Samsung, Apple, Disney, Leadscope: Intellectual Property

Apple Inc. lost a court ruling against Samsung Electronics Co. in Germany regarding claims the South Korean company’s Galaxy devices infringed patents on the iPhone maker’s touch-screen technology.

The Mannheim Regional Court ruled that Samsung didn’t violate Apple’s patents on features related to touch-screen technology, Jason Kim, a Seoul-based spokesman for the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in an e-mailed statement Sept. 21. Joachim Bock, a court spokesman, confirmed the ruling.

Samsung and Apple, the world’s two biggest smartphone makers, have traded victories in their patent disputes fought over four continents since the Cupertino, California-based company last year accused Asia’s biggest electronics maker of “slavishly copying” its devices. The companies, competing for dominance of the global smartphone market estimated by Bloomberg Industries at $219 billion last year, are fighting patent battles even as Apple remains Samsung’s biggest customer.

“We welcome today’s ruling, which affirms our position that our products do not infringe Apple’s intellectual property,” Samsung said in a Sept. 21 statement. “We will continue to further develop and introduce products that enhance the lives of German consumers.”

The Mannheim judges also rejected a bid by Apple regarding the same patent against Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility Holdings unit.

Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple in London, declined to comment on the court ruling.

Next to Munich and Dusseldorf, Mannheim is one of the three prime court venues in Germany where lawyers for Apple, Samsung, Motorola Mobility and Microsoft Corp. meet regularly in the current court fights.

A federal jury in San Jose, California, on Aug. 24 found the South Korean company copied the iPhone and iPad and awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages. A week later in Japan, Apple lost a suit as a Tokyo judge ruled that Samsung smartphones and a tablet didn’t infringe on an Apple invention for synchronizing music and video data with servers.

Apple accounts for about 9 percent of Samsung’s revenue, making it the company’s largest customer, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Friday’s cases are LG Mannheim 7 O 337/11 (Apple v. Samsung) and 7 O 528/11 (Apple v. Motorola Mobility).

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Apple Copied 68-Year-Old Swiss Clock Design, Railway Says

Apple Inc.’s new iOS 6 operating system infringes a trademarked design for clocks in Swiss rail stations, according to state-owned railway operator SBB.

The updated software, introduced this month by Apple, includes a clock icon with black and red hands that uses an SBB design created in 1944, Reto Kormann, a spokesman for the Swiss rail operator, said by telephone Sept. 21.

SBB, which has allowed companies such as watchmaker Mondaine Watch Ltd. to use the design under a license, said that it’s in discussions with Cupertino, California-based Apple about a license or a settlement that would allow the phonemaker to use the image, and expects to resolve the issue in the next few days, Kormann said.

“The money isn’t in the front of our interests because we are proud that Apple took an SBB design,” Kormann said. “If we have a cooperation agreement between two good brands, that’s a win-win.”

The disputed design appears only on the iPad and isn’t on the iPhone, said Adam Howorth, a spokesman for Apple in London. He had no further comment immediately.

Separately, Apple has been embroiled in patent battles with smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Co. in courts across four continents after Apple accused the South Korean company of copying its devices last year. Apple lost a ruling against Samsung in Germany regarding claims that Galaxy devices infringed on Apple’s touch-screen technology, according to a court spokesman Sept. 21.

A federal jury in San Jose, California, on Aug. 24 found Samsung copied the iPhone and iPad and awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages. A week later in Japan, Apple lost a suit as a Tokyo judge ruled that Samsung smartphones and a tablet didn’t infringe on an Apple invention for synchronizing music and video data with servers.

The iPhone 5, which also uses the iOS 6 operating system, went on sale Friday and was expected to sell more than 10 million devices in its opening weekend, Piper Jaffray Cos. analyst Gene Munster has predicted.

Peoples Federal Savings and People’s United Settle Dispute

Peoples Federal Savings Bank of Brighton, Massachusetts, and People’s United Bank of Bridgeport, Connecticut, settled a trademark dispute, according to a court filing.

The Massachusetts-based bank sued People’s United in federal court in Boston in June 2012. Established in 1888 as the Elm Hill Cooperative Bank, Peoples Federal Savings said it’s used the mark “Peoples” to identify its banking services since 1973. Other marks the bank uses include “Peoplescash,” “Peoples Federal,” and “Peoples Federal Savings Bank,” according to court papers.

Peoples Federal said after Connecticut-based People’s United began to expand to Massachusetts in 2009, the public became confused by the similarity of the two financial institutions’ names. It accused the Connecticut bank of “willful, wanton, reckless” disregard of Peoples Federal’s rights.

