Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Georgia Code: Intellectual Property

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a final rejection of a patent at issue in the dispute between Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co., according to a July 28 court filing.

Patent 7,844,915, which covers Apple’s pinch-to-expand technology, is one of more than 25 that the Cupertino, California-based company has claimed are infringed by mobile phones made by South Korea’s Samsung. The infringement suit was filed in federal court in San Jose, California, in April 2011.

Counsel for Samsung informed the court in a July 28 filing, to which the patent office’s 61-page rejection notice was appended.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 5:11-cv-01846-LHK, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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Trademark

Ben & Jerry’s Ends Dispute With Adult Film Company Over Titles

A seller of adult films with titles and packaging based on Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. ice cream flavors will quit using those marks in its films, according to a July 29 court filing.

Ben & Jerry’s, a unit of London-based Unilever NV (UNA), sued Rodax Distributors Inc., which does business as Caballero Video, in federal court in New York September 2012, claiming the DVDs and packaging violated its trademarks.

The packaging featured images of naked men and women against backgrounds that copied design elements of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream containers such as grazing cows and fluffy white clouds, the company said in its complaint.

The ice cream company objected to Caballero’s “Ben & Cherry’s” series of 10 DVDs with titles including “Peanut Butter D-Cups” and “Boston Cream Thigh.”

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a temporary restraining order against Caballero in September, shortly after the case was filed. The order required Caballero to recall the DVDs and to destroy all products, labels and marketing materials that infringe on Ben & Jerry’s trademarks.

In the July 29 consent judgment, Caballero agreed to quit using the infringing titles for its products and not to challenge the ice cream company’s ownership of its intellectual property. No financial terms are mentioned in the filing.

The case is Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. v. Rodax Distributors Inc., 12-cv-6734, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Copyright

New Zealand Parliament Apologizes to Reporter in Spy Leak Probe

New Zealand’s Speaker of Parliament apologized to a journalist whose phone records were provided to an inquiry investigating how she obtained a leaked report on the nation’s spy agency.

“This is completely unacceptable and I have personally apologized to the journalist concerned,” Speaker David Carter said in a statement yesterday. “This private information should not have been released, and could be seen to attack the freedom of the press.”

It’s the latest twist in a saga sparked by revelations that the Government Security and Communications Bureau had illegally spied on Kim Dotcom, founder of the cloud-storage service Megaupload.com that the U.S. shut down on copyright infringement charges.

Peter Dunne resigned as revenue minister last month after failing to adequately respond to an inquiry into how an external review of the GSCB’s spying activities was leaked to the Dominion Post newspaper.

Dunne was identified as having had frequent contact with the journalist who got the report, including 86 e-mail exchanges in the two weeks prior to the leak.

“I don’t believe the release of information about a journalist or their records is appropriate,” Prime Minister John Key said in parliament yesterday.

Key’s government has introduced legislation that will allow the GCSB to carry out domestic spying on New Zealanders under certain circumstances, prompting protests from political opponents and peace groups.

Earlier yesterday, a group called Anonymous New Zealand hacked into 14 of the governing National Party’s websites, including Key’s, protesting what the group described as “despicable” legislation.

New Zealand’s Defense Force yesterday denied spying on a journalist while he was working for U.S. news organization McClatchy Co. in Afghanistan, following allegations in the Sunday Star-Times newspaper.

AP Settles Meltwater Copyright Dispute, Promises Joint Products

The Associated Press and Meltwater U.S. Holdings Inc. settled a copyright infringement lawsuit, according to a July 29 court filing.

AP sued Meltwater in federal court in Manhattan in February 2012, accusing the company of infringing copyrights by copying its news articles and delivering electronically to paying customers “substantial infringing excerpts” from AP and other publishers’ work.

San Francisco’s Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights organization, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in January on behalf of Meltwater. EFF said AP was asking the court to accept “a woefully cramped view of fair use.”

