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Hillenbrand, Acco, Stryker: Intellectual Property

Hillenbrand Inc., the largest U.S. maker of coffins, won an order to ban imports of knockoff caskets from Mexico.

The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington said Dec. 13 that Ataudes Aguilares will be barred from bringing in caskets with attached memorabilia compartments and mechanisms for letting funeral-home directors swap out ornamental corner pieces. The Guadalajara, Mexico-based company failed to respond to patent-infringement claims from Hillenbrand’s Batesville unit, the ITC said in a notice on its website.

Batesville filed the complaint in June, seeking to protect sales of its coffins with memorabilia compartments that it expected to exceed $130 million this year. The company said it builds the caskets at four plants in Panola, Mississippi; Manchester, Tennessee; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and its hometown of Batesville, Indiana.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Caskets, 337-725, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Acco Denies Infringing Fellowes Paper-Shredder Patents

Acco Brands Corp., of Lincolnshire, Illinois, denied all allegations of patent infringement made in a lawsuit brought by a competing seller of office products, Fellowes Inc. of Itasca, Illinois.

Acco will “vigorously defend” against the infringement claims, according to a company statement. Fellowes accused Acco of importing paper shredders that infringe four patents. In dispute are patents 7,631,823, 6,978,954, 7,226,009 and 7,025,293, all issued between December 2005 and December 2009.

Fellowes asked the court to bar the importation, manufacture, use and sale of Acco’s allegedly infringing products, and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Alleging the infringing is deliberate, Fellowes asked that damages be tripled to punish Acco.

Fellowes is represented by Peter John Shakula II of Wood Phillips of Chicago.

The case is Fellowes Inc., v. Acco Brands Corp., 1:10-cv-07587, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Stryker Sues Zimmer Over U.S. Joint-Surgery Device

Stryker Corp., a maker of artificial knees and hips, filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Zimmer Holdings Inc. to block sales of a device that removes damaged tissue and cleans bones during joint surgery.

Stryker claims Zimmer’s Pulsavac Plus system infringes three U.S. patents and is seeking cash compensation and an order to prevent further use of the inventions, according to a complaint filed Dec. 10 in federal court in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The patents cover devices that use pulsing liquid, such as water or saline solution, to loosen debris from a surgical site and remove it by suction. The process clears the area for the doctors to see better during orthopedic surgery.

The Pulsavac Plus wound debridement system is part of Zimmer’s Orthopaedic Surgical Products unit, which reported $277.6 million in sales last year, or 6.8 percent of the Warsaw, Indiana-based company’s revenue, according to Bloomberg data.

Stryker sells the InterPulse and SurgiLav systems. The MedSurg Equipment unit, which includes sales of surgical supplies, accounted for $2.6 billion, or 39 percent of Kalamazoo-based Stryker’s revenue last year.

Garry Clark, a spokesman for Zimmer, said the company has a policy to not comment on legal matters.

The case is Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer Inc., 10cv1223, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (Kalamazoo).

12 European Nations Considering Joint Patent-System Approach

France, Germany and 10 other nations in favor of stalled plans for a European Union-wide patent system may be allowed to set up a system among themselves to cut administrative and translation costs for inventors.

The European Commission formally proposed measures allowing the 12 EU nations to continue with a patent plan, the regulator said yesterday. The new plans still need the approval of EU nations and lawmakers.

“The unacceptable reality is that on average innovators validate and protect their patents in only five of the EU’s 27 member states because of the high costs,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal-market commissioner, said in a statement. “This is why the commission proposes that some member states should be able to move ahead for a unitary patent protection.”

EU nations last month failed to break a deadlock on creating a patent system covering the entire region over disagreements on what languages should be legally binding. Under the current system, companies can end up paying 18,000 euros ($24,100), including 10,000 euros for translating a patent valid in only 13 countries, the commission said.

Attempts to reach an agreement since 2000 have faltered over the language issues. The EU has 23 official languages and numerous compromise proposals have failed to satisfy political demands or risked increasing translation costs for companies.

Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, sought agreement on a compromise proposal which was rejected by a handful of nations, including Spain.

The closest thing to an EU-wide patent is a patent acquired through the European Patent Office, which isn’t part of the EU and has 38 member countries. The patent then breaks up into a bundle of patents which companies must defend in each individual country.

For more patent news, click here.


Japan Publishers Say Apple Is Offering Pirated E-Books, Comics

Apple Inc. is infringing on copyrights by offering illegally scanned books and comics on its App Store, four Japanese publishing groups said.

While Apple deleted some pirated titles, it continues to offer unauthorized books such as Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84,” Japan Book Publishers Association, Japan Magazine Association, the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan and Digital Comic Association said in a joint statement.

Apple should disclose data about pirated publications on its store and take preventive measures, according to the statement.

