Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. is being probed by European Union antitrust regulators over licensing of patents to other mobile-phone manufacturers.
The European Commission said it will investigate whether Samsung broke a 1998 commitment to license any standard essential patents for phones on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.” It acted after Samsung claimed last year in European courts that rivals infringed its patents, the EU said in a statement.
Regulators have increased scrutiny of intellectual property rights, with EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia saying last month that he wanted to ensure patents weren’t used to block rivals’ expansion. He is also probing Honeywell International Inc. and DuPont Co. over chemical patents and is looking into standards in the banking industry.
The EU is “very interested in standards because of their increased importance in view of the telecom boom and the disputes that are going on in the handheld industry,” said Douwe Groenevelt, a lawyer with De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek NV in Brussels. Companies that own “standards-essential patents are in a very powerful position” because rivals must ask for a license to make products compatible with industry norms.
James Chung, a spokesman for Samsung in Seoul, declined to immediately comment on the EU investigation.
The EU commission will investigate whether Samsung broke EU monopoly abuse rules and violated a commitment to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute over licensing terms by using “certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets,” the Brussels-based agency said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
The EU said in November that it was quizzing Samsung and rival Apple Inc. over the use of patents. Both companies were sent requests for information about “the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile-telephony sector,” the EU said at the time.
Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple in London, declined to comment. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said in a U.S. court filing in October that Samsung faced an EU probe into its “egregious” misuse of patents.
CSR Says It Will Seek More Than 100 Patents on New Train
No patent applications related to CSR Corp.’s bullet-train technology have yet appeared in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database of published patent applications, even after the Chinese company announced plans to seek U.S. patent protection.
State-owned CSR told Asahi Shimbun in June that although its bullet train was based in technology used in Japan’s high-speed trains, the technology was developed independently and CRS would seek U.S. patent protection.
In a January statement, the Beijing-based company said its newest train is “a cutting-edge product independently and comprehensively innovated by CSR.” Research institutes that contributed to development of the train’s technology include the Institute of Mechanics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the China Academy of Railway Sciences, Southwest Jiaotong University, Beijing Jiaotong University and Tongji University, CSR said.
The new train is sword-shaped, with the design inspired by an ancient Chinese weapon, the company said. CSR will apply for more than 100 patents for the train, according to the statement.
Samsung Fails to Overturn Apple’s German Galaxy Tab 10.1 Ban
Samsung Electronics Co. lost a bid to overturn a German sales ban on its Galaxy 10.1 tablet computers obtained by Apple Inc. in an intellectual property dispute.
The Higher Regional Court in Dusseldorf backed the ban in a ruling yesterday. While Apple can’t rely on a European Union design it used to win the sales ban, the order is justified under German competition rules, Presiding Judge Wilhelm Berneke said.
“Samsung wrongfully takes advantage of the enormous reputation and prestige of the iPad,” Berneke said. “Samsung unfairly imitates the iPad with its tablet.”
The ruling has little relevance because of the new Galaxy Tab 10.1N, Samsung said in an e-mailed statement after the ruling. The decision doesn’t apply to a suit Apple filed over that model, which is being reviewed by a lower court in Dusseldorf, the company said.
The court said the sales ban also applies to the Galaxy 8.9., so a separate ruling on that device, requested by Apple, isn’t necessary.
In yesterday’s case, both sides were appealing a Sept. 9 sales ban issued by the lower court. Samsung sought to overturn the ban, while Apple wanted it extended to cover all EU countries. The court said today that the ban only applies in Germany.
Yesterday’s cases are OLG Dusseldorf, I-20 U 175/11 and I-20 U 126/11.
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NFL, Saints Resolve Trademark Dispute With Who Dat Inc.
The National Football League and a New Orleans entertainment company settled a trademark dispute, they said in a joint statement.
Who Dat? Inc. sued the NFL in federal court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in March, accusing the league and the New Orleans Saints football team of infringing its “Who Dat” trademark. The company founder registered the trademark with the state of Louisiana in 1983, according to court papers.
The phrase became part of a chant used by fans of the Saints, particularly during the drive to the 2009 Super Bowl championship.
The company objected to the Saints’ attempt to register the phrase as a state trademark and the league’s and the team’s opposition to its application for a federal trademark. The lack of clarity over the ownership of the mark limited Who Dat?’s opportunity to license it to others, according to the company’s complaint.
The case was transferred to federal court in New Orleans in August 2010.
In the joint statement issued Jan. 30, the league and Who Dat? said they agreed to dismiss all claims against each other. They said they will sell co-branded merchandise bearing both the marks and logos of the Saints and the phrase “Who Dat?”
