Bill Gates, Warner Music, Deere: Intellectual Property

While Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates these days is more often seen engaged in philanthropic activities through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he still dons his inventor cap from time to time.

Gates is one of the named inventors on a patent application published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office July 25. One of Gates’s nine co-inventors is Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft chief technology officer and founder and chief executive officer of Bellevue, Washington’s Intellectual Ventures.

Application 20130188887 covers a technology to generate video from text. According to the application, the technology could be used to aid students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities who have difficulty reading long passages of text. The video generated by the text would be a synthesized image sequence relating to the text.

The application was filed in January 2012. Myhrvold and others have acknowledged that some Intellectual Ventures patent applications are generated following “invention sessions” during which experts from a number of disciplines meet together to discuss problems and potential technological solutions.

The patent is assigned to Elwha LLC. Elwha is both the name of a river in Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, and an Intellectual Ventures holding company.

The Gates foundation received a $2 billion gift from billionaire Warren Buffett, according to a July statement from Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A)

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

‘Chubby Checker’ Trademark Case Against HP to Go Forward

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) failed to persuade a federal court in San Francisco to dismiss a trademark suit brought by Earnest Evans, the performer famous for his 1960s hit record “The Twist” and known as “Chubby Checker.”

Evans sued HP June 3, claiming his “Chubby Checker” trademark was infringed by the Palo Alto, California-based computer company. He was objecting to an app offered for sale in the HP app catalog that purports to estimate the size of a man’s penis based on his shoe size.

In his Aug. 15 ruling, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said that HP’s “the Chubby Checker” app is “a vulgar pun.” He disagreed with the computer company’s contention that Evans failed to state a case. He found plausible Evans’ claims that HP knew he hadn’t consented to this use of his trademark and the company had full knowledge of the existence of the performer’s trademarks.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Evans registered “Chubby Checker” as a U.S. trademark in April 1998.

Alsup did reject Evans’s claims that the app violated several state laws, saying those were preempted by a section of the Communications Decency Act that provides immunity from state claims relating to publishing content created by third parties.

The case is Evans v. Hewlett Packard Co., 3:13-cv-02477-WHA, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

California ‘Gentlemen’s Clubs’ Duel Over ‘Gold Club’ Trademark

Gold Club-SF LLC, a so-called gentlemen’s club in San Francisco, sued a competitor in a nearby city for trademark infringement.

According to the complaint filed in San Francisco Aug. 15, Platinum SJ Enterprise of San Jose, California, is using “Gold Club SJ” without authorization. The San Francisco club also objects to a logo used by the San Jose club, saying the design too closely resembles its own gold lion and spear mark.

Customers, entertainers and journalists are all confused by the name similarity, the San Francisco club claims. Despite receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the San Francisco Club, Platinum SJ Enterprises went ahead and held a grand opening of its Gold Club-SJ on Aug. 8 and persists in its unauthorized use of the marks, according to the complaint.

The company asked the court to bar the San Jose venture’s use of the term and the logo and for awards for all profits the San Jose club derived from its alleged infringement, together with money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees. Additionally, Gold Club-SF seek an order for the seizure and destruction of all infringing promotional material and asked for extra damages to punish the San Jose venture for its actions.

Counsel for Platinum SJ told the San Jose Mercury News that it is a licensee of PML Clubs Inc. of South Carolina, owner of the “Gold Club” trademark and that the San Francisco club, once also a PML Clubs licensee, is making “completely baseless” claims.

The case is Gold Club-SF v. Platinum SJ Enterprise, 3:13-cv-03797-NC, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Warner Music Says Unauthorized Song Translation Infringed

Access Industries Holding LLC’s Warner Music Group unit has complained that a translation into a Taiwanese dialect of the theme song from the film “Les Miserables” infringes its copyright, the Taipei Times reported.

The translation was used at an Aug. 3 mass protest relating to human rights in the military, and the translator -- a doctor at Mackay Memorial hospital -- said that while he sought permission to use the song, he got no reply to his request, the Taipei Times reported.

Satiric T-Shirt Doesn’t Infringe Copyright, Court Rules

Sconnie Nation LLC, an apparel company specializing in Wisconsin-theme T-shirts, successfully fought a copyright-infringement suit brought by a Madison, Wisconsin-area photo journalist.

