Nov. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc. were questioned by European Union antitrust regulators over the use of smartphone patents, the European Commission said.
Samsung and Apple were sent requests for information on “the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile-telephony sector,” according to a spokeswoman for the Brussels-based regulator who declined to be identified, citing office policy. The requests are standard procedure, she said.
“This is all about Samsung,” said Florian Mueller, a Munich-based consultant who has done work for rival mobile-phone operating system-maker Microsoft Corp. “Apple does not assert any standards-essential patents in court.”
Apple and Samsung have filed at least 30 lawsuits against each other in 10 countries, according to Samsung. While Apple has also sued Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and HTC Corp. over phones using the same operating system, the company’s now-deceased founder Steve Jobs took particular interest in Samsung devices because of what he saw as blatant similarities to the sleek look of its iPhone and iPad tablet computer.
Apple said in a filing in a California court case that Samsung faced an EU antitrust investigation into its “egregious” misuse of patents. The Cupertino, California-based company didn’t indicate it also received a request for information in the filing. Apple wouldn’t confirm whether it received a request for information from the EU and declined to comment Nov. 4 beyond the California court filing.
Samsung is cooperating with the EU request and “has at all times remained committed to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms for our wireless standards-related patents,” according to a statement from Brendon Gore, Samsung’s European spokesman.
“Samsung’s litigation campaign and other conduct related to its declared-essential patents is so egregious that the European Commission recently has opened an investigation to determine whether Samsung’s behavior violates EU competition laws,” Apple said in the Oct. 28 federal court filing.
Microsoft makes an operating system that competes with Google’s Android, used by Samsung and others, and has sued companies that refuse to pay the Redmond, Washington-based company royalties on products that run on the Android system. Samsung agreed in September to pay Microsoft royalties for using Android on its mobile phones and tablets.
The fight over intellectual property is particularly intense because of the complex relationship between Apple and Samsung. Samsung, based in Suwon, South Korea, is the second-largest component supplier for Apple and gets about 7.6 percent of its total revenue from selling memory chips, displays and other components for the iPhone and iPad, according to Bloomberg data.
Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said last year that he wanted more openness in the way industry standards are set for products such as mobile phones because they are “becoming increasingly important in facilitating innovation.”
EU regulators in 2009 halted their investigation of Rambus Inc., a U.S. memory-chip designer, after it agreed to cut patent royalty rates for some products. Chipmakers accused Rambus of trying to get patents included in a technology standard used by the industry so it could improperly collect royalties.
The California case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846 U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
Dell, HTC Win U.S. Appeal Over Touch Screen Patents
Dell Inc. and HTC Corp. didn’t infringe patents held by Typhoon Touch Technologies, a Washington-based federal appeals court has ruled.
The companies were sued for infringement in federal court in Tyler, Texas, in December 2007. Among the other co-defendants were Lenovo Group Ltd., Toshiba Corp., Panasonic Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd.
In its Nov. 4 ruling, the appeals court affirmed a lower-court ruling that the defendants didn’t infringe patents 5,379,057, and 5,675,362. The patents are valid, the appeals court said, reversing the Texas court on that determination.
Closely held Typhoon Touch Technologies is based in Carson City, Nevada.
The case is Typhoon Touch Technologies Inc. v. Dell Inc., 09-01589, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The lower court case is Typhoon Touch Technologies Inc., v. Motion Computing Inc., 6:07-cv-00546-LED, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).
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Applicants Seek to Register ‘What Would Steve Do?’ Trademark
Even though Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs specifically warned that those at his company shouldn’t be asking “what would Steve do?” after his death, one trademark applicant appears to be doing just that.
An application was filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the phrase on Oct. 7, two days after the death from pancreatic cancer of the Cupertino, California-based company’s founder.
According to the application, the mark would be used for bracelets. It was filed by two residents of Elk Grove, California, who share the same address.
Amazon.com Files Application to Register ‘Amazon Flow’ Trademark
Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest online retailer, filed an application to register “Amazon Flow” as a trademark, according to the patent office database.
