Google Inc. (GOOG) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) won a U.S. appeals court ruling in a case of a former university researcher who claimed his patents covered some of the Internet’s most basic interactive functions.
The two patents owned by Eolas Technologies Inc. of Tyler, Texas, and the University of California are invalid, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled yesterday. The decision, issued without a formal opinion, upholds a jury verdict won by Google, Amazon.com, JC Penney Co. and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) last year in Tyler.
Eolas founder Michael Doyle claimed functions including music clips, search features, maps and embedded applications used his inventions. Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web, was among those testifying against him in the trial.
Eolas, in court papers, claimed the patents covered inventions that “took the Web from a primitive and static world to today’s seamlessly interactive environment.”
In its own filing with the court, Mountain View, California-based Google and Plano, Texas-based JC Penney said Eolas’s claim was a “fantastic assertion” rejected by the jury “after hearing from the scientists who are actually responsible for that achievement, including the father of the World Wide Web.”
More than a dozen companies had been named in the original complaint, including Apple Inc., EBay Inc. (EBAY) and Citigroup Inc. Most settled before the trial. Cases against Facebook Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Walt Disney Co. (DIS) were stayed pending appeal.
In 2003, Eolas won a $521 million verdict against Microsoft Corp. that was thrown out on appeal for a retrial on the validity of the patents. The two companies settled before a new trial could be held.
The case is Eolas Technologies v. Amazon.com Inc., 12-1632, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Eolas Technologies Inc. v. Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE), 09-cv-00446, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).
Novozymes Loses Appeals Court Bid to Revive Danisco Verdict
Novozymes A/S (NZYMB) lost its appeals court bid to revive an $18 million patent-infringement verdict against DuPont Co.’s Danisco unit over an enzyme used in biofuel production.
A Novozymes patent for an enzyme that remains active in high temperatures is invalid because it doesn’t describe what the company claims to have invented, the Washington-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted on its website.
In dispute was patent 7,713,723, which was issued in May 2010, the same month in which Novozymes filed the infringement suit in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin.
The appeals court affirmed a trial judge’s decision to throw out the jury verdict.
The lower court case is Novozymes A/S v. Danisco A/S, 3:10-cv-00251-BBC, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison). The appeal is Novozymes A/S v. DuPont Nutrition Biosciences, 12-01433, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).
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Castel Group Loses Chinese Trademark Fight Over ‘Kasite’ Mark
Castel Group, the French beverage maker, registered a new Chinese trademark after losing a trademark dispute with a Chinese wine distributor, Decanter reported.
The French company had used “Kasite” as a Chinese translation of its name on labels for wine it began bottling in China in 1999, according to Decanter.
In 1998 Panati Wine, the company owned by Chinese entrepreneur Li Daozhi, registered “Kasite” as a Chinese trademark and sued Castel for trademark infringement in 2009, according to Decanter.
The Zhejiang Provincial Higher people’s Court barred Castel’s use of “Kasite,” levied a fine of 33.73 million Chinese renminbi ($5.5 million), and ordered the company to issue a public policy through a Chinese business publication, Decanter reported.
Taiwan District Will Use Folk Icon to Promote Regional Identity
A district in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung region has registered the name of a Taoist folk icon as a trademark as a way to promote the area, which lacks the kind of specialty agricultural products often identified with a region, the Taipei Times reported.
The Saimin District registered “Third Happy Prince” as a trademark and then sponsored a public competition for the creation of a modern image of the character, according to the newspaper.
A cartoon figure was selected and his image includes the district’s landscape as a background, the Times reported.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs Intellectual Property Office approved the mark July 19, and the image will be used for school bags, clothing and related items, according to the newspaper.
Russian Patent Office Says Nyet to Boozy Trademark for Vodka
Russian officials rejected a trademark application for a new brand of vodka because it alludes to heavy drinking, the Moscow Times reported.
The “Vyp/Buhalo” mark sought by Rusinvest “contravenes public interest and moral principles,” the Russian Patent Agency said in its rejection notice, according to the newspaper.
“‘Vyp” sounds like a colloquial Russian expression meaning “bottoms up,” and “Buhalo” resembles a Russian word for “booze,” according to the Moscow Times.
The patent agency previously refused to register a phrase that colloquially means “delirium tremens.” That brand -- “Belochka. Ya prishla” -- got so much media attention over the refusal that it was named the brand of the year in May, the newspaper reported.
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Artist Prints 3D Mickey Mouse, Challenges Disney IP Rights
An artist and researcher at the U.K.’s Goldsmith College is using 3D scanning and printing to challenge the intellectual property policies of the Walt Disney Co.
Matthew Plummer-Fernandez “uses scanning, digital fabrication and computational approaches to making artifacts, both physical and digital, that blur the distinction between the two, referencing the digitization of the everyday,” according to the biography posted on his website.
He has created several small figures of Disney’s iconic Mickey Mouse, using a powder composite and tinted binder. The figures are fabricated by scanning and remixing the data derived from the scan, according to his artist’s statement.
Plummer-Fernandez said he deliberately chose Mickey Mouse as his subject in order to raise “issues of potential clashes with big copyright holders that could potentially choose to lobby for legislation against 3D scanning.’
Disney was a company of particular interest, he said, for “paradoxically pioneering remix culture by creating their own versions of public domain characters such as Snow White and Cinderella, and yet the company take a hostile approach against any attempts to copy their own creations.”
One of his figures -- “sekuMoi Mecy” -- is a distorted figure covered in small geometric patterns in red and blue. The name of his Mickey Mouse pieces comes from a computer-generated anagram, he said.
The other figure is “sekuMoi Mecy 3; Smooth() Operator,” generated using what he called a “mesh smoothing technique pushed to the extreme.” That piece’s contours are deliberately much less detailed than the first.
“Blurring images has become both a widely recognized cultural aesthetic,” he said. It is “also used to obscure the identity of persons photographed or filmed,” he said.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Seagate Technology Wins Back $630 Million Trade-Secrets Award
Seagate Technology LLC won reinstatement of a $630.4 million arbitration judgment against Western Digital Corp. (WDC) over allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets.
An arbitrator awarded Dublin-based Seagate $525 million plus interest in 2011 against Irvine, California-based Western Digital and a Western employee, Sining Mao, who previously worked at Seagate. Some of the defendants’ evidence was fabricated on three trade secrets, the arbitrator found, entering a judgment against Western and Mao as a sanction.
A state court judge set aside the award in October, finding that the arbitrator didn’t consider any evidence by the defendants countering the allegations. Minnesota’s Court of Appeals reinstated the arbitrator’s judgment yesterday.
“The district court erred by determining that the arbitrator did not have authority to impose sanctions,” the appellate court said. “The district court should not have reviewed the merits of the arbitrator’s decision.”
The appellate case is Seagate Technology LLC v. Western Digital Corp., A12-1944, Minnesota Court of Appeals (St. Paul). The lower-court case is Seagate Technology LLC v. Western Digital Corp., 27-cv-06-1900, District Court, Hennepin County, Minnesota (Minneapolis).
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