Google, Hitachi Metals, Samsung: Intellectual Property

Google Inc.’s patent-infringement complaint targeting Apple Inc. devices, including ones that have the Siri voice-recognition program, will be investigated by a U.S. trade agency.

The U.S. International Trade Commission said yesterday it has begun a formal probe of the complaint filed Aug. 17 by Google’s Motorola Mobility unit. Notice of the investigation was posted on the agency’s website.

Motorola Mobility has said it hopes the complaint puts pressure on Apple to negotiate a cross-licensing deal. The companies have been fighting since at least 2010 after licensing talks failed. Google bought Motorola Mobility to get access to its trove of patents as a bulwark against Apple claims that devices running on Google’s Android operating system are copying unique features of the iPhone.

The handset maker, which Google bought in May for $12.5 billion, claims Apple infringed seven of its patents on features including interactive voice commands, location reminders, e-mail notification and phone/video players. The case seeks a ban on U.S. imports of devices including the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. Apple’s products are made in Asia.

The complaint filed last month didn’t name the iPhone 5 because it won’t be in retail stores until Sept. 21. ITC rules could let Motorola Mobility add the iPhone5 to the list of devices accused of infringing the patents.

Apple has said Motorola Mobility is making unreasonable demands for royalties of 2.25 percent of the retail price of every device. The Cupertino, California-based company is appealing an ITC case it lost that claimed Motorola Mobility’s Android phones infringed Apple patents.

Motorola Mobility has a second case against Apple at the agency. It lost on the issue of whether Apple devices infringed Motorola Mobility patents that cover wireless technologies used throughout the industry. The commission last month ordered a judge to review whether there was infringement of a patent related to a sensor that prevents accidental hang-ups or dialing.

The new case is In the Matter of Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music and Data Processing devices, Computers, and Components Thereof, 337-856, and the earlier case is In the Matter of Certain Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music Data, Processing Data Devices, Computers and Components Thereof, 337-745. Both are in the U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Hitachi Metals Rare-Earth Magnet Complaint to Be Probed by U.S.

Hitachi Metals Ltd.’s complaint seeking to block U.S. imports of competitors’ rare-earth magnets used in electronics, golf ball markers and power tools will be investigated by the International Trade Commission.

The commission said yesterday it started a probe into the case filed Aug. 17 by the Japanese maker of specialty-metal products against more than two dozen companies. Notice of the decision was posted on the agency’s website.

The dispute is over patented inventions related to the manufacture of sintered rare-earth magnets, which are light and powerful compounds used in batteries, magnets and computer hard drives. Hitachi is seeking 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.

Companies named in the complaint objected, saying any import ban would harm public health because the magnets are used in robotic surgical systems, radiation equipment, surgical microscopes and insulin pumps.

“Hitachi Metals seeks a dramatic remedy threatening a massive upset to the national economy,” audio-equipment seller Skullcandy Inc. said in a filing with the agency.

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 Skullcandy, 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, that 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 for any loss of available products if the rare-earth magnets from China are halted at the U.S. border.

The case is In the Matter of Sintered Rare Earth Magnets, 337-855, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

Samsung Fails to Defeat Galaxy Tab Sales Ban in Apple Case

Samsung Electronics Co. lost its bid to persuade a federal judge in California to lift a preliminary ban on U.S. sales of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer imposed as part of a patent dispute with Apple Inc.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, issued the order temporarily blocking sales of the Tab 10.1 computer before a jury found Aug. 24 that Samsung infringed six of seven Apple patents and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages.

Apple and Samsung agree that a pending appeal temporarily “deprives the court of jurisdiction to dissolve the injunction,” Koh wrote in an order Sept. 17.

Lifting the ban during the appeal only to re-impose it later “would cause confusion in the market and is not necessary to prevent irreparable harm,” Cupertino, California-based Apple argued in a filing.

Koh has scheduled a hearing Dec. 6 to consider Apple’s request for a permanent U.S. sales ban on eight of Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung’s smartphone models and the tablet.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

For more patent news, click here.


Neiman Marcus Objects to ‘Last Call’ in Charity Thrift Shop Name

Neiman Marcus Group Inc. sent a cease-and-desist letter to a South Carolina thrift shop connected with a women’s shelter, South Carolina’s State newspaper reported.

The luxury-goods retailer objects to the shop’s name -- “Revente’s Last Call” -- which the Dallas-based company claims could be confused with its “Last Call” clearance store, according to the State.

Ginger Reeder, a Neiman Marcus spokeswoman, said the company wasn’t trying to shut down the thrift shop and seeks an amicable resolution to protect its trademark, the newspaper reported.

State Representative James Smith, who is also an attorney, is representing the thrift shop pro bono and told the State that he was hopeful the parties could come to agreement and the shop could keep its name.

Yahoo Removes Trademark Symbol From Company Logo

Yahoo! Inc., the Internet media company, has taken the trademark symbol off its logo, the TechCrunch technology news website reported.

Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer used Twitter Inc.’s service to send out a message saying one of the company’s new employees had “gone on a mission” to remove all the trademark symbols from Yahoo’s campus, according to TechCrunch.

She said that the Sunnyvale, California-based company’s use of the symbol had “bugged” the new employee, and that its removal wasn’t viewed with alarm by Yahoo’s legal staff, TechCrunch reported.

“Legal assures us our trademark is implied and quite secure,” Mayer said, according to TechCrunch.

Jetstar Opposes Toyota’s Jumping ‘Oh, What a Feeling!’ Trademark

Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd., a low-cost airline based in Sunshine, Australia, is opposing Toyota Motor Corp.’s application to register “Oh, What a Feeling!” in connection with jumping actors as a trademark, the eTravel Blackboard website reported.

Jetstar has used jumping actors since 2004, while Toyota has had ads with actors leaping since the mid-1980s, the website reported.

Toyota spokesman Glenn Campbell said the company filed its application to register the mark earlier this year, according to eTravel Blackboard.

Jetstar said its use of a jump in ads is an iconic symbol of the company and has been used in a number of Asian countries in addition to Australia and New Zealand, the website reported.

For more trademark news, click here.


Pirate Party Member Uses DMCA to Halt Unauthorized Book Copies

A member of the German branch of the anti-copyright Pirate Party, whose book “Click Me” is being published by a unit of Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH, is enforcing her copyright in cyberspace, Spiegel Online reported.

Julia Schramm, who has called the idea of intellectual property “disgusting” and received a 100,000-euro ($131,000) advance for the work, had a Sept. 17 release date for the book, according to Spiegel Online.

Initially, unauthorized copies of the book were circulating on the Internet, with the link to the site from which it could be downloaded spread through social media, Spiegel Online reported.

By the end of the day Sept. 17, visitors who followed the link were met with a notice that the file was no longer available because of a takedown request made by the author under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Spiegel Online reported.

Copyright Costs Meant No Art Images in Art History Textbook

First-year students at OCAD University, a Toronto-based school focused on art and design education, are paying C$180 ($185) for a required art history book that contains no illustrations because of copyright issues, Canada’s National Post reported.

The book, “Global Visual and Cultural Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800,” contains blank spaces where illustrations normally would appear, according to the National Post.

The dean of the school’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences said that the choice not to include images in the custom-made textbook was economic, because the fees to reproduce the images would have doubled the cost, the National Post reported.

A comparable text for the next term, covering post-1800 art, will also cost C$180 and lack artwork, the dean said, according to the National Post.

For more copyright news, click here.

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