Hitachi Metals, Zumbox, Apple: Intellectual Property

Hitachi Metals Ltd., a Japanese maker of specialty metal products, filed a U.S. trade complaint against more than two dozen companies, seeking to block imports of competitors’ rare-earth magnets used in electronics, golf ball markers and power tools.

The companies are infringing four patents related to the manufacture of sintered rare-earth magnets, Hitachi Metals said Aug. 17 in a complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington. It’s asking the agency to block products that are using rare-earth metals from China, where 95 percent of all such materials are mined and processed.

Hitachi Metals, based in Tokyo, said in the complaint it has an agreement to make the magnets with Molycorp Inc., the owner of the only rare-earth mine in the U.S., and plans to begin production in 2013. Rare earths are 17 chemically similar elements used in batteries, magnets and computer hard drives. Sintered rare-earth magnets are small, light and powerful.

The complaint names Chinese companies that mine or use the metals, as well as firms that import or make products that use them. They include audio-equipment makers Skullcandy Inc., Harman International Industries Inc., and Bose Corp., and athletic-gear makers Callaway Golf Co., Taylor Made Golf Co., and Adidas AG.

Molycorp is working to reopen a rare-earth mine in Mountain Pass, California, which closed in 2002 because Chinese exports caused global prices to plunge, according to Hitachi Metals. More recently, prices have risen and the U.S. Congress has been calling for an increase in domestic production.

Hitachi Metals said it and other suppliers would be able to make up the difference were the rare-earth magnets from China halted at the U.S. border.

It said the commission has twice limited imports of certain rare-earth magnets based on patent-infringement complaints, in 1996 and 1999.

The new case is In the Matter of Sintered Rare Earth Magnets, 2908, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Samsung Sought to Beat IPhone With Galaxy Nexus, Apple Says

Apple Inc. said its largest smartphone competitor, Samsung Electronics Co., set out to steal market share by selling a Galaxy Nexus phone that copies its features, including one that makes the iPhone’s Siri virtual personal assistant so compelling.

“This was the beat-Apple strategy,” Apple lawyer Mark Perry of Gibson Dunn in Washington, told a U.S. appeals court yesterday. “This was the top of the line, Cadillac phone they trotted out to compete with the iPhone.”

Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones, is seeking to overturn an order to stop selling the Galaxy Nexus in the U.S. until a patent-infringement case brought by Apple can be held. The case, which involves different patents than those at the heart of a trial under way in San Jose, California, is scheduled for trial in March 2014.

Samsung lawyer John Quinn said Apple, which has the biggest share of the U.S. market, wasn’t harmed by the “minuscule” sales of the Galaxy Nexus, so there’s no threat if the phone remains on the market. Samsung also is appealing U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s finding that Apple is likely to win the case, and is challenging the validity of the patent.

A key issue in the arguments made yesterday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington is whether Apple must prove it lost market share to the Galaxy Nexus to obtain a pre-trial ban on sales, and whether the patented feature drove sales of either product.

Apple’s patent 8,086,604 is for a unified search feature that captures results from multiple sources, such as the Internet and e-mail contacts. Perry said that ability forms the heart of Siri, because consumers like the comprehensive results they get when they ask a question.

Quinn said many consumers didn’t even know the feature was on the Samsung phones. It is Google Inc.’s Android operating system that customers chose, he said.

The Galaxy Nexus has remained on the market as Samsung appeals the order to the Federal Circuit, which specializes in U.S. patent law. The panel gave no indication yesterday when it would rule.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-1507, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court Galaxy Nexus case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 12-cv-00630, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

For more patent news, click here.


Australia Post Office Suit of Digital Mailbox Company Dismissed

Australia’s national postal service’s trademark challenge against a company planning to begin a competing digital mailbox service was dismissed by an Australian federal court, PC World reported.

The competitor, Digital Post Australia -- created by Zumbox Software Inc., Computershare Ltd. and Salmat Ltd. -- was accused of using a name too similar to Australia Post, the official postal service, according to PC World.

David Hynes, who heads Digital Post Australia, told PC World his company had no intention of trying to trick customers into believing it was the official postal service, PC World reported.

Australia Post said it seeks to prevent third parties “from using an Australian-owned, trusted brand for their commercial gain” and is considering whether to appeal the judgment, according to PC World.

Ryan Lochte Seeks ‘Jeah’ Trademark; Rapper Says He May Oppose

Ryan Lochte, a member of the U.S. Olympic swim team who said he was quitting swimming after failing to win gold medals in two events in London last month, filed an application to register “Jeah” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Lochte’s application, filed Aug. 1, suggests he plans to use the mark for a wide range of merchandise, including gift cards, baseball caps, swim goggles, drinking classes, trading cards and clothing.

