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Nokia, Harley-Davidson, Disney, Apple: Intellectual Property

Nokia Oyj lost a ruling in a patent lawsuit by IPCom GmbH & Co. over wireless technology that could remove Nokia third-generation handsets from the German market.

Nokia must stop all 3G phone sales in Germany under the Regional Court of Mannheim’s ruling, IPCom said April 20 in an e-mailed statement. Nokia will appeal, spokesman Mark Durrant said. Most of the phones affected came out before the patent and today’s products use different methods, he said.

IPCom, based in Pullach, Germany, is seeking to force Nokia to pay royalties for a portfolio of mobile-technology patents it acquired from Robert Bosch GmbH in 2007. The two companies are entangled in patent litigation across Europe. The ruling concerns a patent known as 100DE, which is part of a group of patents that cover how to connect devices to 3G wireless networks and prioritize them.

The court ruling “clearly says that none of Nokia’s UMTS-compatible mobile phones must be distributed in the German market,” said Bernhard Frohwitter, chief executive officer of IPCom, referring to 3G devices. “The decision does not say that only older models are affected.”

The Mannheim tribunal didn’t accept that alternative designs by Nokia didn’t infringe the patent, and said that all phones capable of using UMTS 3G technology were affected, IPCom said in its statement.

Under German law, patent infringement rulings don’t take effect immediately. During appeal, the ruling only takes effect if the winning party enforces it. In such a case, the losing party as a rule asks the court to halt enforcement while the matter is pending.

IPCom would have to post a bond of at least 100 million euros ($132 million) if it wants to enforce the injunction while the case is still pending on appeal, according to the judgment.

Germany was Nokia’s fifth-biggest market by revenue in 2011 and the largest in Western Europe, according to a company filing. The market rankings include equipment joint venture Nokia Siemens Networks.

For more patent news, click here.


Harley-Davidson Forces Domain Name Change to

One month after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc., a Delaware resident changed the domain name for his motorcycle-fan social-networking site, the York Daily Record reported.

Jimmy Coulbourne dropped in favor of, even though he told the newspaper “they’ll never convince me that my members are foolish enough to think this site is owned by Harley.”

The newspaper provided a link to the letter from Harley-Davidson’s trademark counsel, David M. Kelly of Washington-based Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner LLP to Coulbourne’s lawyer Fritz Clapp, who is also known as the general counsel to the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

In the letter, Kelly said that while his client wasn’t objecting to the discussions of the Harley-Davidson products on the website, the HarleySpace domain name was unacceptable because the public could mistakenly consider it an official site.

University Licenses ‘American Need Farmers’ Mark for $250

The Iowa Farm Bureau licensed the “America Needs Farmers” trademark from the University of Iowa for a fee of $250 for a five-year license, the Des Moines Register reported.

Although the school has used the mark since 1985, it was registered as a state trademark in August 2011 on the same day the license agreement was signed with the Farm Bureau, the newspaper reported.

Two other entities that were also charged a $250 trademark fee by the university received contracts of less than a year: Monsanto Co., which had a four-month contract to place the school’s Hawkeye logo on seed corn caps; and Case International Ltd., which has a one-year contract to distribute T-shirts with the Hawkeye logo, according to the Register.

University officials told the Register that the low fee paid by the farm bureau is balanced by a separate agreement the bureau has with Learfield Sports Inc.’s Hawkeye Sports Properties, which sells marketing opportunities related to the school’s athletic programs.

China Court Encourages Apple, Proview to Settle IPad Dispute

A Chinese court is mediating talks between Apple Inc. and Proview Technology (Shenzhen) Co. in a bid to get the companies to settle their dispute over the iPad trademark in the country.

“On the one hand, we are trying to process this case, and on the other, we are working on encouraging both sides to settle,” Zhao Le, an official at the foreign affairs office of the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong, said by telephone April 19. Zhao said he had no further information on the effort.

On Feb. 29, the Guangdong court heard Apple’s appeal against a lower court ruling last year that Proview owned the iPad trademark in China. Proview, a failed maker of computer displays, has filed separate complaints alleging that Apple’s sale of iPad tablets in the country infringed intellectual-property laws.

“We started work, through the mediation of the court, on trying to get both sides to settle,” Roger Xie, a lawyer for Proview, said by phone. Before issuing rulings, Chinese courts typically initiate proceedings for litigants to settle, he said.

Carolyn Wu, a spokeswoman at Apple in Beijing, didn’t immediately return messages sent by mobile phone and e-mail seeking comment.

Apple has said it acquired the rights to the iPad trademark in China from Proview.

Proview Technology is a unit of Hong Kong-listed Proview International Holdings Ltd., whose shares have been suspended from trading since 2010.

For more trademark news, click here.


