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Steve Jobs, BAT, Samsung, Google, BBC: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc.’s former Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who said Aug. 24 he was resigning from his post, was a prolific inventor, if issued Apple patents are any indication.

Jobs is named as an inventor on more than 300 issued U.S. patents and 30 published and pending applications, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He’s listed as Steve Jobs on most patents and as Steven P. Jobs on others.

The patents are for a wide range of technologies, including many that cover the design of Apple products. Others deal with functionality, including user interfaces, power-off methods, icon management and product packaging.

There may be other patent applications for Cupertino, California-based Apple that list Jobs as an inventor that have not yet been published in the database.

InterDigital Case Against ZTE, Huawei Gets Trade Agency Review

InterDigital Inc.’s patent-infringement complaint seeking to block imports of phones made by Nokia Oyj, ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co. will be investigated by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

InterDigital, owner of about 1,300 U.S. patents related to mobile phones, claims the companies are infringing seven patents related to so-called third-generation wireless technology. The ITC, which announced the investigation on its website yesterday, typically takes 15 to 18 months to complete a review and can ban imports of products that it finds violate U.S. patents.

Huawei had challenged the July 26 complaint in an Aug. 5 filing, accusing InterDigital of bringing the case “purely for the purpose of inflating its value as it prepares to sell its IP assets.” King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based InterDigital hired Evercore Partners Inc. and Barclays Capital in July to help explore a potential sale of its intellectual property to take advantage of increased demand for wireless patents.

InterDigital has said it filed the ITC complaint because Nokia, ZTE and Huawei refused to pay licensing fees. InterDigital already had a case against Espoo, Finland-based Nokia at the ITC that it lost, and is awaiting an appeals court ruling in that dispute.

A victory in the new case could result in a ban of phones, USB sticks, mobile hot spots and tablets made by the three companies. Huawei and ZTE are China’s two largest makers of phone equipment. Both are based in Shenzhen, China.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Wireless Devices with 3G Capabilities and Components Thereof, 337-800, U.S. International Trade Commission.

For more patent news, click here.


Australia Poised to Become First to Ban Tobacco Package Logos

Australia is poised to become the first nation to require tobacco products to be sold in plain packages, a move that could see other countries follow suit and crimp earnings of companies like British American Tobacco Plc.

The laws, passed by the lower house Aug. 24 and due in the Senate in September, will ban logos and color variations on cigarette packages. Packets will have to be olive green and carry health warnings within six months from Jan 1, 2012.

“Other countries will follow,” said Anne Jackson, chief executive of Ash Australia, a non-profit lobby group funded by Cancer Council Australia and the Heart Foundation.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon announced the move last April, along with a 25 percent tobacco tax increase and a A$85 million (A$89 million) advertising campaign to combat smoking.

British American Tobacco Plc this week lost an appeal for the release of Australian government documents the company said would help it fight the law. The company plans to ask the Australian High Court to review the ruling.

The company will next take its case to the Parliamentary Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, with a hearing scheduled for Sept. 13, Scott McIntyre, a spokesman for the tobacco company, said yesterday in a phone interview. So far the focus has been mainly on the health aspect of the legislation without considering its effects on the tobacco industry, he said.

Smoking costs Australia about A$31 billion a year in health and workplace costs, according to the government. With 15.1 percent of the population aged 14 or over smoking daily, it is the country’s top drug and preventable health problem, the government says.

The tobacco companies say the bill is a breach of the Australian Constitution, as plain packaging exceeds the Commonwealth’s acquisition powers. They said they would seek damages for losing the right to use their trademarks, which they claim the government is seizing illegally.

“This would clearly undermine the value of manufacturers’ trademarks and destroy the goodwill built up over many years in consumer brands,” British American Tobacco said in a June 6 submission to the government. “Plain packaging will frustrate brand identification and consumer choice, making smuggled branded product more acceptable to consumers.”

Australia’s top court has never addressed the question of whether banning the use of trademarks amounts to an acquisition by the government, George Williams, a constitutional law professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said.

“The tobacco companies have a hard road ahead,” Williams said. “They’re quite likely to lose.”

Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s biggest publicly traded tobacco company, said the Australian law also violates a 1994 treaty with Hong Kong that prohibits the forced removal of trademarks.

The tobacco companies plan to argue the law is a breach of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS.

According to TRIPS, the use of a trade mark in the course of trade “shall not be unjustifiably encumbered by special requirements.” The tobacco companies say the Australian law breaches that article.

Apple to Win German Ban on Samsung Tablet Sales, Judge Says

Apple Inc.’s intellectual property rights are likely to be found strong enough to ban sales of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy 10.1 tablet computers in Germany, a judge said yesterday.

The Dusseldorf court is unlikely to expand the ban on sales beyond Germany to other European Union countries as Apple sought, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said in a preliminary assessment yesterday. A ruling is scheduled for Sept. 9.

“In the court’s view, Apple has a case to keep” the German ban, Brueckner-Hofmann said at the hearing today. “We think Apple’s EU design rights grant a medium range of protection, if not a broad one.”

