Microsoft, Louboutin, Maasai, Saga: Intellectual Property

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software company, is seeking a patent on a technology that rewards viewers for watching commercials.

Application 20130125161, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office May 16, covers a method of increasing interactive viewing by tying achievement to specific content. Viewers who meet certain set goals will receive an award, which may be physical or virtual, according to the application.

In some situations, the award may be tied to an avatar, Microsoft said. Such awards could include the avatar itself, new vehicles for the avatar, new homes for the avatar, virtual money to purchase different avatar items, including clothes for the avatar.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft applied for this patent in November 2011.

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Trademark

Louboutin Sues California Company Over Knockoff Red Shoe Soles

Christian Louboutin Sarl, the Paris-based maker of shoes that sell for as much as $6,400 per pair, sued a California shoe distributor for trademark infringement and is seeking more than $2 million in damages.

Alba Footwear LLC of City of Industry, California, is accused of importing shoes that infringe Louboutin’s red-sole trademark.

Investigators for Louboutin have bought Alba-supplied shoes that featured red soles, according to court papers.

The French shoe company asked the federal court in Manhattan to order Alba and its co-defendants’ to halt their acts of infringement. Additionally, Louboutin is seeking an order for the recall and destruction of infringing products and promotional materials and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Alba didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Christian Louboutin SAS v. Alba Footwear LLC, 1:13-cv-03536-PAC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Maasai Tribe May Seek Trademark Protection for Name, Images

Africa’s Maasai tribe may consider seeking protection for its intellectual property by registering trademarks, the BBC reported.

Light Years IP, a Washington-based non-profit that works on IP issues with producers in developing countries, told the BBC that if the Maasai brand were owned by a corporation, it might be worth more than $10 million a year.

About 80 companies worldwide use either the Maasai name or an image of the tribe, including LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC), which uses it for a line of beach towels, hats, scarves and duffle bags, and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc’s Land Rover unit, which uses the term for a series of accessories for its vehicles, the BBC reported.

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Copyright

Arbitron Sues Saga for Unauthorized Use of Audience Rating Data

Arbitron Inc. (ARB), the media and marketing research firm, sued Saga Communications Inc. for allegedly making unauthorized use of Arbitron’s audience estimates.

Saga, based in Gross Pointe Farms, Michigan, is accused of using the audience estimates without permission, beginning in September 2010, according to the complaint filed May 23 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. Saga owns and operates radio and television stations.

Arbitron, of Columbia, Maryland, accuses Saga of using the data for a variety of purposes, including setting advertising rates for its radio stations, and making programming decisions.

These ratings were also factored into a formula used to determine employee compensation, Arbitron said. This was such a common practice, Arbitron claims, that employees’ bonuses were known as “Arbitron bonuses,” based on how well a particular radio program fared in Arbitron audience estimates.

Arbitron is asking the court for awards of damages of at least $150,000 per act of infringement, in addition to attorney fees and litigation costs. The company also asked for extra damages aimed at punishing Saga for its actions.

Saga didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the complaint.

The case is Arbitron Inc., v. Saga Communications Inc. (SGA), 1:13-cv-00923-UNA, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Taiwan’s Music Industry Seeks Blockage of Infringing Websites

Taiwan’s Recording Industry Foundation, a music-industry trade group, is calling for amendments to that nation’s copyright laws, the Taipei Times reported.

The industry favors legislation enabling the blocking of foreign websites that infringe, according to the newspaper.

Taiwan’s Intellectual Property Office said it will ask Internet services providers to block access to domain names and Internet protocol addresses that infringe, the Times reported.

Cheng Kuo-wei, who heads the Association of Digital Culture Taiwan’s Department of Media and International Cooperation cautioned that what he deemed excessive expansion of IP rights could obstruct chill the development of culture-oriented business, according to the Times.

Lionsgate Entertainment Accused of Anticompetitive Use of IP

Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. and its Summit Entertainment unit were accused of using their copyright policy in an anti-competitive fashion.

Los Angeles-based Between the Lines Productions LLC, creator of “Twiharder,” a feature-length parody of Summit’s “Twilight” series of films, accused Lionsgate of “ridiculous-to-insane overreaches of intellectual property law.”

In the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan, Between the Lines said that Summit’s copyright-enforcement actions have been conducted “by a high degree of disregard for this nation’s copyright and trademark law.”

Lionsgate and Summit are accused of seeking to monopolize the conversation in adjacent markets in which speech content is used to comment on or criticize the “Twilight” films.

Between the Lines said its film was marketed “with complete transparency” as a parody, and it used none of the actual content of Summit’s “Twilight” products.

The maker of the parody film says after it received a cease-and-desist notice from Lionsgate, distributors revoked their offers to do business with Between the Lines, effectively excluding it from the market.

It asked the court for a declaration that its “Twiharder” film doesn’t infringe Lionsgate’s copyrights and awards of $500 million in damages. It also requested that some of the profit from the Twilight films to be placed in a public trust “to fund an expedient and legitimate effort to re-codify” copyright law’s “fair use” provisions.

The company also asked the court to cancel some of the Twilight-related trademark registrations and to declare sections of U.S. copyright law dealing with parodies as overboard.

Lionsgate didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit. The Santa Monica, California-based company acquired Summit in January 2012 for $412.5 million.

In the complaint, Between the Lines claims that the five “Twilight” films grossed $4.34 billion in worldwide theatrical release.

The case is Between the Lines Productions LLC v. Lionsgate Entertainment Corp., 1:13-cv-02584, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

U.K. Court Approves Extradition in Industrial Spying Case

A U.K. court ordered extradition of an Indian citizen accused of industrial espionage under India’s Official Secrets Act, the Times of India reported.

Ravi Shankaran, who was accused of leaking confidential military information to arms dealers, has argued that the evidence against him was fabricated and that the lengthy delays in the Indian judicial system would violate his human rights, according to the newspaper.

Lawyers for Shankaran said they will appeal the extradition ruling from the Westminster’s Magistrate Court in London, the Times reported.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, which began investigating the case in 2006, sent a two-member team to London to assist authorities at the extradition trial, according to the Times.

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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