Honeywell International Inc. won a jury’s verdict that a patent asserted by Solvay SA on technology to replace ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants is invalid.
Solvay, based in Brussels, sued Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell in 2006 claiming infringement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, ruling on an earlier decision that Honeywell infringed patent 6,730,817, had ordered further proceedings.
Jurors in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, said yesterday that the patent wasn’t valid because the invention was anticipated by another patent and by a 1994 application, according to court papers. Part of the description was obvious, the jury said.
“Honeywell is pleased that the jury found Solvay’s patent to be invalid,” Peter F. Dalpe, a Honeywell spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “Honeywell has always defended its rights and will continue to do so vigorously.”
Neil Hirsch, a U.S.-based spokesman for Solvay, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.
The case is Solvay SA v. Honeywell International Inc., 06CV557-SLR, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
P-Two, Japan Aviation Sign Patent Cross Licensing Contracts
P-Two Industries Inc. and Japan Aviation Electronics Industry Ltd. signed contracts on cross licensing patents involving LVDS technologies, the Taiwan-based company said in a statement to the local stock exchange yesterday.
Graceway Pharmaceuticals Seeks Bankruptcy, Sale to Galderma
Graceway Pharmaceuticals LLC, a maker of skin treatments and asthma medication, sought bankruptcy protection with a plan to sell its assets to Galderma SA for $275 million.
The closely held company, based in Bristol, Tennessee, listed debt of as much as $1 billion and assets of as much as $500 million in Chapter 11 documents filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.
Graceway cited the loss of patent protection on Aldara, a cream used to treat precancerous skin growths and genital warts that was once its biggest product. Net revenue from Aldara fell to about $52.2 million in 2010 from about $320.8 million a year earlier after generic-drugmakers gained the right to produce cheaper equivalents, according to court documents.
Galderma, based in Cham, Switzerland, agreed to buy virtually all of Graceway’s assets in the U.S. and Canada for about $275 million in cash, plus the assumption of certain liabilities, according to court papers. Graceway said it will ask to hold an auction to seek better offers. The company expects to complete the sale by the end of January, according to a statement issued Sept. 28.
The case is In re Graceway Pharmaceuticals LLC, 11-13036, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Steve Jobs Pushed Talks With Samsung to Address Patent Dispute
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Inc., initiated contact with rival Samsung Electronics Co. in July 2010 to try to resolve a patent dispute that has since become a legal battle on four continents, an Australian court was told.
Jobs wasn’t involved once the ultimately unsuccessful talks over the Galaxy smartphone began, Richard Lutton, a senior director at Apple and the company’s patent attorney, told Federal Court in Sydney yesterday.
“Samsung is an important supplier with whom we have a deep relationship,” Lutton testified in response to questioning by Samsung lawyer David Catterns. “We wanted to give them a chance to do the right thing.”
Lutton testified at a hearing about Apple’s effort to block Samsung from selling the Galaxy 10.1 computer tablet in Australia until its patent claims are resolved at trial. Samsung had already agreed to delay the sales of the tablets until Justice Annabelle Bennett rules on Apple’s request. She said that would likely occur next week.
The talks were confidential, Lutton said. Once lawyers began to question him about the content of the negotiations, Bennett cleared the courtroom to allow the testimony in private.
James Chung, a Seoul-based spokesman for Samsung, declined to comment on Lutton’s remarks or the negotiations.
Apple claims that Samsung used its patents to copy the iPhone and the iPads. Samsung has also sued with claims in South Korea, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia that Apple violated its own patents.
Samsung is the second largest supplier for Apple, while Apple is Samsung’s biggest customer, according to Bloomberg data.
Microsoft Applies for Patent for Modular Mobile Telephone
Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, is seeking a patent for a mobile telephone with modular devices that can be attached.
The Redmond, Washington-based company’s application 20110230178, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Sept. 22, is for a device to which a variety of second modules can be attached. They could include game controllers, batteries, physical keyboards, and a separate display screen that could be seen while the user has the phone lifted to the ear.
Microsoft noted in its application that with the enhanced capabilities of modern mobile telephones has come a demand for larger displays.
“To increase the size of displays any further would require an increase in the size of the phones themselves,” Microsoft said, arguing that “this is not desirable, as users want their mobile phone to fit comfortably in their hand or in a shirt or pants pocket.”
The company applied for the patent in March 2010. No outside counsel is listed on the patent application.
