SOPA, Spider-Man, Alcatel-Lucent: Intellectual Property

Six U.S. lawmakers dropped their support for Hollywood-backed anti-piracy legislation as Google Inc., Wikipedia and other websites protest the measures.

Co-sponsors who say they no longer support their own legislation include Senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, and Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat. Republican Representatives Ben Quayle of Arizona, Lee Terry of Nebraska, and Dennis Ross of Florida also said they would withdraw their backing of the House bill.

The Senate bill and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House are backed by the movie and music industries as a means to crack down on the sale of counterfeit goods by non-U.S. websites.

Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, covered the “Google” icon on its home page yesterday with a black box and linked to a website that says the bills may spur censorship and slow U.S. economic growth.

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation Inc., shut the English version of its website for 24 hours in protest against the bills. The home page of the English website gives visitors information about how to call their elected representatives.

Craigslist Inc., operator of the online classified ad website, steered users to a page with a black background and a message in white letters asking visitors to “imagine a world without craigslist, Google, Wikipedia.” The San Jose, California-based company provided visitors with a link to a page with online tools for contacting lawmakers to voice opposition to the Hollywood-backed legislation.

Rubio said he switched his position on the Senate measure, the Protect IP Act, after examining opponents’ contention that it would present a “potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet,” according to a posting yesterday on Facebook. Blunt said in a statement he is withdrawing as a co-sponsor of the Senate bill.

Ross said he was withdrawing support for the House legislation in a Twitter post. Spokesmen for Quayle and Terry said the lawmakers would no longer back the House measure. Cardin said he couldn’t vote for the Senate bill in its current form, according to a statement last week.

The Senate bill is S. 968 and the House bill is H.R. 3261.

‘Spider-Man’ Producers Sue Spurned Director, Julie Taymor

After the first preview of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Nov. 28, 2010, Michael Cohl, a Canadian concert promoter and lead producer of the $75 million musical, declared himself “ecstatic.”

“I thought the audience enjoyed it,” he was quoted saying on the website of “Entertainment Weekly” the following day. “It was a 10 out of a 10 in the category of first previews.”

Cohl and the show’s other producers recalled the evening differently in a complaint filed Jan. 17 in federal court in Manhattan.

“The performance was a disaster,” they said in the document -- a countersuit against the show’s former director, Julie Taymor. The performance ran five hours, “suffered from numerous technical problems, and had no ending.”

The 66-page countersuit includes the most complete explanation to date of why producers early last year fired Taymor, famed for her staging of “The Lion King” on Broadway.

She sued them in November, claiming that they refused to pay royalties guaranteed by her contract and violated her intellectual-property rights by changing the show without her permission. As the co-writer, she said she worked on the script for more than seven years.

Taymor’s lawyer, Charles T. Spada, called the countersuit “baseless” in a statement distributed by her spokesman, Chris Kanarick. “In her lawsuit, Ms. Taymor will continue to vigorously seek enforcement of her creative rights and will respond to the defendants’ counter-claims, as well as their outrageous mischaracterization and attempts to besmirch her reputation.”

The countersuit blames Taymor for production delays and cost overruns. It said companies owned by Cohl and his partner, Jeremiah Harris, “contributed over $20 million to support the show.”

The case is Julie Taymor v. 8 Legged Productions LLC, 1:11-cv-08002-RJH, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The original case is Julie Taymor v. 8 Legged Productions LLLC, 1:11-cv-08002-RJH, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Copyrights on Foreign Works Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law that gave copyright protection to millions of foreign-produced books, movies and musical pieces and may undermine Google Inc.’s effort to create an online library.

Yesterday’s 6-2 ruling takes works by Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and J.R.R. Tolkien out of the public domain, barring use without permission of the copyright owner. The decision is a victory for the film and music industries and a setback for Google.

The justices rejected arguments from orchestra conductors, educators, performers, film archivists and movie distributors. They argued that the 1994 law violates the constitutional provision that lets Congress set up a copyright system, as well as the Constitution’s free-speech guarantee.

The law “lies well within the ken of the political branches,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito dissented, and Justice Elena Kagan didn’t take part in the case.

The statute aimed to harmonize U.S. copyright law with rules in other countries. The measure applied to works that had been excluded from the American copyright system for various reasons, in some cases because the U.S. didn’t have copyright relations with the author’s home country and in other cases because the U.S. hadn’t yet recognized copyrights on sound recordings.

The law gave rights-holders the copyright protection they otherwise would have had. Affected works include Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” hundreds of Picasso paintings, several Hitchcock films and the music of Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich and other Russian composers.

Congress approved the law to meet obligations stemming from the so-called Uruguay Round of international trade talks. The motion-picture and music industries pushed for the provision to secure reciprocal copyright protection for American works abroad.

The Obama administration defended the law, arguing that Congress has the constitutional power to remove works from the public domain.

In dissent, Breyer said the law went beyond Congress’s constitutional power to confer copyrights for the purpose of promoting science and knowledge.

Even if would-be users can track down the copyright owners, they may face other obstacles, said Anthony Falzone, the lawyer who represented the challengers to the law.

A Google spokesman, Jim Prosser, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment. In court papers, Google said the law might affect as many as a million books the company has already scanned as part of its book project.

