ZTE, Apple, Mega Brands, Aramark: Intellectual Property

ZTE Corp., China’s second-largest maker of phone equipment, said it and Ericsson AB agreed to withdraw patent lawsuits against each other.

The companies are awaiting court approval to end the suits, ZTE said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Jan. 19. ZTE also denied that it was ordered to pay 500 million euros ($647 million) to Ericsson and was banned from entering the European market. Stockholm-based Ericsson said in a separate statement that the two parties agreed to drop all litigation and signed a global cross-licensing agreement.

After “extensive discussion and consultation,” the companies “have agreed to withdraw all patent infringement litigations against each other,” ZTE said in the statement. This includes lawsuits filed by Ericsson against ZTE in the U.K., Germany and Italy, and a lawsuit filed by ZTE against Ericsson in China.

Ericsson, the world’s largest maker of wireless phone networks, said in April that it filed lawsuits against ZTE in Europe, in connection with alleged infringement of several handset and network technology patents.

“Ericsson has the strongest patent portfolio in the industry with over 27,000 patents and any company which sells mobile devices or systems needs a license from Ericsson,” Kasim Alfalahi, chief intellectual property officer at Ericsson, said in the statement. “We have signed more than 90 patent agreements with different vendors worldwide. Now we can add ZTE to this group.”

ZTE smartphone sales may double this year as they gain market share in Europe, North America, Brazil and Japan, the company said last week.

That expansion in handsets may damp profit as the company subsidizes purchases of the devices, said Bill Fan, an analyst at Guosen Securities Co. in Hong Kong, which rates the shares “buy.”

Apple Seeks Patent on Configuration Alternatives for Batteries

Apple Inc., maker of the iPod and iPhone, has applied for a patent covering a variety of configurations for batteries to be used in portable devices.

According to application 20120015236, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Jan. 19, the battery cell would include sets of electrode sheets of different dimensions placed in a stacked configuration. This would allow a better use of space inside the device, Apple said in its application.

The shape wouldn’t be limited, as is presently the case with most batteries for portable devices, to a rectangle. According to illustrations published with the application, the electrode sheets could be doughnut-shaped, triangular, pie-shaped or pyramidal. The illustration shows them stacked in descending sizes.

Cupertino, California-based Apple claimed in the application that the technology for which it seeks a patent can improve the “packaging efficiency, capacity, form factor, cost, design, and/or manufacturing of battery packs containing lithium-polymer battery cells.”

Apple filed the application for this patent in July 2010.

Products Infringing Skyrunner Patent Come to Crushing End

A U.K.-based intellectual property specialist turned to Google Inc.’s YouTube to show the consequences of infringing a patent belonging to one of his clients.

Edward Humphrey-Evans posted a video of a large vehicle driving back and forth, destroying devices that infringed his client’s patent EP1196220. The client, PYC International Inc. of Shanghai, makes devices known as Skyrunners. They are a springy stilt-like device that enable users to perform feats of balance and to jump to great heights.

The video, which runs for 36 seconds, shows Skyrunners both loose on the ground and inside the box being crushed.

The IPKat blog, which reported on the video, noted that the Skyrunners were crushed after they were seized because the infringers lacked the money to send them to China at PYC’s behest.

For more patent news, click here.


Mega Brands Drops Lego Trademark Suit After Customs Assurances

Mega Brands Inc., the Montreal-based toymaker, said it has dropped the week-old trademark suit it filed against Lego A/S, attempting to invalidate the Danish toy company’s 1999 “functional” U.S. trademark.

According to a Jan. 20 statement, Mega Brands said it dropped the suit after it learned from the U.S. Customers and Border Protection agency that it wouldn’t interfere with the importation of its products into the U.S.

In its Jan. 13 suit filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, Mega Brands had accused Copenhagen, Denmark-based Lego of using “fraudulently obtained IP rights” to interfere with the Canadian company’s right to continue to import competing products. At issue was the cylindrical stud on the surface of Lego blocks that permits them to be attached to each other.

Mega Brands had claimed that the configuration of the Lego block was wholly functional, and not entitled to trademark protection. It cited a number of unsuccessful trademark claims Lego had made in other jurisdictions.

According to Bloomberg data, the order dismissing the case on Mega Brands motion is “without prejudice,” which means that the Canadian toy company can re-file it at a later date if desired. The court also dismissed its temporary order barring Lego from using its trademark in efforts to get the Mega Brands product halted from entry into the U.S.

The case is Mega Brands Inc. v. Lego Juris A/s, 8:12-cv-00064-JVS-AN, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana).

Aramark Unit in Canadian Trademark Dispute With Small Company

Aramark Corp.’s CoffeeCompany unit is involved in a trademark battle with a three-store coffee company in Ontario, the Toronto Star reported.

