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Apple, Vampire Wine, Stoli, Kopimi: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc. (AAPL) asked a U.S. appeals court to force Samsung Electronics Co. stop using unique features and designs of the iPhone that were found by a federal jury last year to be infringed.

“Apple spent five years and $5 billion to develop a product and it was a revolutionary product,” Apple lawyer William Lee of WilmerHale in Boston said Aug. 9 “Samsung said, ‘We can copy it easily.’ They spent three months to bring a product to market.”

Apple is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which specializes in patent law, to overturn an order letting Samsung continue selling products that a California federal jury said infringed Apple patents. The jury awarded $1 billion in compensation, although part of the damages must be retried. Samsung, which denies infringing the patents, said there was no link between Apple’s patented ideas and any lost market share.

“Apple had suffered lost sales, but what was missing was a causal nexus to those lost sales,” Samsung lawyer Kathleen Sullivan of Quinn Emanuel in New York told the court. Apple needed to show “the difference between Samsung’s infringement and Samsung’s legitimate competition.”

The appeals court isn’t expected to rule in the case for several months. The hearing came hours before the U.S. International Trade Commission, also in Washington, issued a ruling banning imports of some Samsung products based on allegations they infringe other Apple patents.

In both cases, Samsung has said it designed around the patents, so any loss would have minimal impact on the company’s sales. The Suwon, South Korea-based company and Apple together make almost half of all smartphones sold, with Samsung holding the title of world’s biggest and the two companies vying to be No. 1 in the U.S.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, is trying to force Samsung to change or stop selling some smartphones and tablet computers. The $1 billion verdict it won at trial last year equals less than two weeks’ worth of iPhone sales and one-seventh of Samsung’s second-quarter profit.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), 13-1129, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Winery Sues Distributor Over Use of Vampire-Related Wine Labels

TI Beverage Group Ltd., a Los Angeles-based wine company, sued a Missouri wine distributor for trademark infringement.

The dispute involves vampire-related brands for wine. TI said in its pleadings that “for many years’” it has marketed wines under the names “Vampire,” “Dracula,” Chateau Du Vampire,’’ and “Vampire Vineyards,” It sells another wine called “Dracula’s Blood.”

According to the complaint filed Aug. 6 in federal court in Los Angeles, all of these brands are trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In 2012 TI said its sales director presented its Dracula’s Blood wine to Terra Firma USA Inc., and its principal Christian Soare with an eye to persuading that company to distribute it. The St. Louis-based distributor rejected the sales pitch, saying the company “did not want to sell a Halloween wine,” TI said in the complaint.

TI said that it recently learned that Terra Firma is now selling a wine labeled “Dracula’s Bloodlust,” and has been doing so since 2010.

This label confuses customers and infringes TI’s marks, the company claims. It also said in court papers that while it sells “great wines with great looking labels” that sell for $35 per bottle, the defendant’s Dracula’s Bloodlust “has a garish label and is a cheap wine that comes from a region that to most people has a reputation for making poor quality wines.”

Terra Firma, whose website lists it as a distributor of Romanian wines, didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

TI asked the court to bar Terra Firma from using any Dracula or Vampire-related names on its wines or their packaging and promotion. TI also seeks awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

The case is TI Beverage Group Ltd v. Terra Firma USA Inc., 2:13-cv-05685-JFW-E, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Russian Companies Lacked Standing to Seek Stoli Mark, Court Says

Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport and OAO Moscow Distillery Crystall lacked standing to pursue ownership of the Stolichnaya vodka trademark through the court system, a federal appeals court ruled.

A lower court properly dismissed the Russian companies’ ownership claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled Aug. 5. The trial court said that although a Russian government decree authorized FTE to sue to protect the marks on that country’s behalf, the company didn’t qualify as the government’s legal representative.

That court said that FTE had failed to present plausible facts supporting its claim that it was necessary to pursue the case in its own name or that the Russian government was unable to appear on its own behalf.

The appeals court agreed, holding that under U.S. trademark law, a “legal representative” entitled to bring a suit must demonstrate both its legal authority to represent the owner, and that the trademark owner is legally incapable of representing itself.

SPI Group, the Luxembourg-based distributor of Stolichnaya in the U.S. has recently tried to disassociate itself from Russia, in the wake of the country’s recently-enacted laws on homosexuality.

Gay bars from West Hollywood, California, to Manhattan have symbolically dumped their Stoli vodka to protest the laws, put in place as the nation prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The statutes impose fines on people who “propagate” homosexuality, and last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government detained dozens of people following a gay-pride parade in St. Petersburg.