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Canada Reintroduces Law to Toughen Online Copyright
Canada introduced changes to its copyright law that would give rights-holders more control over how works are distributed online, and allow companies such as Apple Inc. to impose “digital locks” on protected material offered on devices like the iPad.
The bill is the latest attempt by the Canadian government to modernize Canada’s Copyright Act, which last underwent major changes in 1997.
Under the legislation, copyright owners will have exclusive control over how works are made available on the Internet. Owners will be able to apply “technological protection measures,” commonly known as digital locks, to prevent unauthorized access of copyrighted material.
“Canadians will soon have modern copyright laws that protect and help create jobs, promote innovation, and attract new investment to Canada,” Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in a statement. “We are confident that this bill will make Canada’s copyright laws forward-looking and responsive in this fast-paced digital world.”
The proposed law will implement treaties, signed by Canada in 1997, that establish rights and protections recommended by the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The legislation is similar to earlier versions introduced by the governing Conservatives that were blocked by opposition parties. The bill may pass this time after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won a majority of seats in the House of Commons in the May 2 general election.
Righthaven Seeks Appeals Court Emergency Order on Fee Award
Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas organization that is attempting to enforce the copyrights for Stephens Media Group’s newspapers, filed papers with a federal appeals court seeking an emergency stay of an attorney-fee demand.
The company is asking the appeals court to place on hold a defendant’s demand for the fees he was awarded when his case was dismissed.
The defendant had filed papers with the trial court asking that Righthaven be put into receivership and its intellectual property and other assets be seized to satisfy the fee award.
In its Sept. 27 filing with the U.S Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Righthaven said defendant Wayne Hoehn’s fee demand places the company in “immediate threat of irreparable harm.” In a declaration filed with the request, Righthaven’s attorney says the company has proprietary search engine software that it uses to identify potential infringers on the Internet.
Seizure and liquidation of Righthaven’s assets “could result in the software being purchases by a competitor of Righthaven,” according to the filing. Righthaven’s lawyer also said that if the software is seized, it could be reverse engineered so that potential infringers could “decipher means of subverting detection.”
The company has run up against judicial skepticism that its copyright assignments from Stephens and MediaNews Group Inc. give Righthaven standing to file infringement suits. In the appeals court filing, Righthaven’s counsel said in his filing that a new version of its agreements with the media companies should assuage the courts’ concerns.
The case is Righthaven LLC v. Wayne Hoehn, 11-16995, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco). The lower court case is Righthaven LLC v. Wayne Hoehn, 2:11-cv-00050-PMP-RJJ, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Chewzy Dogs Goes to Court Seeking Dog Biscuit Trade Secrets
Chewzy Dogs LLC, a company that sold dog treats from a kiosk in Triple Five Group’s Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, sued its franchisor for failing to transfer contracted trade secrets.
According to the complaint filed Sept. 26 in federal court in Minnesota, Just Dogs! Barkery Inc., of Washington, Pennsylvania, was the franchisor with which Chewzy Dogs had license.
The license covered a line of premium gourmet dog treats prepared by or at the direction of Just Dogs! with proprietary recipes and cut into various shapes with proprietary cutters and molds, Chewzy Dogs said in the complaint.
Just Dogs! terminated all franchise agreements in June 2011, “without cause or reason,” Chewzy Dogs claims. In connection with the end of the franchise agreement, Chewzy Dogs says it was granted ownership of the trademarks “Just Dogs! Gourmet,” and “World’s Tastiest Gourmet Dog Treats,” together with the trade secrets associated with the marks.
The marks and the trade secrets covered by that agreement have not been transferred, according to court papers. Chewzy Dogs filed suit asking the court to order Just Dogs! to hand over the trade secrets, including recipes, the cookie cutters and the molds and the trademarks.
Additionally, it asked for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.
An attempt was made to contact Just Dogs! through its website, which didn’t function yesterday.
Chewzy Dogs is represented by W. Michael Garner of Minneapolis.
The case is Chewzy Dogs LLC v. Just Dogs! Barkery Inc., 0:11-cv-02751-PAM-JSM, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.
Pirated Clothes, Music Seized at North Carolina Flea Market
Fake designer clothing and pirated movies and music worth almost $1 million were seized in a raid in a Raleigh, North Carolina, flea market, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
At a press conference following the raid, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said those involved in the sale of pirated goods are often also involved in organized crime, the newspaper reported.
She also warned that some of the knock-off merchandise, such as fake electrical extension cords, can be hazardous, according to the newspaper.
Seven people were arrested in the raid and charged with felony criminal use of a counterfeit trademark, the News & Observer reported.
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