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Qualcomm, Jack Daniel’s, Who Dat?: Intellectual Property

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Qualcomm Inc., the most cash-rich semiconductor company, was told by a federal jury to pay $173 million to money-losing ParkerVision Inc. for infringing wireless-network patents used in smartphones.

While it’s the largest patent jury verdict of 2013, and ninth-largest of all U.S. jury awards this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, it’s less than half the $432 million in royalties ParkerVision was seeking.

The federal jury in Orlando, Florida, rejected ParkerVision’s argument that the infringement was intentional. Had the jury found willfulness, it would have allowed U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton, who is presiding over the case, to increase the award by as much as three times the amount set by the jury.

“We are of course disappointed by the award of damages,” said Christine Trimble, a spokeswoman for San Diego-based Qualcomm. “We will direct our efforts toward addressing the post-trial process and preparing our appeal.”

ParkerVision said it showed the technology to Qualcomm in the late 1990s during failed licensing negotiations, then discovered in 2011 that Qualcomm had incorporated the inventions in its smartphone chips. Qualcomm owns the most widely used technology standard in mobile phones with Internet access and its chips are used in phones by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

“This is a significant win for ParkerVision, proving that our technologies have a meaningful place in the wireless market,” Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Parker said.

The biggest maker of chips for mobile phones, Qualcomm gets the bulk of its profit from patent licensing and reported $6.24 billion in revenue in the second quarter.

ParkerVision, based in Jacksonville, Florida, lost $13.6 million in the first half of this year and had no revenue. Investors were counting on a big payout with Qualcomm, and sent ParkerVision shares up 61 percent after the verdict in the first phase of the trial, when the jury said Qualcomm infringed the patents and rejected arguments they were invalid.

Qualcomm argued that the inventions were worth little because they had never been adopted by the industry, and said ParkerVision wasn’t getting much cash from a technology agreement with Via Telecom Inc. It said the more appropriate figure was $17.8 million.

The case is ParkerVision v. Qualcomm, 11-cv-719, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Orlando).

Green Mountain Makes Coffee Pods for Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts

Even though Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.’s patent on its single-serving coffee pods expired in September 2012, the specialty coffee company has found a way to keep generating revenue, the Burlington Free Press reported.

The Waterbury, Vermont-based company began lining up commercial customers for the product before the patent expired, and today the company makes coffee pods for Starbucks Inc. and Dunkin’ Donuts, the newspaper reported.

The single-serve pods it makes for other companies can’t be called K-Cups because Green Mountain has registered that name as a trademark, according to the Free Press.

Green Mountain Chief Executive Officer Brian Kelley told the newspaper that while 90 million U.S. households have a coffee pot, his company’s single-serve brewing system is in only 16 million, so there is room for growth.

For more patent news, click here.


Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s Sues Popcorn Sutton Over Packaging

Brown-Forman Corp.’s Jack Daniel’s Properties unit, the distributor of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, sued a Tennessee distillery for trademark infringement.

The lawsuit is related to new packaging for a whiskey produced by Popcorn Sutton Distilling LLC of Nashville, Tennessee. The company is named for Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, who committed suicide in 2009 rather than report to federal prison to serve a sentence for his conviction for offenses related to illegal production of home-made whiskey, commonly known as moonshine.

According to the complaint filed Oct. 18 in federal court in Nashville, initially the Popcorn Sutton product was sold in a transparent Mason jar to honor the containers in which moonshine was often sold.

In 2012, Popcorn Sutton changed the packaging and began selling it in a square bottle with angled shoulders, beveled corners and a white-on-black label. Jack Daniel’s, which produces the world’s best-selling whiskey, says the change infringed its trade dress, and causes the public confusion.

Brown-Forman, based in Louisville, Kentucky, claims the packaging was chosen as a way to hitchhike on the fame of Jack Daniel’s, a whiskey that has been made since 1866.

The company asked the court to order Popcorn Sutton to quit packaging its product in a manner that imitates the Jack Daniel’s trade dress, and for the destruction of all allegedly infringing promotional materials.

The company also seeks awards of profits from the sale of Popcorn Sutton products sold in the packaging, together with money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Popcorn Sutton didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Jack Daniel’s Properties Inc. v. J&M Concepts LLC, 13-cv-01156, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville).

‘Who Dat?’ Trademark Holder Sues French Quarter Gift Shops

The holder of a trademark associated with the New Orleans Saints National Football League team sued three gift shops in New Orleans’ French Quarter for trademark infringement.

According to the complaint filed Oct. 23 in federal court in New Orleans, Who dat? Inc. says its “Who Dat?” trademark is being used without authorization on products sold in the gift shops. The company said it sent cease-and-desist notices to all of the defendants, to no avail.

Earlier, Who Dat? sued the National Football League, seeking clarification of the ownership of the mark. The phrase became part of a chant used by fans of the Saints, particularly during the drive to the 2009 Super Bowl championship.

The company objected to the Saints’ attempt to register the phrase as a state trademark and the league’s and the team’s opposition to its application for a federal trademark. The lack of clarity over the ownership of the mark limited Who Dat?’s opportunity to license it, according to the company’s complaint.

That suit was settled in 2012 with the league and Who Dat? agreeing to dismiss all claims against each other. They said in a joint statement they would sell co-branded merchandise bearing both the marks and logos of the Saints and the phrase “Who Dat?”

The earlier case is Who Dat? Inc. v. NFL Properties LLC, 10-cv-02296, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). The case against the gift shops is Who Dat? Inc. v. Motwani, 13-cv-06235, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

For more trademark news, click here.


Rock-Formation Pushover Video Removed From YouTube Website

The video of a Boy Scout leader pushing over a rock formation in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park was taken down from Google Inc.’s YouTube video-sharing site following a copyright claim by the man who shot it, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

After Dave Hall posted the video on his page on Facebook Inc.’s social-media site, the newspaper said it uploaded it to YouTube in the wake of concerns about the destruction of the rock formation.

Before the video was taken down, it was viewed more than 4.5 million times on YouTube and re-uploaded by others to multiple other sites, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Both Hall and the man who pushed over the rock formation have been removed as scout leaders and the incident is being investigated by state park officials, the newspaper reported.

Artist’s Suit Against Sega, EA Properly Dismissed, Court Says

A California artist’s copyright lawsuit against Sammy Corp.’s Sega of America unit and Electronics Arts Inc. was properly dismissed by a lower court, a federal appeals court said Oct. 23.

Kenneth W. Penders II of Grenada Hills, California, sued the two game companies in federal court in Los Angeles in 2011. He claimed his work on the Sonic the Hedgehog character was insufficiently compensated and that he had rights to his work because he was an independent contractor.

In February 2012, that court dismissed the case. Penders then filed his appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The appeals court said the lower court properly applied copyright law’s first-to-file rule and dismissed the case. Each party was ordered to pay its own costs.

The appeal is Penders v. Sega of America Inc., 12-55544, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The lower court case is Penders v. Sega of American Inc., 2:11-cv-08173, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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