Delta, LG, Google, Righthaven: Intellectual Property

Delta Air Lines Inc., the world’s second-biggest carrier, won the dismissal of a Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. U.K. lawsuit over a patent for flat-bed seats.

Virgin, the long-haul carrier controlled by billionaire Richard Branson, sued Atlanta-based Delta in 2008 over claims that its seats, designed by Premium Aircraft Interiors Group Ltd., infringed Virgin’s patent. The British carrier “has no real prospect of establishing infringement,” Judge Richard Arnold in London said in a judgment yesterday.

The ruling “does not necessarily deprive Virgin of the possibility of relief against Delta,” Arnold said. “Virgin may be able to bring a claim against Delta for infringement of one or more of its U.S. patents. It may also, at some point in the future, be in a position to sue Delta for infringement of a European patent containing seat unit claims.”

Delta asked the court at a hearing Nov. 17 to dismiss the lawsuit and determine that it doesn’t infringe the patent on the Solar Eclipse seating system. The case had to be decided before Delta could add the seats to a planned 30 million-pound ($46.6 million) retrofit of 32 aircraft in 2013, the airline’s lawyer, Mark Vanhegan, said.

Virgin is “disappointed with the result” and will seek permission to appeal, said Janine Doy, a spokeswoman for the Crawley, England-based airline.

“Virgin Atlantic invests huge amounts in its design and product innovation and it is a major area of differentiation between us and other airlines,” Doy said in an e-mail. “We will always seek to protect our assets and brand from other airlines, seat manufacturers and others to ensure our intellectual property rights remain protected.”

Virgin in October 2009 won a patent lawsuit accusing Premium, a U.K. maker and designer of airplane cabins, of infringing the same patent.

The case is Virgin Atlantic Airways v. Delta Air Lines, Case No. HC08C1577, High Court of Justice Chancery Division.

LG Sued by Taiwan Research Group Over Phone, LCD-TV Patents

LG Electronics Inc., the world’s third-largest mobile-phone maker, was accused by a Taiwanese research group of infringing 22 U.S. patents on mobile phones, air conditioners, Blu-ray disc players and LCD televisions.

Industrial Technology Research Institute, based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and supervised by the nation’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, filed four lawsuits against LG on Nov. 26 in federal court in Tyler, Texas.

ITRI, founded in 1973 “to strengthen the technological competitiveness of Taiwan” through research and development of new companies, claims LG is infringing patents, including 15 related to liquid-crystal-display televisions and two for mobile phones. Seoul-based LG is the second-biggest maker of TVs.

Unless LG is barred from using the inventions, ITRI “will suffer additional irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law and impairment of the value of its patent rights,” the institute said in each of the complaints. It’s also seeking compensation for the unauthorized use of its technology.

Officials with LG didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

In 2009, ITRI filed seven patent-infringement cases against Samsung Electronics Co.’s Samsung Electronics America. All seven were filed in Texarkana, Arkansas, and all were dismissed on ITRI’s initiative in January, according to Bloomberg data.

In all four of the new cases, the research institute is represented by Alfonso Garcia Chan of Shore Chan Bragalone DePumpo LLP of Dallas.

The air-conditioner case is Industrial Technology Research Institute v. LG Corp., 10cv628; the LCD case is Industrial Technology Research Institute v. LG Corp., 10cv629; the Blu-ray case is Industrial Technology Research Institute v. LG Corp., 10cv630; and the mobile-phone case is Industrial Technology Research Institute v. LG Corp., 10cv631, all U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).

Google to Translate European Patents as EU-Level Effort Stalls

Google Inc. plans to translate more than 1 million patent documents for the European Patent Office, potentially helping efforts to create a region-wide system to protect intellectual property.

The owner of the world’s largest search engine will work on translating about 1.5 million patent documents in 29 languages on behalf of the Munich-based EPO, which covers 38 European countries, they announced yesterday in Paris. The deal will give Google, whose Google Translate service struggles with highly technical language, a rich source of material on which to try improvements, they said.

Attempts to reach an agreement on a patent process that would be valid across the 27-nation European Union have faltered since 2000 over which language should be used. EU industry ministers last month failed to agree on a compromise proposal to break a deadlock on creating a region-wide patent-protection system, potentially harming Europe’s ability to compete with the U.S. and China.

While Google-translated documents won’t have legal force, “most of the countries say they can accept an EU-wide system if they are assured access to the content of those patents,” EPO President Benoit Battistelli said in an interview. “We want to bring down the cost of access to that information.”

The nearest current alternative to an EU-wide patent is for companies to apply for a so-called European patent with the EPO, which isn’t part of the EU. The patent then breaks up into a bundle of national patents which companies must defend nationally. Once granted, companies need to pay for patents’ translation in each new language.

The current patent system in Europe imposes costs 10 times greater than those of the U.S., EU internal-market commissioner Michel Barnier said in a ministerial meeting on Nov. 25.

EU nations today share 23 official languages and numerous proposals and compromises for a region-wide patent have failed to satisfy political demands or risked increasing translation costs for companies. Some EU governments last week said they may favor a new patent system that would cover only member nations which approve, rather than all 27 states.

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Sohu, Tudou Spar Over Television Program Broadcast. Inc., the Beijing-based operator of an Internet portal, asked a Chinese court for an award of 100,000 yuan ($15,000) in a copyright-infringement case filed against Tudou Holdings Ltd.’s unit, the website reported.

The suit stems from what claims was Tudou’s broadcast of “A Story of Lala’s Promotion” over the Internet without authorization, according to ShanghaiDaily.

