Among Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.’s more than 17,000 patents, a group of 18 may prove most useful in Google Inc.’s effort to fend off litigation targeting the Android mobile platform.
The inventions date back to 1994 and form the heart of three Motorola lawsuits against Apple Inc., making them among the stars of the portfolio, said David Mixon, a patent lawyer at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Huntsville, Alabama. They cover technology essential to the mobile-device industry, including location services, antenna designs, e-mail transmission, touch-screen motions, software-application management and third-generation wireless.
“Any patent owner, before they consider litigation, is going to carefully evaluate their patents to withstand an attack,” Mixon said in a telephone interview. “You don’t want to hold any back. You want to pick your strongest patents.”
Google is counting on its $12.5 billion acquisition of Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility to strengthen its patent lineup as Apple and Microsoft Corp. challenge Android, the best-selling smartphone operating system in the second quarter. Google had been issued fewer than 1,000 patents as of the start of this year. Motorola Mobility would add another 17,000, as well as about 7,500 pending applications.
Android was introduced on handsets three years ago to further Google’s advertising business and is provided free to device makers including Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. The platform accounted for 43.3 percent of the smartphone market last quarter, according to Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Gartner Inc. Cupertino, California-based Apple had an 18.2 percent share.
The U.S. International Trade Commission, which arbitrates patent-related disputes, has fielded more than a dozen cases in the past year related to smartphones and tablets. Because Google doesn’t profit directly from Android, it has been able to sit mostly on the sidelines while its partners were sued.
Google has been sued twice by competitors over Android -- Oracle Corp. and Skyhook Wireless Inc. -- and has never led a patent-infringement case against another company. It declined to comment for this story, as did Motorola Mobility and Apple.
An ITC judge last month found HTC’s Android phones infringed two Apple patents, which may spur a U.S. import ban.
“We’ve been saying for some time that we intend to protect the Android ecosystem,” David Drummond, chief legal officer at Mountain View, California-based Google, said during a conference call with analysts last week. “It’s under threat.”
The balance of power is shifting toward Google with this acquisition of Motorola Mobility, so the option for settlements and cross-licensing will become “inevitable,” said Ron Epstein, CEO of Epicenter IP Group LLC, a Redwood City, California-based patent brokerage.
One patent from 2001 disables a “touch sensitive” sensor when a smartphone is near a user’s head to prevent inadvertent hang-ups or dialing. Another from 1994 aims to increase data storage, while a third enables users to control when a global positioning system sends their location data over a network.
In a patent-infringement case that started yesterday at the International Trade Commission, Microsoft accused Motorola Mobility of infringing seven of its patents and requested a halt to imports of certain Motorola phones. The trial is the first smartphone dispute to be heard since Google announced it would buy Motorola Mobility.
In addition to the Apple fight, Motorola Mobility has claimed Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft infringes some of its patents over video technology and is seeking to block imports of the Xbox video-game console.
Apple filed its own patent-infringement complaints against Motorola in October at the ITC and in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin. Apple also filed a civil suit in March accusing Motorola Mobility of “a pattern of unfair, deceptive and anticompetitive conduct” and said the company demanded higher licensing rates than for other competitors over three years of talks. Microsoft has made the same allegations over Motorola’s licensing demands, which Motorola has denied in both cases.
Syngenta Sues Bunge for Refusal to Accept Modified Corn
Syngenta AG, the world’s largest maker of agricultural chemicals, sued a unit of Bunge Ltd. over claims that it’s illegally refusing to accept corn produced from the company’s bioengineered seeds.
Bunge, which operates a network of grain elevators and receiving stations, posted a notice on its website and at several locations that it is “unable to accept” delivery of corn or soybeans produced by Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera seeds and another product made by DuPont Co., according to the complaint.
Bunge said in the notice that the seed products haven’t received international approval from major export destinations, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Sioux City, Iowa.
The product complies with all U.S. regulatory requirements, Syngenta said yesterday in a statement.
Syngenta’s Viptera seed is intended to be an alternative to Monsanto Co.’s corn seeds. The two companies have a lengthy past history of litigation over patents for soybean seeds that finally settled in 2008.
