Time Warner, PTO Backlog, Skechers: Intellectual Property

Viacom Inc., the owner of MTV, Comedy Central and the Paramount film studio, agreed to resolve a legal dispute with Time Warner Cable Inc., allowing cable customers to see Viacom shows on devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPad.

“All of Viacom’s programming will now be available to Time Warner Cable subscribers for in-home viewing via Internet protocol-enabled devices such as iPads,” the companies said yesterday in a joint statement posted on Viacom’s website.

Viacom sued in 2011, seeking an order blocking Time Warner Cable from distributing Viacom programming on portable electronic devices such as the iPad. The company claimed that Time Warner’s application to allow downloading of Viacom’s shows violated contractual rights that define and limit Time Warner Cable’s distribution of its programs, as well as intellectual property and other rights.

Time Warner Cable also filed suit, asking for a ruling from the court that its contract with Viacom allowed the distribution of content on the devices.

Last August, New York-based Viacom resolved a similar lawsuit against Cablevision Systems Corp., which had been distributing Viacom’s programming on the iPad. The companies said Cablevision could continue to run Viacom’s programs on the devices.

The Time Warner Cable case is Time Warner Cable Inc. v. Viacom International, 11-cv-002376, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The Viacom case is Viacom International Inc. v. Time Warner Cable Inc., 11-cv-02387, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan)


Google’s Request for Post-Trial Ruling Rejected by Oracle Judge

Google Inc. lost its bid after the first phase of a federal court trial over the Java programming language for a ruling that Oracle Corp. failed to properly register copyrights, according to a court filing.

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Facebook Seeks Dismissal of Yahoo Claims About Patents

Facebook Inc. asked a federal judge to dismiss Yahoo! Inc.’s claims that two Facebook patents can’t be enforced, according to a court filing.

The social networking company, responding to allegations last month that it bought tainted patents as the basis for a countersuit, said Yahoo’s claims about the patents are false and and should be dropped.

Yesterday’s filing in federal court in San Francisco is the latest in a patent dispute between the two companies that began March 12 when Yahoo filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of infringing patents covering functions critical to websites, including Internet advertising, information sharing and privacy.

Facebook countersued, alleging Yahoo infringed 10 patents through its home page, Flickr photo-sharing service and site ads. Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, said Facebook bought some of the patents to file a retaliatory lawsuit against it.

The Web portal company alleged that two of the 10 Facebook patents can’t be enforced because a man listed on one patent application as an inventor wasn’t named as such when the patent was issued, and inventors on the other patent made false representations to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office about earlier inventions to get it issued.

Dana Lengkeek, a Yahoo spokesman, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment on Facebook’s filing.

The case is Yahoo! Inc. v. Facebook, 12-cv-01212, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

Patent Chief Says the Agency’s Backlog Is Lowest in Years

David Kappos, the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, testified yesterday before Congress that the PTO’s backlog is the lowest in years. In his testimony, he said that the backlog for utility patents is 640,491.

Kappos also said that the time needed to review patent applications is still approximately 34 months.

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Adidas Sues Sneaker Manufacturer, Retailer Over Trademark

Adidas AG, the second-largest sporting-goods maker, sued World Industries Inc. and Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. on May 15 for trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The suit claims that Costa Mesa, California-based World Industries manufactures a sneaker with a “W” logo that too closely resembles the three-stripe logo Adidas has trademarked.

Adidas also alleges that Big 5, a 406-store retail chain specializing in athletic clothing, shoes and equipment, infringed its trademark by both advertising and selling the shoe.

The suit, filed in federal court in Portland, Oregon, where Adidas has its U.S. headquarters, also alleges trademark dilution and seeks both monetary damages and injunctive relief.

Scott Chantos, president of World Industries parent I.E. Distribution, said his company’s sneaker is distinct from Adidas. The shoe at issue “is a new model” that depicts the “W” used by World Industries for years, he said.

Chantos, who joined the company in March, said Adidas had complained to Big 5 after the retailer advertised World Industries’ sneaker. The ad had relied on a sample sneaker, Chantos said, which differs from the final product. On the actual shoe, “in our opinion, it’s clearly a W,” said Chantos, adding that “we cap the top of our W so it looks like a pitchfork. And one of our logos is a devil holding a pitchfork.”

