Yoga, AstraZeneca, Intel, UN: Intellectual Property

A sequence of yoga poses cannot be copyrighted, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled.

The Dec. 14 ruling resolves a dispute over whether Bikram’s Yoga College of India -- the chain of studios owned by Bikram Choudhury that offers yoga in a hot setting -- can receive U.S. copyright protection for yoga exercises. Bikram sued several yoga studios and their owners last year alleging that their use of his choice and order of poses violated his copyright.

The U.S. Copyright Office in June said that a sequence couldn’t be protected under copyright laws. “A compilation of exercises or the selection and arrangement of yoga poses will be refused registration,” the agency said in a release published in the Federal Register.

In the Dec. 14 ruling, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright noted that while books or photographs depicting a compilation can be copyrighted, federal protection doesn’t cover the selection, coordination or arrangement of exercise. Wright held that “even if the manner in which Choudhury arranged the sequence is unique, the sequence would not be copyrightable subject matter because individual yoga poses are not copyrightable subject matter.”

The ruling won’t end the litigation because the suit also claims trademark infringement, copyright of the dialogue that accompanies the sequence and a violation of the teacher-certification agreements. A trial is still scheduled for Jan. 29 on those remaining claims, said Eric Maier, a partner at Maier Shoch LLP who represents Evolation Yoga.

Yoga to the People, a New York studio that employed the sequence of poses in a hot studio and was also sued by Choudhury last year, settled its lawsuit on Dec. 3. According to a joint statement, Yoga to the People will stop offering the same sequence of 26 poses by Feb. 15. Jordan Susman, who represents Yoga to the People, didn’t respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on Wright’s ruling.

Robert Gilchrest, a lawyer at Silverman Sclar Shin & Byrne PLLC in Los Angeles who represents Bikram Yoga and Choudhury, also didn’t respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment.

Maier said his client had discussed settling with Bikram Yoga before talks stalled. “They insisted that we had to agree that they had a copyright over the sequence,” Maier said. “We refused because we believed there was no such copyright.”

The case is Bikram’s Yoga College of India LP v. Evolation Yoga LLC, 11-cv-05506, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). The case that settled Dec. 3 is Bikram’s Yoga College of India LP v. Yoga to the People Inc., 11-cv-07998, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). A third case still pending is Bikram’s Yoga College of India LP v. Raiz, 11-cv-7377, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).


AstraZeneca Can Block Generic Version of Crestor until 2016

AstraZeneca Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker, won an appeals court ruling that will block generic versions of its top-selling cholesterol medicine Crestor in the U.S. until July 2016.

The patent on the medicine is valid and enforceable, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said in an opinion posted on its website Dec. 14. The court rejected challenges made by generic-drug makers including Mylan Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

The ruling ensures AstraZeneca won’t lose sales of a product that brought in $2.3 billion in U.S. revenue in the first nine months of the year. Total sales of Crestor, whose chemical name is rosuvastatin, account for 22 percent of London-based AstraZeneca’s revenue.

The generic-drug companies, except Apotex Inc., conceded that they infringed the patent for the compound rosuvastatin and focused their challenge on claims the patent covered an obvious variation of earlier compounds.

They also claimed AstraZeneca and patent partner Shionogi & Co., based in Osaka, Japan, didn’t disclose important information to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Failure to report information that could bear on the originality of a product could lead to a patent being thrown out.

The appeals court panel in a 2-1 decision upheld a lower court ruling that rejected those arguments, and that Apotex’s copy would infringe the patent. The challengers also included Aurobindo Pharma Ltd., Par Pharmaceutical Cos. and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

The Federal Circuit in February upheld the dismissal of Crestor suits over patents that expire in 2018 and 2021 that cover the methods of using the active ingredient for certain types of patients.

The case is In Re Rosuvastatin Calcium Patent Litigation, 2010-1460, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).

The lower court combined case is In re Rosuvastatin Calcium Patent Litigation, 08-1949, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To see the patent: RE37,314.

