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Google, General Mills, Bob Marley: Intellectual Property

Google Inc., which bought Motorola Mobility to gain leverage in the global legal battle over smartphone and tablet computer inventions, can’t use some of its patents to block sales of Microsoft Corp. products, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in a Nov. 30 opinion that, because Motorola Mobility pledged to license some patents on fair and reasonable terms, it can’t seek a court order to halt sales of products that use those inventions. The ruling applies to a group of Motorola Mobility patents that are deemed essential to industry standards for video decoding and Wi-Fi technologies.

Niki Fenwick, a spokeswoman for Google, said the company had no comment on the ruling. David Cuddy, a spokesman for Microsoft, also declined to comment.

Mountain View, California-based Google spent $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility and cited its history of innovations and patents on mobile phones as a key reason behind the purchase. Google has cited Motorola Mobility’s patents to fight back against patent-infringement claims by Microsoft and Apple Inc. over devices running on Google’s Android operating system.

Robart’s ruling came in a breach-of-contract case brought by Microsoft over Motorola Mobility’s licensing demands for the Xbox video-gaming system and Microsoft Windows. Robart had already ruled that Motorola Mobility had a contractual obligation to license its standard-essential patents on fair terms because it helped establish the standards.

A separate case in which Motorola Mobility is seeking to block imports of the Xbox is scheduled to begin this week at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington.

Two of the three patents in the ITC case relate to the standard for video decoding that were the subject of Robart’s decision.

Motorola Mobility had demanded a royalty of 2.25 percent of the retail price of each product, a figure Microsoft called excessive. The Redmond, Washington-based software maker has said that would amount to $4 billion a year in royalties.

Apple had also accused Google of violating its commitments. That case, in a Wisconsin federal court, was thrown out after Apple said it wouldn’t accept any rate set by the trial judge that exceeded $1 per unit.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union are investigating claims filed by Microsoft and Apple that Motorola Mobility is misusing its patents to thwart competition.

The case is Microsoft Corp. v. Motorola Inc., 10cv1823, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (Seattle).

For more patent news, click here.


General Mills Wins Chinese Order Against ‘Haager-Dasz’ Mark

General Mills Inc., the Minneapolis-based maker of Cheerios and Wheaties breakfast cereals, has persuaded a Chinese court to bar a clothing manufacturer’s use of “Haager-Dasz” as a trademark for clothing, China Daily reported.

The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court Overturned a ruling by the trade appeal board of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce that General Mills’ “Haagen-Dazs” trademark wasn’t sufficiently well known with the “relevant” Chinese public, the newspaper reported.

The court said the “Haagen-Dazs” ice cream brand is well known and that the public would be confused if the clothing maker could use “Haager Dasz” on its clothing, according to China Daily.

The clothing maker’s use of such a similar-sounding mark was “obviously malicious,” the court said, and China Daily reported.

Bob Marley’s Family Settles Trademark Suit Against Half-Brother

The family of the late reggae singer Bob Marley has settled a trademark infringement against the singer’s half-brother, according to court filings.

Marley’s widow and nine children filed suit against Richard Booker in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in December 2011, claiming Booker’s use of “Momma Marley” for food products and a restaurant in Jamaica, and “Marley Fest” for a music festival constitute infringement.

The family also objected to applications to register “Nine Mile” and “9 Mile” as trademarks, noting that Nine Mile is the region of Jamaica where Marley lived and is closely associated with the singer.

Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed in a Nov. 30 court filing. The court retains jurisdiction to enforce the settlement and each party is to pay its own litigation costs and legal fees, according to the filing.

The case is Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd. v. Booker 1:11-cv-24326-MGC, U.D. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).

Kevin Durant Says in Response to Suit He Doesn’t Use ‘Durantula’

Kevin Durant, a forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder National Basketball Association team, has responded to a trademark infringement suit brought by a Chicago-based musician.

Durant is a three-time NBA all-star, and basketball jerseys bearing his name and number are second only in sales to LeBron James’s, the NBA said in a statement last month.

