BlackBerry, Pinterest, Warner: Intellectual Property

BlackBerry Ltd. (BB), the Canadian maker of smartphones, sued a company begun by entertainer Ryan Seacrest for trademark and patent infringement.

The suit, filed Jan. 3 in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that Typo Products LLC of Los Angeles infringes one design patent and two utility patents as well as the trade dress for BlackBerry mobile devices. Trade dress is covered under U.S. trademark law.

The target of the suit is Typo’s keyboard-case product into which a smartphone is inserted. The Typo case contains a keyboard that, reviewers say, “turns an iPhone into a BlackBerry,” according to court papers.

BlackBerry said Typo had “many design options” for the keyboard on its product that wouldn’t infringe the same combination of elements of the Canadian company’s patents and trade dress.

The Typo product is aimed at supplanting BlackBerry within its customer base, BlackBerry said in its pleadings. The company claims to be injured by Typo’s actions, and asked the court to order the California company to halt its alleged infringement. It also seeks awards of money damages, profit Typo derived from its alleged infringement, and a tripling of any damages award in order to punish the keyboard company for its actions.

BlackBerry also asked the court to order the seizure and destruction of all allegedly infringing products and promotional materials, and for attorney fees and litigation costs.

Typo said in an e-mailed statement that it believes BlackBerry’s claims lack merit and that it will fight the case. The company said that while it respects BlackBerry and its intellectual property, the Typo keyboard “is the culmination of years of development and research.”

The case is BlackBerry Ltd. v. Typo Products LLC, 14-cv-00023, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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Trademark

Buffett’s NetJets ‘Intellijet’ Infringement Claim Rejected

Warren Buffett’s NetJets Inc. lost its trademark challenge to a Florida-based aircraft brokerage service.

NetJets, based in Columbus, Ohio, sued IntelliJet Group LLC in an Ohio federal court in January 2012, claiming the Florida company’s name infringed the “Intellijet” trademark it was using for its internal software.

The aircraft-management company, which has a fractional-ownership plan, said in court papers that IntelliJet was competing unfairly, and that the public was confused by the similarity of its name to the one NetJets used for its software.

IntelliJet responded by asking the court to order the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark on the ground that it hadn’t been used in commerce, as is required under U.S. law.

The Florida company argued that NetJets’ Intellijet software is not, in itself, a product that the fractional-ownership company sells. Instead, Jacksonville, Florida-based IntelliJet said, it was merely a conduit through which NetJets provides service to its customers.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost agreed with IntelliJet. He said NetJets had tried to conflate the notion of “commerce” by itself with “used in commerce” as defined under trademark law.

He said that just because a trademark might be used with an activity that falls under the definition of “commerce,” that doesn’t mean the activity satisfies trademark law’s “use in commerce” requirement. Frost said that while it’s “undisputed” that the Intellijet software is an integral part of the NetJets operation, it still didn’t satisfy the requirements for a trademark registration. He also said he couldn’t find that the Intellijet software had any value independent from the services offered by NetJets.

Frost accepted IntelliJet’s argument that by not using the mark in commerce, NetJets had effectively abandoned it, so it could be canceled by the patent office. He did, however, reject IntelliJet’s request for attorney fees.

The case is NetJets Inc. v. IntelliJet Group LLC, 12-cv-00059, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).

‘Pinterest’ Trademark Belongs to U.K. Company, OHIM Rules

Pinterest Inc., the social-media scrapbook site, received a setback to any European expansion plans because of an adverse trademark ruling, as reported by the Register, a U.K.-based technology news website.

The European Union’s Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market, which adjudicates trademark issues within its member states, said the “pinterest” trademark belonged to Premium Interest, a U.K-based social-news aggregator, the website reported.

The aggregator applied for the trademark in January 2012 and Palo Alto, California-based Pinterest had failed to grab much European interest before Premium Interest’s application was filed, according to EU trademark regulators, the Register reported.

The OHIM found that Pinterest Inc. was still “very American” and pleadings supplied to the EU failed to indicate the awareness of the U.K. public with respect to its name, according to the Register.

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Warner Music Group, Performers Agree to Settle Ringtone Dispute

Warner Music Group Corp. is on the verge of settling an $11.5 million class-action suit brought by performers seeking compensation for ringtones and downloaded music.

The artists sued in federal court in San Francisco in February 2012, over licensing rates they claimed they were owed. The lead plaintiff is Kathy Sledge-Lightfoot of Sister Sledge, the group popular in the 1970s and best known for the song “We Are Family.”

According to a Jan. 2 court filing, the parties have agreed to settlement, subject to the court’s approval. A hearing is set for Jan. 23 on the motion for approval.

The music company has agreed to make $11.5 million available to the plaintiffs, minus attorney fees, litigation costs and the cost of administering the class action. Members of the class who submit a valid claim can receive a portion of the payout based on the percentage of revenue they generated for Warner Music Group for downloads and ringtones from Jan. 1, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2012, according to court documents.

The case is In re: Warner Music Group Corp Digital Downloads Litigation, 13-cv-00559, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Living Essentials Fights Disclosure of Energy Drink Data

Living Essentials LLC, the maker of 5-Hour Energy drink, is facing a demand from Oregon authorities to hand over a list of the specific amounts of various ingredients in its products, BeverageDaily.com said.

Oregon Attorney General Allen Rosenblum is also seeking data underlying its claims that users will not suffer a “crash” after using the product, BeverageDaily reported.

Rosenblum said the Farmington Hills, Michigan-based company has “steadfastly refused” to produce the data, claiming it’s a trade secret, according to BeverageDaily.

Living Essentials has claimed public disclosure of the information could put it at a competitive disadvantage, BeverageDaily reported.

The company, which sells 9 million bottles a week, is accused of making misleading statements about its product and of implying in package information that the drink is safe for use by adolescents, according to BeverageDaily.

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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