VTech, Eveready, Google, Lacoste: Intellectual Property

Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) -- VTech Holdings Ltd., a maker of cordless telephones, said in a statement that the claims made against it in a patent-infringement suit are “without merit.”

Spherix Inc. of Tysons Corner, Virginia, sued VTech in federal court in Dallas Aug. 30, claiming the Hong Kong-based company infringed five patents that were invented by former employees of Nortel.

The complaint outlined the process by which the patents at issue came to Spherix, a biotech company specializing in treatments for diabetes, metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis.

The patents were acquired at auction following Nortel’s 2009 bankruptcy. The acquirer was a group of technology companies named, for the purpose of the auction, Rockstar Bidco LP. Rockstar Bidco then transferred the patents to Rockstar Consortium US LP of Plano, Texas, an organization of former Nortel technology and business professionals, according to court papers.

Spherix, which had the aim of diversifying its research and development and product offerings, then bought the disputed patents and others from Rockstar, according to court papers. The company said it intends to expand its activities in wireless communications and telecommunication sectors, including cordless telephones. As part of the patent-acquisition process, Rockstar received a minority stake in Spherix and a share of the patents proceeds, the company said in its court filing.

The Virginia-based company has now formed a technology advisory board comprised of former Nortel technology professionals, including the inventors of the disputed patents, it said.

Spherix declared that one of the objectives of its patent enforcement program “is the enforcement of intellectual property developed in North America against large foreign manufacturers that use such IP -- without authorization -- to make and expand sales of infringing systems and methods in the United States and Canada.”

The case is Spherix Inc. v. VTech Telecommunications Ltd., 3:13-cv-03494-M, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).

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Gelmart Seeks to Use ‘Skintimates’ Mark for Lingerie

Gelmart Industries Inc., a manufacturer of women’s lingerie, has asked a court to declare it doesn’t infringe trademarks belonging to the Eveready Battery Co. of St. Louis.

In a court filing yesterday, New York-based Gelmart said it has received a cease-and-desist notice from Eveready over an application it filed to register “skintimates” as a trademark for a line of lingerie.

The company said its application was approved for publication, which means that the examiner “concluded no other registered trademark created a conflict with Gelmart’s mark.” The application is to be published today in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to court papers.

Eveready does have four registered “skintimate” trademarks, all related to razors and shaving products, and a pending application to register the term for a line of bath and hair-care products, Gelmart said in its filing with the federal court in New York.

Gelmart argued that the only category of consumers that it targets are those who wear intimate apparel designed for women.

“The hygiene habits of depilation preferences of their customers are of no bearing,” according to court papers.

In addition to a declaration that it doesn’t infringe Eveready trademarks, Gelmart asked the court to bar the battery company from accusing it of infringement. The company also asked for awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

The case is Gelmart Industries Inc. v. Eveready Battery Co, 1:13-cv-06310, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Google Made New Offer to Settle Antitrust Probe, EU Says

Google Inc. gave European Union regulators a new proposal to settle an almost three-year-old EU antitrust probe into the way it operates its search services.

“We received new proposals from Google in the previous week,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in an interview with Bloomberg Television Sept. 8 in Cernobbio, Italy. “If we are satisfied with the new proposals, we can advance toward an agreed solution in the coming months.”

Google’s previous offer to label its branded search services and show links to rival specialized search services was rejected by Almunia in July. Google rivals, including Microsoft Corp., have urged the EU to seek tougher concessions from the Mountain View, California-based company.

“Once we have completed our analysis, once we will check that these new proposals are able to eliminate our concerns, we will tell Google what to do,” Almunia said.

The Brussels-based agency is investigating whether Google promotes its own specialist search services, such as Google News and Google Finance, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.

“Our proposal to the European Commission addresses their four areas of concern,” Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for Google, said by phone yesterday. “We continue to work with the commission to settle this case.”

A group that represents Google rivals, including Microsoft, Expedia Inc. and Nokia Oyj, said that industry participants should be consulted before the EU reaches any final settlement.

“Given the failure of Google to make a serious offer last time around, we believe it is necessary that customers and competitors of Google be consulted in a full, second market test, Thomas Vinje, a Brussels-based lawyer for FairSearch Europe, said in an e-mailed statement today.

In addition to fining companies for antitrust violations, the commission may impose orders to change the way firms operate.

