Samsung, Coppola, Dotcom, Battelle: Intellectual Property

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) must produce information about the extent of its violation of a court order protecting Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s patent licensing agreements, a federal court ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, upheld U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal’s sanction requiring Samsung to produce Apple e-mails and communications among Samsung employees, and to make various witnesses available to Apple because of the South Korean company’s violation. Samsung argued that Grewal’s order was “grossly overbroad” and would cause it to violate attorney-client protections.

“In light of the fact that Samsung has been unable to produce satisfactory answers to any questions about the extent and use of the improper disclosures despite having three months to investigate, this court finds that it was necessary for Magistrate Judge Grewal to order court-supervised discovery and that the scope of his order was not overly broad,” Koh wrote in her Oct. 15 ruling.

Koh’s order is part of a patent dispute in federal court in San Jose between the companies covering technology in smartphones. In the first of two lawsuits, a jury awarded Cupertino, California-based Apple $1.05 billion in damages -- later lowered to $639.4 million -- after finding Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung infringed six of the iPhone-maker’s mobile-device patents.

The violation concerns copies of Apple’s patent license agreements with Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), Ericsson, Sharp Corp. (6753) and Royal Philips (PHIA) NV. Apple produced reports containing “key terms” of the agreements -- marked “Attorney Eyes Only” -- as part of information sharing in the patent-infringement litigation before Koh, according to Grewal’s Oct. 2 order.

Samsung’s outside counsel e-mailed a version of the report to Samsung employees and lawyers representing the company in “courts and jurisdictions outside the United States,” according to the order.

Adam Yates, a Samsung spokesman, declined to comment on Koh’s ruling. Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, also declined to comment on it.

The earlier case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, and the second case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-cv-00630, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Francis Ford Coppola Objects to U.K. Food Company’s Name Use

GMYL LP, owner of the trademarks related to film director Francis Ford Coppola’s wine, food, restaurant and other businesses, sued a London-based food company for trademark infringement.

According to the complaint filed Oct. 11 in federal court in San Francisco, the Coppola marks have been in use for wine since 1990, for Italian food products since 1998 and for restaurant services since 1999.

The complaint lists numerous Coppola trademarks including “Francis Ford Coppola Presents,” “Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut,” “Coppola,” “Coppola Rosso & Bianco” and “Francis Coppola Sofia.”

Coppola, who won fame for directing the “Godfather” films, owns the Francis Ford Coppola winery in Geyserville, California, as well as the Inglenook Winery in Rutherford, in the heart of California’s Napa Valley wine country.

London-based Coppola Foods Ltd. is the defendant in this suit. According to court papers, the British company filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register a Coppola-related trademark, which is being opposed by GMYL. The owner of the U.S. Coppola trademarks also objects to iPhone and iPod “Coppola” applications available in Apple Inc.’s iTunes App Store.

The applications provide recipes and a catalog of food products bearing the British company’s Coppola label, according to court papers. Many of these food products -- including olive oil, pastas and sauces -- are identical to those sold by the U.S. trademark holder under the Coppola brand, GMYL said in its pleadings.

The public is confused by the name similarity, GMYL said, and the U.S. company is harmed economically.

GMYL asked the court to issue an order barring the use of allegedly infringing marks, and for the destruction of all infringing promotional materials.

The company also seeks to be transferred two of the British company’s Internet domain names, www.coppolafoods.com and www.coppolafoodsgroup.com.

In addition to money damages, GMYL asked for awards of the British company’s profits derived from its alleged infringement, extra damages to punish that company for its actions, and litigation costs and attorney fees.

Coppola Foods didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is GMYL LP v. Ernesto Coppola, 13-cv-04739, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Kim Dotcom Campaign Donation Fells Minister in N.Z. Government

A campaign donation by Internet entrepreneur and alleged copyright pirate Kim Dotcom has forced the resignation of a New Zealand government minister.

John Banks resigned yesterday as minister for regulatory reform and small business after the Auckland District Court ordered him to stand trial over allegations of electoral fraud relating to Dotcom’s NZ$50,000 ($42,000) donation.

Banks is accused of knowingly filing a false election return in his failed 2010 Auckland mayoral bid, listing donations from Dotcom and casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group Ltd. as anonymous when he knew their source -- an offense under the Electoral Act. He denies the allegations.

Banks’s resignation as a minister in Prime Minister John Key’s government is the latest twist in Dotcom’s New Zealand story. Armed police stormed the German’s Auckland mansion in January last year after the U.S. alleged his Megaupload cloud-storage Internet site was at the center of the biggest copyright infringement case in its history. Key was later forced to apologize to Dotcom -- who still faces extradition to the U.S. - - over the government’s illegal spying on him.

Dotcom gave evidence that Banks asked him to split his donation into two NZ$25,000 checks after Banks was flown in Dotcom’s private helicopter to his mansion in 2010, Fairfax Media reported.

“I was offended, I don’t mind if people know,” Dotcom told the court, according to Fairfax. Banks told him, “Kim, if I help you in the future it’s better no one knows about your donation,” Fairfax quoted Dotcom as saying.

Banks has said he can’t recall the helicopter ride and is innocent of the charges.

“Mr. Banks maintains his innocence but realizes this is a distraction for the government,” Key said in a statement yesterday. “If Mr. Banks is successful on appeal or proved to be not guilty at trial, it is my intention to reinstate him as a minister.”

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Battelle Sues Ex-Employee Over Power-Grid Security Software

Battelle Memorial Institute’s Battelle Energy Alliance, which operates the Idaho National Laboratory owned by the U.S. Energy Department, sued one of its former employees, claiming that a company he started is selling a misappropriated software product and that its release could imperil national security.

The alliance was given the task of developing software aimed at detecting suspicious activity on a computer network that could be part of attacks on power stations and power grids, according to the Oct. 10 complaint.

Corey Thuen was one of five developers who worked on the project, which was named Sophia, after the Greek goddess of wisdom. Battelle said it lacked the ability to commercialize Sophia so began a bidding process to select a third-party partner who would receive the exclusive license to the product.

Thuen started a company -- Southfork Security, in Idaho Falls, Idaho -- to bid on the licensing rights. He was then required to sign a conflict-of-interest agreement barring the use for personal gain of any non-public information related to Sophia acquired during his employment at Battelle, according to the complaint.

He then took a leave of absence from Battelle in February to devote his time to developing Southfork, Battelle said in the court papers. He submitted a licensing proposal before withdrawing from the bidding process.

On May 1, Southfork began advertising a product called Visdom. Battelle claims that this product is a copy of Sophia, and that it’s intended to scuttle a pending patent application for Sophia. Southfork’s use of Visdom is an attempt to play off Sophia’s name, Battelle claimed.

Battelle went to court, asking for an order barring the distribution of Visdom, and for the destruction of “any and all infringing material products embodying the unauthorized copying” of Sophia. Additionally, Battelle asked for money damages, the disabling of Southfork’s website and the seizure of Thuen’s computers’ hard drives.

On Oct. 15, the court issued an order barring the release by Southfork of Visdom or Sophia and the surrender of Thuen’s hard drive to a forensic expert retained by Battelle. The court set a hearing for today to give Thuen an opportunity to respond.

Thuen didn’t reply immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the case. His company’s website says that people at Southfork worked at the national lab run by Battelle, “hacked there, and made some cool tools. Now we’re doing it on our own.”

The case is Battelle Energy Alliance LLC v. Southfork Security Inc., 13-cv-00442, U.S. District Court, District of Idaho (Pocatello).

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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