The legal battle between Cupertino, California-based Apple and rival device makers is intensifying as an increasing number of consumers use smartphones to surf the Web, play games and download music. Apple, the world’s top smartphone seller, has filed patent cases against handset makers using Google Inc.’s Android operating system, including Samsung, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and HTC Corp.

The Dusseldorf court on Aug. 9 granted Apple, the maker of the iPad, a preliminary sales ban in 26 of the 27 EU member countries, only to scale back its reach a week later over jurisdictional doubts.

The court is likely to find that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to issue a ban applicable outside Germany against a company based outside the EU, Brueckner-Hofmann said. Samsung’s German unit, for which the ban applies EU-wide, is independent and doesn’t allow the court to assume jurisdiction for both companies alike, she said.

Samsung lost an unrelated case involving Apple yesterday before a Dutch court over sales of some smartphones there. The court took a different view on tablets, saying Samsung didn’t violate Apple’s rights to the tablet’s design.

Samsung said it posted pictures of the Galaxy tab on its German website on June 6 so Apple knew sales would start in the country. Because the iPad maker only filed its bid in August, it cannot claim to need an emergency ruling, Samsung said.

Apple’s lawyers say the posted pictures weren’t enough to judge whether its design rights were violated. This was only possible after a German computer magazine published an article reviewing the Galaxy tablet.

Samsung asked the court to issue a ruling earlier or suspend the current ban. The Sept. 9 ruling won’t allow Samsung to show its tablet at the IFA consumer electronics trade show, held in Berlin from Sept. 2 to Sept. 7.

Judge Brueckner-Hofmann rejected allegations Apple forged pictures in its court filings. There was a technical error in only one of the pictures that was easily explained and unintentional, according to the judge.

The court won’t take Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey” into account, she said, commenting on claims by Samsung in a U.S. case that a tablet appeared there. The film sequence doesn’t allow one to compare that device with Apple’s EU-protected design, she said.

The German case is: LG Dusseldorf, 14c O 194/11.

For more trademark news, click here.


Google, La Martiniere Settle French Protected-Works Dispute

Google Inc., owner of the world’s largest search engine, settled a legal dispute with French publisher La Martiniere Groupe and agreed on terms allowing it to scan out-of-print works that are still copyright-protected.

The deal will permit La Martiniere to sell books on Google’s Ebooks platform and split revenue from those sales between the two companies, Mountain View, California-based Google said yesterday in a statement.

The agreement “allows us to move forward in a constructive way for the benefit of French writers and readers,” Philippe Colombet, director of Google Books in France, said in the statement.

Google is working to improve its relationship with French industry groups and regulators after disputes over privacy and access to copyrighted content. Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt promised to increase Google’s investment in France after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy last year.

“France is a country which has required special attention,” Colombet said today on a conference call about the agreement. He declined to detail the financial terms of the deal, saying just that “a majority” of revenue would go to the rights holder as has been the case in similar accords.

Today’s agreement resolves a dispute that Paris-based La Martiniere initiated in 2006. Google was ordered by a civil court in the city in 2009 to pay the French publisher’s Editions du Seuil unit 300,000 euros ($433,000) and stop scanning French works for its digital library project.

Since that ruling, Google has reached agreements with other groups in France such as the country’s main music-rights collection agency, SACEM, which arranged to compensate artists whose works appear on Google’s YouTube site, and the Hachette Livre unit of Lagardere SCA, the country’s biggest publisher.

The settlement announced yesterday doesn’t affect Google’s appeal of the 2009 ruling that pertained to the Syndicat National de l’Edition publishing trade group, which had joined La Martiniere’s case, or to a lawsuit brought in May by three publishing houses that claimed Google scanned almost 10,000 copyright-protected works without permission, Colombet said.

Google is working to end the SNE dispute and to reach similar accords with other French publishers, Colombet said. The May lawsuit “disrupted discussions under way,” he said.

Spokeswomen at the publishers weren’t immediately available to comment when contacted by phone.

A U.S. judge gave more time last month to Google and a group of publishers and authors to negotiate a settlement of a lawsuit over the search-engine company’s digital reproduction of books. That dispute dates back to 2005.

BBC Outlines Policy for Photos Obtained Through Social Media

British Broadcasting Corp., the U.K.’s public-service broadcaster, has backed down in a copyright dispute over photos posted of riots in Tottenham that originally appeared on Twitter Inc.’s short-messaging service.

A photographer who had complained that his photos were taken from his Twitter posting and used without his permission was initially told by the BBC that such content was not subject to the same copyright laws “as it was already in the public domain.”

The broadcaster said, in a statement on its website, that this was “wrong and the response doesn’t represent BBC policy.”

The BBC said while it has on occasion used photos before clearing the rights “when there is a strong public interest and often time constraints,” it will always try to give credit to the copyright holder.

The only exceptions, the BBC said, would be a situation in which the photographer doesn’t want to be contacted or if the broadcaster considers it too dangerous to try to make contact, such as in the case of photos posted to Twitter during recent uprisings in some Middle Eastern countries.

If this is the case, the BBC said its practice is to label the photo to indicate its source, such as “from Twitter,” to indicate where it was obtained.

For more copyright news, click here.

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