Ford Software, FilmOn X, Nespresso: Intellectual Property

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(Bloomberg) -- A Texas software company sued Ford Motor Co., claiming the automaker stole trade secrets and is infringing multiple patents.

In a complaint filed July 15 in Sherman, Texas, federal court, Versata Inc. said it disclosed secrets to Ford beginning in 1998 related to software used in designing and configuring automotive product lines.

The software maker said those disclosures were covered by multiple licensing agreements specifying that it or a predecessor company retained all rights in perpetuity to its proprietary technology.

Ford allegedly began developing its own version of Versata’s software by reverse engineering, according to court papers. The Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker is also accused of disseminating Versata’s proprietary information to unauthorized users to create “a copycat configuration technology.”

After negotiations over new license terms failed in 2014, Versata said it terminated the license agreement.

Ford sued Versata in February 2015 in Detroit federal court, seeking a judge’s declaration that it wasn’t infringing the Texas company’s intellectual property rights. That case was under seal until the court in Michigan ordered Ford to file it publicly, according to Versata’s complaint.

Versata said it hadn’t yet been served the complaint in that case and settlement discussions were on hold. It also said the Ford software infringes 15 of its patents.

The software company asked the court to halt Ford’s alleged unauthorized use of its intellectual property, as well as award money damages.

According to court records, Ford’s suit was filed under seal on Feb. 19. On March 2, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Leitman ordered the carmaker either to show why the case shouldn’t be unsealed or file an amended complaint.

Ford filed an unsealed amended complaint in which it claimed that it developed the software at issue jointly with Versata.

According to Ford, Versata said the jointly developed software was “obsolete” and demanded that the carmaker take a license to a new cloud-based computing platform.

Ford also said its new software was developed and patented by its own engineers. The automaker asked the court to declare it didn’t infringe Versata patents.

In an e-mailed statement, Ford spokesman Whitney Eichinger said the company’s software doesn’t infringe or use any Versata intellectual property.

The software company “has provided no basis for the claims against us,” Eichinger said.

The cases are Versata Development Group Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 4:15-cv-00316, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Sherman); and Ford Motor Co. v. Versata Software Inc., 2:15-cv-10628, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

Advanced Video Targets Nikon, LG in Compression Patent Suits

Advanced Video Technologies Inc. has filed two new patent-infringement cases in Manhattan federal court.

Both suits, filed July 16, are related to patent 5,781,788, which was issued in July 1998 and covers a circuit used to compress or decompress digital video.

Attached to the complaint is a document in which Advanced Video said that, beginning in April 2008, it has enforced the patent against defendants including Research in Motion Ltd. (now BlackBerry Ltd.), Motorola Mobility LLC, Lenovo Group Ltd. and Casio Computer Co.

Some of those 12 cases have settled and been dismissed, while four, all filed in June 2015, are still pending.

Targets of the latest suits are South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. and Tokyo-based Nikon Corp. Advanced Video said chips in LG’s Rumor family of products as well as in Nikon’s Coolpix S6300 and other products from the Japanese camera company infringe the patent.

Advanced Video asked the court for money damages “in no event less than a reasonable royalty.” It also requested that the damages be tripled.

The cases are Advanced Video Technologies LLC v. LG Electronics Inc., 1:15-cv-05546, and Advanced Video Technologies LLC v. Nikon Corp., 1:15-05547, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more patent news, click here.


Nespresso Sues California Coffee Company Over Lookalike Capsules

Nestle SA’s Nespresso unit sued a California company for trademark infringement involving coffee capsules.

In the suit in Manhattan federal court, Nespresso accused Africa America Coffee Trading Co., which does business as Libretto, of infringing trademarks and trade dress related to the Nespresso coffee system.

Libretto allegedly offers “Nespresso compatible” capsules for use with the Nestle unit’s machines. Nespresso said that, to promote its products, Libretto makes unauthorized use of its trademarks on the web and manufactures products in a configuration “nearly identical” in appearance to Nespresso’s.

Nespresso said it put Van Nuys-based Libretto on notice about the alleged infringement multiple times but never received any response.

In addition to claiming Libretto is infringing the trademarks and trade dress, Nespresso also accused the California company of competing unfairly. Vevey, Switzerland-based Nespresso is seeking court orders barring further infringement, as well the destruction of the products in question.

The Swiss company also wants Libretto’s profits related to the alleged infringement, money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

Libretto didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Nespresso USA Inc. v. Africa America Coffee Trading Co., 1:15-cv-05553, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For more trademark news, click here

FilmOn X LLC, the video streaming company headed by Greek billionaire Alki David, won a ruling entitling it to a compulsory license to broadcasters’ programming.

In a ruling handed down July 16 in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge George Wu held that policy arguments for treating the streaming service differently from traditional cable services failed to draw the distinction favored by the broadcasters.

He said that because the legal issues raised by the case are “close and of significant commercial importance” and because his holding is different from an appeals court’s ruling in an analogous case, he authorized an immediate appeal. He halted further action in the case until that appeal is completed.

The case began in August 2012 when broadcast television stations sued, claiming FilmOn X’s online streaming service violated copyrights by capturing over-the-air broadcast television signals and transmitting them to consumers through Internet-enabled devices.

In June 2014, after the U.S. Supreme Court said that Aereo Inc.’s online-TV service violated broadcasters’ copyrights, David said the high court actually improved FilmOn X’s position by ruling that companies like Aereo functioned like cable operators.

At that time, he said, broadcast companies froze FilmOn X out even if the company paid rebroadcast fees.

The case is Fox Television Stations Inc. v. FilmOn X LLC, 2:12-cv-06921, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For copyright news, click here.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at Andrew Dunn, Joe Schneider

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