It asked the court to bar People’s United’s use of any mark confusingly similar to Peoples in Massachusetts, and for awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

According to a Sept. 7 court filing, the parties resolved their dispute and the case was dismissed. No details of the settlement were disclosed in the filing. According to the People’s United website, the Connecticut bank still operates 10 branches in Massachusetts. Neither bank’s website makes mention of the settlement.

The case is Peoples Federal Savings Bank v. People’s United Bank, 1:10-cv-11002-NMG, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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Italy, Switzerland Named to 2012 Congressional Piracy Watch List

Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine and China top a watch list of nations with high levels of copyright piracy released by the Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus.

The caucus says piracy has reached “alarming levels” in these nations, which also lack adequate legal protections for copyright. Industries most affected by piracy are film, home video, television programming, music, books, video games and software. These industries collectively are the second-largest exporting segment of the U.S. economy, according to the caucus’ report.

This year marks the first time Switzerland and Italy were listed. Switzerland’s copyright law is inadequate, the report claims, making it “ a home for rogue sites whose clear purpose is to facilitate and enable massive unauthorized making available of pirated material.”

Italy’s inclusion is due to a lack of “sufficient legislative framework for addressing the problem, or clear leadership in developing one,” the caucus said.

The report cites ongoing problems in Ukraine, China and Russia, including the presence of hubs for peer-to-peer networks that facilitate the unauthorized sharing of content. China’s bar on the sale of imported game consoles and the wide availability of circumvention devices, prevents the development of a healthy, legal market for video game products,” according to the caucus.

Canada and Spain were hailed for enacting “stronger legal frameworks” for copyright protection, the caucus said.

‘Santa Paws’ Infringement Case Against Disney Dismissed

The Walt Disney Co. defeated a copyright-infringement case brought by the authors of a children’s story about Santa Claus and his dog.

The three writers, two from Missouri and one from Tennessee, filed suit in federal court in St. Louis in December, claiming two Disney Videos infringed the copyright to their 1991 book, “Santa Paws: The Story of Santa’s Dog.”

In their complaint they cited what they said were numerous similarities between their book and Disney’s “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws’” and “The Search for Santa Paws.”

They said a literary agent they employed had presented their work to Disney, and that the agent told them in 1996 that the studio was interested in producing a film based on the book.

In her Sept. 20 ruling, U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry granted Disney’s request to dismiss the suit. She said the videos weren’t “substantially similar” to elements in the authors’ book that came under copyright law’s protections.

She said of the perceived similarities between the works that the idea of magic in a Christmas story isn’t original, and neither is the use of ice for magical purposes in a story set at the North Pole. The idea of Christmas spirit -- and the lack thereof -- “being embodied by some sort of object is not an original idea,” she said, nor is the idea of naming Santa’s dog “Paws” or “Santa Paws.”

Judge Perry said that no reasonable viewer of the videos or reader of the screenplays on which they were based “would recognize them as a ‘dramatization or picturization’ of plaintiffs short story.”

The case is Ray K. Harter Jr. v. Disney Enterprises Inc., 4:11-cv-02207-CDP, U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Leadscope to Receive $10 Million of $26.5 Million Jury Award

Leadscope Inc., a provider of software for scientific research, will receive more than $10 million from the American Chemical Society in the wake of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling related to a trade secrets case.

The ACS, one of the largest professional scientific societies in the world, sued Columbus, Ohio-based Leadscope for trade secret misappropriation in 2002, claiming the company’s key technology was developed at the society’s Chemical Abstract Service.

According to court papers, Leadscope founders had been employed by the service, where they worked to develop a software tool aimed at improving the ability of researchers to access information available in the society’s database.

After ACS suspended the software project in 1997, the Leadscope founders quit and started their own business. There they developed the software product that was at issue in the litigation.

Initially the society sued Leadscope in Ohio federal court in May 2002. Leadscope responded to that suit, seeking dismissal on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction. ACS then refilled the complaint in Ohio state court in July 2002.

The state court jury rejected the trade-secret claims and awarded Leadscope $26.5 million on its counterclaims of unfair competition and defamation. ACS then appealed.

The Ohio high court found that the jury properly determined that Leadscope had been harmed by the ACS actions and was entitled to compensation. Leadscope’s defamation claim did not hold up, nor did the $15 million of the jury award that was related to that claim.

The case is American Chemical Society V. Leadscope Inc., 2010-1335, Supreme Court of Ohio.

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