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Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, Twitter: Intellectual Property

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Rolls-Royce Group Plc, the world’s second-largest maker of jet engines, lost the patent-infringement case it brought against United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney over fan technology.

Pratt’s GP7200 Fan Stage doesn’t violate a patent issued in 2000 for a Rolls-Royce Trent engine used on the Airbus SAS A380 airplane, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, said in a decision issued May 20.

Rolls-Royce had been seeking as much as $3.7 billion in damages before Brinkema on May 4 told the London-based company it was likely overstating the effect of competition on sales. Brinkema rejected the infringement claims last week after determining the two competing technologies weren’t the same because the Rolls-Royce patent covers a fan stage with three sweep regions, while Pratt fans have four, according to the opinion.

“Rolls-Royce takes protection of its technology and intellectual property very seriously,” the company said in a statement, adding that the company “will carefully consider our options.”

Rolls-Royce competes against a venture of East Hartford, Connecticut-based Pratt and General Electric Co. to provide engines for the A380. GE is the largest maker of jet engines.

“The court’s ruling confirms what we have always maintained, that our products do not infringe the Rolls patent,” Pratt said in an e-mailed statement. Pratt in November filed its own patent-infringement case against Rolls-Royce with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington. A trial is scheduled for October before the agency, which has the power to block imports of products found to violate U.S. patents.

The case is Rolls-Royce Plc v. United Technologies Corp., 10cv457, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

Ethical Coffee Swiss Sales to Begin This Autumn, L’Agefi Says

Ethical Coffee Co. will begin selling its coffee capsules, designed to work in Nespresso machines, in Switzerland this fall, L’Agefi reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Jean-Paul Gaillard.

The company expects to sell about 500 million coffee capsules a year in Switzerland, home of Nespresso’s parent Nestle SA, according to the report. Overall, Ethical Coffee aims for sales of 750 million capsules this year, including 400 million in France, Gaillard said in an interview in May 20’s newspaper. He declined to comment on whether the product would be sold by supermarket chain Coop in Switzerland.

Nestle’s Nespresso unit has sued rivals including Ethical Coffee that sell pre-filled capsules compatible with its machines last year. Ethical Coffee on May 19 said it asked France’s competition authority to look into its claims Nestle and Nespresso put up barriers to competition, according to a separate report in L’Agefi.

Intellectual Ventures Amasses Storehouse of Patents

Intellectual Ventures LLC, the Bellevue, Washington-based company founded by former Microsoft Corp. Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold in 2000, has amassed a storehouse of thousands of patents. While IV has, according to its website, more than $5 billion in funds under its management, the company has not disclosed the names of its investors.

But last week, following a ruling in a patent suit brought by programmable chipmaker Xilinx Inc. IV has filed a list of investors. As earlier reported by the blog, IV counts among its investors Adobe Systems Inc., NV Investment Holdings Inc., Apple Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., EBay Inc. and Google Inc. as well as universities such as Stanford University, the University of Texas, northwestern University and Brown University. The May 16 filing came in response to a May 11 ruling by the presiding judge, Susan Illston, that the list of investors couldn’t be filed under seal.

Xilinx’s lawyer, Behrooz Shariati of the Palo Alto office of Jones Day, couldn’t be reached for comment. Neither Brad Black of San Francisco’s Black & Washko nor Ameet Modi of New York’s Desmarais LLP, two of the lawyers representing IV, responded to requests for comment.

The case is Xilinx Inc. v. Invention Investment Fund I LP, 11-cv-0671, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more patent news, click here.


Indianapolis Law Firm Gets Trademark for ‘Women’s Forum’

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued trademark No. 3959201 to the Indianapolis firm Baker & Daniels for their “Women’s Forum.” The firm filed for the trademark in February 2010 and it was registered May 10.

The Women’s Forum was created two years ago to help retain the firm’s female lawyers as well as to assist them with business development, said Brita Horvath, the diversity and pro bono manager at the firm. Their client services department created a logo and partner Amie Peele Carter, a trademark lawyer at the firm, suggested registering the mark. It’s not the firm’s first: according to Carter, Baker & Daniels now has 18 trademark registrations in its portfolio.

Low-Income Law Center Sues Religious Group Over Trademark

The Western Center on Law & Poverty, a Los Angeles-based group that provides legal representation to low-income California residents, has filed a trademark suit against the Western Center for Law & Policy, a non-profit organization based in Escondido, California, that, among other issues, was vocal in its opposition to the legalization of gay marriage in California.