A message left at the El Segundo, California, headquarters of Big 5 seeking comment wasn’t returned. A press spokesman for Adidas didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Stephen Feldman, of counsel in the Portland office of Perkins Coie LLP, and partner R. Charles Henn Jr. and associate Charles Hooker III of the Atlanta office of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, along with San Francisco associate Tali Alban, filed the complaint for Adidas.

The case is Adidas America Inc. v. World Industries Inc. 3:12-cv-00859- U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon (Portland).

For more trademark news, click here.


Activision Drops Claims Against EA Ahead of ‘Warfare’ Trial

Activision Blizzard Inc. dropped a $400 million claim against rival video-game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. that was part of a lawsuit scheduled for trial May 29 with the developers of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”.

“Activision and Electronic Arts have decided to put this matter behind them,” Activision lawyer Beth Wilkinson said yesterday after a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The settlement removes Electronic Arts from a trial that pits Activision against the former heads of its Infinity Ward studio who created the billion-dollar “Call of Duty” franchise. Activision fired the developers, Jason West and Vince Zampella, in 2010, alleging they plotted with Electronic Arts to leave Activision and set up a new independent studio.

Activision had accused Electronic Arts of disrupting Infinity Ward by trying to lure away the two developers while they still had two years left on their contract. West and Zampella sued Activision after they were fired and seek more than $1 billion in damages.

The companies will ask the court to dismiss the claims, Wilkinson said, declining to comment further on any settlement terms. Richard Kendall, a lawyer for Electronic Arts, also declined to comment.

Activision, based in Santa Monica, California, the biggest U.S. publisher of video games, had added Electronic Arts in its counterclaims to a lawsuit brought by West and Zampella.

Wilkinson, who was hired May 10 by Activision as its new lead lawyer, asked California Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle at a hearing yesterday to postpone trial for 30 days so she can get up to speed. Berle yesterday denied that request.

The case is West v. Activision, SC107041, California Superior Court (Los Angeles County).

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WTO Reverses Ruling Finding U.S. Tuna Labels Too Restrictive

World Trade Organization appellate judges have reversed rulings that found “dolphin-safe” labels required on tuna sold in the U.S. are overly trade-restrictive and don’t discriminate against Mexican tuna products.

The judges ruled yesterday that the U.S. labeling provisions mean Mexican tuna is treated less favorably than U.S. tuna, though the measures don’t limit trade more than necessary to fulfill “legitimate” objectives. Mexican yellow-fin tuna sales to the U.S. have been curbed since 1991 because the Commerce Department won’t label the fish “dolphin-safe” amid complaints that the fishing techniques used by Mexico injure dolphins.

The U.S., which along with Mexico appealed the initial Sept. 15 ruling, should “bring its measure into conformity with its obligations,” WTO Appellate Body judges in Geneva said in their 153-page report.

The WTO’s decision “confirms that the fishing methods used by the Mexican fleet responsibly meet the highest international standards” for protection of marine life, according to a statement from the Embassy of Mexico in Washington.

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Skechers U.S.A. Inc. agreed to pay $45 million to resolve U.S. and state allegations it deceived customers into believing its Shape-ups athletic shoes will help them lose weight and get in shape.

Skechers, based in Manhattan Beach, California, also made false claims in advertising for its Resistance Runner, Tone-ups and Toners shoes, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said yesterday in a statement.

“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the statement. “The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health.”

The agency has been critical of how companies have marketed toning shoes. In September, Reebok International Ltd. agreed to pay $25 million after FTC accused the company of making false advertising claims about its version of the shoes.

Skechers “vigorously” denies the allegations, said David Weinberg, the Company’s chief financial officer, in a statement.

“Skechers could not ignore the exorbitant cost and endless distraction of several years spent defending multiple lawsuits in multiple courts across the country,” Weinberg said.

The settlement relates to investigations that involved the FTC, along with attorneys general from 44 states and the District of Columbia, according to the agency.

The FTC will receive $40 million from Skechers while the states will get $5 million, most of which will be refunded to customers, Vladeck told reporters yesterday at a Washington news conference. The company also will pay $5 million in attorneys’ fees, according to a Skechers statement.

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