Westinghouse Solar, Aker Biomarine: Intellectual Property

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Westinghouse Solar Inc. said it filed a patent-infringement complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking to block imports of solar-power systems made by Zep Solar and Canadian Solar Inc.

Westinghouse Solar, a designer and installer of solar-power systems, accuses the companies of infringing two of its patents that cover ways to make solar panels easier and cheaper to install, the Campbell, California-based company said in a statement yesterday. A copy of the complaint wasn’t immediately available.

The company has licensed its technology to Chinese and Japanese firms, and it has been in talks with other companies “in an effort to bring installation costs down on a more widespread basis throughout the solar industry,” Westinghouse Solar Chief Executive Officer Barry Cinnamon said in the statement.

“Unfortunately, we believe that Zep Solar, Canadian Solar and others have not appropriately recognized Westinghouse Solar’s intellectual property rights by incorporating a system -- the Zep System -- that we contend infringes certain of our patents,” Cinnamon said. “As a consequence, we have turned to the ITC to address this issue.”

Zep is based in San Rafael, California, and Canadian Solar is based in Kitchener, Ontario.

The ITC is an agency in Washington that investigates claims of unfair trade practices and has the authority to ban imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights.

Aker Responds to Neptune’s Patent Suit, Will Seek Re-Examination

Aker Biomarine ASA has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to take another look at a patent that issued yesterday to Neptune Technologies & Bioressources Inc. of Laval, Canada.

The Oslo-based fish-products company said in its Oct. 4 statement that the invention covered by Neptune’s 8,030,348 wasn’t new and that the patent infringement suit filed the same day the patent was issued is frivolous. The compound Neptune claims to have invented occurs naturally in krill, a shrimp-like marine crustacean, Aker Biomarine said.

The company says it has retained an expert to repeat the experiments Neptune conducted that led to the patent. Aker says if the experiments are conducted properly, they will show that an earlier method produces the compound covered by the patent.

In its complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Delaware, Neptune said Aker is making, selling and importing products containing the patented compound. The complaint specifically names Aker’s Superba krill oil. Krill oil is used by those with a variety of health conditions including heart disease and high blood pressure.

Codefendant with Aker is Schiff Nutrition International Inc. of Salt Lake City. Neptune objects to Schiff’s MegaRed krill oil.

Neptune asked the court for an order barring the production and sale of the krill oil compound, and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is Neptune Technologies & Bioressources Inc. v. Aker Biomarine ASA, 1:11-cv-00894, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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Blind Spot Asks Former Pirate to Make Legitimate ‘Iron Sky’ Game

Blind Spot Pictures, the Helsinki-based film company that produced “Iron Sky,” an alternative-reality film about Nazis on the moon, has asked the Chinese company that made a pirated game based on movie to create a legitimate version, Variety reported.

A Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, set up an interview between Blind Spot and China’s Ziiso during which the Chinese company apologized, according to Variety.

Timo Vuorensola, who directed “Iron Sky,” told Variety his company is negotiating with Ziiso about updating the game and including it among official merchandise related to the film.

“Iron Sky,” which is financed partly by contributions from fans, is set to be released in April 2012, Variety reported.

Premier League, Pubs Get Split EU Court Ruling on TV Rights

The Premier League’s geographic restrictions on broadcasters such as British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc showing its soccer matches breach European Union antitrust rules, the bloc’s highest court said in a ruling that may still limit what pub and bar owners can show customers.

The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that territorial licenses are “contrary” to competition law “if the license agreements prohibit the supply of decoder cards to television viewers who wish to watch the broadcasts.” While the court said anyone can watch such broadcasts, pubs can’t show the feeds via foreign decoder cards without the permission of the copyright owner, such as the broadcasters and the league.

The Premier League, home to some of Europe’s most successful clubs including Manchester United and Liverpool, started a three-year 1.8 billion-pound ($2.8 billion) U.K. television contract in August 2010, and receives a further 1.4 billion pounds from the sale of international broadcast rights. The ruling offers something for the league and the U.K. pub owner who tried to show local matches from a Greek provider.

The Premier League said that the judgment “makes it clear that the screening in a pub of football-match broadcasts containing protected works requires the Premier League’s authorization.”

BSkyB spokesman Robert Fraser declined to comment immediately after the ruling was issued.

“This is going to lead to more football on the telly for fans to watch, and less money for clubs to lavish on the salaries of their top players,” said Stuart Adams a partner at law firm Rouse. “That will please most fans. But it will also lead to smaller clubs going out of business which is not good news for fans at all.”

