forces to invalidate the patents. Separate trials will be held on infringement because each company has made slightly different arguments to back up their claims that they don’t use Alexsam’s inventions.

The licensing company has had mixed success in its other litigation over the same patents. It’s challenging a jury verdict of non-infringement won by Pier 1 Imports Inc. (PIR) IDT Corp. (IDT) is appealing a $10.1 million judgment lodged against it. Arguments in the IDT appeal were heard in March in Washington.

The case is Alexsam Inc. v. Best Buy Stores LP, 13cv2, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

Bridgestone Sues Schrader Over Tire-Pressure Monitor Patents

A unit of Bridgestone Corp. (5108), the biggest tire maker, sued Schrader-Bridgeport International Inc., claiming it’s violating patents for electronically monitoring tires.

Schrader, which makes systems that monitor tire pressure, violated three Bridgestone patents, according to the complaint filed by Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC May 2 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The “infringement has caused irreparable injury to Bridgestone and will continue to cause irreparable injury,” according to the filing.

Schrader, which does business as Schrader International, bills itself as “the leading global manufacturer” of tire- pressure monitoring systems. The closely held company is based in Englewood, Colorado. Bridgestone, which has about 143,000 employees, is based in Tokyo.

The case is Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC v. Schrader-Bridgeport International Inc., 13-cv-00763, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Tata Defeats Swiss Watch Company’s Indian ‘Jaguar’ Trademark

Tata Motors Ltd. (TTMT) has persuaded India IP authorities to overturn the award of the “Jaguar” trademark to a Swiss watch manufacturer, the Indian Express reported.

The Intellectual Property Appeal Board said Des Montes Jaguar had incorrectly been granted the right to the mark, and that the previous decision was full of infirmities and bias, according to Indian Express.

Counsel for Tata had argued that the watch manufacturer was using the Jaguar name to trade on the reputation of the luxury car, Indian express reported.

The watch manufacturer said it has been making and selling watched under the “Jaguar” name since 1945, and argued that both companies have had co-existing marks in more than 20 countries, according to the publication.

U.K. Bookseller Seeks Cancellation of ‘Keep Calm’ Trademark

A bookseller from the north of England is seeking to overturn the trademark registration for a World War II phrase from U.K. government propaganda, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The bookseller unearthed a World War II poster bearing the “Keep calm and carry on” slogan and began selling copies from the bookshop, the newspaper reported.

A former U.K. television producer then registered the phrase as a trademark in all 27 countries in the European Union, according to the newspaper.

The bookseller, which has now sold as many as 200,000 reproductions of the original poster, wants to keep the phrase from being in private ownership, according to the Times.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Time Warner Unit Accused of Infringing ‘Keyboard Cat’ Copyright

Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Brothers Entertainment unit was sued for copyright infringement by the owner of the piano- playing “Keyboard Cat,” whose video on Google Inc.’s You Tube video-sharing site has received more than 30 million hits.

Charles L. Schmidt filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles claiming a Warner Brothers video game makes unauthorized use of both the “Keyboard Cat” video and an animated video -- “Nyan Cat” without authorization.

Schmidt claims the “Scribblenauts” games infringe his copyrights and trademarks related to the two videos and the performing cat. The public is likely to assume, falsely, that he has authorized the use of his rights, or that some relationship exists between himself and Warner Brothers, according to court papers.

He asked the court to bar further infringement, for money damages and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs. Alleging that the infringement is deliberate, Schmidt asked that the damages award be tripled and that extra damages be added to punish Warner Brothers for its actions.

Warner Brothers declined to comment on the case, spokesman Paul McGuire said in an e-mail May 3.

The case is Charles I. Schmidt v. Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., 2:13-cv-02824-JFW-MRW, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Harper Lee Sues Literary Agent Over ‘Mockingbird’ Royalties

Harper Lee, the 87-year-old author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” sued her literary agent, claiming he took advantage of her age and infirmity to deprive her of royalties from the novel.

Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, sued Samuel Pinkus, the agent, and others seeking to ensure her ownership of the copyright to the 1960 novel and to compel forfeiture of the agent’s commissions, according to a complaint filed May 3 in federal court in New York.

Lee, who has failing eyesight and hearing, was residing in an assisted-living facility in 2007 after suffering a stroke when she signed a document assigning her copyright to Pinkus’s company, according to the complaint. While the copyright was re-assigned to Lee last year after legal action and Pinkus was discharged as Lee’s agent, he was still receiving royalties from the novel as of this year, according to the complaint.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” Gloria Phares, Lee’s lawyer, said in the complaint. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright” to Pinkus’s company.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a story of racial injustice in the American South, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into a film starring Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for playing the lawyer Atticus Finch. It is Lee’s only published novel. The book has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

There was no immediate reply to a message left May 3 on the voice mail of Leigh Ann Winick of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, a defendant in the suit and the wife of Pinkus, according to the complaint. She is listed as the president of Keystone Literary LLC, a defendant.

The case is Lee v. Pinkus, 13-3000, U.S. District Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Findlay Market Rents Remain a Trade Secret, Ohio Court Rules

Ohio’s Supreme Court has affirmed a lower-court ruling that the amount of rent paid by vendors at Cincinnati’s Findlay Market is a trade secret, Cincinnati.com reports.

Kevin Luken, the brother of vendor Mike Luken of Luken’s Poultry, Fish & Seafood in the 158-year-old market, had unsuccessfully sought the rent information through a public records request, Cincinnati.com reported.

The rental amounts in the contracts were blacked out upon the city’s request, according to the website.

The market, in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, has been in continuous operation since 1955, Cincinnati.com reported.

IP Moves

DLA Piper Expands Patent Practice With Two From Kirkland Firm

DLA Piper LLC hired two patent specialists from Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis LLP, according to a DLA Piper statement. Both firms are Chicago-based.

The new hires are Paul Steadman and Matthew Satchwell.

Steadman, a litigator, has represented clients in federal court and state court and before the U.S. International Trade Commission, a Washington-based body with the power to exclude imports that infringe U.S. Patents.

His clients’ technologies have included consumer electronics, high-tech glass, medical products and auto-parts manufacturing.

Before he practiced law, he served as a judicial clerk to Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the U.D. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

He has an undergraduate degree in material science engineering and economics from Rice University and a law degree from the University of Chicago.

Satchwell does both patent-acquisition and patent litigation. His clients’ disputes have involved software, semiconductor, mobile communications devices, automotive devices, power electronics, medical device and communications technologies.

He has appeared in both federal district court and before the ITC.

Satchwell has an undergraduate degree in physics and history from Washington University in St. Louis and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

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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