Monster, Apple, Google, Snowden: Intellectual Property

Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST), maker of Hansen’s Natural Soda and Monster energy drinks, was sued for patent infringement by a Texas company.

Monster, based in Corona, California, is accused of infringing patent 7,662,863, which covers a “therapeutic agent for the use in reducing alcohol intoxication,” according to the complaint filed June 28 in federal court in Waco, Texas. The patent was issued in February 2010.

Applied Food Sciences Inc., of Austin, Texas, claims that Monster’s “Rehab” product infringes the patent. According to an exhibit included with the court filings, one of the labels on the Monster Rehab product promises to “bring you back after a hard day’s night.”

The Texas company produces “Gtox,” a beverage it claims “attaches itself to alcohol for faster removal, according to the website. It asked the court to order Monster to quit infringing the patent, and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Claiming that Monster’s alleged infringement is deliberate, Applied Food Sciences requested that the damages be tripled to punish the California company.

Monster Beverage didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Applied Food Sciences Inc. v. Monster Beverage Corp., 6:13-cv-00195-WSS, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Waco).

Apple Seeks Patent on Combined Input Port for Mobile Devices

Apple Inc. (AAPL), maker of the iPad and iPhone, has applied for a patent on an input port for a mobile device that receive a variety of connectors.

Application 20130166786, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office June 27, covers a port that could connect to Universal Serial Bus connector, an audio connector, a miniature USB connector, or a high-definition multimedia interface.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said the technology would eliminate the need for multiple ports on a device, with each one configured to accept a specific connector. According to the application, this port would have multiple depths.

Apple filed this application in December 2011.

Pharrel Williams Says ‘I Am Other’ Marks Don’t Infringe Will.I.Am

Pharrell Williams, the rapper, music producer and entrepreneur, filed a trademark case seeking a court declaration he doesn’t infringe marks belonging to William Adams, also known as Will.I.Am.

The suit, filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan, seeks clarification that Williams’s use of “I am other” doesn’t infringe Adams’s “I am” marks.

According to court papers, beginning in December 2012, Williams has received multiple cease-and-desist demands from Adams. The letters, included in the court filings, threaten litigation and claim that Williams’s use of “I am other” is likely to confuse the public into thinking falsely that an affiliation exists between the two performers and their various respective business ventures.

Williams argues in his pleadings that Adams’s “I am” marks are weak and that the “I am” phrase is so commonly used in the music industry that it is non-distinctive when it is standing alone. He noted that performer Beyonce Knowles released an album titled “I am ... Sasah Fierce,” and that her 2009 concert tour was titled “I am ... World Tour.”

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, on June 18 counsel for Adams filed a request that his opposition to multiple trademark applications Williams filed to register “I am other” be consolidated. These included applications to register the mark for use with cosmetics, jewelry, luggage, clothing, musical recordings, temporary tattoos and music production.

In that filing, Adams claims he has prior rights to the mark.

Williams asked the federal court to declare “I am other” doesn’t infringe, and contends that Adams has no basis to oppose the “I am other” trademark registrations. Additionally, he asked for awards of litigation costs and attorney fees.

The case is I Am Other Entertainment LLC v. William Adams, 1:13-cv-04547, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Apple Files for Japanese ‘IWatch’ Trademark for Wearable Device

Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable technology company, is seeking a trademark for “iWatch” in Japan as rival Samsung Electronics Co. readies its own wearable computing device.

The iPhone maker is seeking protection for the name, which is listed in a category for products such as a handheld computer or watch, according to a June 3 filing with the Japan Patent Office that was made public last week. Takashi Takebayashi, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Apple, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Apple’s shares have retreated more than 40 percent from a record high in September amid concern that Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has taken too long to deliver a new breakthrough product to help make up for stiffer iPhone competition. The company has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad, two people familiar with the company’s plans said in February.

Samsung, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, is developing a wristwatch, the company said in March. Sony Corp. (6758) has sold its SmartWatch, which wirelessly connects to phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system and allows users to take calls and reply to e-mails or texts, for more than a year.

