Motorola Mobility, Nikon, MSF, EFF: Intellectual Property
Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) won a German patent ruling over Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iCloud service that may allow the company to block sales of devices including iPhone and iPad in the country if they use the software that accesses it.
The Mannheim Regional Court found Apple infringed a patent used to synchronize e-mail accounts. The ruling holds Apple liable for damages and allows Motorola Mobility to ask for information about past device sales, Presiding Judge Andreas Voss said.
“The court has come to the conclusion that the wording of the patent does cover functions that were at issue here,” Voss said Feb. 3. Apple “wasn’t able to convince the court that it isn’t infringing.”
ICloud is a service that automatically stores photos, songs and other files on servers at Apple’s data centers for use on all of a customer’s gadgets.
The case is the second Motorola Mobility, the mobile-phone maker being acquired by Google Inc. (GOOG), has won in a German court against Apple. The company is seeking to enforce an injunction in the first case involving a cellular-communications patent that led Apple to remove some older iPhones and iPad models from its online store in Germany overnight.
Apple said in a statement that it will return the products to the online store after another court temporarily barred Motorola Mobility from enforcing the injunction. The Karlsruhe appeals court said it is reviewing Apple’s request to halt the execution of the order during the appeal of the December ruling.
The first bid by Apple for such a delay was rejected in January because of a dispute over license terms, the appeals court said in an e-mailed statement. The judges will now look into an amended license offer by Apple.
Google is buying Motorola Mobility to gain mobile patents and expand its hardware business. Google’s Android is also the operating system for smartphones made by companies such as HTC Corp. (2498) and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) that compete with Apple’s iPhone.
In the iCloud case, Motorola Mobility must post 100 million euros ($132 million) as collateral if it seeks to suspend sales of Apple products while Apple appeals the decision. Apple had asked the court at a November hearing to set it at 2 billion euros.
German courts often require the winning side to post collateral in order to enforce a ruling while the loser appeals. The amount reflects the losses the party may suffer when forced to comply with the ruling. If it wins the appeal, it can seek damages and recover the collateral.
The Feb. 3 iCloud ruling is LG Mannheim 7 O 229/11, the suspension appeals case is OLG Karlsruhe 6 U 136/1
Nikon (7731), Anvik Patent Infringement Trial Date Set for May 7
Nikon Corp.’s seven-year-old patent-infringement case with Anvik Corp. will go to trail beginning May 7, according to a statement from the Japanese camera maker.
Anvik, a maker of lithography equipment for the microelectronics industries, sued Nikon in federal court in Manhattan in September 2005, claiming seven patents relating to lithography were infringed by 12 Nikon lithography systems.
In a Feb. 3 statement, Nikon said the claims made by Hawthorne, New York’s Anvik, “are incorrect and unsupported.” The Tokyo-based camera company said it didn’t infringe any of the patents at issue in the case.
The case is Anvik Corp. v. Nikon Precision Inc., 1:05-07891-AKH-LMS, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Ball Challenges Crown’s Patents on Easier-Pouring Beer Can Lids
Ball, which makes containers for Miller beer and Pepsi-Cola, won a court ruling Jan. 31 that an earlier version of its so-called can ends -- the side from which people drink -- don’t infringe Crown patents. Based on a Feb. 1 filing, Ball is now asking a federal court in Dayton, Ohio, for clearance of its newest cans, especially those designs for beer containers.
The dispute centers around can tops that use less metal and are marketed as being easier for beverage makers to fill and for consumers to pour. Crown, best known for inventing the bottle cap, has said the SuperEnd cans that it began selling in 2000 reduce metal use by 10 percent. More than 300 billion SuperEnd beverage ends have been produced, Michael Dunleavy, a spokesman for Philadelphia-based Crown, said Feb. 3.
Dunleavy said the company won’t comment on the litigation.
In dispute are Crown’s patents 6,848,875 and 6,935,826.
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MSF Trademark Dispute Settled, Boston Non-Profit Changes Name
Children Without Borders of Milton, Massachusetts, filed suit in federal court in Boston in March 2010, seeking a declaration it didn’t infringe MSF’s trademarks. The Massachusetts group said it had used its name since 2007, and in August 2009 had received a cease-and-desist notice from the French group objecting to the name.
MSF responded in a May court filing, saying it had identified itself through the “Doctors Without Borders” name since 1971, claiming the public would be confused by the Massachusetts group’s name similarity, and accusing Children Without Borders of trademark infringement.
