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Paul Allen, Vivendi, Gucci: Intellectual Property

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Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- A business owned and controlled by Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft Corp., sued 11 companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc. and EBay Inc., saying they infringed patents on Web-based technology.

AOL Inc., Facebook Inc., Netflix Inc., Office Depot Inc., OfficeMax Inc., Staples Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Google’s YouTube were also named, according to an Aug. 27 statement from Allen’s Interval Licensing LLC. The complaint was filed in federal court in Seattle.

Interval Licensing owns the patents of a defunct computer science and communications research company Allen and David Liddle founded in 1992, according to the statement. The company, Interval Research, employed more than 110 workers and helped fund outside projects, including work done by Google founders Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, according to the statement.

“Interval Research was an early, ground-breaking contributor to the development of the Internet economy,” David Postman, a spokesman for Allen, said in the statement. “This lawsuit is necessary to protect our investment in innovation.”

“This lawsuit against some of America’s most innovative companies reflects an unfortunate trend of people trying to compete in the courtroom instead of the marketplace,” a Google spokesman, Aaron Zamost, said in an e-mail.

Facebook, owner of the world’s biggest social-networking website, said the lawsuit is without merit. “We will fight it vigorously,” Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for the Palo Alto, California-based company said in an e-mail.

In dispute are patents 6,034,652, 6,263,507, 6,757,682 and 6,788,314, issued between March 2000 and September 2004. Allen is not a named inventor on any of the patents.

Two of the patents are for what is called an “attention manager” for occupying the peripheral attention of a person in the vicinity of a display device.

According to the complaint, Interval Research was issued about 300 patents.

Interval asked the court for an order barring future infringement of the patents, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs. Interval is also seeking money damages and a royalty for post-judgment infringement.

In July, Allen said he would donate the majority of his wealth to charity upon his death. Ranked as the 37th richest man in the world, Allen has a net worth of $14.5 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.

Interval is represented by Justin A. Nelson, Max L. Tribble and Matthew R. Berry of Susman Godfrey LLP; and Michael F. Heim, Eric J. Enger, and Nathan J. Davis of Houston’s Heim, Payne & Chorush LLP, all of Houston.

The case is Interval Licensing LLC v. EBay Inc., 2:10-cv-01385, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).

Apple Seeks U.S. Patent on for Dual-Purpose Device Jack

Apple Inc., creator of the iPad and iPhone, is seeking a patent on an invention that will lessen the use of what it calls “the limited housing real estate” on a handheld device.

Application 20100216526, which was published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Aug. 26, covers a single connector that combines receptors for both the microphone and headphone devices.

The rationale for combining functions in one connector is limiting the number of openings in the device’s housing, this providing fewer opportunities for dust or moisture to get inside the device, according the application.

Cupertino, California-based Apple applied for the patent in February 2009, with the assistance of Blakely Sokoloff Taylor & Zafman LLP of Los Angeles.

For more patent news, click here.


Vivendi Unit Wants Beach Boy Founders Added to Katy Perry Song

Vivendi SA’s Rondor Music International unit is demanding that Beach Boys founders Brian Wilson and Mike Love be added to the credits of Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg’s “California Gurls” hit song, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Rondor says Snoop Dogg’s speaking the phrase “I wish they could all be California Girls” from Wilson’s and Love’s “California Girls” is enough to establish co-writing credits, according to the newspaper.

“California Gurls,” written from a female perspective, is on Perry’s album “Teenage Dream,” and, Rondor claims, is a “not appropriate” use of the Beach Boys’ song, the newspaper reported.

Rondor’s letter to Perry said the publisher has “established diminutive claim” to her song, according to the Times.

Google Wins Dismissal of German Suit Over YouTube

A court declined to issue an emergency order forcing Google Inc. to block German access to some music videos on its YouTube website in a dispute over monitoring files on the Internet.

The Hamburg Regional Court did say it might ultimately rule in favor of a group of music-collecting societies, including the German agency GEMA, if a new suit was filed under standard court procedures.

The case is part of a dispute over who is responsible for detecting illegal files on YouTube. Google, the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, in June won dismissal of a $1 billion suit brought by Viacom Inc. in a U.S. court for unauthorized use of content from programs on YouTube.

“There are some good reasons to think that YouTube indeed has some duty to take care of detecting illegal uploads,” Presiding Judge Heiner Steeneck said Aug. 27. “GEMA has the opportunity to ask for such a ruling in regular proceedings.”

The court said it dismissed GEMA’s emergency suit Aug. 27 because the agency has known for a long time that the songs were available on YouTube.

“This isn’t the final resolution of the dispute and GEMA can ask to have the legal question cleared in a regular lawsuit,” said Steeneck. “I know our ruling doesn’t help the parties much for the moment, but that’s how procedural rules work sometimes.”

The ruling is an opportunity to ask GEMA to come back to the negotiating table to find an amicable solution, said Kay Oberbeck, spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google.

