Tesla, Jones Day, Fuel Cell, PR: Intellectual Property

Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric-car marker led by Elon Musk, was sued in China for trademark infringement in the latest example of the difficulties foreign companies face doing business in the country.

Zhan Baosheng, who registered the rights to the name before the U.S. carmaker entered China, is requesting that Tesla shut its showrooms, service centers and supercharging facilities there; stop all sales and marketing activities in the country; and pay him 23.9 million yuan ($3.9 million). The lawsuit was filed July 3 in Beijing and seen by Bloomberg News.

Zhan is the one attempting to steal the U.S. carmaker’s property, a Tesla spokesman, Simon Sproule, said in an e-mailed response to questions. The company, which has lodged complaints against Zhan with Chinese authorities and won, hasn’t been served with or seen the suit, he said.

Chinese regulators last year sided with the U.S. carmaker’s claim that Zhan’s trademarks were invalid, a decision he is appealing.

For Tesla, maker of the Model S sedan, the experience puts it with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Burberry Group Plc (BRBY) among multinational companies that have clashed over their branding rights in the world’s second-largest economy.

Jones Day Threatens Infringement Action Against Detroit Website

Law firm Jones Day LLP threatened the operator of a website critical of Detroit’s emergency manager with a trademark-infringement lawsuit.

The website, www.kevynorr.com, is named for the former Jones Day partner who serves as emergency financial manager for Michigan’s biggest city, which filed for bankruptcy last year.

The site uses the Jones Day marks and says that “Detroit’s economic coup d’etat has been brought to you” by the firm, according to a June 10 letter Jones Day sent to the site’s registered owner. The firm demanded that its marks be removed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital-rights group, responded on behalf of the website, saying that the registrant won’t comply with the request.

The law firm’s threats “are not supported by law and plainly seek to interfere with protected speech,” EFF said in a letter to Jones Day.

EFF’s letter closed with an expression of “hope” that Jones Day “will have the good sense not to trouble a court of law with this matter.”

John Wayne Enterprises in Showdown With Duke University

John Wayne Enterprises LLC, a family business set up to protect rights associated with the late movie actor, asked a federal court to declare that its trademarks don’t infringe those of Duke University.

In a complaint brought July 3 in federal court in Los Angeles, John Wayne Enterprises said it filed applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2013 to register “Duke John Wayne” and “Duke” as trademarks for alcoholic beverages.

Wayne, who died in 1979, was variously known to family and fans as Duke Wayne, Duke, Duke Morrison and The Duke, according to court papers.

According to filings with the patent office, the Durham, North Carolina-based university opposes the marks, claiming the public would be confused and falsely assume a connection to the school.

John Wayne Enterprises filed a response to Duke’s opposition June 12, saying there is no likelihood of confusion.

The case is John Wayne Enterprises LLC v. Duke University, 14-cv-01020, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more trademark news, click here.

Patents

Mantra Venture Group Gets U.S. Patent on Lighter Fuel Cell

Mantra Venture Group Ltd. (MVTG)’s Mantra Energy Alternatives got a U.S. patent on a fuel cell technology that uses liquid fuels instead of gaseous hydrogen.

Patent 8,709,680 covers an invention that the British Columbia-based company said will yield lighter-weight lower-cost fuel cells that are less complex to produce.

For more patent news, click here.

Copyright

Singapore Changes Law to Give Web Content Owners More Power

Singapore amended its copyright law to give copyright owners the ability to block websites where their content is used without permission, China’s Xinhua news service reported.

The owners, who must apply to the court for a blocking order, don’t have to establish liability by the network service provider to have the order issued, according to Xinhua.

Content owners in the past had to send a takedown notice to the service provider, seeking either removal of the infringing content or a block on access to the offending site, Xinhua reported.

Australia PR Firms Sign Agreement to Avoid Infringement Claims

Public relations companies in Australia signed an agreement with the country’s Copyright Agency that will give them a safe harbor from copyright infringement actions, AdNews reported.

Under the three-year agreement, agencies get discounted access to copyrighted material and avoid fines if they eventually take a license to the content they use, AdNews said.

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 editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Andrew Dunn, Charles Carter

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