Yahoo, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility: Intellectual Property

Yahoo! Inc. asked Facebook Inc. to license technologies covered by its intellectual property and threatened to take legal action if the companies don’t reach an agreement.

“We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights,” Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo said Feb. 27 in an e-mailed statement.

Yahoo, the largest U.S. Internet portal, is looking for ways to revive growth after losing ground to Facebook in the display-advertising market and trailing Google Inc. in Web searches. Yahoo said it has made “substantial” investments in innovation and that other companies have already agreed to license those technologies.

Yahoo’s statement was previously reported by the New York Times.

Facebook, the world’s largest social-networking service, hasn’t yet been able to “fully evaluate” Yahoo’s claims, said Larry Yu, a spokesman for the Menlo Park, California-based company.

“Yahoo contacted us at the same time they called the New York Times,” Yu said.

Facebook, which has grappled with lawsuits over intellectual property in the past, faces potential threats from other large companies that have patents on social-networking technologies. Inc., the world’s largest e-commerce company, owns certain social-networking patents that predate Facebook by seven years, according to M-Cam Inc., a patent advisory service.

“As we’ve seen over the past few years in the mobile device field, patent assertion can ultimately lead to blocking the sale of a product, or, at the very least, an innovation tariff that drags down earnings,” according to a report by M-Cam. “That’s only if Amazon wants to play hardball.”

Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Amazon, declined to comment.

Yahoo didn’t identify companies that license its technology or elaborate on which intellectual property is the subject of the discussions with Facebook.

EU to Examine Apple, Microsoft Complaints Over Motorola Mobility

Complaints by Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. against Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. will be examined “closely” by European Union regulators, the region’s antitrust chief said.

Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said competition policy must ensure essential patents aren’t “used strategically to block competitors,” according to a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday.

Samsung Electronics Co. is facing an EU antitrust probe into its licensing of patents to other mobile-phone manufacturers. Samsung, Motorola Mobility, Microsoft and Apple are involved in litigation across Europe as demand for smartphones and tablets soars.

Google Inc., which is buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, has written to groups that establish industry standards to assure them it will fairly license the Libertyville, Illinois-based company’s patents.

“To build a modern smart phone one needs thousands of standard-essential patents,” Almunia said. “Any company that holds these patents can effectively hold up the entire industry with the threat of banning the products of competitors from the market. This sort of hold-up is not acceptable.”

EU antitrust regulators are separately investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. Microsoft and shopping-comparison site Foundem are among companies that asked the agency to examine the Mountain View, California-based search-engine firm’s practices.

Almunia said he expected investigators to give him a report on Google before the end of April and would decide after that if a formal antitrust complaint was needed.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, declined to comment.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is examining whether Google gives preference to its own services in search results, is expanding its antitrust probe to include scrutiny of Google+, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Motorola Mobility Says Apple Ruling Vindicates License Rights

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. said a German appeals court that granted Apple Inc. a temporary ruling blocking the enforcement of a patent verdict shows that inventors should be paid for their innovations.

“Motorola Mobility’s determination to collect fair compensation for Apple’s use of patented technology has been vindicated by” the court, Motorola Mobility said in an e-mailed statement.

Apple won the German appeals court ruling Feb. 27 at the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, Germany. Motorola Mobility, which forced Apple to remove some iPad and iPhone models from its German online store for a short period, can’t enforce the verdict during an appeal, the court said.

Ericsson Turns to Mobile Wallet Amid Short-Term Uncertainty

Ericsson AB, the world’s largest maker of wireless-networking equipment, is making a new push into services such as money transfers over handsets, as short-term uncertainties weigh on the growth of its traditional business, Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg said in an interview.

Ericsson, which makes about 37 percent of its revenue through services, said Feb. 27 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it teamed up with Western Union Co. to grab a share of the $800 billion worth of ‘m-commerce’ it estimates will be recorded by 2016. Such transactions allow customers to use their prepaid phone credit to pay for purchases on handsets.

“In the long term, the fundamentals are definitely there,” Vestberg said of the growth drivers in the network-equipment market. “In the short term, decisions may depend on what carriers see in the environment around them.”

Ericsson wants to develop new products and services internally, Vestberg said. “Our priority is organic growth,” he said. Asked whether he was looking to buy patents from Eastman Kodak Co., the photography pioneer that filed for bankruptcy protection this year, Vestberg said he wasn’t looking to acquire more patents.