Intel Wins First Round in Patent Fight That Threatens Chips

Intel Corp. won the first round of a patent-infringement case that some lawmakers said may threaten jobs at the company’s U.S. manufacturing plants.

The world’s largest semiconductor maker didn’t infringe the patents of closely held X2Y Attenuators LLC, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge David Shaw said in a notice posted on the agency’s website on Dec. 14. The next step is a possible review of the judge’s findings by the full commission, which has the power to block imports of products if they infringe U.S. patents.

Lawmakers from both U.S. political parties have taken interest in the outcome, saying a loss for Intel could harm U.S. jobs. That’s drawn the case into a broader dispute over whether patent owners that don’t make products should be able to use the ITC’s import-ban power in fights over licensing fees.

After workers in the U.S. do initial manufacturing work, Intel uses plants in other countries for final assembly, leaving its chips and the products that use them vulnerable to an ITC import ban. Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Inc., which use Intel chips, are also named in the ITC complaint.

The X2Y patents cover ways to overcome electromagnetic interference that can damage electronics. The company, which develops methods for improving the performance of circuits, licenses its inventions to Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s biggest maker of computer-memory chips.

“X2Y remains confident that the Commission will protect true innovation regardless of the size of the innovator and will continue to vigorously enforce its intellectual property against these infringers,” X2Y said in an e-mailed statement distributed by a spokeswoman, Anne Standley.

Civil suits that X2Y filed in federal court in its hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, are on hold pending the outcome of the ITC case. The commission has set a target date of April 15 to complete the investigation.

“We are gratified with this result and will continue to defend ourselves in the case pending in U.S. district court,” Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for Santa Clara, California-based Intel, said in an e-mailed statement.

The case is In the Matter of Microprocessors, Components Thereof, and Products Containing Same, 337-781, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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For more patent news, click here.


Copyright Royalty Board Rules for Sirius, Stock Jumps

Sirius XM Radio Inc., the U.S. satellite-radio broadcaster, rose the most in four months after a favorable ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board on how much the company has to pay in music royalties through 2017.

The judges that make up the board determined that the rates for Sirius to pay SoundExchange, an organization that collects royalties for musicians, will increase to 9 percent of gross revenue in 2013 from 8 percent this year. The fees will then increase by half a percentage point every year until 2017.

The costs of the fees are passed on as charges to Sirius customers, said Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. in New York. The “manageable” royalty increase means the New York-based company won’t see a defection of customers because of higher rates, he said.

“If the rate increase were larger, you’d have to wonder if Sirius can pass that through,” Kraft said. “Because the step-ups are small, they can be passed through quite easily. It removes an uncertainty.”

Sirius shares gained 7 percent to $2.91 at the close in New York on Dec. 14, the biggest one-day gain since Aug. 8. The stock has advanced 60 percent this year.

For more copyright news, click here.


Google Said to End FTC Probe With Letter Promising Changes

Google Inc. is poised to offer voluntary concessions that will end a 20-month U.S. antitrust probe of its business practices without any enforcement action being taken, two people familiar with the matter said.

Google, which has been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, is preparing a letter promising not to copy content from rival websites without permission and to allow advertisers to compare data from ad campaigns with their performance on other Internet search engines, one of the people said yesterday. That will bring the antitrust investigation to a close without a lawsuit or settlement, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

An end to the probe without enforcement action would be a blow to competitors including Microsoft Corp., Yelp Inc., and Expedia Inc. An alliance of such e-commerce and Web-search companies have pressed the agency to act, claiming Google’s dominance of Internet search combined with favoring its own services in answers to queries violates antitrust laws.

Adam Kovacevich, a Google spokesman, declined to comment on whether Google is preparing to announce concessions in the case or whether the FTC is preparing to close the matter without taking action. Cecelia Prewett, a spokeswoman for the FTC, also declined to comment.

“We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have,” Kovacevich said in an e-mail.

