The U.S. decision to overturn an import ban on Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s older iPhones and iPads may help short-term sales and hobble Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) in any settlement talks in the companies’ patent fight.
President Barack Obama’s administration, in issuing the reprieve to Apple Aug. 3, lets the company continue selling the iPhone 4, which is priced lower than newer models, said Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group. Less expensive smartphones are selling more quickly than higher-priced models, he said.
The ruling is a setback for Samsung, which had won the import ban against Apple from the U.S. International Trade Commission in June based on a patent widely used in the mobile-device industry for transmitting data. The U.S. drew a line between blocking the sale of products infringing patents that are part of industry standards versus those for unique features.
The decision will probably handicap Samsung’s ability to obtain higher technology licensing fees from Apple in any negotiations, said Susan Kohn Ross, a trade lawyer with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles.
More broadly, the decision by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, designated by Obama to review the case, could limit the ability of large patent-holding companies like Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), InterDigital Inc. and Dolby Laboratories Inc. (DLB) to rely on royalty revenue from standards patents used in smartphone chips or sound transmission.
“The problem now for Samsung is not that Apple can continue to sell its products, but whether Samsung’s products will be banned,” said Lee Sun Tae, a Seoul-based analyst at NH Investment & Securities.
The reprieve isn’t expected to help Apple shares because the company’s patent lawsuits are not an issue investors care most about, said Brian Blair, a principal at Wedge Partners Corp., a boutique research and trading firm in New York.
“The genuine investor concerns are about product growth, margin improvement and Apple moving into new categories,” Blair said.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said disputes over licensing terms shouldn’t result in product import bans.
“We applaud the administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case,” an Apple spokeswoman, Kristin Huguet, said in an interview. “Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.”
Apple sued Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung first, in April 2011, over patents covering the look and unique features of the iPhone. Samsung, which has made mobile phones for decades, retaliated with infringement claims over the fundamental ways a phone works, in the type of one-upmanship that’s typical of patent dispute. In all, there have been more than three dozen cases across four continents.
Microsoft Seeks Patent for Glasses for Computer Games
In application 20130196757, published Aug. 1 in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Microsoft is seeking patent protection for what it calls “multiplayer gaming with head-mounted display.”
The program embedded in the game will receive from the wearable device “eye-tracking information, depth information, facial recognition information, potential player head-mounted display device information, and/or potential player voice data,” according to the application.
The program will then join the user to a player account participating in the multiplayer game.
Apple, based in Redmond, Washington, said in its application that the use of the head-mounted device can free the player from having to focus on tasks related to inviting another player, and give the user the ability to make a face-to-face invitation.
The head-mounted device could be connected by wire or wirelessly to a variety of devices, including “a mobile computing device such as a smartphone, laptop, notebook or tablet computer, network computer, home entertainment computer, interactive television, gaming system,” Microsoft said.
The user will be able to see real-world objects because the pixels projected on the lenses will be transparent, according to the application. The device will respond to gestures from the user and, like the Google glasses, can contain a camera.
Microsoft filed the application for the patent in January 2012.
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Angels’ Hamilton Settles Suit Over ‘Play Hard Pray Hard’ Mark
Dallas-based Play Harder Pray Harder LLC sued Hamilton in federal court in Dallas in December 2012, accusing him of infringing their “Play Harder Pray Harder” mark.
The Texas company said Hamilton and Scripture Art LLC of Holly Springs, North Carolina, were making unauthorized use of the mark.
Hamilton released a statement in which he said that he began using the phrase in 2006 in conjunction with his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. He said he then used the phrase publicly in 2008 in motivational talks in which he encouraged others “in their walk with God.” Sales of the shirts by Scripture Art were to provide support for his FourTwelve charitable foundation.
He didn’t reveal any details of the settlement in his statement, saying only that “In the spirit of Matthew 5:39-40, I have settled the lawsuit over the commercial use of the phrase ‘Play Hard, Pray Harder.’” He was referring to a phrase in the Christian Bible that urges people to “turn the other cheek” even if they believe they have been wronged.
The case is Play Harder Pray Harder LLC v. Hamilton, 3:12-cv-05121-N, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
Insomniac Games Seeks Registration for ‘Bad Dinos’ Trademark
Insomniac Games Inc., a developer of games for Sony Corp. (6758)’s PlayStation game controller, has applied to register “Bad Dinos” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
According to the application filed July 29, the Burbank, California-based game developer plans to use the mark with interactive game programs, entertainment services and the provision of online video games.
Among the company’s already published games are “Overstrike,” created in conjunction with Redwood City, California’s Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), and “Spyro the Dragon,” “Ratchet & Clank” and “Resistance.”
Hotel Zaza, Z Ocean Hotel Battle Over Use of ‘Z’ Trademarks
Fontana Investors LLC, operators of Hotel Zaza of Dallas, sued a Miami Beach hotel developer for trademark infringement.
Fontana, based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, objects to marks used by South Beach Resort Development LLC’s Z Ocean Hotel. The company claims the use of this name for a hotel on Miami’s South Beach causes confusion to customers, vendors, retailers and others.
In both cases, the two hotels use a stylized upper-case letter “Z” with a horizontal line through the letter as a logo, according to illustrations in the complaint.
Fontana says the infringement is deliberate, claiming that previously the Florida company agreed to halt the use of a “confusingly similar” letter “Z.” This agreement went into effect in March 2010, according to court papers, with the Florida company promising to stop printing new brochures and other promotional materials, and to quit ordering new uniforms for the staff bearing the objectionable mark.
Because South Beach Resort Development allegedly failed to follow through with its promises, Fontana says it has been “damaged substantially,” and asked the court to order an end to the infringement.
Additionally, Fontana asked the court to order South Beach to engage in a campaign of corrective advertising to prevent further confusion, and for awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.
Heidi Tandy, a Miami-based IP counsel for South Beach Resort Development, said in an e-mail that her client hadn’t yet seen the filing and that from a summary she had seen, “it seems that Zaza misstates the situation and we believe there is no likelihood of confusion between the marks.”
The case is Fontana Investors LLC v. South Beach Resort Development LLC, 1:13-cv-22780-UU, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).
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Square Enix Forces End to Fan Group’s Kickstarter Campaign
Square Enix Holdings Co.’s Square Enix has managed to derail fans’s efforts to create a live-action series based on one of its games.
Fans of Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy VII” game had turned to Kickstarter Inc.’s crowd-funding mechanism, seeking support for a multiple-episode live-action version of the game. According to Wired magazine, the fan group had sought $400,000 in funding.
Tokyo-based Square Enix had made a take-down request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The games company said that it is the owner of “all intellectual property rights to the Final Fantasy franchise under which video games, online services, and motion pictures have been published.”
Copyrights to the game have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the company said in its filing.
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