Garmin, Where, BAT, Motorola: Intellectual Property

Garmin Ltd., a maker of mobile mapping and satellite-guided navigation systems, said in a statement that a German court found it infringed two patents owned by Japan’s Pioneer Corp.

The Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based company said it has revised its software to step around the infringement issue and expects to be able to continue selling its products.

Garmin also said it filed a case in German patent court in Munich seeking to invalidate the Pioneer patents.

“The ruling by the District Court of Düsseldorf regarding the narrow functionality at issue does not change Garmin’s view that that Pioneer’s patents do not cover any important features found in Garmin’s modern navigation products,” Andrew Etkind, Garmin’s vice president and general counsel, said in the statement.

The company said this month that the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Garmin’s products didn’t infringe any of three U.S. patents Pioneer was attempting to assert. The ITC can issue orders barring importation of products that infringe others’ patents.

SynQor Wins $95 Million Patent-Infringement Verdict

SynQor Inc., a maker of power-conversion products, said it was awarded total damages of $95 million against 11 defendants in a patent case tried in federal court in Texas.

The Boxborough, Massachusetts-based company filed the suit in November 2007. The jury unanimously found that each defendant infringed one or more of the patents in the case and upheld the validity of all them, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

In dispute were patents 7,072,190, 7,272,021, 7,558,083, 7,564,702 and 7,269,034. A hearing on SynQor’s request for a court order halting sales of infringing products is set for Jan. 19 in federal court in Marshall, Texas.

The verdict shows that “the patent system was designed to reward innovation and to provide incentives for companies like SynQor to continue to innovate,” Thomas D. Rein of Chicago’s Sidley & Austin, who was SynQor’s lead counsel, said in an e-mailed statement.

Defendants were Artesyn Technologies Inc., Astec America Inc., Bel Fuse Inc., Cherokee International Corp., Delta Electronics Inc., Delta Products Corp., Lineage Power Corp., Murata Electronics North America Inc., Murata Manufacturing Co., Murata Power Solutions Inc. and Power-One Inc.

Some of them filed a motion for a new trial on Dec. 20, according to Bloomberg data. Power-One said in a statement Dec 22 that it had “strong grounds” for an appeal.

The case is SynQor Inc. v. Artesyn Technologies Inc., 2:07-cv-00497-TJW-CE, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

Where Inc. Gets U.S. Patent for Location-Based Services

Where Inc., a closely held Boston-based company, received a patent for location-targeted coupons.

Patent 7,848,795, issued Dec. 7, covers a variety of location-based services, including “social networking, providing demographic information, tracking mobile devices, providing business information” and “providing an adaptable user interface.”

The patent also says it covers the provision of a “geofence,” which is a virtual perimeter for a real-world location.

Where said in a Dec. 3 statement that the company’s local discovery service, now available on Apple Inc.’s iPhone and mobile devices using Google Inc.’s Android technology, operates with a “Recommendation Engine” that can “infer user intent and deliver personalized recommendations to match a user’s preferences.”

Where applied for the patent in May 2005 with assistance from Boston’s Cesari & McKenna LLP.

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BAT Wins Australia Approval to Pursue Infringement Claim

British American Tobacco Plc, Europe’s biggest cigarette maker, won an Australian judge’s approval to pursue a claim that its trademark was infringed by a distributor who covered a label with a health warning.

Supreme Court of Victoria Judge Elizabeth Hollingworth last week dismissed a request from Trojan Trading Co. to throw the case out.

“Trojan makes some very valid criticisms of BAT’s proposed cause of action,” Hollingworth wrote in the 19-page ruling posted on the court’s website. “I am not persuaded that BAT’s claim ought to be summarily disposed of.”

British American Tobacco, based in London, is seeking injunctions prohibiting Trojan from covering up labels on packets of Captain Black cigars and the return of profits the distributor earned from the sale of the cigars, or other monetary damages, according to the ruling.

Trojan, a closely held Sydney-based company, distributes cartons and packets of Captain Black cigars. Since at least 2007, Trojan has partly covered or erased the Captain Black label with health stickers, BAT said, according to the judge’s ruling. As a result, BAT’s trademarks have been infringed, the company said.

