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Sony, Martha Stewart, Hilton: Intellectual Property

Sony Corp., the world’s third-largest television maker, and Taiwan’s Chimei Innolux Corp. settled their legal dispute over patents on liquid-crystal display TVs and monitors, U.S. court records show.

“All pending patent litigations between the parties” have been settled, the companies said in a Dec. 16 notice to the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Sony had targeted LCD monitors produced by Chimei for computer makers including Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. Chimei, Taiwan’s largest flat-panel screen maker, sued to halt the sale of Sony products including Bravia televisions. Each accused the other of infringing patents on LCD technology, with cases pending at the ITC; in U.S. courts in Arkansas, California and Delaware; and in Beijing’s Intermediate People’s Court.

The dispute involved patents held by Tokyo-based Sony for onscreen menu displays and patents owned by Miaoli, Taiwan-based Chimei related to ways for eliminating bright spots, aligning liquid crystals for better picture quality and improving performance with a cache memory system.

The Chimei ITC case against Sony is In the Matter of Certain Liquid Crystal Display Devices and Products Interoperable with the Same, 337-737, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington.) The civil cases are Chimei Innolux Corp. v. Sony Corp., 10cv5122, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas (Fayetteville), and Chimei Innolux Corp. v. Sony Corp., 10cv706, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

The Sony ITC case against Chimei is In the Matter of Certain Display Devices, 337-713, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington). Sony’s civil case is Sony Corp. v. ViewSonic Corp., 09cv7698, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Martha Stewart Anti-Bedbug Patent Infringement Case Dismissed

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. reached a settlement over claims that its anti-bedbug mattress covers infringed a patent, according to court filings.

The media and merchandise group associated with Martha Stewart was sued Sept. 9 by an Illinois company that claimed it infringing a patent for “Protect-A-Bed” mattress covers designed to keep bedbugs from biting sleepers.

JAB Distributors LLC had claims the Martha Stewart Collection Allergy Wise Mattress Protector is using its invention without permission. Closely held JAB was seeking a court order to prevent further use, plus unspecified cash compensation, according court papers.

Bedbugs, mostly eliminated in the U.S. 60 years ago with the now-banned pesticide DDT, are making a comeback, with companies including Time Warner Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. reporting sightings of the insects at some offices or stores. Exterminators have logged “a dramatic increase in bedbug calls in recent years” and the U.S. is on the threshold of a pandemic, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky.

JAB’s patent 7,552,389, issued in June 2009, covered a “bug-impervious fabric” with a zipper opening for removal of the mattress and a foam pad at the end of the zipper so the bedbugs can’t escape from that opening. JAB calls its invention the “BugLock.”

The case was dismissed Dec. 21 by a federal judge in Chicago, according to a court filing. No terms of the settlement were disclosed. Each side is paying its own litigation costs and attorney fees, according to court papers.

The case is JAB Distributors LLC v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., 1:10-cv-05716, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

For more patent news, click here.


Gibson Gets Court Order Barring Sale of Paper Jamz Toy Guitars

Gibson Guitar Corp. persuaded a federal court in Los Angeles to bar the sale of Paper Jamz paper guitars on the grounds they were infringing the guitar-maker’s trademarks.

In an order entered into the court record Dec. 21, U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner told Inc., Target Corp., Walgreen Co., Ebay Inc. and other retailers they couldn’t sell the toy guitars. Paper Jamz’s guitars, which are life-sized and come with three prerecorded songs, copy the designs of some distinctive Gibson guitars, including several designs favored by the late Les Paul, according to court papers. They sell in the $25 range and were among the “hot 20” toys for 2010, according to the website. They are made by a unit of Canada’s WowWee Group.

Gibson had claimed the public is likely to think these toys -- which are made of cardboard and paper -- are authorized or sponsored by the Nashville, Tennessee-based guitar maker.

In his order Klausner said the retailers also couldn’t request that search engines link to their sites when users searched for the Gibson trademarks.

The case was then dismissed Dec. 27, according to court records.

Gibson was represented in both cases by Andrea E. Bates and Michael Allen Boswell of Atlanta’s Bates & Bates LLC.

The case is Gibson Guitar Corp. v. WowWee USA Inc., 2:10-cv-08884-RGK-RZ, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Jimmy Choo Tops U.K. Industrial Design Registry, OHIM Says

J. Choo Ltd., the high-end women’s accessory company that does business as Jimmy Choo, is the top U.K. filer of applications for what are known as registered community designs, according to the European Union’s trademark registry.

Registered community designs are designs of industrial products. They are registered with the Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market, which is the European Union’s registry for industrial design and trademarks.

Other leading filers are Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, a maker of household products; Willis Gambier Ltd., a furniture designer, importer and distributor; Robert Welch Designs Ltd., which manufactures china, cutlery and glassware; and the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline plc.

For more trademark news, click here.


Music Group’s Demand for Payment from Kindergartens Draws Ire

The German organization representing musicians is facing criticism after it sent 36,000 kindergartens a letter telling them they have to keep records of which songs they sing and which song texts they photocopy and pay royalties, Agence France Presse reported.

An association representing kindergarten groups said the demand was “petty, over the top, and utterly inappropriate,” according to AFP.

Betting Mueller, a spokesperson for the German music group GEMA that is making the demands, told AFP the amount requested is modest, about 56 Euros ($74) for state-run kindergartens and 46 Euros for those operated by churches.

GEMA is seeking contracts with kindergarten operators similar to those it has with schools that give annual payments to rights holders, according to AFP.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Starwood, Hilton Settle Trade Secret Case Over Denizen Hotels

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., the third-largest U.S. lodging company, said in a statement its trade secrets case against Hilton Hotels Corp. is settled.

The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan in April 2009, related to Hilton’s attempt to develop its Denizen line of properties.

Starwood had claimed two former Starwood executives hired by Hilton stole information about Starwood’s W hotel brand to develop the Denizen line.

Hilton recruited the employees, Ross Klein and Amar Lalvani, after it was acquired by Blackstone Group LP in 2007, according to the suit. Both men were involved in developing White Plains, New York-based Starwood’s “lifestyle and luxury” hotels, including the St. Regis, W and Luxury Collection brands, and downloaded confidential Starwood information to use later at Hilton, according to the complaint.

The stolen materials allegedly included strategic development plans, negotiation tactics, explanations of how to convert hotels into luxury brands, and marketing and demographic studies.

According to the Starwood statement, most of the details of the settlement are confidential. The company did say that Hilton was ordered under court supervision to make sure “the conduct that occurred does not occur again.”

Hilton also issued a statement about the settlement. Christopher J. Nassetta, Hilton’s chief executive officer, said in the statement that his company “regrets the circumstances surrounding the dispute.” The Hilton statement acknowledged that “Hilton consents to an injunction that included certain business restrictions for a period of two years.”

The case is Starwood v. Hilton, No. 09-3862, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (White Plains).

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