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, a Washington-based trade group of technology companies, filed a friend-of-the court brief in January favoring neither party.

The CCIA said its interest was related to “the potential consequences that this case may have on the fundamental nature of the Internet as a tool for research and knowledge.”

According to the July 29 filing, all claims in the case were to be dismissed and parties were to pay their own legal fees.

AP and San Francisco-based Meltwater said in a joint statement that they agreed “to develop new and innovative products based on AP’s world class content and Meltwater’s deep technical expertise in online media analytics.”

The nature of the products wasn’t disclosed.

The case is the Associated Press v. Meltwater U.S. Holdings Inc., 12-cv-01087, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Public.Resource.Org Confronts Georgia After Sheet Metal Accord

Public.Resource.Org ran afoul of the state of Georgia for publishing its statutes just weeks after settling a dispute over the posting of a sheet-metal group’s industry standards online.

After the sheet-metal association sent a notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act demanding that the standards be taken down, Public.Resource.Org, aided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sued in federal court in San Francisco seeking a declaration that it hadn’t infringed the association’s copyrights.

In a July 8 filing, a settlement was spelled out. The Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association Inc. agreed not to sue over the standards’ publication, and Sebastopol, California-based Public.Resource.Org said it wouldn’t sue the association for two years.

On July 25, Public.Resource.Org got a letter from the chairman of the Code Revision Commission of the Georgia Legislature. The chairman said the group’s publication of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated infringed copyright and demanding its removal from the website.

The state said that while it’s not claiming copyright to the code’s text or numbering, the annotations are protected. Georgia gave Public.Resource.Org 10 days to remove the text. If it doesn’t comply, the state will add a claim of willful infringement, according to the letter.

Public.Resource.Org responded yesterday, declining to remove the code. The organization rejected the distinction between the text of the law and additional materials, “as both are integral part and parcel of the only Official Code of Georgia Annotated, such material constituting the official law as published by the state.”

The group said that Oregon had asserted copyrights to its Revised Statutes, demanding a license for their publication, but after a public hearing the state “unanimously waived any assertion of copyright.”

Public.Resource.Org said its publication of the Georgia laws “should be encouraged, not threatened.”

The organization’s founder, Carl Malamud, said he would be happy to come to Georgia to discuss the issue with lawmakers.

The sheet metal case is Public.Resource.org v. Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association Inc., 3:13-cv-00815-SC, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

MIT Report Faults Neutrality Toward Swartz in Downloading Case

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while maintaining a “neutral” stance on the prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, failed to live up to its commitment to the free exchange of ideas, a report found.

MIT didn’t take into account that Swartz was a “well-known contributor to Internet technology,” according to yesterday’s report, led by Professor Hal Abelson. Swartz killed himself in January while awaiting trial on charges he broke into the school’s network to download millions of research articles.

The university, which prides itself on promoting openness, and the U.S. Justice Department have faced criticism for their roles in pursuing Swartz, considered a hero by many in the movement to make information available for free. The law used to prosecute him was “poorly drafted” when “applied to modern computing,” according to the report.

“MIT’s position may have been prudent, but it did not duly take into account the wider background of information policy against which the prosecution played out and in which MIT people have traditionally been passionate leaders,” the report said.

While the report presents an opportunity to “learn and lead” on questions of open access, intellectual property and ethics, it also dispels myths about the case, L. Rafael Reif, MIT’s president, said yesterday in a letter on the school’s website.

Two days after Swartz’s suicide, Reif asked Abelson, a computer-science professor and an advocate of maintaining free access to software, to lead the review.

In a blog posting, Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and Internet activist, faulted MIT’s position of neutrality, saying it intervened in an earlier case, involving an MIT student, and it could have told prosecutors that Swartz was authorized to have access to the research under the school’s open-access policies.

“We as a community failed to live up to the high standards that MIT has set for itself in the past,” Abelson told reporters.

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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