Google, Bridgestone, Cheesesteaks: Intellectual Property

Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit asked a judge to seal “highly confidential” records of its patent-licensing talks with Samsung Electronics Co. that appeared in the South Korean company’s intellectual property lawsuit against Apple Inc. in California.

The document at issue in a hearing yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, California, is a summary of a licensing negotiation between Motorola and Samsung that took place several weeks before the two companies reached a 2000 agreement, according to a court filing by Motorola Mobility. It was filed as an exhibit supporting Apple’s attempt to depose Samsung witnesses, according to the filing.

The document reveals a “pattern of financial offers” in the cellular cross-licensing negotiations and may reveal monetary terms, license rates, the direction of payments, names of licensed products and technologies, and the geographic scope of the deal, according to the filing. The information is “highly sensitive” because other firms could use it unfairly to gain leverage in their own negotiations with Motorola Mobility, the company said.

During negotiations for patent licenses, competitors “negotiate concerning the relative values of their respective patent portfolios as well as the values of other terms in the agreement,” according to the filing.

An Aug. 24 jury verdict in San Jose federal court in which Cupertino, California-based Apple won $1.05 billion in damages from Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung is part of a global fight for dominance in the $219 billion global smartphone market. The world’s two biggest makers of high-end phones have accused each other of copying designs and technology for mobile devices and are waging patent battles on four continents.

Google is based in Mountain View, California.

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

‘Patent Monetizers’ Now File 40 Percent of All Patent Suits

A study commissioned by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that almost 40 percent of the patent-infringement suits in the past five years were filed by companies or individuals known as non-practicing entities. They are also sometimes known pejoratively as “patent trolls.”

These plaintiffs don’t make products or perform services that are covered by the patents they seek to enforce. The study deems these “patent monetizers,” and states that the percentage of cases they file has risen from about 22 percent five years ago.

Most of the patent monetizer cases don’t go very far in the trial process, according to the study. They generally settle before the court makes a summary judgment decision.

Results of the study are to be published in Duke Law and Technology Journal.

Apple Gets Patent on Location-Sharing Group Creation Method

Apple Inc., the maker of the iPhone and iPod, received a patent related to its “Find My Friends” application.

Patent 8,284,748, which was issued Oct. 9, covers a method of creating a location-sharing group without the assistance of a central server. This would involve creating a “geofence” enclosing all the participating devices -- such as a mobile phone -- in the location-sharing group.

Devices’ entry into or departure from the defined area could be monitored, according to the patent. Devices can be set up to display and track the ad hoc location of the location-sharing group as a whole, or the individuals within the group.

Apple applied for this patent in July 2012, with the assistance of Boston’s Fish & Richardson PC.

For more patent news, click here.


USDOTS Warns of Dangers of Counterfeit Automobile Air Bags

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a consumer safety advisory about counterfeit air bags.

The fake safety devices, which are supposed to inflate at the time of a collision, may not deploy, or may expel dangerous metal shrapnel at the time of inflation, the agency said in a statement yesterday.

The problem is believed to affect less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet, and the only cars at risk are those that have had an air bag replaced by a repair shop that isn’t affiliated with an auto dealership, according to the statement.

The agency said it has been working with the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to halt the importation and installation of counterfeit air bags.

John Morton, who directs ICE, said organized crime is involved in the sale of the fakes, and that an aggressive investigation is being conducted of “criminal supply chains” to “bring these criminals to justice.”

Customers who have had air bags replaced in the past three years by shops not affiliated with dealerships are urged to get additional information at The agency warns that salvaged and rebuilt used cars also may have the fakes.

Bridgestone Says Actor in Commercial Isn’t Sony’s ‘Kevin Butler’

Bridgestone Corp., the world’s largest tire manufacturer, has responded to a trademark-infringement suit brought by Sony Corp. over the Japanese tire company’s television commercial.

In an Oct. 4 filing, Bridgestone said that while the actor in its commercials is the same one that Sony Corp. employed in commercials for its PlayStation products, the actor plays a tire engineer in Bridgestone’s ads rather than a computer-game promoter.

Tokyo-based Bridgestone said that the actor doesn’t appear as “Kevin Butler,” the persona in which he promotes the PlayStation in the Sony commercials. It asked the court to deny any request for relief or damages Sony has requested.

Sony filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco Sept. 11, accusing Bridgestone of trying to trade on the fame associated with the “Kevin Butler” character. The game company also claimed that in one of the tire company’s commercials, the actor seems to be “testing” a computer game made by Sony competitor Nintendo Co., which is a breach of contract its ad agency made with the commercial’s producer.

In addition to seeking money damages, Sony asked the court to bar what it said was unfair competition and violation of its trademark rights.

The case is Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC v. Bridgestone Americas Inc., 3:12-cv-04753-CRB, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

‘Philadelphia’s Cheesesteak’ Trademark Ruling Challenged

A ruling by a board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is being challenged in federal court in Philadelphia by a small family-owned restaurant.

Campo’s Deli at Market Inc. is unhappy with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s Aug. 7 denial of its application to register “Philadelphia’s Cheesesteak” as a trademark.

According to court papers filed Oct. 4, registration was denied because the board deemed it too similar to three previously registered trademarks, “Philadelphia’s Cheesesteak Co.,” “Philadelphia Cheesesteak Co.,” and “The Original Philadelphia Cheesesteak Co.

A cheesesteak is a sandwich comprised of thin-sliced sauteed beef, cheese and, optionally, onions or peppers. It was invented in Philadelphia in the 1930s, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Campo’s argues that its proposed trademark is distinctive and wouldn’t cause consumer confusion. The description of “a particular kind of sandwich” is “so superlative that it could only be called ‘Philadelphia’s Cheesesteak,”’ the company said in its filing.

Without a registered trademark, Campo’s said it will be hampered in pursuing franchising opportunities. The company claims it has no desire to exert improper control over “Philadelphia Cheesesteak,” which it claims is a generic term used to describe a generic kind of sandwich.

Campo’s asked for a jury trial on the issue of whether “Philadelphia’s Cheesesteak” is valid and enforceable and if the patent office should be required to register the mark.

The case is Campo’s Deli at Market Inc., v. Kappos, 2:12-cv-05685-ER, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

Chicken Cock Distilling Says It Doesn’t Infringe Trademark

Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc. was sued in a trademark dispute over its “Fighting Cock” trademark.

Chicken Cock Distilling LLC of Palm Beach, Florida, filed suit in federal court in West Palm Beach Oct. 9, seeking a declaration its “Chicken Cock” mark doesn’t infringe Heaven Hill’s “Fighting Cock.”

Heaven Hill, based in Bardstown, Kentucky, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Chicken Cock in September, demanding the Florida distiller stop distributing, marketing and selling distilled spirits under the “Chicken Cock” name.

Chicken Cock, which said it had already registered the mark and received approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for the name, claims the infringement allegations from Heaven Hill potentially threaten its business operations.

The case is Chicken Cock Distilling v. Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., 9:12-cv-81102-DMM, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).

For more trademark news, click here.


Pakistan Passes New Law to Curb Copyright Infringement, Piracy

Pakistan’s National Assembly passed litigation aimed at curbing copyright infringement, News International reported.

Among the bill’s provisions are the establishment of regional officers for the country’s intellectual property office to provide “speedy justice and trial” of IP-related cases, according to News International.

One of the aims of the bill is to help Pakistan get off the “Watch List” of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with respect to enforcement and protection of IP rights, according to the newspaper.

The USTR has been informed about the new legislation, and “we hope that Pakistan will come out of this red zone (priority watch list),” Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi of Pakistan’s Intellectual Property Office said, and News International reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

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