Mark Durante of Chicago sued Kevin Durant in federal court in Chicago in June, claiming his “Durantula” trademark was infringed by the athlete. He said he had registered the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and used it as a professional name, and for the sale of t-shirts, guitars and related merchandise.

The musician also operates a website that uses that name,

He asked the court for money damages and extra damages to punish the athlete for his allegedly deliberate infringement.

In his response, Durant said he has never used “Durantula” as a trademark or service mark, and that any use of the name was initiated by basketball fans, which is, he said, permitted under trademark law’s “fair use” exceptions.

The athlete noted that he and the musician aren’t competitors and claimed that consumers are unlikely to confuse the two of them. He also said the musician’s claims for punitive damages were unreasonable and unconstitutionally excessive.

The case is Mark Durante v. Kevin Durant, 1:12-cv-04913, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

For more trademark news, click here.


ISPs Block Access to TorrentFreak Copyright News Website

TorrentFreak, the blog that covers news related to copyright issues with respect to file-sharing and the BitTorrent protocol, is blocked.

A notice that pops up when the site is accessed states “we’re complying with a court order that means access to this website has to be blocked to protect against copyright infringement.”

Some of the content displayed on the website is visible despite the block. The newest visible article says that its PromoBay website, a promotional platform for independent artists, is presently being blocked by several Internet service providers in the U.K.

TorrentBay said in its article that the PromoBay domain itself “has never linked to infringing material, nor is it hosted on The Pirate Bay’s servers.”

Smash Pictures Sued by ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Rights Holders

Smash Pictures Inc., a Chatsworth, California-based maker of adult films, was sued for infringement by the holders of the copyrights for E.K. James’ “Shades of Grey” books.

According to the complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles Nov. 27, the “Shades of Grey” trilogy has sold more than 40 million copies since its release in 2011.

Fifty Shades Ltd., the Middlesex, U.K.-based copyright holder, says that Smash Pictures’ “First XXX Adaptation” infringed the copyrights for the “Shades of Grey” books. The film “is not a parody, and it does not comment on, criticize, or ridicule the originals. It is a rip-off, plain and simple.”

The copyright holder also objects to Smash Pictures “Fifty Shades of Pleasure: Play Kit & Movie,” which contains the film and “various adult novelty items used in the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy.” According to the complaint, Fifty Shades Ltd. has itself licensed the use of its trademarks for “ a collection of adult sex toys including handcuffs” that are similar to what Smash Pictures is offering.

Co-plaintiff is Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios LLC, which holds the exclusive film rights to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, according to the complaint. Court papers contain a side-by-side comparison of the script for the Smash Pictures film and a series of pages from the “Shades of Gray” trilogy.

The copyright owners say they are harmed by Smash Pictures’ actions, and that the public is likely to be confused as to the source of the “Fifty Shades of Pleasure” film and related products.

They asked for an order barring further infringement, and for a court order for the seizure of all infringing products and promotional material. Additionally, they seek awards of money damages, profits derived from the alleged infringement, and litigation costs and attorney fees.

Smash Pictures spokesman Stuart Wall said in an e-mail that his company has no comment on the pending litigation. There is presently a film listed on the Smash Pictures website as “This Isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey XXX. This is a Parody.”

The case is Fifty Shades Ltd. V. Smash Pictures Inc., 2:12-cv-10111-ABC-SH, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Finland’s CIAPC Goes After Nine-Year-Old for File Sharing

Finnish police seized a nine-year-old girl’s laptop computer in a raid after her father refused to pay a 600 euro ($783) fine for her alleged unauthorized downloading of a song by pop performer Chisu, Wired magazine reported.

After the child had tried to use Pirate Bay’s file-sharing website to download the album, her father bought her a legitimate copy, Wired reported.

Finland’s Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Center then sent the father a letter -- which he acknowledged ignoring -- that accused him of unauthorized file-sharing, and demanding the fine and that he sign a non-disclosure agreement, according to Wired.

The father said his daughter acted innocently and called CIAPC’s fine and the laptop seizure the “pinnacle of absurdity,” and the artist whose album the child was trying to download said she had no intention or desire to sue anyone for file-sharing her music, Wired reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

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