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Motorola, Proview, Michael Jordan: Intellectual Property

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. said it is open to resolving its patent-licensing dispute with Microsoft Corp. in a “mutually beneficial manner” after Microsoft filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission.

Microsoft’s filing, and a related blog post, were “simply tactics in the patent battle that Microsoft initiated with surprise infringement actions against Motorola Mobility in October 2010,” Gemma Goatly, a spokeswoman for Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility, said in an e-mailed statement.

The European Commission said yesterday that it received complaints from Microsoft concerning Motorola Mobility and Google Inc. Microsoft said the actions were in response to attempts by Motorola Mobility to block sales of personal computers and game consoles that run its software.

“We just received the complaint and we are looking into this,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition chief told reporters yesterday in Brussels. “These patent issues are very important.”

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, said Google, which is buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, was included in the complaint because it hadn’t committed to change Motorola Mobility’s policies.

“Microsoft has touted the value of patent licensing for its own patents, but a fair resolution requires that Microsoft also recognize the value of the Motorola Mobility patents it is using,” Goatly said.

Motorola Mobility, Microsoft, Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc. are involved in numerous patent lawsuits in Europe as demand for smartphones and tablets soar.

Apple has filed a patent-licensing complaint against Motorola Mobility with the European Commission. The commission is also probing Samsung over whether it broke licensing commitments.

Whether Microsoft’s filing is grouped together with Apple’s for consideration by EU antitrust officials depends on the “substance of each one of the complaints,” Almunia said.

Comcast Sues Sprint Over Four Telecommunications Patents

Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable company, sued a unit of Sprint Nextel Corp. over four telecommunications patents.

Comcast “has been irreparably harmed by that infringement and will suffer additional damages,” unless the court prevents additional infringement, lawyers for the company said in a complaint filed Feb. 21 in Delaware federal court.

Scott M. Sloat, a spokesman for Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint, said the company couldn’t immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Comcast contends that services provided by Sprint, the nation’s third-largest wireless phone company, misappropriated technology used for accessing communication data.

Comcast last week filed a separate suit against Sprint claiming infringement of four other telecommunication patents in federal court in Philadelphia. Sprint sued Philadelphia-based Comcast and three other cable companies in December alleging infringement of patents related to transmitting phone calls over digital lines.

In dispute are patents 7,012,916; 7,206,304; 7,903,641; and 6,873,694.

The case is Comcast v. Sprint, 12-cv-00205, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.


Shanghai Court Rejects Proview Request to Halt Apple IPad Sales

A court in Shanghai rejected a request by the Shenzhen unit of Proview International Holdings Ltd. to halt sales of Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet in the city, the lawyer for the Chinese company said.

The Pudong District Court’s decision is “wrong” and Proview’s Shenzhen-based unit will appeal the ruling, Roger Xie, an attorney for the company, said in an interview yesterday. Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu, based in Beijing, said she didn’t immediately have information available on the issue.

Proview’s Shenzhen unit had asked the Shanghai court on Feb. 22 to stop sales of the iPad in the city because it infringes on a trademark the company received in 2001. The Shanghai court suspended the case to allow another court time to deliver a ruling on who owns the trademark.

“I don’t agree with their reason,” Xie said of yesterday’s ruling in Shanghai. “They should protect the interest of the trademark holder in compliance with China law. We will appeal.”

Apple says it purchased Proview’s iPad trademark in China in 2009 and sued Proview over the rights in 2010 in the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court.

The Shenzhen court rejected Apple’s claim in November and said its contract with Proview’s Taipei-based unit failed to prove the transfer was authorized by the owner in Shenzhen. Apple appealed the loss and a hearing of that case is scheduled for Feb. 29 before the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong.

Michael Jordan Sues Chinese Sportswear Company Over Use of Name

Michael Jordan, the hall-of-fame basketball player who heads his own division at the world’s largest sporting-goods maker Nike Inc., sued a Chinese maker of sportswear and shoes for unauthorized use of his name.

Jordan, who won six National Basketball Association championships with the Chicago Bulls, filed the lawsuit with a Chinese court against Qiaodan Sports Co., according to a statement distributed by PR Newswire. The Chinese company, which is preparing to raise 1.06 billion yuan ($168 million) in a listing in Shanghai, is accused of using Jordan’s Chinese name and jersey number 23 without permission.

“It is deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the number 23 and even attempt to use the names of my children,” Jordan said in a statement. “I am taking this action to preserve ownership of my name and my brand.”

NBA games shown on state broadcaster China Central Television and Chinese players including Yao Ming have helped make basketball the nation’s second-most popular sport. Nike, which counts Jordan and current NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Lebron James among its endorsers, said its sales in China for the quarter ended Nov. 30 rose 28 percent from a year earlier to $650 million when excluding currency changes.