In the future, the Premier League may end up selling to BSkyB, which could then market it across Europe, said Guy Bisson, an analyst at IHS Screen Digest in London.

The court’s ruling “strikes at the heart of the business model that many an industry is built on -- particularly the broadcasting and entertainment industries,” said Tom Scourfield, a partner at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna LLP, who specializes in intellectual property and media law.

While the case mainly focused on the use by pubs in the U.K. of Greek satellite decoder cards to show Premier League games, “there now seems to be little to stop individual members of the public from appropriately acquiring cheap EU decoder cards from Greece or another EU country and watching the games in their homes,” said Graham Shear, a partner in the litigation department of Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP in London.

The cases are C-403/08, Football Association Premier League Ltd, v. QC Leisure and C-429/08, Karen Murphy v. Media Protection Services Limited.

Wisconsin Polka Composer Wins Infringement Damages From Ex-Wife

A Wisconsin composer was awarded $25,000 in a copyright infringement case he brought against his ex-wife and her second husband.

Ray Rubenzer of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, claimed the copyrights to his “Yodelin’ Boy Polka” were infringed by the song “C’mon and Sing” performed by his former wife with her second husband’s band, the Top Notchmen.

He files suit June 27 in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin, accusing Lois Melgaard and David Melgaard of copyright infringement. He said his former wife used to perform with his band, “Guys and Gals,” and sang “Yodelin’ Polka Boy” on numerous occasions.

Rubenzer claimed she was “intimately familiar with both the lyrics and the music” and was aware that he had the copyright for the song. He also objected to the recording the Melgaards made of ‘C’mon & Sing” and its sale to the public, claiming it was a copy of both the music and the lyrics for “Yodeling Polka Boy.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker approved a consent agreement in which the Melgaards pledged to pay Rubenzer the $25,000 and to deliver to him all the copies of “C’mon and sing” in their possession. The Melgaards agreed to acknowledge they infringed the copyright and that Rubenzer was entitled to all rights to “C’mon and Sing.” Parties were to pay their own attorney fees and litigation costs.

Rubenzer was represented by Kim M. Peterson of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. The Melgaards were represented by Michael Happe of Ryberg & Happe of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The case is Rubenzer v. Melgaard, 3:11-cv-00455, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-CME Software Engineer Indicted for Trade Secret Theft

A former software engineer with Chicago’s CME Group Inc. was indicted for trade secret theft, according to a statement from the office of the U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

Chunlai Yang was accused of downloading more than 1,000 CME computer files, transferring them to flash drives and transferring the data to his home computer. He also downloaded and printed internal manuals and guidelines related to CME’s Globex electronic trading platform, the government said in a court filing.

The government alleged that Yang and two unidentified business partners developed business plans to form a futures exchange software technology company in China using CME’s proprietary technology.

If convicted, Yang faces a possible $25,000 fine and 10-year prison sentence for each of two counts of trade secret theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s statement. The government also seeks forfeiture of Yang’s personal computers and related technology.

Yang is represented by Christopher W. Graul of Chicago’s Ribbeck Law. He didn’t respond immediately to an e-mail seeking comment.

The case is U.S.A. v. Chunlai Yang, 1:11-cv-00458, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

IP Moves

Wi-Lan Hires ATMD Bird & Bird’s Scott for Patent Administration

Wi-Lan Inc. hired Robert Scott to be vice president, patent administration, the Ottawa-based patent-licensing company said in a statement.

Scott joins from Singapore’s ATMD Bird & Bird where he managed the firm’s patent activities. He has also worked in-house with a Japanese automotive technology company.

He has both an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a law degree from George Mason University.

Wi-Lan has filed at least 17 patent infringement suits in U.S. courts since 2007, according to Bloomberg data. Scott is intended to help the Canadian company expand its patent litigation and licensing capabilities, Wi-Lan said in its statement.

The company was founded in 1992 to commercialize technology related to high speed wireless networking.

K&L Gates Adds Two From Morgan Lewis to Paris IP Practice

K&L Gates LLP added two intellectual property lawyers to its Paris office, the Pittsburgh-based firm said in a statement.

The two new hires are Etienne Drouard and Claude-Etienne Armingaud, both from Philadelphia’s Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Drouard has done both transactional work and litigation related to intellectual property, data protection and information technology.

Armingaud has also represented clients in intellectual property, data protection and information technology matters.

He has both an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree from the University of Paris, and a master’s degree in law from Cornell University.

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