“We have 30,000 patents,” the CEO said. “We have the most patents in 2G, 3G and 4G in the industry and we’re very happy with that portfolio. We’re not looking to get more.”

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Madonna Did or Didn’t Change Song Title After ‘Girls’ Complaint

Joe Francis, whose Santa Monica, California-based company produces the “Girls Gone Wild” series of adult films, said pop singer Madonna backed down from the use of his trademark.

Madonna and her record label changed a song title and lyrics to “Girl Gone Wild” from “Girls Gone Wild,” Francis said in a Feb. 27 statement.

“Clearly her label was trying to avoid legal action surrounding the song,” Francis said.

Counsel for Francis sent Madonna a cease-and desist letter Feb. 3, claiming that any use of “Girls Gone Wild” infringed, and accusing the performer of attempting to “free ride” on the “valuable consumer goodwill and brand recognition” associated with the filmmaker’s mark. The letter claimed that Madonna made unauthorized use of the mark “to lure potential consumers to purchase her latest musical effort.”

The celebrity-gossip website reported that Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary, said the singer never received the letter and that the song’s name change had nothing to do with the film company’s mark. He told TMZ that the title of the song was changed because Madonna uses the singular form -- “girl” -- when she sings the lyrics.

Game Company Says ‘Joustin’ Beaver’ Doesn’t Infringe Bieber

RC3 Inc., a Florida-based maker of video games, has asked a federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, to declare it doesn’t infringe trademarks related to teenaged pop idol Justin Bieber.

The case is related to RC3’s “Joustin’ Beaver” video game app, that the company said was created “in an effort to comment upon” Bieber’s life. The game is a parody of the young performer’s commercial success, according to court papers, portraying the teen sensation as a beaver with a haircut like the singer’s floating on a log down a river. The beaver signs “otter-graphs,” and is harassed by “Phot-Hogs,” in the course of the game.

RC3 said that despite the fact that it had numerous conversations with counsel for Bieber, it received a cease-and desist letter Feb. 13. The letter, which is included in the case file, demanded that the “Joustin’ Beaver” game be removed from Apple Inc.’s iTunes and any other site selling mobile device applications.

In the latter, Aaron D. Rosenberg of Los Angeles-based Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light LLP warned that Bieber had “instructed us to take any and all legal action necessary” in order to protect his IP rights.

The company said it fears being sued for infringement, and claims the game is a parody permissible under trademark law.

It asked the court to declare its game doesn’t infringe and seeks awards of attorney fees a litigation costs.

The company is represented by Bradley Sopotnick of Jacksonville, Florida’s McGrath Gibson LLP.

The case is RC3 Inc., v. Justin Bieber, 3:12-cv-00193-RBD-TEM, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Jacksonville).

For more trademark news, click here.


YouTube Video Subject of Infringement Complaint Over Birdsong Rumblefish Inc., a Portland, Oregon-based licensor of music and sound content, accused the amateur maker of a video posted on Google Inc.’s YouTube video-sharing website of infringing the copyright for a recording of wild birdsong, Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper reported.

The video maker, known on YouTube as “eeplox,” posted a clip of himself foraging for and eating wild salad greens while wild birds tweet in the background, according to the newspaper.

He said he was told by YouTube that Rumblefish accused him of copyright infringement, claiming he was using one of the company’s recorded birdsong tracks in the background, the Herald Sun reported.

Rumblefish backed down, according to the Herald Sun, saying the infringement claim was made by mistake because YouTube identified a song in the music company’s catalog “improperly.”

For copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Sinovel Seeks $17 Million From AMSC in Arbitration

Sinovel Wind Group Co.’s complaint against American Superconductor Corp. claiming it was sold substandard parts will be heard by the Beijing Arbitration Committee.

Sinovel, China’s largest wind-turbine maker, is seeking 105 million yuan ($17 million) plus fees for eight turbine-control units delivered in 2008 that it claims were substandard, the Beijing-based company said in a filing with the Shanghai Stock Exchange yesterday.

Profits may be reduced as a result of the arbitration case, the company said.

American Superconductor is suing Sinovel in Chinese courts, seeking more than $1.2 billion in damages for allegedly stealing intellectual property and violating sales contracts. Before the suit, Sinovel was the Devens, Massachusetts-based company’s largest customer.

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