There is one existing “Jeah” trademark, registered in 2002 for Web hosting, belonging to Jeah Communications LLC of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

M.C. Ehit, a 1990s rap performer, told the TMZ website that he’s been using it since 1988 and that he plans to send the athlete a cease-and-desist letter.

IPhone Ice Cream Big Hit in China, Not Connected to Apple Inc.

Although Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 mobile phone is still several months away from release, Chinese customers are buying an iPhone 5 ice cream product in that country’s Liaoning Province, China Daily reported.

The ice cream product is shaped like the Cupertino, California-based company’s logo and has become a best-seller, according to China Daily.

China has 45 trademark classes, and the computer company registered in only 27, with Chinese companies going after the remaining ones, China Daily reported.

The newspaper reported that a Chinese trademark lawyer suggested that while the action of the other companies isn’t illegal, “it should not be encouraged” because of the trademark-management burden it imposes.

Leaked Vuitton Ads May Bring Olympian Phelps Fines, Medal Loss

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps may be in danger of losing his hoard of medals, depending on whether LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA deliberately leaked two ads containing photos of the athlete with a bag bearing the luxury brand’s trademark monogram, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported.

The ads appeared on several websites on Aug. 13, within the time Olympics rules bar athletes from appearing in non-Olympic marketing, according to the newspaper.

Both Vuitton and Phelps’s manager have denied leaking the photos, which were by celebrity photographer Annie Liebowitz, according to the newspaper.

Phelps’s agent Peter Carlisle said the photos hadn’t been reviewed or approved by the athlete and that it would be unfair to punish him for unauthorized actions by some unknown person, according to the Daily Mail.

For more trademark news, click here.


Merchant Ivory Sues Janus Films Over Movie Distribution

Merchant Ivory Productions Ltd., the maker of films such as “A Room With a View,” accused movie distributor Janus Films LLC of infringing copyrights by distributing films after their licensing deals expired.

Janus, which handles the so-called Criterion Collection, initially was granted rights to 26 Merchant Ivory films in 1999, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. The agreements for all of the films except “Howards End” expired by Dec. 31, and Merchant Ivory later learned Janus was still distributing them, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiffs therefore bring this action to protect their copyrights in and to the films being exploited by Janus without plaintiffs’ permission,” Merchant Ivory said in the complaint filed by attorneys Zeynel Karcioglu and Stephen Nakamura.

“Janus denies any unlawful distribution of any Merchant Ivory title,” Jeffrey Ullman, a lawyer for Janus, said in a phone interview. He declined to comment further, saying the company hadn’t been served with the suit.

The lawsuit followed Janus’s efforts to negotiate a new license agreement, which were complicated by an arbitration proceeding between London-based Merchant Ivory and an entity called ACKMA Recovery LLC and discussions over a proposed deal with HanWay Films, according to the complaint. Either deal required approval from ACKMA, according to the filing.

Janus entered a side arrangement with HanWay, which had discussed a possible distribution agreement with Merchant Ivory, the company alleged.

The closely held company asked the court to stop Janus from reproducing the films or otherwise using the copyrighted materials and seeks damages including all profit related to the alleged infringement.

The case is Merchant Ivory Productions Ltd. v. Janus Films LLC, 1:12-cv-06325, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Google Ordered Anew to Disclose Commentators in Oracle Case

Google Inc. was ordered by a judge for a second time to disclose the names of commentators and authors who wrote about Oracle Corp.’s copyright case against it and received money from the search engine company.

Google failed to comply with an Aug. 7 order requiring it and Oracle to disclose the information, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said yesterday in a court filing. Alsup presided over a trial in the case in federal court in San Francisco.

“Public commentary that purports to be independent may have an influence on the courts and/or their staff if only in subtle ways,” Alsup said. “If a treatise author or blogger is paid by a litigant, should not that relationship be known?”

Google said in court filings Aug. 17 that it didn’t pay people to write about the lawsuit, although nonprofit organizations, universities and trade groups receiving money from the owner of the world’s largest search engine have commented on the case. The company said it may be impossible to name all the people who wrote about the case and asked if Alsup wanted a more comprehensive list.

“We’ll comply with the order,” Jim Prosser, a spokesman for the Mountain View, California-based company, said in an e-mail.

The case is Oracle v. Google, 10-3561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more copyright news, click here.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE