Bayer, Yamaha, NYSE, Harley-Davidson: Intellectual Property

Bayer AG’s Bayer CropScience unit enforced its European patent for imidacloprid against two chemical suppliers in Europe and a Chinese manufacturer of a generic version of the insecticide.

The U.K.’s Agropharm Ltd., Spain’s Roots Ingenieros and Eastsun Chemical Co. of Shanghai will pay cash compensation and Bayer’s legal fees tied to enforcing the patent, the company said in a statement.

The nicotine-based chemical has been suspected of playing a part in the decline in the number of honeybees. Italy suspended the use of imidacloprid in 2008. This month, Canadian agricultural officials approved the use of a Bayer CropScience insecticide containing imidacloprid for soybean, potato, tomato and cabbage growers, according to GrainNews, a Canadian agricultural publication.

Imidacloprid is used by more than 100 companies to protect 140 different crops, Bayer said.

South Africa Creates IP Office to Help Dispel Patenting Lag

Only 91 patents were issued in South Africa in 2010 in contrast to the U.S., where 220,000 were issued, according to that country’s BusinessDay publication.

South African companies “lack intellectual property awareness or they can’t afford the minimum cost” of 35,000 rand ($5,057) to obtain a patent in that country, according to BusinessDay.

South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology has created a National Intellectual Property Management Office in efforts to advance IP protections, the newspaper reported.

The office will provide subsidies to help applicants cover the cost of patenting, according to BusinessDay.

Yamaha’s U.S. Patent Applications Point to 4-Wheel Motorcycle

Yamaha Motor Corp., which said May 18 it would expand U.S. production of its all-terrain vehicles, may have plans to introduce a four-wheel motorcycle in this country.

Two automotive news websites -- and -- report that recent Yamaha applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicate the Japanese company is seeking to protect a vehicle with parallel twin engines.

According to the patent office database, Shizuoka, Japan-based Yamaha has 3,161 published and pending applications for U.S. patents. The applications cover technologies related to motor vehicles, boat engines, musical instruments and sound reproduction.

Apple Seeks Patent for Solution to Exploding Battery Problem

Apple Inc., maker of the iPad and the iPhone, filed an application to patent a safety mechanism to prevent exploding batteries.

According to Apple’s application 20110123844, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 26, the technology comprises a multiple layer pouch to enclose lithium polymer batteries, such as those used in portable electronic devices.

These batteries release gas when overheated or exposed to sunlight. Without an escape valve, the gas can expand to explode or start a fire.

The patent covers what Cupertino, California-based Apple calls a “jelly roll” of layers that are wound together and enclosed within a flexible pouch. When the battery within this container releases gas and the pressure reached a certain threshold, a hole is created to permit gas to escape.

Apple applied for the patent in November 2009.

For more patent news, click here.


TPM Tells NYSE Trademark-Infringement Claim Is ‘Ridiculous’

The New York Stock Exchange registered a representation of its trading floor as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2002.

According to patent office files, the mark “ consists of a representation of an actual building interior, namely, a securities exchange trading floor.”

After the Talking Points Memo website ran a story about insider trading in November and used a photo of the trading floor, it received a cease-and-desist letter sent May 25 by Kendra P. Goldenberg, chief counsel for NYSE Group Inc.

Goldenberg told TPM that the stock exchange holds federal trademark rights on one depiction of the trading floor “and common law rights on the trading floor viewed from virtually any angle.” TPM’s use of the trading floor image tarnished the stock exchange’s trademarks by associating it “with entities and issues with which it is not affiliated or relevant,” Goldenberg said.

Goldenberg demanded that TPM remove all images of its trademark immediately and said that if the demand wasn’t complied with inside 10 days from receipt of the letter “we will have no choice by to pursue further remedies.”

In a statement posted on its website, New York-based TPM responded that “we’ve been advised that the NYSE’s claims are baseless and ridiculous on their face. But this is yet another example of how many large corporations have given way to IP-mania, trying to bully smaller companies into submission with inane and legally specious claims of intellectual property rights.”

TPM accompanied the statement with the same photo it used for the insider-trading article, saying “we don’t like being pushed around. So we’re again posting the same picture as an illustration for this post.”

The publication said it will sponsor a contest asking readers to say what they think “NYSE’s next preposterous claim of intellectual property rights will be.” Best entries will be published on the website, TPM said.