Hollywood Studios Lose Australian Piracy Suit at High Court

Walt Disney Co. and Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures are among Hollywood’s biggest movie studios that lost a piracy lawsuit in Australia as the country’s top court upheld rulings that a local Internet provider wasn’t responsible for customers illegally downloading films.

Iinet Ltd., based in Perth, didn’t authorize the infringement when customers illegally downloaded pirated copies of movies, the High Court of Australia ruled, according to a summary of the decision released on the court’s website.

Village Roadshow Ltd.’s Roadshow Films led the companies trying to stop iiNet customers from using BitTorrent software to illegally download copyrighted films, in a precedent-setting case for Internet providers in Australia. The studios were appealing earlier court decisions vindicating iiNet, and seeking damages that they said could include royalties on illegally downloaded movies.

The Australian government agreed to review the Copyright Act after Singtel Optus Ltd. was cleared by a judge of wrongdoing in letting its customers watch downloads of Australian Football League and National Rugby League games on mobile devices, sometimes within minutes of the live action on free-to-air television.

Tony Bannon, a lawyer representing the film studios, cited a case of an iiNet customer downloading a copy of “Pineapple Express” in 2008, which could be identified from the BitTorrent application information. Iinet failed to warn its customers that downloading unauthorized content was illegal, Bannon told the five-member High Court panel at a Dec. 1 hearing.

“Without providing a warning of some form, they are authorizing,” Bannon said, referring to the Internet provider.

IiNet takes a lot of steps to encourage people to use legitimate content, Richard Cobden, the company’s lawyer, told the court at the same hearing.

The Internet service provider has an agreement with Apple Inc.’s iTunes, for example, that lets customers download films without affecting their monthly download allowance, Cobden said.

An appeal court last year upheld Justice Dennis Cowdroy’s 2010 verdict that iiNet wasn’t liable.

The High Court judgment supported the company’s position and proved the studios’ claims were unfounded, iiNet Chief Executive Officer Michael Malone said April 20.

“Iinet has never supported or encouraged unauthorized sharing or file downloading,” Malone said in an e-mailed statement.

Also appealing were Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., a unit of News Corp., and 30 other entities who owned or had exclusive licenses to commercially released films.

The case is Roadshow Films Pty. Ltd. v iiNet Ltd.2011/HCATrans 323, High Court of Australia (Canberra).

Google’s YouTube Must Help Detect Illegal Uploads, Court Says

Google Inc., the world’s biggest Internet search engine company, partly lost a German copyright infringement suit over how much it must do to remove illegal music videos from its YouTube website.

A Hamburg court partly ruled in favor of a suit brought by German music royalty collecting society GEMA that argued Google doesn’t do enough to monitor YouTube content. Google must implement features to detect future violations if a rights holder alerts the company, Presiding Judge Heiner Steeneck said in a ruling that gave both sides reason to declare victory.

“But YouTube isn’t the perpetrator here, it’s those people who illegally upload songs,” Steeneck said. “That’s why YouTube doesn’t have to search all videos uploaded in the past. It only has to help detect videos from the moment it is alerted about possible violations.”

The suit was filed in 2010 after talks between GEMA and Google on license fees for songs played on YouTube faltered. GEMA collects royalties for composers and songwriters. An earlier agreement between the two sides expired in 2009. Google has reached licensing agreements with about 40 collecting societies from other nations.

While Google maintained that that it provides enough mechanisms for rights holders to detect violations, GEMA sought a ruling expanding YouTube’s obligations to any illegal upload in the past. The court ruled that YouTube’s must add a word search to help detect videos. The current “ContentID” application, which allows searches for audio content, isn’t enough, according to the judges.

“This is a good ruling for us as YouTube must react once it is alerted,” said Kerstin Baecker, GEMA’s lawyer. “So far they have said they don’t have to do anything.”

Google spokesman Kay Oberbeck said the ruling provides legal certainty and is important “for artists, musicians and fans.”

Both sides said they will decide whether to appeal the part of the ruling they lost after studying the written judgment.

The case is LG Hamburg, 310 O 461/10.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Cafe Drops Trade Secret Suit Over Recipe for ‘Cinnamon Bombs’

The proprietor of a bakery cafe in Evanston, Illinois, has dropped a suit against a former employee she accused of stealing her recipe, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Susan Davis Friedman of the Fraiche Bakery Cafe settled the dispute with former employee Maryann Huppert over the recipe for Cinnamon Bombs, a donut-like muffin that had become the bakery’s signature offering, according to the newspaper.

Huppert had said she brought the recipe from home, that it originated in a cookbook and that it never was the restaurant’s property, the Tribune reported.

Friedman was represented in the dispute by her husband Benson Friedman, who told the newspaper that while the recipe initially may have come from a book, his wife altered it and made it her own, according to the Tribune.

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