Google, Humane Society, Zynga: Intellectual Property

Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Motorola Mobility (MMI) unit will respond to European Union accusations that it used patents to hinder competitors, including Apple Inc. (AAPL)

The European Commission organized a day-long oral hearing on the matter yesterday in Brussels, said Katie Dove, a spokeswoman for Motorola Mobility.

The EU antitrust regulator in May sent a formal complaint to Motorola Mobility saying it suspects the company, which Google bought last year for $12.4 billion, is abusing its dominant position by “seeking and enforcing” injunctions against Apple in Germany based on its patents that are essential for products to comply with industry technical standards.

The EU opened a formal probe into Motorola Mobility, which makes smartphones that run on Google’s Android software, in April 2012, following complaints by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Apple. They accused Motorola Mobility of seeking injunctions to block their use of patents they said the Google unit had declared essential for the production of standard-compliant products and had promised to license on terms that are “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.”

Antoine Colombani, an EU spokesman, declined to comment on the proceedings, saying they are confidential.

After receiving the commission’s objections, companies can defend themselves in writing or at an oral hearing before the EU’s antitrust authority decides to impose fines.

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, offered to settle a similar probe by the EU into its hold on so-called standard-essential patents, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said last week. The EU is reviewing the offer, he said.

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Trademark

Alabama Fouled Out in Trademark Case Against Artist, Court Says

An eight-year battle between the University of Arizona and an artist who designed the U.S. postage stamp honoring University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant has come to an end.

In a Sept. 27 order, a federal court in Alabama said the university couldn’t pursue its trademark action against Daniel A. Moore and his New Life Art Inc. The school sued Moore in 2005, saying he infringed its trademarks by refusing to take a license to make his commercial prints featuring the University of Alabama football team, and further infringed by selling coffee mugs and other merchandise with reproductions of the prints, according to court papers.

The case went through multiple judges over the years, with four judges asking to be excused from the case because of their ties to the school.

The judge who dismissed the case Sept. 27 is U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon, appointed to the bench in 2010 by President Barack Obama. Kallon is a graduate of Dartmouth College and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Judge Kallon said that because the university itself sold $12,000 worth calendars containing the unlicensed images, this established acquiescence in Moore’s alleged infringement. He noted that the school also cut out and framed some of the images from the calendar, “at times with commemorative coins.”

The school is well known for its aggressive attempts to enforce its intellectual property rights. Last month it filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against an Alabama company that creates goods for fans of the school’s football team.

In the complaint filed Sept. 19 in federal court in Alabama, the school accused Houndstooth Mafia Enterprises LLC of infringing the university’s trademarks associated with its former football coach, the late Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Last September, the school backed down from its pursuit of a local bakery for selling cakes and cookies featuring a red “A” it said infringed trademarks associated with the football team.

The case against Moore and Lew Life is Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. New Life Art Inc., 7:05-cv000585-SLB, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Western Division. The new trademark case is Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Houndstooth Mafia Enterprises, 7:13-cv-01736, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama.

Humane Society to Appeal Adverse Ruling in Pork Trademark Case

The Humane Society of the U.S. appealed a court’s finding that it lacked the legal position to challenge the purchase by the National Pork Board of the “Other White Meat” slogan and trademark.

A federal judge in Washington said Sept. 25 the Humane Society, the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and an individual hog producer were all ineligible to sue. At issue was the use of assessments pork producers in the U.S. are required to pay the board, with the money going to plans and projects. An individual hog farmer objected to the use of the check-off funds for purchase of the trademark and for lobbying activities.

The Humane Society filed a notice of appeal to a Washington-based federal court on the same day, according to the court docket.

In an e-mailed statement, Jonathan R. Lovvorn, the Humane Society’s senior vice president of animal protection litigation and investigations, said “we disagree with the court’s finding that pig farmers lack standing to sue for the misuse of their own check-off money for prohibited lobbying. All the plaintiffs have appealed.”

The case is Humane Society of the United States v. Vilsack, 12-cv-01582, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

Zynga Settles Trademark Lawsuit Against ‘Bang With Friends’

Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) settled a lawsuit against the maker of a casual-sex Internet application called “Bang With Friends” in which it claimed infringement of Zynga’s trademark for its “with friends” family of games.

Lawyers for the two companies asked a federal judge to dismiss the case in light of the settlement, according to a Sept. 30 filing in federal court in San Francisco.

“Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, Bang With Friends Inc. acknowledges the trademark rights that Zynga has in its with friends marks and will be changing its corporate name and rebranding its services in the near future,” Bang With Friends said in an e-mail.

Zynga claimed in its suit that Bang With Friends, which makes an application that matches Facebook friends anonymously, “selected the name ‘Bang With Friends’ for its casual sex matchmaking app with Zynga’s game trademarks fully in mind.” The name infringes a trademark covering games such as “Words With Friends” and “Chess With Friends,” Zynga argued.

The San Francisco-based gamemaker had sought a court order barring the company from using the name “Bang With Friends” in connection with any social-networking applications.

The case is Zynga Inc. v. Bang With Friends Inc., 13-03517, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Swiss Customs Seizes Fake Watches From Greece, Association Says

Customs officers seized more than 5,000 fake watches in August and September in postal traffic at Zurich airport, Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, or FH, said in statement yesterday.

The counterfeit items were spread over number of shipments and originated from a source in Greece, bound for Spain and Portugal.

The seizure was one of largest ever made in postal operations in Switzerland, according to the statement.

FH said that Switzerland loses up to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.2 billion) because of counterfeiting. Working with police and customs officials, the watch-industry trade group says that every year it destroys “several hundred thousand” fake Swiss watches seized through real and virtual markets.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Singapore Press, Yahoo Settle Copyright Infringement Law Suit

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. (SPH) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) settled an almost three-year long legal tussle over copyright infringements, the companies said in a joint statement.

Under the terms of the settlement, Yahoo! paid damages and costs and has undertaken to refrain from infringing on SPH’s copyrights, according to the statement issued yesterday

The amount of damages paid by Yahoo was not declared in the statement. Adrian Cheong, a spokesman for SPH, declined to comment when asked how much SPH received. Yahoo! didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed queries from Bloomberg about the settlement.

SPH sued Yahoo’s Southeast Asia unit on Nov. 18, 2011, in the Singapore High Court, claiming the company reproduced 23 articles from its newspapers, including the Straits Times, from November 2010 to October 2011 without authorization. In December the same year, Yahoo denied breaching copyright laws and counter-sued SPH for wrongly using its images and articles on a website.

Unauthorized Use of Ke$ha Photo Wins Photographer Damages, Fees

A U.K. photographer, whose image of the pop star Ke$ha was used without authorization by music promotions company, has settled the dispute for 20,000 pounds ($32,376), Amateur Photographer magazine reported.

Jason Sheldon was told in May by a U.K. court that was entitled to damages of 5,682 pounds for the use of the image by Daybrook House Promotions Ltd., the magazine reported.

Daybrook House had argued that it thought use of the photo was acceptable because it had previously appeared on a social-media site, according to Amateur Photographer.

The settlement included both damages and Sheldon’s legal fees, according to the magazine.

For more copyright news, click here.

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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