Val Mendeleev, chief executive officer of Luxembourg-based SPI Group, said in a phone interview July 30 that the “Russian government has no ownership interest or control over the Stoli brand that is privately owned by SPI Group” and that its Stoli vodka is made in Latvia. Additionally, Mendeleev said the company doesn’t want to be “unfairly associated” with “the shameful laws of the Russian government and the resulting violence” related to its stance on gays.

His company, which sells Stoli in more than 100 countries including the U.S., U.K. and Canada, has had a contentious relationship with the Russian government over the rights to the Stolichnaya trademark and is a defendant in this suit.

The case is Federal Treasury Enterprise Sojuzplodoimport v. SPI Spirits Ltd, 11-4109, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

For more trademark news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Eaton Goes to Mississippi High Court in Bid to Revive Suit

Eaton Corp. asked the Mississippi Supreme Court Aug. 5. to revive a $1 billion trade secrets case against rival Frisby Aerospace.

The Cleveland-based company was appealing a 2011 dismissal of the case by Mississippi’s Hinds County Circuit Court.

The suit involved the alleged theft of Eaton’s trade secrets by five engineers who took them to the company now known as the Triumph Actuation Systems unit of Triumph Group Inc. (TGI) of Wayne, Pennsylvania.

The trial court cited improprieties by a former judge, a former lawyer, and Eaton itself in dismissing the case.

Eaton said in its filing with the high court that its trade secrets claims were backed by federal bill of particulars that ran to more than 50 pages. These claims were improperly dismissed by the trial court as a sanction for fraud on the court, Eaton claims.

Eaton had secretly hired a lawyer with close ties to a judge who presided over the earlier part of the litigation, Bobby DeLaughter, best known for successfully trying the murderer of civil rights leader Medger Evers when he was a prosecutor. DeLaughter pleaded guilty to federal obstruction of justice charges in 2009.

In its filings with the state supreme court, Eaton said a ruling by DeLaughter later faulted by another judge actually was favorable to the defendant in the suit, and that the defendant suffered no prejudice to its case.

Eaton also argued that it didn’t commit fraud on the court by hiring the attorney who previously had a close connection to DeLaughter. The lawyer was retained for legitimate purposes and did legitimate work, Eaton said in its filings.

The case is Eaton Corp. (ETN) v. Jeffrey D. Frisby, 2011-CA-00019, Supreme Court of Mississippi.

In August 2012, a federal securities case was brought against Eaton in federal court in Cleveland on behalf of stockholders in the company. That suit alleged Eaton officials offered false and misleading statements about their alleged involvement in a scheme to influence the trade secrets case.

That case was dismissed Aug. 9 for failure to state a claim.

That case is Florida Carpenters Regional Council Pension Plan v. Eaton Corp, 1:12-cv-02001-PAG, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).

Copyright

Russian Copyright Law Opponents Try to Register as Religion

Russian opponents of copyright laws are applying to register their movement as a church in that country, the RT English-language Russian news service reported.

Pavel Rassudov, chairman of the Russian Pirate Party, said copyright laws “insult” the religious feelings of the believers in the new religion, known as Kopimi, RT reported.

Kopimi, which has already been officially registered as a religion in Sweden, holds that the Internet is sacred and that copying and sharing information is morally justified, according to RT.

Russian law permits the registration as a religious group a legal entity of at least 10 people that has 15 years of proven existence, RT reported.

Louisville Resident Says He Stole Shirts Because they Infringed

A Louisville, Kentucky, graffiti artist who claimed he took shirts from a store because they infringed his copyrights was charged with theft, the Courier-Journal newspaper reported.

The shirts were printed with an image of a graffiti tag that has been sprayed on the store, according to the newspaper.

Philip G. Rodriguez claimed the rights to the “BRR” tag, which has been placed on “hundred” of sites in the city, according to the Courier-Journal.

News of the arrest and expressions of support for Rodriguez is being spread through the use of Twitter Inc.’s social media site under the hashtag “#freebrr,” the newspaper reported.

Swedish Pirate Party Claims Anti-Piracy Minister is Infringer

Sweden’s Pirate Party has reported that nation’s information-technology minister to the police for infringing copyright laws, the TorrentFreak anti-copyright news website reported.

Anna-Karin Hatt, who has taken a strong anti-piracy stance, was reported for allegedly posting Calvin & Hobbs cartoons, and artwork for several movies in her Instagram account, according to TorrentFreak.

Torbjorn Wester, the Swedish Pirate Party’s legislative spokesman, said that reporting the minister was intended to show that the nation’s copyright law “wasn’t working,” rather than to cause the government minister legal trouble, TorrentFreak reported.

The law to which Wester was referring is the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive, which authorized large fines and potential imprisonment for violators, the news website reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at vslindflor@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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