The suit, filed in federal court in Madison, related to a photo of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. According to court papers, when Scoglin was a student at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960s, he took part in a student protest that gave rise to an annual event in Madison known as the Mifflin Street Block Party.

In 2011, the mayor told a Wisconsin newspaper that, with reference to the event, “All I’m interested in is ending this thing.” Sconnie Nation then produced a satiric T-shirt featuring an image of the mayor with the phrase “Sorry for Partying,” using the official photo of the mayor that appeared on the city’s website.

Photographer Michael Kienitz then filed a copyright-infringement suit against Sconnie Nation and its printer in June 2012, claiming this was an unauthorized use of the image, that he never permitted his work to be used for satiric purposes and that he was, in fact, a supporter of Mayor Soglin.

In an Aug. 14 order, Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker said Sconnie Nation’s use of the photo fell under copyright law’s “fair use” provision in that it was sufficiently transformative. He said the visual impact of the shirts so changed the image that when they were viewed side by side with the original image, it was difficult to determine that the shirt contained an altered version of the original.

He also said that the use of the image on the shirts didn’t affect the market for the photographer’s sales of the original photo.

The case is Kienitz v. Sconnie Nation LLC, 3:13-cv-03797-NC, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

Dotcom Claims Copyright Is 21st Century’s Biggest Economic Issue

Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom, arrested in January 2012 for alleged Internet piracy, is taking part in a public debate on copyright law in September, Auckland’s Sunday Star-Times reported.

Dotcom told the Star-Times he’s “one of the best persons” to talk about Internet-related copyright issues, calling copyright potentially the biggest economic issue of the 21st century.

He will be one of the featured presenters at the public program “Internet Killed the Copyright Star,” according to the newspaper.

Previously Dotcom, who insists he’s innocent of copyright infringement, debated New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, and has appeared as Santa Claus in a Christmas program, the Star-Times reported.

Ottawa Outdoor Movie Screening Infringed, Content Owners Say

Outdoor movies in an Ottawa neighborhood have been canceled after it was learned that the community organization that sponsored the screenings had ignored copyright law for the past four years, the Ottawa Citizen reported.

Audio Cine Films Inc., which represents film content-owners in Canada, told the Hintonburg Community Association that it was infringing by failing to pay the fee of C$200 ($193) per showing, according to the newspaper.

The president of the Hintonburg Community Association told the Ottawa Citizen the group will pay the back fees and try to figure out how to continue showing the films.

The association won’t be able to afford to show the films for free in the future so it may ask for donations to cover the cost, according to the newspaper.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Deere Seeks Protective Order in Secrets Case Against Ex-Employee

Deere & Co., the Moline, Illinois-based farm-equipment manufacturer, has entered a request for a protective order in a trade secrets case it filed against a former employee.

The suit, filed July 17 in federal court in Rock Island, Illinois, is against Eric Hansotia, the company’s former senior vice president of global harvesting. At Deere, Hansotia’s responsibility was global sales of crop-care and harvesting equipment.

Hansotia is accused of taking Deere’s trade secrets with him when he joined Duluth, Georgia’s Agco Corp. (AGCO) July 1. Agco isn’t a named defendant.

In its request for a protective order, Deere asked the court to limit access to confidential information to the preparation for and conduct of pretrial, trial and appellate proceedings between the parties.

In the complaint, Deere said Hansotia had access to a wide range of the company’s confidential information, including Deere’s analysis of Agco’s business strategies, the impact of cost of the Environmental Protection Agency’s emission standards on Deere, new product development, new product schedules, manufacturing footprint plans and precision farming solutions.

Deere asked the court to bar Hansotia from working for Agco for 24 months, and to order the competitor not to use Deere trade secrets. The company also asked for the return of any of its confidential information in Hansotia’s possession.

Hansotia is represented by Benton J. Mathis Jr. of Atlanta’s Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP, who said in an e-mail yesterday that his client was pleased that the court had already rejected Deere’s request for a temporary restraining order and that the Illinois company had failed to show any likelihood it would prevail on its trade secrets claims. Mathis said that Hansotia believes Deere’s claims are based on a “fundamental misunderstanding of his actions” and is hopeful the case will be resolved when “the actual facts have been fully disclosed.”

The case is Deere & Co. (DE) v. Hansotia, 4:13-cv-04060-SLD-JAG, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois (Rock Island).

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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