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UN Telecom Treaty Approved Amid U.S. Web-Censorship Concerns

An agreement to update 24-year-old United Nations telecommunications rules was approved against the opposition of countries including the U.S. and the U.K., whose officials walked out on the talks on concerns about Internet regulation and censorship.

The new pact includes measures that would give countries a right to access international telecommunications services and the ability to block spam. The delegations that declined to sign the amended text, including Canada, Denmark, Australia, Norway and Greece, argued those measures would pave the way for government censorship.

The countries that won’t sign the new treaty will continue to be bound by the 1988 version, said Sarah Parkes, a spokeswoman for the International Telecommunication Union.

“What is clear from the ITU meeting in Dubai is that many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the Internet,” Google Inc., the world’s biggest search engine, said in a statement. “We stand with the countries who refuse to sign this treaty and also with the millions of voices who have joined us to support a free and open web.”

Talks at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai this week were marked by disagreements between anti-regulation countries, including the U.S. and many European states, and a group that argued for some Internet measures to protect and advance networks, including Russia, China and several Middle Eastern nations.

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McAlpine Sues U.K. Speaker’s Wife Bercow Over Twitter Post

Alastair McAlpine, the former U.K. politician wrongly identified as a pedophile after a false report by the British Broadcasting Corp., sued a lawmaker’s wife over her post about him on Twitter Inc.’s social-media service.

The libel lawsuit against Sally Bercow, the spouse of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, was filed Dec. 7 in London, court records released Dec. 13 show. McAlpine, 70, had threatened legal action against as many as 10,000 people who posted or re-posted about him after the BBC implied last month he sexually abused a boy in the 1970s.

“I am still hopeful that we will be able to reach a sensible agreement to settle this matter” without “the need to proceed to a trial,” McAlpine’s lawyer, Andrew Reid, said in an e-mailed statement.

The BBC, the world’s biggest broadcaster, agreed to pay McAlpine 185,000 pounds ($298,000) after the Nov. 2 error on its “Newsnight” report, which gave hints about the ex-politician’s identity without naming him. Before the mistake was uncovered, Twitter postings accusing McAlpine were already spreading, setting the stage for the biggest libel case of its kind in Britain, media lawyers including Ruth Collard of Carter-Ruck in London have said.

The speaker’s office declined to comment on the court filing.

McAlpine, who was deputy chairman of the U.K. Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, wants Twitter users with fewer than 500 followers to apologize and donate to the BBC Children in Need charity, he said last month. Bercow and other Twitter users who have more followers were threatened with tougher legal action.

Industrial Espionage

HP Boardroom Investigator Sentenced to Three Months Prison

Bryan Wagner, a private investigator who helped steal telephone records for an internal investigation into media leaks by Hewlett-Packard Co. board members, was sentenced to three months in prison.

Wagner was sentenced Dec. 13, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco on Dec. 14. Wagner pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. He admitted to using the Social Security number of an unidentified journalist to obtain the reporter’s telephone records to pursue the source of the leak, a practice called pretexting.

Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn was fired in 2006 for approving the boardroom spying, which spurred a national debate over identity theft. Hewlett-Packard contracted with Action Research Group in Florida. Action Research hired Wagner of Littleton, Colorado, who posed as the targets of the investigation to obtain their phone records.

The probe of Hewlett-Packard and its investigators moved Congress and the California Legislature to pass laws prohibiting the release of phone records without consent. Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, California, in 2008 settled with reporters over claims their privacy was invaded by the company’s investigation.

Cynthia Chin Young Lie, a federal public defender who represented Wagner, didn’t immediately return a call to her office for comment on the sentence.

The case is U.S. v. Wagner, 07-00016, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).


Entertainment Lawyer Stresses Touring in Music Business Don Passman, an entertainment lawyer with Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown in Beverly Hills, California, discussed his book “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” with Bloomberg Radio on Dec. 14. To hear the interview, click here.

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