GEMA will file a lawsuit under regular proceedings to have the dispute cleared, its lawyer Matthias Lausen said. Royalty collecting societies are in charge of paying musicians and authors each time music is played or used in broadcasts or online downloads.

Google and GEMA had a license agreement that lapsed in March last year and negotiations didn’t lead to a new deal, the court said in a statement after the ruling.

YouTube blocked access to music videos on its German website after talks between the company and GEMA broke down. The step was limited to files posted by music companies under a business agreement with YouTube. The Hamburg case also sought to block access to songs posted by other users.

YouTube says it deletes illegal files once it has been alerted to them. GEMA is trying to shift the responsibility to Google, seeking to force it to search and delete the videos on YouTube.

In the U.S. case, Judge Louis Stanton ruled that YouTube hadn’t infringed Viacom’s copyrights because it’s protected by the safe-harbor provision of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law states a service provider isn’t liable if it removes infringing material when notified by the copyright owner.

Viacom appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.

The German case is LG Hamburg, 310 O 197/10.

Jewish Federation, City Seek More Time in Copyright Suit

The Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the City of Harrisburg’s Department of Parks & Recreation asked a federal court to give them more time to respond to a copyright infringement case filed by a New Jersey artist.

David Ascalon of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, won a competition to design a Holocaust memorial in Harrisburg. His design featured a stainless-steel core that was to symbolize “the vitality and continued growth” of the Jewish people.

The core was wrapped in an outer shell of COR-TEN steel that would symbolize the barbed-wire fences of the Nazi death camps.

The sculpture was completed and dedicated in June 1994. The committee that selected Ascalon’s design said it wanted “a grave, stark and emotionally charged image” and didn’t wish to “prettyfy” the landscape, according to court papers.

Over the years, the steel, which was designed to develop a rust-like appearance, began to deteriorate, and Ascalon, concerned about its condition, sent a sample out to be assayed.

He said he learned that the steel that was provided was not, per specifications, COR-TEN. He told the Jewish Federation in 2004 he would replace the rusting barbed-wire ring with the COR-Ten product, asking only for reimbursement of his costs.

The Federation contacted the steel supplier and demanded it cover the replacement cost, Ascalon said in his complaint.

Ascalon said he the received a letter from counsel for the federation in 2005 demanding he quit saying he created the memorial. In 2008, Ascalon’s adult son visited the memorial and saw that the COR-TEN steel had been replaced with a “shining stainless steel replica” of the barbed wire spiral, according to the complaint

The senior Ascalon’s name, which had been removed from the memorial, and replaced with the marking “Restored by David Grindle 2006,” he said in his pleadings.

Ascalon says the modification is “abhorrent and runs completely contrary to the core vision of the Memorial, which was based on the notion of creating a striking and stark visual contrast between the Jewish people and their Nazi oppressors.”

These changes “are prejudicial to the honor and reputation of Ascalon” and “destroy the important and thoughtful symbolic aspects of the memorial.”

He said these changes infringe his copyright and amount to “grossly negligent and intentional destruction” of his work. He also objects to the removal of his name.

Ascalon asked the court to order the defendants to quit “allowing the continued destruction or mutilation” of the memorial. He also requested an order for “unimpeded and immediate access to the memorial to restore it to its original form” and the right to restore his name to the memorial.

He also seeks money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

All of the defendants have asked the court for more time to respond to the complaint, which was filed July 26. In the most recent order in the case file, U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane gave David Grindle until mid-September to respond. The Jewish Federation and the City of Harrisburg have also asked for more time and filed with their requests statements from Ascalon’s counsel that he does not object to their requests.

Ascalon is represented by Jason B. Schaeffer of J.B. Schaeffer Law LLC of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The city is represented by Jason M. Hess of the Law Bureau/City of Harrisburg.

The Jewish Federation is represented by Harvey Freedenberg and Shawn K. Leppo of McNees, Wallace & Nurick LLC of Harrisburg. Leppo also represented Grindle.

The case is Ascalon v. Department of Parks & Recreation, 1:10-cv-01544-YK, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).

For more copyright news, click here.


Gucci Opposes Gussy the Ice Cream Man European Trademark

Gucci, a luxury-brand subsidiary of Paris-based PPR SA, is opposing a U.K. couple’s attempt to register a European trademark for their series of children’s books, the Hampstead & Highgate Express reported.

In the U.K., Gus and Inez Bodur own the national trademark for Gussy the Ice Cream Man, a character on which they’ve based a series of children’s books, according to the newspaper.

The Bodurs maintain there is no likelihood of confusion as the name Gussy is pronounced like the name Gus, “which sounds nothing like Gucci,” the newspaper reported.

Earlier, the Bodurs successfully challenged the “Ballon D’Or” mark France’s Intra Presse awards to the best soccer player, saying it infringed on the “Golden Balls” trademark they use for a line of underwear, according to the newspaper.

For more trademark news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at

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