Apple’s application in Japan is not the first time the Cupertino, California-based company has sought protection for “iwatch.” CNET News reported June 5 that Apple has filed an application to register the term as a trademark in Russia.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Google Wins Reversal of Class-Action Status in Authors’ Suit

Google Inc. (GOOG) won the reversal of a court order allowing authors to sue as a group in a $3 billion lawsuit alleging the technology company violated copyrights with its project to digitize millions of books.

The trial judge should have considered whether the fair-use defense would apply to Google’s project, a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled yesterday. “Fair use” allows the use of copyrighted materials without permission for educational, research and news purposes.

The Authors Guild, which represents writers, and individual authors sued in 2005, alleging that Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, infringed copyrights by scanning and indexing more than 20 million books without writers’ permission. Google’s legal defense relies on copyright law’s fair-use provision.

“We are delighted by the court’s decision,” Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said in an e-mailed statement.

Google said in court papers that it has digitally scanned more than 20 million books worldwide and that Internet searchers would be able to view “snippets” of each book online.

Robert LaRocca, a lawyer for the writers, said on the phone that he didn’t have an immediate comment on the ruling.

The appeals court had indicated how it might rule during the arguments in May. U.S. Circuit Judge Pierre Leval repeatedly questioned Google’s lawyer about the timing of its appeal. Leval suggested that the district court might consider the fair-use issue first and then the appeals court could decide the class certification matter.

Chin rejected a settlement between the authors and Google in 2011, and attempts to renegotiate that deal failed.

The appeals case is Authors Guild v. Google, 12-3200, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan). The lower-court case is Authors Guild v. Google, 05-cv-08136, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Snowden Leaks Cast Shadow Over U.S. Plan to Curb Chinese Hacking

The Obama administration’s strategy for confronting China over the theft of commercial technology has been battered by Edward Snowden’s disclosures of U.S. spying, leaving officials rushing to salvage a plan they crafted in secret over the past two years.

A public confrontation with China that appeared to erupt spontaneously this year actually coalesced after significant shifts in U.S. policy and years of internal argument, analysis and vetting, according to two people briefed on the plan who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak on the matter.

Approved by top national security advisers and presented to President Barack Obama in a series of meetings in 2012 and early this year, the plan includes classified counterintelligence operations, the seizure of assets and even the possible indictment of Chinese hackers, those people said.

The U.S. already has privately provided China’s leaders with evidence it gathered linking the hacks of commercial companies to China’s intelligence agencies -- a risky demarche that exposed the methods of U.S. spy agencies tracking those activities, according to the two people.

While some elements of the plan are well under way, other parts were intended to be rolled out over the next several months to increase pressure on China’s leaders.

What the administration didn’t anticipate was that a disaffected American would expose some U.S. spying operations as it prepared for Obama’s first meeting with China’s new president.

Snowden, a former worker for government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH), disclosed top-secret U.S. National Security Agency programs that collect phone and Internet data. He fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow, as the administration has pleaded for his extradition.

“It’s now going to be a lot harder to convince people in South Africa or Indonesia or Brazil that we are any different than the Chinese,” said Adam Segal, a specialist in cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

The question is how much of the plan remains effective and workable. The first test may come early this month, when U.S. and Chinese officials convene for the first time a working group on cybersecurity, including data theft.

IP Talk

U.S. Is Back Among Most Innovative Countries, UN Agency Says

The U.S. moved back among the top five most-innovative countries in the world, according to a study by the United NationsWorld Intellectual Property Organization.

The country followed Switzerland, Sweden, the U.K. and Netherlands, according to a statement about the report. The last time the U.S. was among the top five on the Global Innovation Index was in 2009. Last year it ranked 10th.

The annual report, ranking 142 economies by their “innovation capability and measurable results,” began in 2007. Its publication yesterday is timed with the opening of a four-day conference in Geneva hosted by the UN Economic and Social Council, focused this year on how science and technology can help achieve the “Millennium Development Goals.”

In 2000, the UN established the Millennium Development Goals, a 15-year plan to reduce poverty and child mortality, and boost access to health care in developing nations.

The U.K. advanced from fifth place, Finland sank to sixth from fourth, and Singapore also fell from the top five, coming in at eighth this year.

The index was prepared with help from Chenghai, China-based Huawei Technology Co. Ltd.

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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