The application, filed Oct. 28, covers a broad range of uses consistent with cloud computing. The Seattle-based company said it would be used for providing an online network that enables users to access and share content, text, data, images, graphics, audio, video, resources and websites, and for computer services to enable access to social networking services. It would also cover computer software, advertising services, electronic transmission of content, and the provision of information about entertainment serves via a global computer network.
The application was filed on Amazon’s behalf by in-house IP counsel Ming Shui.
Vietnamese Coffee Growers Will Fight to Regain Control of Marks
Coffee growers from Vietnam’s Dak Lak province and government entities are preparing to spend as much as $600 million in efforts to regain international control of their “Buon Ma Thuot” and “Dak Lak” trademarks, Vietnam News reported.
The growers discovered their mark registered in China by a Chinese company, and their “Dak Lak” coffee mark was registered in 10 different countries by a French company, according to Vietnam News.
Trinh Minh Duc, the vice chairman of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association, said the legal cases could take as long as three years, and already the group has received proposals from local firms wanting to be part of the case, Vietnam News reported.
The Buon Ma Thuot region of Dak Lak is Vietnam’s largest coffee-growing region, with exports to 60 countries, according to Vietnam News.
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Last NinjaVideo Defendant Enters Plea in Infringement Case
The final remaining defendant in the NinjaVideo criminal copyright case pleaded guilty, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Justin A. Dedemko, 28, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. He was involved in locating infringing content on the Internet and uploading it to servers used by the NinjaVideo website, the government said. He also participated in marketing discussions with companies interested in placing ads on the NinjaVideo website, according to court papers.
He will pay $58,000 in restitution and faces a possible prison sentence of five years, the government said. Dedemko’s sentencing is set for Feb. 24, and he is presently free after posting a $15,000 bond, according to court papers.
The case is U.S. v. Dedemko, 1:11-cr-00509-AJT, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
Perfect 10, Megaupload Settle Copyright Infringement Dispute
Perfect 10, a Los Angeles-based provider of adult content, has settled a copyright infringement case with a company that permitted users to store uploaded content, according to a court filing.
The California company sued Megaupload Ltd. of Hong Kong in federal court in San Diego in January. Perfect 10 claimed that under the guise of being a file storage company, Megaupload stored, distributed uploaded and sold “thousands” of Perfect 10’s photographs and other images without authorization.
In July U.S. District Judge Irma E. Gonzalez dismissed some elements in the original case, which had included trademark infringement claims. That order was set aside Oct. 11 following a joint motion by Perfect 10 and Megaupload.
The request for the dismissal of the case, signed by all parties, was filed with the court in mid-October. According to that filing, all details of the settlement are confidential. The case was dismissed Oct. 18.
The case is Perfect 10 Inc. v. Megaupload Ltd., 3:11-cv-00191-IEG-BLM U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).
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Trade Secrets, Economic Espionage
China, Russia “Aggressive” Trade Secret Collectors, U.S. Says
China and Russia are the worst offenders with respect to economic espionage against the U.S., according to a report submitted to Congress last week by the Office of the National Counter Intelligence Executive.
Both countries were termed “aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive U.S. economic information and technologies.”
Among the technologies the report suggested would be of greatest interest are information and communications, marine systems, aerospace and aeronautics, clean technologies, advanced materials and manufacturing techniques, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, agricultural technology, and business information related to energy and other natural resources.
The move to the “cloud computing” paradigm may be problematic, according to the report, because employees will be able to access data and work anywhere and at any time, not just when they are at the office, laboratory or factory. The movement of data through multiple locations “will increase the opportunities for theft of manipulation by malicious actors,” according to the report.
Data was contributed to the report by many different government agencies and departments including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Energy in addition to the Central Intelligence Agency.
The counterintelligence office’s website features a series of posters on an industrial espionage theme that can be downloaded and printed out for free.
Several are along the lines of the famous World War II “Loose Lips Sink Ships” poster, bearing such slogans as “Trade Secrets Are the Key to American’s Future,” and “Without Trade Secrets a Nation Will Die.” Another poster bearing photos of defendants convicted of trade secret theft says “Economic Espionage Does Pay . . . and Prison is the Bank.”
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