Samsung, LG, North Face: Intellectual Property

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest mobile-phone maker, won its bid to continue selling its newest Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the U.S. while it battles patent-infringement claims filed by Apple Inc.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit yesterday granted Samsung’s request to lift a lower court’s ban on sales. Samsung wants to continue selling the phone while it challenges a federal judge’s June 29 ruling that Apple was likely to win its suit claiming the Galaxy Nexus infringed four patents and that sales were hurting Apple’s business in the meantime.

The case is part of a global battle between the two biggest makers of mobile phones that surf the Web, play video games and do most other functions of a computer.

Apple argued that it’s important to keep the Galaxy Nexus out of the U.S. market now because most Americans haven’t yet switched to smartphones, and a product that copies Apple’s features could steal customers from its iPhone. A jury trial on the patent claims isn’t scheduled until March 2014, according to the court docket.

A feature in the Nexus phone that aids data searches was an issue in yesterday’s opinion. The appeals court said the district court abused its discretion by deciding that Apple would suffer harm because of the feature. The patent-holder needs to show “that the infringing feature drives consumer demand for the accused product,” and Apple presented “limited” evidence of such a link, the appeals court said.

Apple claims the Galaxy Nexus infringes patents that cover the way the iPhone’s voice program, Siri, searches for information, its slide-to-unlock function, an automatic recognition of phone numbers or e-mail addresses and a word-suggestion feature, according to the filing. Apple was ordered to post a $95.6 million bond to cover any losses incurred by Samsung should the case end in Samsung’s favor.

Samsung, which makes other phone models that aren’t affected by the order, said in filings that Apple has been sending “menacing” letters to Samsung customers and “engaged in a campaign of litigation around the world against the largest sellers of Android devices.”

Android, owned by Google Inc. and distributed for free to bolster Google’s advertising business, is the most popular platform for mobile phones.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-1507, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-630, U.S. District Court for the District of California (San Jose).

LG Said to Make New Google Nexus Phone for October Unveiling

LG Electronics Inc. is developing a Nexus smartphone for Google Inc., becoming the third manufacturer to build phones for the U.S. company, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The device, to be shown this month, is based on LG’s Optimus G model, said the person, who declined to be identified because the project isn’t public.

For LG, its first Nexus project would deepen a partnership with Google as the Seoul-based company tries to compete with Samsung Electronics Co. Google has previously developed phones with Samsung and HTC Corp. to help maintain the dominance of its mobile operating system against Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

Samsung has sold about 500,000 Nexus S phones in the U.S. as of June 30, according to court documents filed in California as part of a patent dispute with Apple over devices including the Nexus.

Jinny Lee, a Seoul-based spokeswoman for LG, and Shari Yoder Doherty, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment.

LG’s Optimus G, which went on sale in South Korea last month, has a 4.7-inch screen and runs on a processor made by Qualcomm Inc. for fourth-generation Long Term Evolution, or LTE, networks offering faster Internet connections.

Technology blogs, including BGR, have posted what they say are leaked photos of the new Nexus phone with LG’s logo.

For more patent news, click here.


North Face Seeks Contempt Finding for ‘Butt Face’ Products

VF Corp.’s North Face unit is back in court with the Missouri pharmacy it sued over a series of “South Butt” t-shirt designs.

Williams Pharmacy Inc. violated a consent order entered into in April 2010, according to filings in federal court in St. Louis. At that time, the pharmacy agreed to stop using marks that were “confusingly similar” to the clothing company’s.

The original suit was filed in December 2009, with North Face objecting to the “South Butt” t-shirts.

In an Oct. 10 order, U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel ordered the parties to present briefs addressing whether the pharmacy’s new “Butt Face” designs are a close enough imitation of North Face’s to justify a finding of contempt.

The defendants didn’t dispute the fact that within two days of signing the consent order, they formed a new company -- Why Climb Mountains -- and began selling products marked with “The Butt Face,” Sippel said.

Sippel said that he will have to evaluate North Face’s claims to damages from the sale of the “Butt Face” merchandise in light of the fact that “the plaintiff chose to sit on its rights for some time after discovering defendants’ conduct.”

He ordered the parties “to talk about settlement in good faith when they receive this order” and to “stop smiling and start exploring a sensible resolution to this dispute.”

The case is North Face Apparel v. Williams Pharmacy, 09-cv-02029, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

GM Applies for Trademark Registration for ‘Turbo-Fire’ Term

General Motors Co., the maker of Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac cars, applied to register “Turbo-Fire” as a trademark.

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the automaker filed its application in August and said it will use the mark with decals.

Currently, there is one “Turbo-Fire” trademark, registered in August 2010 to a Florida-based game company. The mark, which belongs to Datel Design & Development Co., is used with handheld units for playing electronic games, according to the registration.

For more trademark news, click here.


LiveUniverse Hit with $6.6 Million Judgment in Song Lyric Case

Music publishers including Warner Music Group won a $6.6 million judgment in a copyright lawsuit against song-lyrics websites run by Brad Greenspan, one of the developers of the MySpace online social network

U.S. District Judge George H. Wu in Los Angeles filed an order Oct. 9 requiring the operator of LiveUniverse Inc. to pay damages of $12,500 for each of 528 songs that were infringed. Additionally, Wu said he will award litigation costs and attorney fees to the music companies whose lyrics were infringed.

“Defendants have willfully infringed upon plaintiffs’ copyrights, even after being sanctioned, both by this court and Magistrate Judge Abrams,” Wu said in his default judgment order. “Their blatant disregard for the civil justice system favors a substantial damages award.”

He also issued a permanent injunction barring Greenspan from offering song lyrics online without licenses from copyright holders.

Greenspan, of West Hollywood, California, and his lawyer, Andrew Kislik, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment on the ruling.

The copyright infringement suit was filed in August 2009. The music publishers said the sole purpose of the LiveUniverse websites was “to provide consumers with various kinds of access to the lyrics from copyright-protected musical compositions.”

The publishers had sought statutory damages of $100,000 for each infringed song. Among the songs infringed were Buddy Holly’s “Another Day,” Greg Allman’s “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” and James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

The case is PeerMusic III Ltd v. LiveUniverse Inc., 09-cv-06160, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Ex-Bridgestone Scientist Wins Dismissal of Trade Secret Case

All charges were dismissed in a trade-secrets case involving tires at a Bridgestone Corp. research facility in Akron, Ohio.

In an order filed this week, U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin dismissed the indictment against Xiaorong Wang, who was a research scientist at the center from May 1995 until he was fired in April 2010. Wang was indicted for trade secret misappropriation in August.

He was accused of making a false statement to investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he didn’t plan to leave the country, when he was planning to accept a job at a university in China, according to court documents.

The U.S. government also claimed Wang lied about having approached anyone in China regarding setting up a research facility at that university, and about denying that he was asked to provide information from Tokyo-based Bridgestone.

Gwin said in a Sept. 26 order that the court found insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction on eight counts in the indictment for trade secret theft. He also found the government failed to present enough evidence that Wang knew that a theft of trade secrets would injure their owner.

The case is U.S. v. Wang, 12-cr-000380, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Akron).

IP Moves

Former UMG Deputy General Counsel Lands at Steptoe & Johnson

Steptoe & Johnson LLP hired Harvey Geller for its intellectual property group, the Washington-based firm said in a statement yesterday.

He joins the firm from Universal Music Group Inc., where he was deputy general counsel and senior vice president of business and legal affairs until May. His area of expertise is copyright, and he has litigated cases involving user-generated content and inducement of copyright infringement.

Geller has an undergraduate degree from California State University Northridge and a law degree from Loyola Law School.

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