Google, Kraft, Nixon Peabody: Intellectual Property

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European Union antitrust regulators probing Google Inc.’s search rankings asked the company’s competitors and advertisers for their view of its conduct, said Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for the European Commission.

Google, the world’s largest search engine, is being investigated by the European Commission over claims it discriminated against competing services in search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads.

“We’re only investigating at the moment, we haven’t got any conclusions,” Torres told reporters yesterday. She didn’t identify the companies that regulators sought information from and said the aim was to “determine whether there’s been a breach of competition law or not.”

Regulators asked Google’s rivals and customers whether the company alters search results, Le Figaro reported Dec. 4. The EU agency asked whether Google signaled that increased advertising spending might improve a company’s search ranking and asked for any comment on increases in advertising rates over the last six years, the French newspaper said.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, said the company was “working with the commission to address any concerns” and had tried “to do the right thing by our users and our industry” by marking ads clearly and making it easy for users and advertisers to take data with them when they switch services.

Google rivals including Microsoft Corp.’s Ciao from Bing filed an antitrust complaint against Google last year. There has been separate criticism from French, German and U.K. data-protection regulators over Google’s Street View service that collects data on private homes.

Kraft Foods Sues Britannia over Oreo Cookie Look-a-Likes

Britannia Industries Ltd., a cookie baker based in Kolkata, was sued in that country for allegedly infringing the trademark and copyrights to Kraft Foods Inc.’s Oreo cookies, India’s Economic Times reported.

Kraft, based in Northfield, Illinois, claims Britannia copied specific design etchings from the Oreo cookies, including florets and inner rings, the newspaper reported.

Britannia’s Treat-O is the cookie accused of infringing, according to Economic Times, and Kraft has asked for a court order barring its manufacture, selling and promotion.

The Indian cookie company declined to comment, according to the newspaper.

Sellers of Fake MFG Accessories Accused of Infringement

A couple allegedly selling fake versions of handbags made by Paris-based Marithé François Girbaud has been charged with trademark infringement in Manila, the Philippines Inquirer newspaper reported.

The trademark owner’s sub-licensee, JVS Asia Inc., filed the complaint after a market researcher it hired posed as buyers in stalls and warehouses owned by the couple, according to the inquirer.

Court-ordered searched of the couple’s premises turned up more than 6,000 fakes, the newspaper reported.

The couple charged with infringement remains at large, according to the Inquirer.

For more trademark news, click here.


Franklin Says Infringement Allegations Don’t Name Products

Franklin Wireless Corp., a San Diego-based maker of high-speed wireless data products, responded to a patent-infringement suit from a competitor by saying in a statement that the court filing failed to identify any Franklin products that allegedly infringed.

Novatel Wireless Inc. sued Franklin Wireless and China’s ZTE Corp. for patent infringement in federal court in San Diego Dec. 9. Franklin, also based in San Diego, was accused of infringing four patents related to wireless communication, specifically “mobile intelligent hotspots,” according to a Novatel statement.

The complaint accused Franklin’s “products, including, but not limited to, mobile data hot sports and data modems” and “components” of infringing the patent.

Franklin said it “respects the intellectual property rights of others” and that it has hired Los Angeles-based Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP to respond to the allegations in the complaint.

In December, in a patent-infringement case brought by a company controlled by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, a federal judge in Seattle said that court filings hadn’t provided enough details about which products and services allegedly infringed the patents. Franklin, Novatel and ZTE aren’t parties to that suit.

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

By yesterday, Franklin hadn’t filed any court papers responding to Novatel’s allegations, according to Bloomberg data.

Franklin is accused of infringing patents 5,129,098, issued in 1992; 7,319,715 and 7,318,225, both issued in January 2008; and 7,574,737, issued in August 2009.

Novatel is represented by Michael J. Bettinger of Pittsburgh-based K&L Gates LLP.

The case is Novatel Wireless Inc. v. Franklin Wireless Corp., 3:10-cv-02530-LAB-JMA, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

For more patent news, click here.


Vivendi Unit Loses Infringement Case Appeal Involving Demo CDs

Vivendi SA’s UMG music label failed to persuade an appeals court that the selling of demo CDs distributed by the company is a form of copyright infringement.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Jan. 4 that no license agreement was created when the music label sent out its demo copies.

That method of distribution was the equivalent of a sale, and subsequent sale of the demo records was permissible under copyright law’s “first sale” provision, the court said.

UMG sued Troy Augusto in federal court in Los Angeles in May 2007 for copyright infringement after he began selling demo records on EBay Inc.’s Internet auction website. Augusto, who was doing business as Roast Beast Music Collectables, responded, saying his sale was permissible and asked the trial court dismiss the case.

UMG appealed that dismissal, arguing that the initial recipients of the CDs were only licensees and that neither they nor Augusto were entitled to sell the CDs.

UMG’s case was argued by Russell J. Frackman of Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP of Los Angeles. Augusto’s case was argued by Joseph C. Gratz of San Francisco’s Keker & Van Nest LLP.

The appeals court case is UMG Recordings v. Troy Augusto, 08-55998, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco).

The lower court case is UMG Recordings Inc. v. Troy Augusto, 2:07-cv-03106-SJO-AJW, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Chinese Court Jails 10 People for Dictionary Piracy, Xinhua Says

A court in northern China sentenced 10 people to as long as six years in prison for pirating dictionaries, Xinhua News Agency said, citing the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.

The unlicensed printing company in Handan in Hebei province had been printing unauthorized copies of dictionaries including Xinhua Dictionary, Modern Chinese Dictionary and the Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary “for years,” Xinhua reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

IP Moves

Nixon Peabody Loses IP Partners, Associates to LeClair Ryan

LeClair Ryan has hired 11 IP attorneys from New York’s Nixon Peabody LLP, the Richmond, Virginia-based firm said in a statement.

They are part of a group of 34 lawyers and other professionals joining LeClair Ryan from Nixon Peabody.

The new LeClair IP partners are Michael Goldman, Gunnar Leinberg, Ted Merkel, Andrew Zappia, Rick McGuirk, Wendell Harris, Tate Tischner, Shelley Jones, Jeff Townes, Suvashis Bhattacharya and Georgia Evans.

In mid-December Nixon Peabody named Andrew I. Glincher to serve as chief executive officer and managing partner to replace Richard F. Langan Jr.

In November the Above the Law website reported that a large group of Nixon Peabody partners was considering departing and they gave dissatisfaction with Langan’s leadership as the reason for their departure. The firm told Above the Law that it wouldn’t comment with reference to internal firm matters.

According to a statement e-mailed by Nixon Peabody yesterday, not all of the new IP partners at LeClair were partners when they left their old employer; some associates were elevated when they joined LeClair Ryan.

Nixon Peabody said in the statement that “the legal market remains fluid; we’ve seen lawyers come and go in the past; and we’re likely to continue to see movement in both directions. Our intellectual property department is nationally ranked and includes a robust life sciences practice.”

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