According to a statement by the Los Angeles group’s spokesperson, “the other organization engages in advocacy and takes positions that are very different from those of Western Center on Law & Poverty. The similarity in names has already resulted in actual confusion among attorneys and others in the state.” According to the statement, the “Western Center on Law & Poverty would prefer to resolve this matter amicably.”

Dean Broyles, the president of the Western Center for Law & Policy, said he hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit and so couldn’t comment on its allegations. He did say, however, that his organization, which he described as “pro-family, pro-religious liberty and pro-life,” is “are a very different type of organization from the Western Center on Law and Poverty.”

The case is Western Center on Law & Poverty, Inc. v. Western Center for Law & Policy, 11-04335, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more trademark news, click here.


Universal Music Group Sued a Second Time Over Royalties

Rob Zombie, who founded the heavy metal band White Zombie, sued Vivendi’s Universal Music Group last week over royalties for digital downloads and ringtones.

His suit follows one in April filed by the estate of the musician Rick James, known for his hit “Super Freak.” Both cases seek class-action status. Zombie, whose real name is Robert Cummings, is represented by San Francisco firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein as well as Phillips, Erlewine & Given. Phillips Erlewine represents James’s estate as well.

Both suits stem from the U.S. Supreme court’s decision not to review a lower court ruling involving Eminem’s production company. That decision -- from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, found that downloads and ringtones should be considered licensed music rather than records sold, entitling musicians to greater compensation.

A statement from UMG claimed that the suits suffer from “flaws” and “infirmities” and that neither suit is “appropriate for class treatment.” The statement says the company plans to “vigorously defend” against both.

Rob Zombie’s case is Zombie v. UMG Recordings Inc., 11-cv-02431 U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

The estate of Rick James case is James v. UMG Recordings, Inc., 11-cv-1613, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more copyright news, click here.


Twitter Inc., Unknown Posters, Sued by ‘CTB’ at U.K. Court

Twitter Inc. and some of its users were sued by an entity known as “CTB” in London, according to a court filing.

While the document gave no details, CTB are the initials used by the court in a separate lawsuit to refer to an athlete who won an anonymity order banning the media from publishing stories about his alleged affair with a reality-television star.

The Twitter suit was filed May 18 at the High Court in London according to court records, and named as defendants the San Francisco-based company and “persons unknown responsible for the publication of information on the Twitter accounts” listed in confidential court documents.

A Twitter user on May 8 posted a series of messages claiming a number of U.K. celebrities had received so-called super-injunctions and made claims detailing the activities that the people had sought to keep out of the public eye.

“We are unable to comment,” Matt Graves, a Twitter spokesman, said May 20 in an e-mail.

Daniel Ingram-Fletcher, a spokesman for the law firm representing CTB, didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

The case is CTB v. Twitter Inc., Persons Unknown, High Court of Justice (Queens Bench Division), HQ11X01814.

Jude Law Chosen to Bring First News Corp. Phone-Hacking Case

Actor Jude Law’s case was chosen to be one of the first heard over phone-hacking at a News Corp. U.K. newspaper after his lawyers claimed that a “senior” News of the World executive might be involved in the practice.

Law’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said at a hearing on May 20 that disclosures in the case indicated the involvement of the executive, which he didn’t identify. Sienna Miller, Law’s former girlfriend, last week reached a tentative agreement to settle her lawsuit for 100,000 pounds ($162,000).

At least two dozen celebrities and politicians have sued Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. over allegations that the newspaper illegally accessed mobile-phone messages for stories. The New York-based company last month apologized and offered to settle some of the cases after journalists linked to the paper were arrested.

Law joins designer Kelly Hoppen, sports agent Sky Andrew, soccer commentator Andy Gray and lawmaker Chris Bryant who were also chosen to bring so-called test cases by Judge Geoffrey Vos at a hearing on May 20.

“Now that we have seen the disclosure we believe it is entirely false that the named executive is implicated in the alleged voice mail interception of Jude Law,” News Corp.’s U.K. unit said in an e-mailed statement.

The scandal started when a former News of the World editor and a private investigator were sent to jail in 2007 for hacking into members of the royal household’s mobile phones. Former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s head of communications in January over claims the practice took place while he was at the paper.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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