CoffeeCo of Kingston, Ontario, has been selling coffee since 2007 and filed -- and later abandoned -- an application to register “CoffeeCo” as a Canadian trademark, according to the Star.

After the company’s owner contacted the Aramark unit, he was sent letter telling him there was no likelihood of confusion between the marks, and that CoffeeCompany had filed three applications to register its name as a Canadian trademark in 2010, the newspaper reported.

Richard Ottenhof, CoffeCo’s owner, told the Star he’s hoping to persuade CoffeeCompany to back down because he lacks the money for a court fight and “I don’t have a prayer if I don’t get them to behave in an ethical way.”

Vietnam’s Bin Thuan Dragon Fruit Growers Get U.S. Trademark

A Vietnamese growers’ association registered a trademark for the magenta-colored dragon fruit that is being imported into the U.S.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the mark was registered to the Department of Science and Technology of Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam’s largest grower of the specialty fruit item. It is to be used with fresh dragon fruit, which is the fruit of a member of the night-blooming Hylocerus family.

The mark -- “Binh Thuan Dragon Fruit” -- is only to be used with the fruit when grown in the province of Binh Thuan, and planted, harvested and preserved in accordance with good agricultural practices that conforms to “standards of appearance, pulp, nutritious ingredients” as defined by the certifying association.

For more trademark news, click here.


Congress Shelves Hollywood-Backed Piracy Bills After Web Protest

U.S. Senate and House leaders shelved Hollywood-backed anti-piracy legislation days after a global online protest by Google Inc. and Wikipedia eroded congressional support.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Jan. 20 canceled a Jan. 24 procedural vote on the Senate measure, the Protect IP Act, while House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said his panel would postpone consideration of the House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement dropping the vote. Reid said he’s “optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

The movie and music industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business-lobbying group, support the Senate and House measures as a way to fight sales of pirated content by non-U.S. websites. Internet companies say the bills would promote online censorship, disrupt the Web’s architecture and harm their ability to innovate.

The anti-piracy bills call for the Justice Department to seek court orders forcing Internet-service providers, search engines, payment processors and online ad networks to block or stop doing business with non-U.S. sites linked to piracy. The measures would let private copyright holders seek court orders forcing payment and ad companies to cut off such websites.

An offer by the bills’ lead sponsors to drop a provision requiring Internet-service providers to block websites failed to stop Google, Wikipedia and other websites from leading a protest last week that unraveled the legislation’s prospects. At least eight Senate co-sponsors, including seven Republicans, withdrew their support or expressed reservations.

Visitors to Google, the world’s most popular search engine, were greeted Jan. 18 by a black box covering the company’s familiar icon, and a message that read “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!” The message linked to a page outlining Google’s opposition and an option to sign an online petition.

Reid’s move followed a call Jan. 19 by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for delaying the chamber’s vote.

The “decision to set aside the bill will give Congress the opportunity to study and resolve the serious issues with this legislation and prevent a counterproductive rush ,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in an e-mailed statement Jan. 20.

For copyright news, click here.


Paul J. Luckern, Trade Commission’s Former Chief Judge, Dies

Paul J. Luckern, the retired chief administrative law judge of the U.S. International Trade Commission, died, the ITC said in a statement Jan. 19.

Judge Luckern, who retired in August at the age of 81, was the longest-serving judge on the commission, a government agency that has the power to bar the importation of infringing products.

In 2008 he also took on the role of chief administrative judge.

Before he was a lawyer, Judge Luckern was a chemist for the Eastman Kodak Co. Additionally, he taught chemistry and did graduate work under a research grant at the University of Southern California.

He had worked as a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and served as a patent consultant for J.R. Geigy AG, which is now part of Sandoz AG.

From 1962 to 1964, he was a technical adviser to Judge I. Jack Martin of the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.

He practiced with the IP specialty firm of Fish & Neave, now part of Boston’s Ropes & Gray LLP. He left in 1971 to become a trial attorney focused on intellectual property issued with the U.S. Department of Justice, and started his career as an administrative law judge in 1981 with the Social Security Administration. He moved over to the bench of the trade commission in 1984.

Judge Luckern had an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Georgetown University, where he also received his law degree and a master’s degree in law. He had a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Cornell University.

In an interview posted on the website of Chicago’s DLA Piper LLP in June 2011, Judge Luckern laid out the role of the trade commission. He said investigations conducted by the commission ‘are not discriminatory against foreigners.’’

He said that companies, regardless of where they are based, “have to establish some sort of relationship with the U.S. via a domestic industry.” Once they do that, “they may come out smelling like a rose. A beautiful rose!”

The commission protects technology, he said, “Where we are in this country today is because of technology, and ITC proceedings protect valid patents.”

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