Apple, Schweitzer-Mauduit, Target: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc. failed to get a preliminary ban on sales of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy 10.1N and Galaxy Nexus mobile phone from a German court.

The Munich Regional Court rejected the motion yesterday, in a case where Apple invoked a patent granted last year protecting technology related to touch screens for tablets and smartphones.

“Samsung has shown that it is more likely than not that the patent will be revoked because of a technology that was already on the market before the intellectual property had been filed for protection,” Presiding Judge Andreas Mueller said when delivering the ruling.

The decision came a day after a Dusseldorf appeals court upheld Apple’s request to ban sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the predecessor model. Samsung began selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, a revised version, in Germany to get around the ban. A lower Dusseldorf court is scheduled to rule next week on a separate case Apple filed over the Galaxy 10.1N. Samsung lost two patent rulings against its rival in a Mannheim court last month.

The European Commission announced Jan. 31 it will investigate whether Samsung broke a 1998 commitment to license any standard essential patents for phones on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.” The action followed litigation filed by Samsung last year in European courts over the patents, the EU said.

The legal battle between Cupertino, California-based Apple and its closest competitor in tablet computers is intensifying as an increasing number of consumers use tablets and smartphones to visit websites, play games and download music.

Neither Samsung nor Apple immediately replied to e-mails seeking comment on yesterday’s case.

The patent at issue protects technology that shows users when they reach the scrolling limit of a page. The decision relied on the likelihood that Samsung could get the patent revoked at the European patent Office, which had granted the intellectual-property protection.

Peter Chrocziel, an Apple lawyer, argued at the hearing that the technology Samsung claimed was known before the iPad maker’s patent was filed didn’t contain the same solution because it didn’t provide the same experience for the user.

Samsung lawyer Henrik Timmann argued the court shouldn’t be allowed to issue a preliminary ban as long as a nine month deadline for contestation for the patent hasn’t been elapsed.

Judge Mueller said he and his two colleagues on the bench don’t follow the jurisprudence of the courts in Dusseldorf and Mannheim, which don’t typically grant emergency requests over recent patents.

“We don’t share the idea that young patents are less valuable than those who have survived for a longer period of time,” said Mueller. “We don’t think that would be in line with European rules of enforcing IP rights.”

Yesterday’s case is LG Muenchen 21 O 26022/11.

Schweitzer-Mauduit Loses Cigarette-Paper Patent Dispute

Schweitzer-Mauduit International Inc., the world’s largest maker of cigarette papers, lost a ruling in a patent-infringement complaint against Julius Glatz GmbH.

Julius Glatz and its LIPtec unit didn’t violate Schweitzer-Mauduit’s patent rights for papers designed to limit accidental fires, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge James Gildea said in a notice yesterday on the Washington-based agency’s website. The findings are subject to review by the six-member commission, which can block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents.

The dispute is over low-ignition propensity papers, which have thick bands that act as “speed bumps” so a cigarette goes out if a person isn’t drawing air through it. Every U.S. state mandates the use of the low-ignition papers as part of efforts to reduce the number of deaths caused by people falling asleep with smoldering cigarettes.

Gildea’s full determination will be made public after both companies get a chance to redact confidential information.

Schweitzer-Mauduit, based in Alpharetta, Georgia, claimed Julius Glatz infringed two patents related to a way to make the papers. Schweitzer-Mauduit makes papers under the name Alginex, and has said in regulatory filings that it has additional patents protecting its flagship brand from competitors. In its complaint, Schweitzer-Mauduit said it has about 23 percent of the global cigarette-paper market and it supplies about 80 percent of the U.S. market for low-ignition propensity papers.

Glatz, based in Neidenfels, Germany, and its LIPtec make and import their own papers, which are sold through Charlotte, North Carolina-based KneX Worldwide LLC, according to documents in the case. The papers are used in the Signal and Skydancer brand of cigarettes.

The case is In the Matter of Reduced Ignition Proclivity Cigarette Paper Wrappers, 337-756, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

For more patent news, click here.


Target Announces Agreement for Naming, Branding Rights in Canada

Fairweather Ltd., International Clothiers and Les Ailes De La Mode will cease the use of the Target trademark by Jan. 31, 2013, according to a Target Corp. statement released yesterday.

Target, the 1,750-store retailer, and Fairweather of Toronto had sued each other, alleging trademark infringement, and were each seeking injunctions to prevent the other from using the Target name in Canada.

Minneapolis-based Target said in January 2011 it planned to start opening about 150 Canadian outlets in 2013 after agreeing to pay C$1.83 billion ($1.87 billion) for 220 store leases of discount chain Zellers from the Hudson’s Bay Co.

Closely held Fairweather, controlled by Isaac Benitah, had argued that it bought the Canadian rights to the Target name in 2001 from defunct retail group Dylex Ltd. Fairweather said it has operated a Target Apparel store in Toronto since 2005 and has additional locations under the banner in place or planned in other cities.

The U.S. Target took legal action in 2002 against Benitah, who runs several other Canadian chains including International Clothiers. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled in 2007 in favor of Benitah’s use of the name on apparel. Target Corp. filed another trademark challenge last year before its first expansion outside the U.S., and then initiated new litigation, which Fairweather countered with its own Federal Court action.

The retailer’s settlement statement didn’t disclose financial terms or any other details of the agreement.

For more trademark news, click here.


Pirate Bay Founders’ Prison Sentences Confirmed by High Court

Sweden’s Supreme Court didn’t grant a leave to appeal to three founders of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, the Swedish news agency TT reported yesterday, meaning a 2010 guilty verdict and prison sentences for the men will stand.

A Swedish court of appeal on Nov. 26, 2010, sentenced three of the founders of the website to jail and a total of about 46 million kronor ($6.8 million) in damages for aiding copyright infringement. Fredrik Neij was then sentenced to 10 months, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi to eight months and Carl Lundstroem to four months in jail.

For copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Specialized Bike Company Wins Only $1 From Former Employee

A California state court jury ordered a former employee of a Morgan Hill, California-based bicycle manufacturer to pay $1 in damages at the conclusion of a trade-secrets case, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Robert Choi, a former employee of Specialized Bicycle Components Inc. and one of the founders of Cotati, California’s Volagi, was ordered to pay the damages in a suit that accused him and another former Specialized employee of taking the company’s trade secrets with them to their new job, according to the Mercury News.

The judge tossed the trade-secret allegations during the trial, leaving only a breach-of-contract allegation, the newspaper reported.

While Choi told the Mercury News the ruling was disappointing, he said he was pleased that the jury found his conduct that allegedly damaged Specialized Bicycle Components was worth only $1.

IP Moves

Pillsbury Expands San Diego IP Group With Two From Luce Forward

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP expanded its San Diego IP practice with two hires from that city’s Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps LLP, the San Francisco-based firm said in a statement.

The two new hires are Callie Bjurstrom and Peter Hahn, both of whom are litigators.

Bjurstrom has represented clients in patent, trademark and trade-secret disputes. Among the industries in her client base are fast foods, computer games, auto manufacturing and consumer beverages.

She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and a law degree from University of Arizona.

Hahn has done IP litigation and transactional work, including technology-transfer and joint-venture agreements, as well as the IP and technology elements of mergers and acquisitions.

He has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa and a law degree from the University of Houston.

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