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Monsanto, Apptricity, Match.com: Intellectual Property

A farmer’s argument that he shouldn’t be held personally liable for infringing Monsanto Co. (MON)’s seed patents was rejected by a federal court in Mississippi.

Monsanto, based in St. Louis, sued Mitchell Scruggs of Saltillo, Mississippi, in September 2000 for infringing patents by offering second-generation “Roundup Ready” soybean seeds for sale. Scruggs argued that a jury’s $6.3 million verdict should be laid on his company, rather than him. He cited a verdict form that asked jurors to determine whether “Mitchell Scruggs or Scruggs Farm Supply LLC made sales of brown bag soybean seed containing the Roundup Ready gene.”

The U.S. District Court in Oxford, Mississippi, rejected that argument on Nov. 21, saying that the briefing in the case “made it abundantly clear that Mitchell Scruggs, and no one else, made the decision to sell the infringing seeds.” Scruggs’s assumption of a high profile in opposing to Monsanto’s seed patents worked against him, the court said.

“While Scruggs’s genuine and strongly held beliefs in this regard arguably militate against the imposition of treble damages against him, they make his attempts to evade responsibility for the basic act of selling the seeds to be poorly taken,” the court said.

Scruggs’s lawyer didn’t raise any objections to the jury instruction when they were submitted, the court added.

The court also ruled that Monsanto was entitled to prejudgment interest of 4 percent since June 1, 2000, less than the 7 percent sought by the company.

The case is Monsanto Co. v. Scruggs, 00-cv-00161, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Mississippi (Oxford).

Ameranth Seeks Akin Gump’s Disqualification from Patent Suit

Ameranth Inc., a maker of software for the hospitality and entertainment markets, asked a federal court in San Diego to disqualify a partner from Washington’s Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP from representing a defendant in 38 associated patent-infringement cases.

Charles Everingham should be disqualified from any involvement in the cases, Ameranth said in a Nov. 22 filing in federal court in San Diego, where it’s based.

Everingham, who joined Akin Gump in 2011, is a former magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Texas, where he presided over two suits involving the same patents, according to Ameranth’s motion. He also conducted confidential settlement meetings with Ameranth’s principals, the company said.

Ameranth asked that the court disqualify all Akin Gump lawyers from participating any further in the litigation, and requested permission to conduct discovery regarding the extent of communications between Akin Gump lawyers and other defense attorneys in the cases.

Akin Gump is representing Hilton Hotels Holdings Corp.’s Hilton Resorts in the suit.

The case is in re: Ameranth Patent Litigation, 11-cv-01810, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Delta Trademark Suit Alleges Loyalty-Program Phishing Scheme

Delta Airlines Inc., the Atlanta-based U.S. flag carrier, sued five unidentified defendants for allegedly using its trademarks to get unauthorized access to its SkyMiles customer-loyalty rewards system.

The defendants have sent deceptive “phishing” e-mails to the public that purport to be from Delta, according to the complaint filed Nov. 22 in federal court in Atlanta. These e-mails use Delta trademarks to help convince the recipients that the airline is their source, Delta said.

Recipients are directed to a website that appears to be legitimate and directed to use their Delta SkyMiles credentials to log on. The log-on data is then retained by the defendants and used to access the airline’s rewards site. There they redeem the recipients’ accumulated award points for merchandise available through Delta’s SkyMiles Rewards program, according to the complaint.

Delta, based in Atlanta, said both it and the public are harmed by the defendants’ actions. Delta says it has suffered economic damages, including maintenance costs for computer systems, as a result of the unauthorized access.

The airline seeks an order barring further infringement and awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

The case is Delta Airlines Inc. v. Does, 1:13-cv-03899, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

Fuhu Claims Nabi Tablet Infringed by IdeaUSA’s Product

Fuhu Inc., producer of a tablet computer made for children, sued a competitor for infringing its trade dress.