The case is Who Dat? Inc. v. NFL Properties LLC, 2:10-cv-02296-CJB-KWR, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).
Non-Profit Admission Possible Changes Name to College Possible
A non-profit college-preparation program for low-income students in Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota changed its name to College Possible from Admission Possible in the wake of a trademark dispute, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
A for-profit group based in California objected to the name Admission Possible, the newspaper reported.
The California group originally gave the non-profit permission to use its name, then sought the change after Admission Possible expanded operations to Omaha, Nebraska, according to the Star Tribune.
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Reed Elsevier Journals Targeted by Academics’ Boycott
Reed Elsevier Plc, the owner of the LexisNexis database, is being boycotted by more than a thousand academics who signed an online petition.
The boycott, begun by Professor Tim Gowers of Cambridge University, was triggered by Jan. 21 blog posting in which Gowers said he would no longer “have anything to do with Elsevier journals.”
For Gowers, a mathematician, that means he would no longer publish, referee or do editorial work for more than a dozen Elsevier publications in his field, including “Advances in Mathematics,” “Journal of Algebra” and “Comptes Rendus.”
Shortly after Gowers’s blog posting, “The Cost of Knowledge” website was set up. According to that site, academics are boycotting the publisher for its support of the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and other proposed legislation they claim “aim to restrict the free exchange of information.”
Price is another concern, the academics said. They claim Elsevier charges “exorbitantly high prices” for their journals, and sell them in very large bundles “ so libraries must buy a large set with many unwanted journals or none at all.”
Academics who signed on for the boycott come from institutions including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, University of Tokyo, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, the Max Planck Institute, University of Pisa, University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University.
In addition to mathematics, disciplines represented include physics, computer science, chemistry, biology, astrophysics, psychology and toxicology.
Patrick Kerr, a spokesman for London-based Reed Elsevier, said that the facts on which the academics’ petition is based “are not correct.” Access to published content “is greater and at its lowest cost per use than ever,” Kerr said in an e-mail.
The publisher “is in the business of expanding access to content, not restricting it,” Kerr said. The company was “the first and largest contributor” to the National Institutes of Health free-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature, he said.
Elsevier is “reaching out” to the academics “to make sure we understand their concerns,” Kerr said.
Newzbin’s Lawyer Disbarred for Concealing He Owned Client
A U.K. intellectual property lawyer who failed to disclose he was the owner of a company he represented in a copyright-infringement lawsuit was disbarred, according to the U.K.’s Bar Standards Board.
David Harris of Brighton “engaged in conduct which was likely to diminish public confidence in the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute,” the board’s disciplinary tribunal said in its Jan. 26 findings.
The company was Newzbin Ltd., in which Harris held 100 percent of the shares. He “deceived or knowingly or recklessly mislead the court” as to his relationship with the client, the board said.
The board also found that Harris sent objectionable messages under the “GeekLawyer” pseudonym via Twitter Inc.’s short messaging service. One of the “tweets” Harris sent was “We are guilty as sin, f--- me they are entirely right,” the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.
Harris was also fined 2,500 pounds ($3,940). The tribunal’s decision is open to appeal.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Japan Works with Fujitsu to Develop Cyber-Attack Defense
Although Japan’s government presently lacks the authority for its legal use, the Defense Ministry is developing a computer virus that can track and disable cyber attacks, according to the Yomimuri Shimbun.
The virus, created by Fujitsu Ltd. under a three-year 178.5 million yen ($2.4 million) contract with the ministry’s Technical Research and Development Institute, has been tested in a closed environment, the newspaper reported.
Japan’s Criminal Code currently bars virus production, according to Yomimuri Shimbun.
A 2005 cabinet decision defining the types of attacks against which the nation can mount a defense would have to be modified to permit the use of the virus, according to the newspaper.
Motorola Solutions, Lemko Settle Trade-Secrets Dispute
Motorola Solutions Inc. and Lemko Corp. agreed to end their trade-secrets dispute over technology related to mobile telecommunications.
Motorola Solutions had sued Lemko in federal court in Chicago, while Lemko had filed claims in federal and state court in Illinois, according to a Jan. 31 statement on Motorola Solutions’ website. According to the statement the claims were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they can’t be refiled, and the settlement was amicable.
The Motorola case is Motorola Inc. v. Lemko Corp., 1:08-cv-05427, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The state court suit is Lemko Corp. v. Motorola Solutions Inc., 2011-L-011566, Illinois Circuit Court, Cook County (Chicago).
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