A spokesman at Apple’s Tokyo office who refused to be identified said the company respects intellectual-property rights and that it will respond to complaints promptly and appropriately. Jill Tan, an Apple spokeswoman in Hong Kong, said she needed to investigate the matter further before making any comment.

The App Store, which sells applications for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, has more than 300,000 apps available for download, Cupertino, California-based Apple said last month.

For more copyright news, click here.


Ubisoft Sued over Slogan on ‘Fighters Uncaged’ Game Packaging

Ubisoft Entertainment SA’s Ubisoft Inc. unit was sued for trademark infringement by Zuffa LLC of Las Vegas, the company that does business as the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, alleged that the packaging for Ubisoft’s “Fighters Uncaged” martial arts video game makes unauthorized use of the “ultimate fighting” trademark.

Closely held Zuffa claims the game is targeted to the same “16-to-35-year-old thrill-seeking men” that are the target audience for UFC matches.

One reason Zuffa says it finds the game’s marketing materials objectionable is that Ubisoft “is attempting to draw a connection between its video fame of illegal street fighting” and the “Ultimate Fighting” marks.

The kind of mixed martial arts featured in Zuffa’s UFC matches was once in such disrepute that it was “banned in most states” and was once characterized by U.S. Senator John McCain as “human cockfighting,” according to court papers.

After Zuffa took over the brand in 2001, the company “worked diligently and tirelessly” to clean up the image and improve fighter safety, it said in its pleadings. Zuffa said its sanctioned fights feature “legitimate world-class athletes, not barroom brawlers and street fighters,” and that it is tarnished by any association with a video game featuring illegal street fighting.

Zuffa asked the court to bar Ubisoft’s use of “Ultimate Fighting,” and from distributing any copies of “Fighters Uncaged” until all references to “Ultimate Fighting” are removed.

It also seeks awards of profits Ubisoft derived from its alleged infringement, and for money damages, including extra damages to punish Ubisoft for its actions. It also requested destruction of all infringing materials, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

Ubisoft declined to comment on the lawsuit in an e-mail.

Zuffa is represented by Michael N. Feder, Franchesca V. Van Buren and John L. Krieger of Phoenix-based Lewis & Roca LLP.

The case is Zuffa LLC v. Ubisoft Inc., 2:10-cv-02144-KJD-PAL, U.S. District court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

McDonald’s Loses Sri Lanka Trademark Challenge

McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, lost a trademark challenge it filed in Sri Lanka against a local spice company, Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times reported.

Lanka Spice Ltd., of Makumbura Kottawa, Sri Lanka, sought to register “McCurry” with that country’s intellectual property office and was opposed by the hamburger chain, according to the Times.

The Intellectual Property Office said the two businesses were sufficiently different enough from each other that McDonald’s wouldn’t lose any sales to the spice company, the newspaper reported.

Nalin Pathikirikorale, chairman of Lanka Spice, said after his company’s victory that a new line of curry bases developed by the Singapore Institute of Scientific Research would be offered under the McCurry brand, according to the newspaper.

Shearson Name to Rise Again for Florida Investment Firm

Shearson, a name associated with the financial industry since 1902, was acquired at auction by a Florida-based investment firm.

The name was sold Dec. 8 at an auction of defunct trademarks organized by New York-based Racebook Capital Advisors LLC.

The acquiring company, LF-Financial LLC of Boca Raton, Florida, will eventually incorporate the Shearson name and logo into its corporate identity, according to an e-mailed company statement.

Jed Kaplan, chief executive officer and founder of LF-Financial, said in the statement the name was attractive because investors “can use a reminder of the people and great firms that built American long before the headlines of scandal and bankruptcies.”

The Shearson name “does not deserve to die,” Kaplan said. Those who worked for companies that once had the Shearson name “deserve more than a name that is just a sad footnote to the financial meltdowns of the last decade,” he said.

The Shearson name was dropped by Smith Barney Shearson in 1993, according to the New York Times.

Although financial terms weren’t disclosed by LF-Financial, Advertising Age reported that the auction price was $45,000.

‘Who Dat,’ Fleur-de-Lis on T-Shirt Draws NFL’s Ire

The operator of a boutique in Pineville, Louisiana, received a cease-and-desist letter from the National Football League accusing her of infringing trademarks associated with the New Orleans Saints football team, the Alexandria, Louisiana, Town Talk reported.

The league objected to her use of a fleur-de-lis symbol on the image of a flying pig, together with the Feb. 7, 2010, date and the phrase “Believe Dat,” according to Town Talk. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl championship on that date, and the fleur-de-lis emblem is used on the team’s football helmets.

Lydia Hudson, who owns the Fleur De Lis Boutique in Pineville, told Town Talk that “who dat” and “believe dat” are everyday phrases used by people in Louisiana and the fleur-de-lis is a state symbol.

A spokesman for the league said that the shirt could be linked to the Super Bowl, according to Town Talk.

For more trademark news, click here.

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