July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. filed a lawsuit July 12 accusing U.S. Customs officials of refusing to follow a trade agency’s order to block imports of phones made by Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit.
The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington issued the import ban in May 2012 after deciding that Motorola Mobility devices infringed a Microsoft patent for a way mobile phones synchronize calendar events with other computers.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after secret meetings with Google, continued to let the Motorola Mobility phones enter the country even though Google has done nothing to remove the feature at the heart of the ITC case, Microsoft said in its complaint. The case illustrates what Lexmark International Inc. and Lutron Electronics Co. in May called “increasingly ineffective and unpredictable enforcement” of import bans imposed by the trade agency.
Motorola Mobility convinced the agency that the order didn’t apply to syncing through Google rather than Microsoft servers, and to give it a grace period to allow changes to take effect. Both of those requests had previously been rejected by the ITC, according to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.
The ITC order is in effect until Microsoft’s patent expires in April 2018. An appeal in the case is scheduled to be heard Aug. 6 in Washington.
Meetings between Mountain View, California-based Google and Customs were held in secret in April, with Microsoft not privy to their existence until after the Customs decision June 24 allowing the continued importation of the phones, according to Microsoft’s filings asking the court to halt the Motorola Mobility shipments.
The ITC’s job is to protect U.S. markets from unfair competition, including infringement of patents or theft of trade secrets. It has become a key forum for disputes between smartphone makers.
Once the import bans are ordered, it’s common for both patent owners and importers to lobby Customs and neither side is told what the other is saying for fear of exposing trade secrets, lawyers involved in ITC cases said in March.
The trade agency is compiling information on how well its orders are being enforced and President Barack Obama last month called for a review of procedures within the ITC and Customs. In their joint letter to the ITC, Lexmark and Lutron said the “current problems with enforcement of orders requires immediate attention.”
The case is Microsoft Corp. v. Department of Homeland Security, 13-cv-01063, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
Faro, Nikon Metrology Settle Suit Over Scanning Technology
Faro Technologies Inc. and Nikon Metrology NV settled a five-year-old lawsuit over two patents related to scanning apparatus.
The suit was filed by Nikon Metrology, formerly Metris USA Inc., in July 2009. The companies compete in the business of computer-aided three-dimensional measurement technology. In a July 12 filing in federal court in Boston, Faro said it reached a settlement with Nikon Metrology and withdrew its motion for attorney fees. No other details were given
In August, a jury in Boston found that Lake Mary, Florida-based Faro hadn’t infringed patent 7,313,264. The court previously found, on a motion by Faro, that patent 6,611,617 wasn’t infringed.
Nikon Metrology, based in Leuven, Belgium, asked the court to overturn the verdict or grant a new trial. When both those requests were rejected, the company turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the Washington-based court that hears appeals of patent disputes.
Faro said in a statement that the parties to the settlement agreement agreed to keep the terms confidential.
The case is Metris U.S.A. Inc. v. Faro Technologies, 08-cv-11187, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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BSkyB Says M7 Group’s Skylink Service Infringes ‘Sky’ Trademarks
British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc is challenging Luxembourg’s M7 Group’s use of “Skylink” for its direct-to-home satellite television program in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Advanced Television news website reported.
The U.K.-based British Sky claims the term infringed its “sky” trademark used with its BSkyB TV services, according to Advanced Television.
Earlier a U.K. court found that Microsoft Corp.’s use of “Skydrive” for its cloud storage system infringed British Sky’s U.K. and European Union trademarks, the website reported.
A spokesman for British Sky told Advanced Television that the Middlesex, U.K.-based company regarded any unauthorized use of “Sky” as an infringement.
Namco Bandai Seeks European Registration for ‘Lost Swords’ Mark
Namco Bandai Holdings Inc.’s Namco Bandai Games unit has applied to register “Lost Swords” as a trademark in Europe.
The Japanese maker of computer games said in its application that the name would be used for video-game machines, amusement-park services, and games and related software.
Among the games produced by the Tokyo-based company are Ultimate Ninja, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, Dark Souls and Armored Core Verdict Day.
The company produces games for consoles produced by Sony Corp., Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp., as well as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and mobile phones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
Orthodox Group Sues Israeli Company Over Use of Kosher Mark
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America’s OU Kashruth unit filed a trademark infringement suit against Israeli food manufacturer Better & Different Ltd., Jewish Business News reported.
The suit, which was filed in Israel, claims that Better & Different of Maale Edummim used the Union’s trademark designating kosher food -- the letter U circled by the letter O -- without paying licensing fees, according to Jewish Business News.
The Union said Better & Different continued to use the mark during 2012 and 2013, Jewish Business News reported.
The Union has asked the court to order the destruction of infringing packaging, the recall of products bearing the mark without authorization, licensing fees for the allegedly unauthorized use of the mark for the past three years and money damages, according to Jewish Business News.
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Marilyn Monroe Photo Auction to Include Copyrights
More than 3,700 unpublished black-and-white and color negatives and slides from photographer Milton H. Greene’s images of the late Marilyn Monroe are going up for auction in Los Angeles on July 27, the Associated Press reported.
What makes the auction unusual is that in addition to the images themselves, the copyrights are also being sold, making it possible for the buyer to create additional prints and sell or license them, AP said.
Greene shot more than 5,000 images of the actress, who died in August 1962. He didn’t commercialize his work and only a handful of pictures were published in his lifetime, Joseph Madelena told AP.
Madelena is the owner of Profiles in History, the auction house that is holding the sale, AP reported.
Vatican Should Use Creative Commons for Encyclical, Blogger Says
A blogger who made downloadable copies of Pope Francis’s recent encyclical -- “Lumen Fides” -- available on his website is calling for new guidelines for the release of papal documents after being warned he was infringing the Vatican’s copyright.
Brandon Vogt, author of “The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet,” put the text to the encyclical on BrandonVogt.com July 5, the date the Vatican released this papal letter to the Roman Catholic Church and to the world.
Vogt had converted the text to multiple formats for downloading, including for Apple Inc.’s iPad, Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-reader and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook. The letter is unusual in that it’s the work of both Pope Francis and his immediate predecessor, the recently retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Vogt said that within hours he heard from both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican, who accused him of violating “both civil and moral law” and “stealing from the pope.” They ordered him to remove the document from his blog immediately.
In a response on his blog, he said that while he was clear the Vatican and the bishops’ conference weren’t wrong to assert their copyright to the encyclical, there must be a better way to make the text available.
Vogt suggested that all such church documents be released under a Creative Commons license. That would protect the integrity of the document, while allowing people free access to share it.
He said that under a Creative Commons license, people “may copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of the work” and that according to the Creative Commons website, more than 400 million licenses have deployed.
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