“When a product has been legally approved, growers should be able to use that technology without subsequently being subjected to arbitrary actions,” David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds Inc., said yesterday in the statement.
Viptera, which received U.S. regulatory approval last year, is genetically modified to combat damaging insects such as corn earworm and fall armyworm. The technology has been approved for cultivation in Canada, Argentina and Brazil, and for import in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan, Syngenta said in its statement. Approval is pending in China and is expected early 2012, the company said.
Bunge spokeswoman Deb Seidel didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment on the complaint.
The case is Syngenta Seeds Inc. v. Bunge North America Inc., U.S. District Court for Iowa, Northern District of Iowa, Western Division (Sioux City).
Osram Files Patent Infringement Complaint Against LG Innotek
Siemens AG’s Osram and Osram Opto Semiconductors filed a complaint against LG Innotek Co. Ltd. with the Korea Trade Commission, the company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Osram also filed nullity suits and infringement actions against patents and companies of LG Group and Samsung Electronics Co. in Korea, the company added.
This follows LG’s patent complaint filed last month at the U.S. International Trade Commission against Osram. That dispute is over technology used in LED displays for TV sets and monitors that require less energy than traditional lighting.
The ITC in Washington is a quasi-judicial agency that arbitrates trade disputes, and has the power to block products that infringe U.S. patents. It typically completes its investigations in 15 to 18 months.
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Amazon Files Application to Register ‘Lab 126’ as Trademark
Amazon.com Inc., seller of the Kindle electronic book device, has applied to register “Lab126” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
According to the application, filed Aug. 16, the Seattle-based company plans to use the mark for “design and development of computer hardware and software.”
Amazon plans to release a tablet device powered by the Android system in October.
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Rapidshare Gets Second Round of Fines in Downloading Case
A Swiss company that enables unauthorized downloading of six publishers’ copyright-protected titles was hit with an additional 160,000 euros ($230,000) in fines for failing to comply with an earlier court order, according to a statement from the publishers.
Rapidshare AG of Cham, Switzerland, was ordered in May 2010 to quit making available to the public 149 works from the six publishers. The publishing houses are Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group LLC, a subsidiary of Macmillan; Cengage Learning Inc.; Elsevier Inc; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.; and Pearson Education Inc., according to the statement.
At the time of the May court action, Rapidshare was fined 150,000 euros for its past actions.
The Regional Court of Hamburg, in a July 25 decision, said Rapidshare continued to violate its orders, and that 100 of the disputed works were still available between July 16 and July 18. The company didn’t use a word filter that would have prevented the unauthorized uploading, according to the publishers’ statement.
In December 2010 the company hired Washington-based Dutko Worldwide to call on members of Congress and argue it shouldn’t be the target of U.S. infringement actions, according to Deutsche Welle.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
IMC Licensing Adds Former Thinkfire Trademark Group
IMC Licensing, an intellectual property licensing agency, acquired Thinkfire Trademark Licensing and brought three former Thinkfire officials onboard, the Louisville, Kentucky-based company said in a statement.
Joining IMC are Carla E. Dearing, Drew Kastner and Boris Peres.
Kastner has done IP work for Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal unit, Cablevision Systems Corp., and for the IP holding unit related to the late baseball star Mickey Mantle. He and his partner Boris Peres spun the trademark licensing services out from Warren, New Jersey-based Thinkfire Services USA.
Kastner has an undergraduate degree from Boston College and a law degree from Rutgers University.
Peres was the founder and chief operating officer of Velox Semiconductor, a spinoff from Emcore Corp. before he joined Thinkfire. He has also served as an engagement manager at McKinsey & Co., where he worked with clients in the Internet, pharmaceutical and technology industries.
He has a doctorate in electric engineering from Cornell University.
Dearing has previously worked in product and market development for Morgan Stanley & Co.’s Morgan Stanley Capital International unit, and before that was a founder of a financial service advisory and fund administration firm that was ultimately acquired by State Street Bank.
She has also serves as the assistant vice president, strategic initiatives, for the University of Louisville’s Office of Health Affairs.
She has an undergraduate degree in economics and political science from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago.