Western Digital, Lifetime Products: Intellectual Property

Western Digital Corp. won European Union approval for its purchase of Hitachi Ltd.’s Viviti storage business after it agreed to sell off some disk drive production to eliminate antitrust concerns.

Western Digital has agreed to sell “essential production assets” for 3.5-inch hard disk drives, including a production plant and intellectual property rights linked to the business, the European Commission said in a statement Nov. 23. The Viviti deal can’t go ahead until a buyer, approved by the commission, has been found, the regulator said.

“Hard-disk drives are a key component of computers and other sophisticated electronic devices as they are used to store a growing bulk of data in the digital economy,” said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in the statement. “The proposed divestiture will ensure that competition in the industry is fully restored.”

The sell-off pledge eliminated concerns that Western Digital would only face Seagate Technology Plc as a rival supplier of hard disk-drive units, the commission said. Seagate last month won EU approval to buy Samsung Electronics Co.’s computer hard-disk drive operations.

The two transactions would reduce the number of large manufacturers of mechanical hard-disk drives for computers to three from five, leaving Western Digital with 50 percent of the market, Seagate with 40 percent and Toshiba Corp. with around 10 percent, according to researcher IHS Inc.’s iSuppli.

“We are working to meet the remedy condition so that we may proceed to complete the acquisition as soon as possible,” Steve Shattuck, a spokesman for Western Digital, said in an e-mailed statement.

Average hard drive prices have already jumped about 20 percent because of floods in Thailand, which is affecting infrastructure that churns out roughly 40 percent of the world’s drives.

Nokia Says German Court Rejected Appeal in IPCom Patent Case

Nokia Oyj said the German Federal Supreme Court rejected an appeal by IPCom GMbH & Co. and confirmed an earlier ruling that an IPCom patent asserted against Nokia is invalid.

The court rejected the appeal on Nov. 22, Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant said in an e-mailed statement.

For more patent news, click here.


Lifetime Products Wins Trademark Dispute Against Chinese Company

Lifetime Products Inc., a maker of folding chairs and tables, said it received a favorable ruling in a trademark infringement case it filed in China.

According to a statement from the Clearfield, Utah-based company, the Shanghai Pudong New District Court issued an order barring China’s Zhejiang Lifan Furniture Co. Ltd/Hangzhou Xiaoshan Dadongnan Plastic Packing Co. Ltd. from infringing the Lifetime trademarks.

The 25-year-old Utah company filed the suit in April and said that infringing products were seized by local Chinese police and that nation’s customs authority.

The court ordered the Chinese companies -- known collectively as Lifan -- to pay money damages to Lifetime, and to destroy modes used to make infringing copies of Lifetime’s blow-molded folding tables and chairs, according to the company statement.

For more trademark news, click here.

For copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Cisco General Counsel Tells HP to Quit Suing Departing Employees

Cisco Systems Inc., the world’s largest maker of networking equipment, asked Hewlett-Packard Co. to back off from suing its ex-employees who come to work at Cisco.

In a Nov. 23 blog posting, General Counsel Mark Chandler noted that in the past two years, HP has filed suits against three ex-employees in efforts to halt them from joining San Jose, California-based Cisco.

He said that regardless of the state in which they work, all Cisco employees will be treated by the state of California’s ruling in favor of employee mobility worldwide. “We know that employee retention is a matter of fair compensation and career opportunity, not litigation,” he wrote.

California law looks upon non-compete agreements with disfavor. In a case filed in federal court in Wisconsin in 2009, U.S. District Judge Joseph Peter Stadtmueller noted that California “is hostile toward non-compete agreements and does not recognize inevitable disclosure.” Neither Cisco nor Hewlett-Packard was a party to that case.

IP Moves

Wilson Elser Hires Trade Secrets Litigator Kevin S. Murphy

Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP hired Kevin S. Murphy for its Boston office, the New York-based firm said in a statement.

Murphy joins from Boston’s Yurko Salvesen & Remz PC. A litigator, he’s done trade secret and unfair competition cases as well as employment, construction and real-estate law.

He has an undergraduate degree from the College of the Holy Cross and a law degree from University of Connecticut.

Baker Botts Expands U.K. IP Practice With Hire From Jones Day

Baker Botts LLP hired Neil Coulson for its IP practice, the Houston-based firm said in a statement.

Coulson, who does IP dispute resolution, has represented clients in Patent Court and the Court of Appeal in the U.K. and before both the U.K. and the European patent offices. His clients’ technologies have included oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, industrial machinery and heavy engineering, agrochemicals, electronics, information technology, software and environmental engineering.

He has a law degree from St. Peter’s College of Oxford University and a diploma in intellectual property law from Bristol University.

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