The parties came to an agreement and the case settled at the end of November.
The Massachusetts group, which provides orthopedic, psychiatric, ophthalmological, dental and health-education care to children, said in a Feb. 2 statement that it’s changing its name. It is now known as Children’s Well-Being Foundation. The new name “captures the range of benefits and programs we offer our clients who rely on us to stay healthy and escape poverty,” Executive Director Jennifer Tegan said in the organization’s statement.
The case is Children Without Borders Inc. v. Doctors Without Borders, 1:10-cv-10362-RWZ, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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EFF Called ‘Radical Interest Group’ by Adult Film Maker
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital-rights group, was characterized as a “radical interest group” in a court filing by a maker of adult films.
Hard Drive Products Inc. sued 1,495 unidentified defendants in federal court in Washington in September. The suit was related to the defendants’ alleged unauthorized use of the film “Amateur Allure -- MaeLynn” through the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol.
EFF has entered a number of file-sharing cases against unidentified defendants, arguing that the subpoena power plaintiffs seek is overbroad, and attempting to protect the due process rights of those who have been sued.
The foundation filed a proposed friend-of-the-court brief in which it argued that Hard Drive wasn’t seeking information about the alleged defendants for the purposes of litigation. Instead, EFF said that Hard Drive hoped to take advantage of the threat of an award of damages and attorney fees “as well as the stigma associated with downloading pornographic movies” to induce the defendants into settling without mounting any defense to the infringement allegations.
Hard Drive argued, in a Jan. 30 filing, that it’s not appropriate for EFF to be permitted to participate in the case. It called the San Francisco organization “an anti-intellectual property group which appears in the present action merely in order to obstruct or delay” the infringement case.
EFF is seeking “to inject interest-group politics” into litigation, Hard Drive. It argues that the court “should reject the idea than an interest group like the EFF can help the court by providing any unique insight or perspective.”
“Obviously, Hard Drive would rather pursue their lawsuit campaign without anyone standing up in court for the rights of Internet users,” EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz said in an e-mail. Stoltz, who submitted the friend of the court brief, said “Unfortunately for them, many courts have allowed and even requested EFF to file briefs in mass copyright suits like this one. We’re confident that the court will focus on the law, not ad hominem attacks.”
Hard Drive is represented by Paul A. Duffy of the Law Offices of Paul Duffy in Chicago.
The case is Hard Drive Productions Inc. v. Does 1-1495, 1:11-cv-01741-JDB-JMF, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
Premier League Wins U.K. Ruling Against Pubs on Broadcasts
The Premier League, home to some of Europe’s most successful soccer clubs including Manchester United, won a copyright ruling against British pub owners who saved money using non-U.K. decoder cards to show matches.
While the use of any European Union card is legal in the U.K., following a ruling last year by the bloc’s highest court, taverns still violate the league’s copyright when their patrons can view footage of previous matches, logos, pre-recorded video sequences and anthems that aren’t authorized for use across borders, Judge David Kitchin ruled in London Feb. 3.
“The defendants who are continuing to trade must be entitled to carry on their business in a way which avoids infringement” of the Premier League’s copyrights “if they are able to do so,” Kitchin said. He issued an injunction against the pubs and referred the case for monetary damages.
The ruling incorporated a judgment from the European Union’s highest court in October, which limited how pub and bar owners may show copyrighted material to customers. The ruling by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg held that the Premier League’s geographic restrictions on broadcasters showing its soccer matches breach EU antitrust rules.
The judgment “is consistent with the ECJ ruling,” Nick Noble, a Premier League spokesman, said in a statement. “The law gives us the right to prevent the unauthorized use of our copyrights in pubs and clubs when they are communicated to the public without our authority.”
A call to Smithfield Partners in London, a law firm for one of the lead defendants, wasn’t immediately returned.
The Feb. 3 ruling was still a partial setback for the Premier League because it voided contract provisions that restrict foreign authorized broadcasters from supplying decoder cards to subscribers outside of their territory, said Daniel Geey, a lawyer with Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP in London.
Territorial licenses are contrary to competition law if the license agreements “prohibit the supply of decoder cards to television viewers who wish to watch the broadcasts,” the EU court said last year. Pubs can’t show the feeds via foreign decoder cards without the permission of the copyright owner, such as the broadcasters and the league, it said.
British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY), the U.K.’s biggest pay-TV operator, has said the foreign decoder cards are “illicit” because they’re used outside their specified area.
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