Google, Golden Balls, NFL, UMG: Intellectual Property

By Victoria Slind-Flor

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc., creator of the world’s most-used Internet search engine, has added to its database of patents.

In a Sept. 19 blog posting by engineering manager Jon Orwant, the Mountain View, California-based company said it added patent documents from China, Germany, Canada and the World Intellectual Property Organization to its database.

Last year, Google expanded its patent offerings to include patents from the European Patent office and the Prior Art Finder, a search engine that seeks inventions that predate a patent and potentially render it invalid.

The patents are available both in their original language and in English through the use of Google Translate, and they can be searched in any language, according to Orwant’s posting.

GE, DuPont Oppose Change to Business Method Patent Law

More than 100 organizations and businesses, including General Electric Co. and DuPont Co., wrote Congress to oppose the expansion of a new review process for business-method patents.

In the Sept. 19 letter, sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary, the companies said the change included in the 2011 patent law revisions may have dire effects. They object to new post-grant review proceedings for patents covering business methods related to a “financial product or service.”

Recently introduced legislation could expand this category to cover data-processing patents used in “any enterprise, product or service,” the companies said. As a result, they said, any party sued or charged with infringement would always be able to challenge patents that fell into this category, which they claim is “extremely broad.”

Data processing affects such activities as the development of cancer therapies and automobile safety systems, the companies said. Subjecting patents that cover those areas to the new process would create uncertainty and risk, discouraging investment in those fields, according to the letter.

Expanding the category also may violate U.S. treaty obligations to make patents available without discrimination based on the field technology, they said in their letter.

Google Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) are among companies supporting the extension of the category of covered business method parents.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

U.K. Sportswear Company Wins Right to ‘Golden Balls’ Mark

A U.K. couple won its battle with the international governing body of soccer over the phrase “Golden Balls,” the London24 News Network’s Ham&High website reported.

FIFA objected to Inez and Gus Bodur’s Golden Balls sportswear company, claiming the name infringed its trademark for the Ballon d’Or, an award given annually to the best pro soccer player, according to Ham&High.

The Bodurs went to the European Court of Justice and successfully appealed a ruling that gave some of the “golden balls” rights to soccer organizers, Ham&High reported.

They have sold Golden Balls sportswear since 2001 and also licensed it for use in a U.K. television game show “Golden Balls,” according to Ham&High.

Oneida Nation Sets Up Radio Campaign Against Team’s Trademark

The Oneida Nation, a federally recognized tribe of the Oneida people, is running a series of radio ads to play on stations in cities where Washington’s National Football League team is scheduled to play this season.

The ads are part of the Oneida Nation’s campaign to change the team’s name from Redskins, which they say is racist and offensive.

The nation has also set up a website focused on the issue, www.changethemascot.org. In a statement, the nation called the name “the R-word,” and a “hurtful epithet relegating indigenous peoples to second-class status.”

Proceedings seeking the cancellation of the mark are pending at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to the patent office database.

Christine Brennan, a sportswriter for USA Today, said Sept. 12 that she will no longer use the term when referring to the team. She said it was a personal decision and it’s “no longer right” to use the term. According to her story, Peter King of Sports Illustrated also has said he will no longer use the name.

Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, said in May that he will never change the name and that his decision is supported by the fans.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress that would amend the Trademark Act of 1946 to bar registration of terms that disparage Native Americans. H.R. 1278, which has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, lists “redskin” as a term that is offensive.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Conan Doyle Estate Claims Characters’ Protection Continues

Holders of the rights to the literary estate of the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories filed court papers claiming that the tales’ characters are covered by copyright law, even though some of the works are now in the public domain.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate made the argument in a case brought by an author who sought a court declaration that his use of the characters doesn’t infringe the copyright. Conan Doyle, an Edinburgh-born physician, brought out the first Holmes story in 1887. He died in 1930.

Leslie S. Klinger sued in federal court in Chicago in February over a proposed collection of original stories by contemporary authors who would use elements from the Holmes books. Klinger, who is editing the collection, said he anticipated being sued for copyright infringement.

Klinger argued that no permission or license should be required for the book. He said the collection uses only characters and story elements from the Holmes works that are in the public domain.

Agents for the estate have threatened that, should the book be published without a license, it won’t be sold by Amazon.com Inc. or Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS), according to court papers.

In its Sept. 10 response, the estate said the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson continued to be developed in later stories that are still protected by copyright. Klinger “suggests the characters can be dismantled into partial versions of themselves,” according to court papers.

“A complex literary character can be no more unraveled than a human personality,” the estate argued.

The case is Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., 13-cv-01226, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

UMG Targets Domain Name Registrar in Fight Against Torrent Site

Universal Music Group Inc. is using a new tactic against content pirates, the TorrentFreak file-sharing and copyright news website reported.

The music company’s German division got a court order against a domain registrar, barring it from enabling the distribution by means of the BitTorrent protocol of unauthorized copies of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” album through the H33t.eu website, according to TorrentFreak.

Key-Systems GmbH, the Cologne, Germany-based domain registrar, told TorrentFreak the only way it could comply with the court order was either to take down the name servers or delete the Htt3.eu domain.

TorrentFreak reported that this case marks the first time content owners have gone through a domain registrar to target a site, and that Key-Systems has said it will fight the ruling.

For more copyright news, click here.

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