National Park Service Loses Hot Springs Trademark Challenge

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service lost a trademark challenge it made to the Advertising & Promotion Commission of the City of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The park service had sought to cancel a city trademark registered in 2003 that featured a diamond shape in which the words “Hot Springs” is written, and below the diamond, the phrase “National Park Arkansas.”

In its filings, the park service said it sought cancellation because it was concerned the city would use the mark “to advertise services that were not approved, endorsed, or associated with the National Park Service.”

Additionally, the park service claimed the public was likely to be confused about any possible affiliation between the city and the park.

In its ruling released May 25, a trademark appeal board said the park service failed to provide a valid reason for cancellation.

For more trademark news, click here.


Harley-Davidson Sued for Copyright Infringement by Artist

Harley-Davidson Inc., the largest U.S. motorcycle manufacturer, was sued for copyright infringement by a Kentucky-based artist.

Jeral Tidwell of Louisville accused Harley-Davidson, several sellers of Harley-Davidson merchandise and 99 unnamed defendants of making unauthorized use of his “Car Skull” image on a Harley-Davidson T-shirt.

In a separate complaint, he sued Painful Pleasures Inc., an Owings, Maryland-based seller of body jewelry, and 99 more unnamed defendants for using his “Flamin’ Card Suits” and “Green Skull” images in buckle designs without authorization. Tidwell’s artwork is used for rock concert posters, skateboard designs and hot rods.

Tidwell filed his two suits in federal court in Louisville May 25 and May 26. In both, he seeks orders barring unauthorized use of his work, seizure of all infringing products and promotional material, and awards of the defendants’ profits attributable to the alleged infringement, as well as money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

He is represented in both cases by Kyle Anne Citrynell and C. Shawn Fox of Seiller Waterman LLC of Louisville.

Harley-Davidson didn’t respond immediately to e-mailed requests for comment. Marc Gagnier, a spokesman for Painful Pleasures, said in an e-mail today that his company doesn’t make belt buckles.

“We just bought to resell,” Gagnier said. If “there are copyright designs, obviously we would take them down, and advise where we purchased them from,” he said.

The case against Harley-Davidson is Jeral Tidwell v. Harley-Davidson Inc., 3:11-cv-00318-CRS, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville). The case against the Maryland company is Jeral Tidwell v. Painful Pleasures Inc., 3:11-cv-00321, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Google Says It Respects Trade Secrets, Will Defend PayPal Suit

Google Inc. said it will defend itself against allegations it hired a former PayPal Inc. executive as part of a play to misappropriate trade secrets from PayPal’s mobile-payment business.

“Silicon Valley was built on the ability of individuals to use their knowledge and expertise to seek better employment opportunities, an idea recognized by both California law and public policy,” Aaron Zamost, a Google spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We respect trade secrets, and will defend ourselves against these claims.”

Osama Bedier, a former executive at EBay Inc.’s PayPal unit and now at Google, stole PayPal’s confidential information, the company said in the lawsuit filed May 26 in state court in San Jose, California. Stephanie Tilenius, another ex-PayPal executive now at Google, violated contractual obligations by recruiting Bedier, PayPal claimed.

Bedier “is now leading Google’s efforts to bring point-of-sale technologies and services to retailers on its behalf,” according to the complaint. “Bedier and Google have misappropriated PayPal trade secrets by disclosing them within Google and to major retailers.”

Both companies are trying to move into storefronts from online transactions and build their mobile businesses. PayPal, based in San Jose, is working with major retailers to develop a new type of point-of-sale system -- the equipment next to cash registers where consumers swipe credit cards.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, unveiled two services May 26 to let consumers pay merchants and download coupons with a tap of their mobile phones.

PayPal also alleges that Bedier, who left the company in January, discussed a job with Google while simultaneously leading negotiations to make PayPal a payment option on Google’s Android Market. He didn’t disclose the job-related talks, a breach of his fiduciary duty, the company said.

Tilenius, who left EBay in 2009, was under contract not to recruit employees, PayPal said in its pleadings. She messaged Bedier on Facebook Inc.’s social-networking website, telling him she had a “HUGE” opportunity for him, and sent him e-mails and text messages offering advice while he interviewed for a position, according to the complaint.

The case is PayPal v. Google Inc., 11CV201863, California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).

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