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Google, Starbucks, Marijuana, Duck: Intellectual Property

Google Inc. (GOOG), operator of the world’s most-used Internet search engine, received a patent on a method of creating comic strips on social networks.

Patent 8,621,366, which was issued to the Mountain View, California-based company on Dec. 31, covers a technology making it possible for people on social networks to create comic strips through a simplified user interface that is formatted for display on the network.

Google said in the patent that while many social-network users enjoy sharing jokes, a text-only gag tends not to be noticed given the abundance of audio, video and animation being shared.

Absent the technology embodied in the patent, users must go to a different website to create comic strips and import them into the social network.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Google applied for this patent in February 2010, with the assistance of Patent Law Works LLC of Los Altos, California.

Yamaha Sues Toshiba-Samsung Joint Venture for Infringement

Yamaha Corp. (7951), the Japanese maker of musical instruments and audio equipment, filed a patent infringement suit against a joint venture of Japan’s Toshiba Corp. (6502) and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. (005930)

According to a complaint filed Dec. 31 in federal court in Santa Ana, California, Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corp. infringed 11 patents related to optical disk drives.

Yamaha said the patents, issued from March 1991 to February 2009, are “technically and/or commercially essential” to some optical disk drive standards. The Shizuoka, Japan-based company said although it began offering various optical disk drive makers a license to the disputed patents in 2008, it failed to reach an agreement with Toshiba-Samsung.

The companies met repeatedly from 2008 to March 2012, with the joint-venture’s representatives repeatedly seeking further technical discussions with respect to Yamaha’s infringement allegations, the Japanese company said in its pleadings.

Yamaha claimed that manufacturers accounting for 75 percent of the worldwide market for the drives covered by the patents have taken licenses. It accused the joint venture of refusing to get a license while knowing its drives infringe.

In August 2012 South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. (066570) sued Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology for infringing four patents related to optical disk technology. That case is pending.

Yamaha asked for a finding that the joint venture infringed the patents at issue and induced others to do so. It asked for money damages “no less than a reasonable royalty” and extra damages to punish the defendant.

Yamaha also asked for attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is Yamaha Corp. v. Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corp., 13-cv-02018, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

The previous case is LG Electronics Inc. v. Samsung Storage Technology Corp., 12-cv-01063, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Starbucks Complaint Brings $6 Check From Brewery, Star Says

Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), the Seattle-based coffee-shop chain, got a $6 check from a brewery in response to a trademark-related cease-and-desist notice, the Kansas City Star reported.

The owner of Cottleville, Missouri’s Exit 6 Brewery said in his letter that the $6 was the profit from the sale of three of its “Frappiccino” beers, according to the newspaper.

Starbucks had complained that “Frappiccino” was too similar to its “Frappuccino” trademark and likely to confuse consumers, the Star reported.

Exit 6 said in a letter accompanying the check that it had no trademarks of its own and was sending the money because “us small business owners need to stick together,” according to the newspaper.

Colorado Marijuana Legalization Prompts ‘Weed’ Applications

Colorado Weed Wear” is the newest marijuana-related trademark application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The sale of marijuana for recreational purposes became legal in Colorado Jan. 1, making it the first state where pot can be sold for non-medical sale and use. A number of related trademarks have been registered to Colorado owners, including “Buddies,” registered Nov. 19, to be used for online animated cartoon episodes. That mark includes a marijuana plant with a smiling face.

“MJ Freeway” was registered in May 2013 to a Colorado owner who said it will be used for computer services for inventory control and management of medical marijuana.

A Denver resident registered “Giving Tree of Denver” in October 2012 for use with retail services “featuring clothing and lifestyle herbs” including marijuana.

“MyBudTender” said it would be used for a mobile app that provides marijuana-related information, according to a Nov. 25 filing by a Denver-based applicant.

A “Colorado Weed Wear” application was filed Dec. 6 by a resident of Trinidad, Colorado. The image associated with this mark features a marijuana leaf between several mountain shapes and is to be used on clothing, according to the application.

A Denver resident filed applications on May 13 for “Pot is the new gay” and “Weed is the new gay.” Both phrases are to be used with consulting services related to marijuana legalization strategies.

People over the age of 21 began buying marijuana for recreational use Jan. 1 in Colorado.

Colorado projects $578.1 million a year in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. Wholesale transactions taxed at 15 percent will finance school construction, while the retail levy of 10 percent will fund regulation of the industry.

Licenses for 136 marijuana stores, a majority in Denver, were mailed Dec. 23, the Colorado Revenue Department said in a statement. Recreational marijuana businesses can open only after getting both a state and local license, said Julie Postlethwait, a spokeswoman for the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Only existing medical-marijuana retailers can apply for the licenses until July 1, she said. In Denver, home to the state’s largest number of such dispensaries, that deadline extends through Jan. 1, 2016.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Giant Rubber Duck Sculptor Objects to Promotion, Website Reports

Marketing efforts connected to the exhibition in Taiwan of Netherlands sculptor Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duck have drawn copyright-infringement allegations, Japan’s Rocket News 24 website reported.

The duck sculpture, touring Taiwan, is on exhibit in Keelung City, where organizers hired a marketing expert to promote the event, according to Rocket News 24.

Hofman objected to various forms of duck-related merchandise sold in connection with the event, including stickers, mobile-phone accessories, T-shirts and smart cards, saying they violated his contract with organizers permitting only one figurine design to be sold, Rocket News 24 reported.

Taiwan Smart Card Corp. stopped selling duck-themed cards after Hofman’s complaint and promised full refunds to anyone who bought them, according to the news website.

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

Sheppard Mullin Hires IP Specialist Carina Tan From Reed Smith

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP hired Carina M. Tan for its IP practice group, the Los Angeles-based firm said in a statement yesterday.

Tan, who does both transactional work and litigation, joins from Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith LLP. Her clients’ technologies have included communication networks and devices, wireless technology, packet network performance, network security systems, cyber content management, computer architecture, software and Internet applications, semiconductor devices, global positioning systems, renewable energy technology and social media.

She has appeared before federal district courts and the U.S. International Trade Commission, the Washington-based body with the power to block the importation of goods that infringe U.S. intellectual property rights.

Tan has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

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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