IdeaUSA Products Inc.’s IdeaPlay tablet copied the distinctive butterfly shape and trade dress for Fuhu’s “Nabi” kids’ computer, according to the Nov. 25 complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles. “Nabi” is the Korean word for butterfly, and Fuhu says it consistently highlights the butterfly trade dress in the product and its packaging.

IdeaUSA of Long Beach, California, began using a butterfly shape only after Fuhu’s design was on the market, the company said. The public will probably be confused by the similar shape, Fuhu said, claiming IdeaUSA made the choice deliberately to trade on the Fuhu product’s fame.

It asked the court to bar IdeaUSA from using the butterfly trade dress, and for an order for seizure and destruction of all allegedly infringing products, packaging and promotional materials. Fuhu also requested damages, including extra damages to punish IdeaUsa for what it says is deliberate infringement, together with attorney fees and litigation costs.

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

The case is Fuhu Inc. v. IdeaUSA Products Inc., 13-cv-09695, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyrights

Apptricity, Army Settle Software Copyright Infringement Case

Apptricity Corp., a maker of supply-chain management software, settled a copyright infringement lawsuit against the U.S. Army.

The parties agreed to dismiss the case without costs or fees to either party, according to a Nov. 20 filing in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington. The suit was settled for $50 million, Apptricity said in a Nov. 25 statement. A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed that amount, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Apptricity, based in Irving, Texas, sued the Army in February 2012, claiming the service installed many more copies of the software company’s product that it had licensed. Apptricity sought $225 million in damages.

The product is used by field commanders to manage troop and supply movements, including the loading of supplies on vehicles and helicopters headed to forward operating bases, Apptricity said.

The Army accepted three server licenses at $1.35 million apiece, and 500 named user licenses at $1,000 each, for a total of $4.55 million, according to the complaint. In a second round, the Army bought two more server licenses, 150 device licenses at $5,000 apiece and 1,000 named user licenses.

Apptricity said it learned in March 2009 that the Army “was deploying thousands of devices” with its software, exceeding the license term. Apptricity also accused the Army of hiring an outside contractor to reverse-engineer some of the software. The Army installed unlicensed Apptricity software on 93 servers and 8,913 devices without paying the license, the software company said.

The case is Apptricity Corp. v. U.S., 12-cv-00080, U.S. Court of Federal Claims (Washington)

Russian Railways’ Apple Copyright to Be Heard Nov. 17

Russian Railways JSC’s copyright lawsuit against Apple Inc. (AAPL) is to be heard Nov. 17 in the Moscow Commercial Court, the Russian Legal Information website reported.

The railroad alleges unauthorized use of its copyrights in an app sold in Apple’s App Store, and it seeks 2 million rubles ($60,650) in compensation, according to RAPSI.

The app calculates the cost of shipping goods on the Russian Railways and is sold for 199 rubles, RAPSI reported.

Apple has argued that its agreement with app designers mandates they get copyright clearances from third parties, according to RAPSI.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Match.com Sued Over Release of Information on Vendor Website

Match.com LLC, the operator of an Internet dating site, hasn’t yet responded to a trade-secrets misappropriation lawsuit brought by a company that offers speed-dating services.

According to the complaint filed in federal court in Philadelphia, Dallas-based Match entered into a contract with Bensalem, Pennsylvania’s Speed Date USA Inc. The contract specified that Speed Date would handle as many as 300 events a month for the computer-dating service.

Match was to pay Speed Date $25 a ticket sold for each event and another $25 for each person who showed up for the event in excess of 20. The contract was to run for two years beginning Dec. 10, 2012.

Speed Date said that Match terminated the agreement in May, as well as 86 events. Additionally, Match is accused of publishing Speed Date’s confidential and proprietary information its vendor website, in violation of its contract.

The speed-dating company said it suffered monetary losses and the unauthorized release of its confidential business information. It asked the court for $5.65 million in damages, as well as attorney fees and litigation costs.

The suit was filed Oct. 21 and Match hasn’t yet filed any responses. The company also didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Speed Date USA Inc. v. Match.com LLC, 13-cv-06125, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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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