Keurig, Boer Power, Time Warner: Intellectual Property

Keurig Inc., the maker of single-cup coffee brewing systems, lost a patent challenge to a California competitor.

The Wakefield, Massachusetts-based company sued JBR Inc. in federal court in Boston in November 2011, claiming that three of its patents for single-server beverage-brewer containers were infringed by JBR’s One Cup product. JBR, based in Lincoln, California, does business as Rogers Family Co.

Keurig, a unit of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., asked the court to find that JBR infringed and induced others to infringe patents D502,362, 7,165,488 and 7,347,138. It also sought an order barring further infringement, and awards of money damages and JBR’s profits attributable to the alleged infringement.

In his May 24 ruling, U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor said that the designs of the two competing products were dissimilar. Keurig failed to prove that the two designs would appear substantially the same to the ordinary observer, he said.

The judge also found that that Keurig couldn’t claim the other two patents were infringed because its patent rights didn’t extend to completed products that could be used with the coffee makers it sold.

Under patent law’s “permissible repair” exception, the patentee can’t control what is done with a patented article after it is sold. Judge Saylor said using a coffee cartridge from a different manufacturer fell within this “permissible repair” defense to charges of infringement, and dismissed the case.

The case is Keurig Inc., v. JBR Inc., 1:11-cv-11941-FDS, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

Boer Power Acquired Patents, Brands From Spanish Company

Boer Power Holdings Ltd., a Chinese maker of electrical distribution systems, said in a statement yesterday that it is buying patents and brands from Grupo de Empresas Temper SL.

The patents and brands are related to electric and power equipment and were acquired for 250,000 euros ($323,525), the company said.

For more patent news, click here.


Mexx Wins Russian Internet Domain Name Trademark Challenge

Mexx Europe BV, an Amsterdam-based manufacturer of clothing, accessories and household goods, won a trademark dispute in a Russian court, the Russian Legal Information Service reported.

The Ninth Commercial Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling barring the use of the Internet domain name by a Russian businessman, according to RAPSI.

Vladislav Mukhin registered the domain name without the Dutch company’s authorization and demanded 15,000 Euros ($19,400) to give up the website, RAPSI reported.

Mexx operates 95 stores in Russia, with plans to open another 15, according to RAPSI.

Velvet Underground Settles Warhol Suit Over Banana Design

The Velvet Underground reached a settlement of its lawsuit claiming that the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts infringed the rock band’s trademark for the banana design that appeared on an album cover.

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said in an order yesterday in Manhattan that the case has been discontinued.

“The parties have reached a confidential agreement to settle the case,” Joshua Paul, a lawyer for the Warhol Foundation, said in a May 28 letter to the judge.

The Warhol Foundation, which licenses merchandise based on the late artist’s designs, said that it owned the rights to the banana design he created for the band’s first commercial album. The Velvet Underground and its founders, Lou Reed and John Cale, sued the foundation in January 2012, claiming the band had trademark rights to the banana design, which has become a “symbol, truly an icon” of the group.

The case is Velvet Underground v. Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, 12-0201, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Warner Brothers’ ‘Dark Knight’ Didn’t Infringe Mark, Court Says

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Brothers unit didn’t infringe trademarks belonging to an Indiana-based software unit, a federal judge ruled.

Fortres Grand Corp. of Plymouth, Indiana, filed suit in September 2012 claiming infringement by a fictional software program mentioned in Warner Brothers’ Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” and that it lost sales after the July 2012 release of the film.

According to the Indiana company’s website, its Clean Slate product restores a computer to its original configuration by discarding unwanted changes users may have made. The “clean slate” program in the Batman movie will erase a criminal’s history from every database in the world, according to court papers.

U.S. District Judge Philip P. Simon in South Bend, Indiana, noted that the two companies’ respective products didn’t compete in the marketplace, as Warner Brothers’ product is a film rather than software. The “clean slate” product in the film doesn’t exist in reality, so it is unlikely that consumers will be confused, he said.

To make a case under trademark law’s “reverse confusion” section, Warner Brothers would have had to roll out “a huge nationwide campaign for a product called ‘clean slate,’” he said in his ruling. No consumer -- “reasonable or unreasonable”-- would believe “The Dark Knight Rises” is connected to the software company, according to Simon’s order.

While the judge said Fortres Grand probably couldn’t state a plausible claim for trademark infringement, he gave the software maker a chance to file an amended complaint.

The case is Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., 3:12-cv-00535-PPS-CAN, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana (South Bend).

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Lawyer in Adult-Film Download Case Says He Can’t Pay Sanctions

A lawyer involved in bringing copyright cases related to unauthorized downloading of adult films asked a court to relieve him of the obligation to pay an attorney-fee award of more than $81,000.

The fee order came in a federal case in Los Angeles in which the judge characterized the lawyers representing the film’s maker as a “porno-trolling collective.” He said they conspired to operate an enterprise that went after those who allegedly downloaded the film without permission and offered to settle the infringement claims for about $4,000.

The lawyers showed ‘little desire to proceed in these lawsuits when faced with a determined defendant,’’ and instead would dismiss the cases, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said in his May 6 sanctions order. He then imposed a fee of $1,000 a day for each day after May 20 that the sanctions weren’t paid.

Brett L. Gibbs, one of the sanctioned attorneys, said in a May 23 filing that he can’t pay the sanctions or to secure a bond for that amount. For the past two years he has been unable to practice law for health reasons and lacks any asset that would allow him to pay the court’s assessment, he said.

Gibbs argued the court has discretion to discharge a bond requirement when a financial condition is “so impaired” that getting a bond would be impossible.

Gibbs, of Mill Valley, California, said he wasn’t trying to shirk his duties and was willing to consider any alternative arrangement the court would offer.

The case is Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe, 2:12-cv-08333-ODW-JC, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more copyright news, click here.

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