Trojan is legally obligated to place graphic warning messages on tobacco products before they can be sold in Australia and may have erased or covered the label, the company said. The company is following the law and BAT’s claim is unsustainable, Trojan said.

“This is a further demonstration that we will take all necessary steps to protect our valuable intellectual property,” BAT said in an e-mailed statement. It declined to comment further because the matter is before the court.

Trojan’s legal adviser Peter Zada of Navado said he had been instructed not to comment.

The Australian government has said it will require tobacco products to be sold in plain packs beginning in 2012. BAT has said it will wait to review the law, which it expects the government to put forward early next year, before deciding whether to challenge it in court.

TwitterMoms Change Name to SocialMoms After Twitter’s Demand

Twitter Inc., the San Francisco-based short-messaging service, demanded that the social-media community change its name, Advertising Age reported.

Matt Cohler, a Twitter spokesman, told Advertising Age that misconceptions could arise about the group’s affiliation with Twitter.

The community of 30,000 mothers who used Twitter services to connect with each other will change its name to Social Moms, according to Advertising Age.

Megan Calhoun, who heads TwitterMoms, told Advertising Age the name change provided an opportunity to expand the group.

Motorola Seeking U.S. Trademark on ‘Xoom’ for Mobile Computers

Motorola Inc., maker of the Droid smartphone, applied to register “Xoom” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The mark would be used with mobile computers and related accessories, including docks, covers, sinks, batteries, headsets and speakers, according to the application.

Motorola applied for the mark in October. The Schaumburg, Illinois-based company plans to introduce a tablet device early next year to challenge Apple Inc.’s iPad, Co-Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Jha said in September.

Vincon’s Name Infringes Vincom’s, Vietnam Ministry Rules

Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology fined real estate developer Vincon Corp. 14 million Vietnamese dong ($718) for infringing the brand name of Vincom Joint-stock Co., a larger developer, Vietnam News reported.

Vincom established its brand in 2002, five years before Vincon, according to Vietnam News. The Vincon name was too similar to Vincom’s, the ministry ruled, saying that customers would be confused, Vietnam News reported.

In addition to the fine, Vincon was ordered to change the name and remove it from all promotional materials, legal transactions and company stationery, according to Vietnam News.

For more trademark news, click here.


Vivendi Unit Sued Over Use of Nature Photos in Textbook

Vivendi’s Houghton Mifflin Harcourt unit was sued for copyright infringement by a photographer.

Brandon Cole, of Spokane Valley, Washington, said the Boston-based textbook publisher published three of his nature photos in its textbooks without permission. According to the complaint filed Dec. 21 in federal court in Manhattan, the three photos were of dolphins, orcas and sea lions, and were used in “Harcourt California Science” and “California - Gateways Student Anthology LFL 4.”

Cole claimed that Houghton Mifflin approached him for a license to use the photos after they already had been published. Any license he gave to the publishers after the fact “did not grant any retroactive rights” to use his work, Cole said.

He accused Houghton Mifflin of attempting “ to ratify or conceal its unauthorized use” of his photos “by surreptitiously seeking to obtain retroactive rights.” He claims this is an act of infringement done “willfully, maliciously, and/or recklessly.”

Houghton Mifflin didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Cole asked the court for an order barring future infringement of his work, and seizure and destruction of all infringing materials, including digital files of his photos. He also asked for money damages, including profits attributable to the alleged infringement, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

He is represented by Danial A. Nelson and Kevin P. McCulloch of Nelson & McCulloch LLP of New York.

The case is Brandon Cole V. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 1:10-cv-09502-DLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

King & Spalding Hires Anti-Piracy Expert Ross W. Nadel

King & Spalding LLP hired Ross W. Nadel for its government-investigations practice, the Atlanta-based firm said in a statement.

Nadel, a former federal prosecutor, most recently served as senior legal counsel for worldwide anti-piracy at Adobe Systems Inc. of San Jose, California.

Before he joined Adobe, he headed the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Unit, the Economic Crimes Unit and the Criminal Division at the San Francisco U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Nadel has an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a law degree from Santa Clara University.

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