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Mosaid, Nokia, Moroccanoil, Nortel: Intellectual Property

Mosaid Technologies Inc.’s patent-infringement claims against Cisco Systems Inc., the world’s largest maker of networking equipment, will be reviewed by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Mosaid’s complaint claims certain Cisco routers and modems made overseas and sold in the U.S. infringe six patents related to power-over-Ethernet products, which carry electrical current over data cables rather than power cords. The ITC, which announced the investigation yesterday, said it hasn’t made any decision on the merits of the case.

Mosaid is an Ontario-based designer of semiconductors that received all of its C$71 million ($72 million) in revenue last fiscal year from patent licensing, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. San Jose, California-based Cisco said May 18 that Mosaid was seeking to evade a case pending in Delaware where Cisco is challenging Mosaid patents.

The Washington-based ITC can block imports of products found to violate U.S. patents. The agency’s reviews typically take 15 to 18 months.

The case is In the Matter of Communications Networks, including Switches, Routers, Gateways, Bridges, Wireless Access Points, Cable Modems, IP Phones, 337-778, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Nokia Devices Infringe IPCom Phone Patent, U.K. Judge Rules

Nokia Oyj, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones by volume, lost a U.K. court bid to invalidate a European patent that Germany’s IPCom GmbH claims is vital to the Finnish company’s handset sales.

The patent, which covers technology for connecting a handset to a network, is valid and infringed by two Nokia devices, Judge Christopher Floyd ruled yesterday at the High Court of London. He didn’t identify the specific devices.

“As far as we know, this is the first time that an essential telecoms 3G patent was ever upheld and judged infringed in the U.K., a jurisdiction well-known for being very demanding for patent holders,” Bernhard Frohwitter, IPCom’s managing director, said in a statement.

The ruling comes two days after Nokia won an almost two-year patent dispute with Apple Inc. in a settlement that awards a one-time payment and royalties to the Espoo, Finland-based handset maker. Nokia’s dispute with IPCom is being played out in courts in the U.S., Germany, Japan and Italy.

IPCom, which says the ruling threatens Nokia’s U.K. sales, seeks royalties from a family of mobile-technology patents it acquired in 2007 from Robert Bosch GmbH, the world’s largest automotive supplier. Pullach, Germany-based IPCom bought the patents after Bosch failed to license them to Nokia in 2003.

The patent at issue in yesterday’s case wasn’t infringed by a third Nokia device, Floyd ruled.

Mark Durrant, a spokesman for Nokia, said the company’s current devices don’t infringe the patent. The company will appeal part of yesterday’s judgment, he said.

“We are pleased that the U.K. High Court declared that Nokia’s current products do not infringe the patent,” Durrant said in an e-mail. “This means that we can continue selling those products, now with legal certainty.”

IPCom rejected Nokia’s interpretation of the ruling, claiming the two infringing devices are still in use by the Finnish company.

“Nokia is clearly misleading the public on what the court ruled today,” Frohwitter said yesterday in a phone interview. “IPCom is ready to enforce the U.K. ruling.”

Hynix, Micron Lose Document Evidence Ruling in Rambus Case

Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. lost a ruling in a California antitrust lawsuit by memory-chip designer Rambus Inc. that would have allowed the companies to present privileged documents as evidence at trial.

Superior Court Judge James McBride in San Francisco yesterday rejected the chipmakers’ contention that the documents should be made available under the “crime-fraud” exception. Micron and Hynix can still seek to get the documents admitted on a case-by-case basis.

The argument relied on a federal appeals court ruling last month that Rambus destroyed documents relevant to patent-infringement claims it planned to pursue against the chipmakers. Rambus “committed or intended to commit a fraud or crime” by destroying documents that would have had to be produced in litigation, Hynix and Micron said in court papers.

Rambus, based in Sunnyvale, California, is seeking as much as $4.3 billion from Hynix and Micron over claims they drove Rambus-designed dynamic random access memory, or RDRAM, chips out of the computer-memory market. The damages would be automatically tripled to $12.9 billion under California law if Rambus wins the case, Rambus claims.

McBride issued his ruling from the bench at a hearing yesterday without explanation. Sean Eskovitz, a lawyer from Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles who represented Rambus, argued at the hearing that there is a “different legal standard” for the crime-fraud exception in California than in federal court.

Patrick Shields, a lawyer for Micron with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP in Los Angeles, told McBride that the federal appeals court “found that Rambus willfully destroyed documents,” and that there was “ample evidence” that those documents would need to be produced in litigation.

Dan Francisco, a spokesman for Boise, Idaho-based Micron, declined to comment on yesterday’s ruling.

A jury is being selected in the case, with opening arguments scheduled for next week. Earlier this week, Micron and Ichon, South Korea-based Hynix lost their request to have McBride instruct jurors that Rambus’s document destruction in anticipation of litigation is proven. They are still permitted to present document destruction arguments at trial.

The case is Rambus Inc. v. Micron Technology Inc., 04-431105, California Superior Court (San Francisco).

For more patent news, click here.