At a Nov. 29 hearing at the Pudong New Area People’s Court, Tudou denied infringing the copyright, saying it had an oral agreement with Sohu permitting the broadcast, ShanghaiDaily reported.

Tudou told the court its agreement with Sohu was an exchange, and that for the right to show “A Story of Lala’s Promotion, it gave Sohu the right to broadcast “The Myth,” the news website reported.

Righthaven Sues Firm for Posting ‘Vdara Death Ray’ Graphic

Righthaven LLC, the organization that enforces copyrights for Stephens Inc.’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, sued a Florida plaintiffs firm for copyright infringement.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 24 in federal court in Las Vegas, is one of more than 175 infringement suits filed in 2010 against alleged infringers of the newspaper’s content. In this complaint, Las Vegas-based Righthaven objected to Leighton Law PA’s unauthorized reproduction of one of the newspaper’s graphics on its website.

The graphic illustrated a Review-Journal story about a “death ray” generated when the sun is reflected from the curved surface of the Vdara Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. According to the story, the MGM Resorts International hotel’s surface acts like a parabolic mirror solar collector, and when the ray falls on people at the hotel pool, it has singed their hair, melted their cocktail containers and given them sizzling sunburns.

When accessed yesterday, the Miami-based firm’s website no longer contained the graphic. John Elliott Leighton, the managing partner of the Leighton firm and a co-defendant in the infringement case, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Righthaven claims it has been harmed by the Leighton firm’s actions and asked the court for an order barring further use of the graphic. It also seeks to be transferred control of the domain name for the website on which the image was allegedly posted, together with money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

On Nov. 15, U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan told Righthaven in a separate copyright-infringement case that it had until Dec. 16 to persuade him not to dismiss that case. The judge, who also will hear the case against the law firm, said copyright law’s “fair use” provision may negate the infringement allegations.

Righthaven is represented by in-house counsel John Charles Coons and Joseph C. Chu, and Shawn A. Mangano of Shawn A. Mangano Ltd. of Las Vegas.

The case against the law firm is Righthaven LLC v. Leighton, 2:10-cv-02067-JCM-RJJ, U.S. District Court,. District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

China to Combat Government Use of Pirate Software, Xinhua Says

Chinese copyright inspectors will inspect local and national government computers for infringing software during the next year, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The aim is the development of “a long term mechanism” to ensure the use of genuine software by the government, Yan Xiaohong, vice-director of the National Copyright Administration, told Xinhua.

In 2009, more than 98 percent of the computers sold in China had pre-installed operating systems, reducing piracy, according to Xinhua.

Phone Trafficker Convicted of Criminal Copyright Infringement

A native of Lebanon was convicted in federal court in Philadelphia of criminal copyright infringement for trafficking in prepaid wireless telephones, according to a statement by law firm Carlton Fields.

Mohamad Majed, who has been held in custody for the past year as a potential flight risk, pleaded guilty Nov. 29 to violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing technology aimed at protecting copyrighted software in TracFone prepaid wireless devices, Carlton Fields said. Majed was arrested in November 2009.

Majed shipped several thousand prepaid wireless phones to co-conspirators in Michigan and Hong Kong, according to the statement. He is the first mobile-phone trafficker to be convicted of violating the DMCA, Carlton Fields said.

Fake Copyright Enforcers Plaguing Kenyan Homes and Businesses

Kenyans are being hit by faux copyright enforcers who raid homes and businesses saying they are part of an anti-piracy task force, Kenya’s Standard newspaper reported.

The fraudulent enforcers, who pretend they are from the Kenya Copyright Board or the Music Copyright Society of Kenya, produce fake documents that persuade local police to accompany them on raids, according to the Standard.

They seize computers they claim contain infringing materials, and demand a bond of as much as 50,000 Kenyan shillings ($619), the Standard reported.

Police officials have acknowledged that they were conned by the alleged enforcers into assisting them on their rounds, according to the Standard.

Canadian Musicians Seek Private Copying Levy on MP3 Players

More than 350 Canadian musicians, including Marie Denise Pelletier, Divine Brown, Amy Sky, Jason McCoy, Farber Drive, and Carole Pope, are asking their government to place a levy on MP3 players.

Their efforts, led by the Toronto-based Canadian Private Copying Collective, seeks to extend the private copying levy presently on blank CDs to music players such as Apple Inc.’s iPod. Canadians pay a levy of 21 cents for each blank CD, with the revenue going to four collectives which claim royalties for their members and distribute the funds to rights holders.

The CPCC claims that 1.3 billion songs are copied onto MP3 players in Canada each year. Canadian artists receive “nothing for the vast majority of copies made of their music,” according to the organization’s website.

More than 700 of 1,000 Canadians surveyed in January supported a levy as high as C$25 ($24) on MP3 players, CPCC said on its website.

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New Hampshire Lawmaker Seeks Block to Trademark Registration

A member of the New Hampshire legislature will ask the state’s lawmakers to approve a resolution opposing a hotel-management company’s attempt to register “Mt. Washington” as a trademark, the Conway Daily Sun reported.

CNL Financial Group, which owns the Mt. Washington Hotel, is seeking to register the mark, the newspaper reported.

Representative Gene Chandler told the Daily Sun the resolution would “show the intent of the New Hampshire people” to keep the name in the public domain.

Steve Rice, Orlando, Florida-based CNL’s managing director, said that while his company appreciates the concerns of the state’s residents, the hotel needs to protect its brand, according to the Daily Sun.

For more trademark news, click here.

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