Apple, Sony, FX, Liberty Global: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc. (AAPL), the world’s most valuable technology company, was found by a federal jury not to infringe the patent of a 70-year-old electrical engineer who claims he came up with the idea for the smartphone.

On Nov. 25, the jury in Los Angeles rejected the claim by NetAirus Technologies LLC, the company owned by inventor Richard L. Ditzik, that Apple’s iPhone infringes its patent for a handheld device that combines computer and wireless-communication functions over both a Wi-Fi and cellular telephone network.

The trial in Los Angeles was limited to damages NetAirus could seek for infringement by Apple’s iPhone 4 since October of last year, when the patent was recertified with changes in the language of the claims. NetAirus has filed a separate lawsuit for alleged patent infringement by the iPad and iPhone models that Apple started selling since the suit was filed in 2010.

The jury of six women and two men had been deadlocked, repeatedly sending notes to the judge during three days of deliberations saying they were unable to reach the unanimous verdict required on each of the five main questions on the verdict form regarding whether Apple had infringed on the patents and damages. The judge had sent them back to continue deliberations.

After jurors sent a note saying they were still deadlocked the morning of Nov. 25, attorneys agreed to accept a majority vote, and sent them back to deliberate again. A majority of the panelists voted in favor of Apple on all four questions about the patent at issue. They didn’t reach the damages question.

Ditzik and his lawyer, Ray Niro of Chicago-based Niro Haller & Niro, said after the verdict they were disappointed with the outcome and are considering whether to appeal.

Attorneys for Apple declined to comment on the verdict.

The case is NetAirus Technologies LLC v. Apple Inc., 10-cv-03257, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Sony Seeks ‘SmartWig’ Patent for Hairpieces With Camera, Sensors

Sony Corp. (6758), which popularized portable music players with the Walkman, is seeking a U.S. patent for “SmartWig” hairpieces that could help navigate roads, check blood pressure or flip through slides in a presentation.

The wig would communicate wirelessly with another device and include tactile feedback, Sony said in the application 20130311132, published in the database of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Nov. 21. Depending on the model, the hairpiece may include a camera, laser pointer or global positioning system sensor, it said.

The development of wearable technology such as eyeglasses, watches and earpieces is expanding as consumers seek new ways to integrate computers into everyday life. The race to gain a foothold in a market that Juniper Research estimates will jump about 14-fold in five years to $19 billion is luring companies including Sony, Google Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930)

Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit’s application 20130297301, covering a different kind of wearable technology, was published Nov. 7. The search engine company is seeking a patent on technology covering the use of an electronic neck tattoo as microphone for a mobile electronic device.

The tattoo would be placed near a user’s throat. It could be applied with adhesive to either humans or animals, or could be embedded in a band or collar, according to the application.

“It is an object to provide an improved wearable computing device,” Sony said in its new patent application. “The at least one sensor, the processing unit and the communication interface are arranged in the wig and at least partly covered by the wig in order to be visually hidden during use.”

The wig could be made from “horse hair, human hair, wool, feathers, yak hair, buffalo hair or any kind of synthetic material,” Sony said.

Saori Takahashi, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for Sony, said in a phone interview the company hasn’t yet decided whether to commercialize the technology.

TransPerfect Wins Order Barring Sales of Infringing Product

MotionPoint Corp., a maker of technology that translates business websites into foreign languages for customers such as Victoria’s Secret Stores LLC and Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), failed to persuade a judge not to block sales of its core product.

The ruling came in a patent-infringement lawsuit brought in June 2010 by New York-based TransPerfect Global Inc., a MotionPoint competitor whose customers include Home Depot Inc. (HD) and American Airlines Inc.

A federal jury in Oakland, California, found in July that MotionPoint directly infringed a TransPerfect patent and should pay $1 million in damages. TransPerfect then sought a permanent injunction barring the sale or use of MotionPoint technology that directly or indirectly infringes the patent.

MotionPoint, which provides translation services for more than 1,800 websites, said in a court filing that a broad injunction might deny millions of foreign-language speakers access to translated versions of its customers’ websites.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken granted TransPerfect’s request for an injunction Nov. 15. She stayed MotionPoint’s compliance with the order until she rules on all of the companies’ post-judgment motions.

Counsel for both parties sent Wilken a letter Nov. 25 saying they agreed on a private mediator to conduct court-ordered talks. They chose Wayne D. Brazil, a former magistrate judge from the San Francisco federal court now working for Irvine, California’s Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services Inc.