Moroccanoil Files Six New Trademark Suits in Two Courts

Moroccanoil Israel Ltd. and its U.S.-based Moroccanoil unit, which have brought more than 50 trademark-infringement lawsuits since 2010, filed six new cases in New York and Florida on June 14.

The company makes a range of hair-care products using the oil of the Argania spinosa tree. The tree grows only in Morocco and the edible oil produced by its seeds is believed to have anti-aging properties.

Moroccanoil hair-treatment products are offered for sale for as much as $86 a bottle on websites. According to the company website, Moroccanoil has an “anti-diversion policy” to ensure the products are sold only in hair salons.

It warns customers that alleged Moroccanoil products offered for sale at pharmacies, grocery stores, discount outlets, retail outlets, retail chains, retail websites and auction websites are likely fakes. If they are legitimate, Moroccanoil said they may be “damaged, expired, tampered-with, and/or unsafe.”

In its newest set of complaints against sellers of what appears to be Moroccanoil products, the company says the test buys it did from these retailers show “physical indicia of counterfeiting” identical to products bought from other sellers in the past that lab tests proved to be counterfeit.

Moroccanoil asked the court for an order barring the various defendants from future infringement, and for the seizure and destruction of all infringing goods and promotional materials. The company also seeks money damages, including extra damages to punish the sellers for their conduct, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

6 Ballygunge Place Registers Address as Trademark in India

A restaurant in Calcutta persuaded India’s trademark office to permit registration of its address as trademark, a first for that country, the Times of India reported.

The Bengali restaurant 6 Ballygunge Place registered its address and plans to use the mark on restaurants in India, the U.K., France and the U.S., according to the Times.

Counsel for the restaurant persuaded the trademark office that its address is a tangible asset that was unique and had been developed over time, according to the newspaper.

Biswajit Sarkar, the Calcutta-based trademark counsel who represented the restaurant, told the Times of India that his client expects to register its trademark in the U.K., France and the U.S. without any problems.

For more trademark news, click here.


Illegal Video Streaming Elevated to Felony Under Senate Bill

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure yesterday that would make illegal streaming of video over the Internet a felony offense in some cases, sending the proposed legislation to the full Senate.

The bill, S. 978, would make illegal video streaming for commercial purposes a felony punishable by as much as five years in prison if it involves 10 or more instances of streaming copyrighted works during a 180-day period. The retail value of the video must exceed $2,500, or the licenses to the material must be worth more than $5,000.

The bill was introduced May 12 by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Christopher Coons, a Delaware Democrat.

The Obama administration supported making illegal video streaming a felony “in appropriate circumstances” in a set of recommendations released March 15 for fighting the illegal sale of pirated products and content.

Maria Pallante, director of the U.S. Copyright Office, also backed making illegal streaming a felony in a June 1 House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, saying that treating the offense as a misdemeanor gives prosecutors little incentive to file charges in such cases.

Piracy of digital movies, music and software cost businesses from $30 billion to $75 billion in 2008 in the Group of 20 leading global economies, according to a February report commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce from Frontier Economics, a London-based consulting firm.

The Copyright Alliance, a Washington-based group whose members including Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc. and Viacom Inc., said it “applauds” the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on the illegal streaming bill.

“The distribution of other people’s work without their permission should be punished the same way under the law regardless of the technology used,” Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, said in an e-mail.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital-rights group, is concerned that the measure may constrain free speech, Abigail Phillips, a senior staff attorney for the organization, said in an interview yesterday.

“The more serious the potential penalties, the greater deterrent effect on innovation and speech activity online,” Phillips said.

For more copyright news, click here.

Technology Transfer

Nortel Delays Auction to June 27 on ‘Significant’ Interest

Nortel Networks Corp., the bankrupt phone-equipment maker, is delaying an auction of its range of patents set for June 20 by one week after seeing a “significant level of interest” in the technology portfolio.

The auction of the 6,000 patents and patent applications will now be held on June 27, the Mississauga, Ontario-based company said in a statement yesterday.

Google Inc., which is looking to acquire patents that could be used for phones that run its Android software, offered $900 million in April in what Nortel said was a starting point for an auction. RPX Corp., a San Francisco-based patent-buying firm, is considering a bid, an attorney for the company said last month.

Research In Motion Ltd., the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, and phone-equipment supplier Ericsson AB are also weighing bids, people familiar with those companies’ plans have said.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy in January 2009 after a loss of $5.8 billion as its customers put off spending on new equipment amid the recession. Since then, Nortel has raised about $3 billion to pay creditors by selling businesses, with the patents portfolio the last of the major assets to be sold.

The Nortel patents cover telecommunications technology used in wireless handsets and networks, as well as Internet search, semiconductors and social networking. The patents may also help protect companies in legal disputes or generate licensing revenue.

To top Google’s bid, companies have to offer at least $929 million under rules approved by the courts overseeing Nortel’s bankruptcy. The growing interest may boost the price for Nortel’s patents to more than $1 billion, said Rich Ehrlickman, president of Boca Raton, Florida-based patent broker IPOfferings.

The case is Nortel Networks Inc., 09-10138, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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