The commission will opt for a formal complaint, or statement of objections, against Google ‘‘if we consider that the new proposals are not able to limit our concerns.’’ Still, that would take ‘‘too long,’’ Almunia said.

Crocodile Gets Chance to Go Forward Against Lacoste Mark

Crocodile International Pte, a Singapore-based clothing manufacturer, won the right to appeal a New Zealand trademark decision related to its dispute with Devanlay SA’s Chemise Lacoste unit, Stuff, the New Zealand news website reported.

The dispute involved the crocodile logo used on sportswear, with Crocodile using a left-facing reptile, and the French company using one that faces to the right, according to Stuff.

Although in New Zealand Lacoste registered logos with crocodiles facing in both directions, Crocodile says its rights are impinged and claimed that the French company never intended to use the left-facing crocodile in New Zealand, Stuff reported.

The High Court in Wellington said Sept. 9 that Crocodile has the right to appeal a decision by the assistant commissioner for trademarks to dismiss its request to revoke Lacoste’s registration of the left-facing crocodile trademark, according to the website.

Forstman Little’s ENK Seeks Ban on Doncaster’s Use of ‘Coterie’

Forstman Little & Co.’s ENK International unit sued a North Carolina clothing manufacturer for trademark infringement.

ENK, a producer of fashion trade shows, claims that Tanner Companies LLC’s Doncaster unit is infringing its ‘‘coterie” trademarks.

The New York-based company says it used “Coterie” and Fashion Coterie’’ in connection with an annual trade show it produces in New York. These shows are attended by about 60,000 domestic and international buyers and press, and generate annual sales of over $1 billion, the company claims.

The Fall 2013 Coterie Trade Show is set to open Sept. 17 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, according to court papers.

ENK objects to Doncaster’s “Curvy Coterie” showing of plus-sized fashions set for Tysons Corner, Virginia, Sept. 20. This event will cause ENK “irreparable harm,” the company claims.

Doncaster is promoting the event online, including through Facebook Inc.’s social media site, ENK says in its pleadings.

The public is likely to assume, falsely, that the New York and Virginia shows have some connection, which enables Doncaster to compete unfairly with ENK, the company claims.

It asked the court to bar Doncaster’s use of “Coterie” in any manner, and for an order for the destruction of all promotional items that allegedly infringe the mark.

Additionally, ENK asked for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Doncaster didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is ENK International LLC v. Tanner Cos., 1:13-cv-06318, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Two Defendants Dismissed from Harper Lee’s Copyright Suit

Harper Lee, the 87-year-old author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” has settled a copyright dispute with two of the defendants she sued in a case over ownership of the copyright to her novel. She claimed the defendants took advantage of her age and infirmity to deprive her of royalties from the novel.

Lee, of Monroeville, Alabama, sued Samuel Pinkus, the agent, and others seeking to ensure her ownership of the copyright to the 1960 novel and to compel forfeiture of the agent’s commissions, according to a complaint filed May 3 in federal court in New York.

She also sued Pinkus’s wife, Leigh Ann Winick, and Gerald Posner, a copyright lawyer, who allegedly set up a corporation to which Lee’s royalties were directed.

Following the filing of the suit, the dispute was the subject of a story in Vanity Fair titled “To Steal a Mockingbird” that was unsympathetic to Pinkus.

Lee, who has failing eyesight and hearing, was residing in an assisted-living facility in 2007 after suffering a stroke when she signed a document assigning her copyright to Pinkus’s company, according to the complaint. While the copyright was re-assigned to Lee last year after legal action and Pinkus was discharged as Lee’s agent, he was still receiving royalties from the novel as of this year, according to the complaint.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” Gloria Phares, Lee’s lawyer, said in the complaint. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright” to Pinkus’s company.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a story of racial injustice in the American South, won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into a film starring Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for playing the lawyer Atticus Finch. It is Lee’s only published novel. The book has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

According to a Sept. 5 court filing, the case against Winick and Posner was dismissed, with attorney fees and litigation costs paid by each party. The dismissal was with prejudice, which means that the case can’t be filed again against these two defendants.

The case remains active against Pinkus, whose answer to the complaint was due Aug. 16.

The case is Nelle Harper Lee v. Samuel L. Pinkus, 1:13-cv-03000-RWS, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at vslindflor@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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