The case is TransPerfect Global Inc. v. MotionPoint Corp., 10-cv-02950, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

FX Concepts Seeks to Sell Trademark to Ruby Commodities

FX Concepts LLC, the currency hedge fund founded by John Taylor in 1981, asked a bankruptcy court for permission to sell its trademark and trading models to Ruby Commodities Inc. for $7.48 million after an auction.

Ruby made the best offer for all the company’s assets after 39 rounds of bidding, International Foreign Exchange Concepts Holdings Inc., the holding company for FX Concepts, said in a Nov. 25 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. Before that, FX Concepts proposed to sell its trading models individually and drew offers that valued them at as much as $3.48 million, according to court papers.

The sale to Ruby shouldn’t be subject to review, even though the two companies have a “tenuous connection” because an FX Concepts employee is a director of a fund managed by Ruby, FX Concepts said.

“These selections were made in good faith, without collusion or improper influence,” FX Concepts said. Aktis Capital Management Ltd. made the second-highest total offer of $7.38 million.

The sale includes trading models, hardware, historical data and the FX Concepts trademark. The company’s intraday trading model was valued at $1.3 million after 14 bids, the highest value of any asset, before aggregate bidding began.

FX Concepts, once the world’s largest currency hedge fund with more than $14 billion in assets at its peak, said in October it would shut its investment-management business. The New York-based company filed for bankruptcy eight days later.

The “final straw” was the decision by the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System, which accounted for almost 66 percent of FX Concepts’ assets under management in September, to pull the more than $450 million it had invested, the company said.

Investor funds have been, or will be, returned, International Foreign Exchange Concepts has said.

The case is In re International Foreign Exchange Concepts Holdings Inc. 13-bk-13379, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

LVMH Faces Backlash for Red Square Exhibit Eclipsing Lenin Tomb

A lawmaker from President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party is seeking to remove an LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC) exhibit in the middle of Red Square that’s bigger than Lenin’s tomb.

Alexander Sidyakin filed a complaint with the antitrust watchdog asking it to determine if the French luxury goods maker violated advertising laws by building a giant pavilion on the historic site in the shape of a wooden chest adorned in its trademark pattern and logo, according to his website.

The exhibit, which commemorates the 120th anniversary of the adjacent GUM mall where Louis Vuitton has its flagship Russian store, is 30 meters (32 yards) long and 9 meters tall, according to the Paris-based company. The mausoleum where Bolshevik leader Lenin’s mummified body is on display nearby is 24 meters long and 12 meters tall.

The installation is of “unreasonably gigantic size” and violates the architectural feel of the entire complex, Sidyakin said in his complaint. It obscures views of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin towers and may inconvenience Muscovites and tourists alike, Sidyakin said, noting that such advertising isn’t allowed at a Unesco World Heritage site.

The exhibit is designed to celebrate Louis Vuitton’s long history of supplying Russian customers and the chest itself is a giant replica of one ordered by Prince Vladimir Orlov in the early 20th century, the company said in a statement, declining to comment on Sidyakin’s complaint.

Marina Saranskaya, a spokeswoman for Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, declined to comment on Sidyakin’s petition.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyrights

ISPs Can Block Sites With Copyrighted Content, Court Aide Says

Liberty Global Plc (LBTYA)’s Austrian unit, UPC, and other Internet service providers can be forced to block access to sites that post copyright-infringing material, an adviser to the European Union’s highest court said.

“A specific blocking measure concerning a specific website is not disproportionate, in principle,” Pedro Cruz Villalon, an advocate general at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, said in a non-binding opinion yesterday. In light of the facts of each case, national courts should in future seek to achieve the right balance between the rights of the users, the ISP and the copyright owners, he said.

The case was triggered after two companies sought an order to have UPC Austria block access to a website that had posted films online owned by the companies. An Austrian court referred the case to the EU’s top tribunal for guidance on the scope of EU copyright rules and the duties of Internet service providers.

Any blocking mechanism must target illegal material and not access to lawful online content, the court adviser said today. In a case involving Belgacom SA (BELG)’s Scarlet in 2011 the EU court ruled that ISPs can’t be forced by a national court to block users from illegally sharing music and video files.

Rulings by the EU court normally follow the opinion within four to six months.

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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