The case is Golan v. Holder, 10-545.

For more copyright news, click here.


Alcatel-Lucent, Microsoft Patent-Infringement Case Dismissed

Alcatel-Lucent’s patent-infringement lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest maker of software, was dismissed by a federal judge after both companies asked to end the case.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff granted the joint motion to end all claims in the suit with each side agreeing to bear its own costs, according to a filing Jan. 17 in San Diego. No information was given on a possible settlement of the dispute.

In July, a jury awarded Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent $70 million in damages. Huff reduced the award to $26.3 million on Nov. 10.

Alcatel-Lucent sued over technology in Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft’s Outlook program and two other applications.

The case is Lucent Technologies Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 07-02000, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Barroso Urges Accord on Common EU Patent in First Half of 2012

European Commission President Jose Barroso urged France, Germany and the U.K. to “swiftly” reach a compromise to allow agreement on a region-wide patent system.

“I fully expect negotiations on this to be completed early in the Danish presidency” of the European Union, which ends on June 30, Barroso told the European Parliament yesterday in Strasbourg, France. “I call on three member states -- France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- who are holding this up over a side issue” to find a compromise, he said.

Governments from 25 EU nations have agreed on the basic structure of the patent system, though discord remains over the creation of a patent court, Pierre Delsaux, deputy director general in EU Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier’s department, said last month. Italy and Spain have opted out of the plans because they objected to the language proposals.

“It is not acceptable that such a crucial initiative is blocked over such a trivial issue,” Barroso said.

Cinven Agrees to Buy Patents Company CPA From Intermediate

Cinven Ltd., the British buyout firm that owns the Pizza Express restaurant chain, agreed to buy patents company CPA Global Ltd. from Intermediate Capital Group Plc and other shareholders.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed in the first quarter, London-based Cinven said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The transaction values CPA at about 950 million pounds ($1.5 billion), according to a person with direct knowledge of the purchase, who declined to be identified because the terms weren’t fully disclosed.

Cinven is investing the remainder of its 6.5 billion-euro ($8.3 billion) buyout fund while seeking 5 billion euros from investors for another pool. Intermediate bought a minority stake in CPA in 2010 with the company’s management and founding shareholders, according to Intermediate’s website. CPA, based in Jersey, has offices across Europe, the United States and Asia, Cinven said. It offers corporations and law firms intellectual property-management services and software.

Intermediate, a London-based private-equity firm, said the sale will generate 387 million pounds for itself and the funds it advises. Of that, the firm will receive about 113 million pounds, realizing a 43 million-pound gain, it said in a statement.

Kodak Sues Samsung in Next Step on ‘Aggressive’ Patent Path

Eastman Kodak Co. stepped up its campaign to extract more cash from its patent portfolio by suing Samsung Electronics Co. over claims Samsung’s Galaxy tablet infringes technology for capturing and sending digital images.

The complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Rochester, New York, where Kodak is based, accuses Samsung of infringing five patents, including one for technology already licensed for Samsung’s mobile phones. The other four were cited in lawsuits last week against Apple Inc. and HTC Corp.

Kodak said in November that selling or licensing patents, as well as refinancing debt, will help determine its ability to continue operating in the next 12 months as declines in the company’s traditional photography business hurt sales and cash reserves. Kodak last week sued HTC, Apple and Fujifilm Holdings Corp., and also has a suit against Research In Motion Ltd.

“We’re continuing on our newly aggressive path” of pursuing licensing revenue from the company’s intellectual property, Christopher Veronda, a Kodak spokesman, said yesterday.

Samsung in 2010 agreed to pay Kodak $550 million to settle another patent dispute in which the Suwon, South Korea-based handset maker was accused of infringing a patent for a feature that lets users preview images on their cameras using less processing power and storage The new case is Eastman Kodak Co. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 6:12-cv-06036, U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (Rochester).

For more patent news, click here.


U.S. Piracy List ‘Irresponsible,’ China Dissatisfied, Shen Says

A report from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office that included Chinese Internet companies in a list of “notorious markets” that help sustain piracy is “irresponsible” and “not objective,” Shen Danyang, China’s commerce ministry spokesman, said at a regular briefing in Beijing.

Shen said China urges the U.S. to recognize its efforts in protecting intellectual property rights and help avoid a negative impact on Chinese companies, he said.

China is paying great attention to the issue and is expressing its serious dissatisfaction, he said. The report was issued in December.

Baidu Inc., China’s biggest Internet company by market value, was removed from the list. The U.S. cited “positive action” by Baidu.

For more trademark news, click here.

IP Moves

Leydig Opens Nor-Cal Office With Hire From Kilpatrick Townsend

Leydig Voit & Mayer Ltd. is opening an office in Northern California to serve the region’s technology industries, the Chicago-based IP specialty firm said in a statement.

The new office, in Walnut Creek, California, will be headed by Gerald Gray, formerly of Atlanta’s Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.

Gray does patent-acquisition work and counseling for clients in the areas of physics, optics, electronics and computers.

He has an undergraduate degree in physics from Columbia College, a master’s degree in physics from the University of California at San Diego and a law degree from George Washington University.

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