Asked if Nike was involved in the lawsuit, Josh Gartner, a spokesman for Jordan’s legal team, said by e-mail that the former NBA player “is employing his own legal counsel.”

The company’s name and its trademark are the same as the Chinese version of Jordan’s name.

The Chinese company, with registered capital of 450 million yuan and based in Southern China’s Fujian province, won approval from the nation’s securities regulator in November for an initial public offering of 112.5 million shares.

In its IPO prospectus released on Nov. 21, Qiaodan said investors should be aware of potential trademark risks, saying some consumers may link the company and its products to Jordan due to confusion, though it claimed to have no commercial relationships with the former NBA star and has never used his image in promotions.

“Qiaodan’ is a brand we registered according to Chinese law, and its lawful use should be protected,” Qiaodan said in a statement posted on its website yesterday.

Jordan said in the statement issued Feb. 22 that any monetary awards from the lawsuit “will be invested in growing the sport of basketball in China.”

For more trademark news, click here.


Astrolabe Backs Down from Copyright Claims Against Scientists

Astrolabe Inc. a maker of astrology software programs, has withdrawn the copyright-infringement suit it filed against two computer scientists.

The Brewster, Massachusetts-based company sued Arthur David Olson of the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute and Paul R. Eggert of the Computer Science Department of the University of California, Los Angeles in federal court in Boston Sept. 30.

The two computer scientists were accused of infringing the copyright for an atlas containing historical time zone information. Astrolabe objects to the scientists’ websites publication of time zone data.

Astrolabe asked the court to order the two scientists to halt their alleged infringement, and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Astrolabe bases its claims on its ownership of the “ACS International Atlas,” the “ACS American Atlas,” and related software programs and databases.

The case has attracted the interest of the scientific and technology community because the data is used in Unix and Linux platforms to set clocks and for time-zone updates. In a posting to a technology interest-group mailing list, Olson said the server that provides these updates has been shut down in response to the suit.

Stephen Colebourne, a developer who works with Java programs in the U.K., had said in a blog posting that the result of the takedown was that “there is no longer a single central location for time-zone information for computing.”

In a notice posted on its website Jan. 12, San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation called the suit “bogus,” saying that facts aren’t copyright protectable.

Noting that Olson took the updates offline, EFF said the case “would be laughable but for the dangerous consequence” and noted the “shock and dismay of the many users and developers who relied upon the updates.”

Although EFF said it would file a motion seeking sanctions against Astrolabe, that motion was never filed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In a Feb. 22 filing, Astrolabe has agreed to dismiss the case. The two defendants hadn’t answered the complaint or filed a motion to have the case dismissed.

The scientists were represented by Adam J. Kessel and Olivia T. Nguyen of Fish & Richardson PC and Corynne McSherry and Mitchell L. Stoltz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Astrolabe’s lawyer was Julie C. Malloy of East Sandwich, Massachusetts.

The case is Astrolabe Inc. v. Olson 1:11-cv-11725-GAO, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

For copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Sloan-Kettering Chief Faces Suit by University of Pennsylvania

The head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was accused by the University of Pennsylvania in a lawsuit of breaching his fiduciary duty to the school by using research he helped develop there to start his own company.

The complaint against Dr. Craig Thompson, filed Feb. 22 in Manhattan federal court, follows a Dec. 13 complaint against him by the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the Philadelphia-based school. He hasn’t yet responded to that complaint, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Both complaints also name the company Thompson formed, Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Thompson breached his duty “by failing to disclose to the university research and discoveries that he instead provided to a for-profit corporation and ultimately publicly disclosed in international journal publications, both to the detriment of the university,” according to the complaint.

Thompson studied cancer metabolism while he was scientific director of the institute, which was created by a $100 million donation from the Abramson family foundation to the university, according to the suits against him. Without telling the university, Thompson formed Agios to exploit the research, the complaints say.

Thompson’s lawyer, Allan J. Arffa, and John Evans, a spokesman for Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Agios, didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the new breach-of-contract and breach-of-duty lawsuit.

The suit doesn’t name Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

The cases are Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania v. Thompson, 12-cv-1330, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), and Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute v. Thompson, 11-09108, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

IP Moves

McDermott Expands California IP Practice, Hires Bhanu Sadasivan

McDermott Will & Emery LLP hired Bhanu K. Sadasivan for its IP practice, the Chicago-based firm said in a statement.

Sadasivan, a litigator, has previously practiced at San Francisco’s Heller Ehrman LLP and Washington-based Covington & Burling. She has litigated patent and trade secrets cases for clients in the pharmaceutical, biotech, semi-conductor, consumer electronics, computer software and Internet retailing industries.

Before she was a lawyer, she did post-doctoral research at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. She will practice at McDermott’s Silicon Valley office.

Sadasivan has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a doctorate in immunology from Yale University, and a law degree from Berkeley Law at the University of California.

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