Apple, Stamps.com, Humana, DuPont: Intellectual Property
Apple Inc. (AAPL) lost a bid to file a patent-infringement complaint against Eastman Kodak Co. and restart litigation over ownership of a patent that Kodak intends to sell while in bankruptcy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in Manhattan yesterday denied Apple’s request to file a complaint with the International Trade Commission and attempt to unfreeze a patent lawsuit pending between the companies.
Apple, in seeking to file the ITC complaint, said in court papers that it owns “a number of valuable patents that Kodak is infringing in the course of its daily operations.” Apple said it also planned to seek an injunction against Kodak in federal court.
The patents cover technologies used in printers, digital cameras and digital picture frames, Apple said.
Separately, Apple sought to proceed with a dispute against Kodak over ownership of a patent that is included in Kodak’s digital imaging portfolio. Kodak, based in Rochester, New York, plans to sell the portfolio, which it says is worth as much as $2.6 billion, as part of its bankruptcy restructuring.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, claimed in court papers that Kodak obtained the patent “by secretly taking Apple’s innovations.” The maker of the iPad and iPhone said a sale of the patent before the ownership dispute is settled would cause it “irreparable harm.”
Apple’s claim that it owns the patent is “baseless” and potentially damaging to the effort to sell the digital imaging portfolio, Kodak said in court papers. The dispute should be “resolved promptly” in bankruptcy court, it said.
The case is In re Eastman Kodak Co., 12-10202, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District New York (Manhattan).
Stamps.com, PSI Systems Settle Dispute Through Cross-Licenses
Newell Rubbermaid Inc. (NWL)’s PSI Systems and Stamps.com Inc. resolved their four-year-old patent infringement suit, according to a March 6 court filing.
PSI, based in Palo Alto, sued Stamps.com in federal court in Los Angeles in August 2008, claiming three patents related to postage handling were infringed.
According to a March 7 regulatory filing by Los Angeles-based Stamps.com Inc., the dispute’s resolution includes patent cross-licensing. No payments were made to either party, and both sides agreed not to sue each other for patent infringement during the next five years.
This is the second patent case Stamps.com has settled in the past year. In August the company resolved a dispute with a Texas company, agreeing to pay $5.4 million in damages, and to buy the disputes patents for $400,000. The California company also agreed to grant the patent owner 35,000 Stamps.com shares.
That case had gone to a federal appeals court before it was resolved.
The appeals court case is Kara Technology Inc. v. Stamps.com Inc. (STMP), 2009-1027, 1028, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Kara Technology Inc. v. Stamps.com Inc., 05-cv-1890, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles).
The newly resolved case is PSI Systems Inc. v. Stamps.com Inc., 2:08-cv-04233-ODW-JEM, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
Mitsubishi Heavy Told to Pay GE $170 Million Over Turbines
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. must pay about $170 million to General Electric Co. after a jury in the U.S. found the company infringed a wind-turbine patent.
Mitsubishi Heavy, Japan’s biggest heavy-machinery maker, will challenge the verdict and seek to have the GE patent ruled unenforceable in a second phase of the trial in Dallas, according to a statement yesterday from the Tokyo-based company. A second GE patent, related to the turbines’ base design, was ruled invalid by U.S. District Judge Royal Ferguson on Feb. 10.
GE accused Mitsubishi Heavy (7011) of infringing a patent on how to keep turbines connected to utility grids during voltage fluctuations without sustaining damage. The dispute is part of an effort by GE to maintain its market lead in the U.S., where the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company says it has made about half of the turbines in use.
“It is important to see this case within the larger context: as part of a GE litigation strategy that would stifle competition and innovation in wind turbine technology,” Sonia P Williams, a spokeswoman for Mitsubishi Heavy in the U.S., said in the statement.
Chet Lasell, a GE spokesman, said the company had no immediate comment on the jury verdict.
GE claimed that at least 179 Mitsubishi Heavy turbines made for Iberdrola SA’s renewables unit and Edison Mission Energy infringe the first patent. Mitsubishi Heavy signed contracts with the power companies in 2007 and 2008, and the turbines were installed in 2010 and 2011.
The Dallas suit was filed after GE lost a case at the U.S. International Trade Commission to block Mitsubishi Heavy turbine imports. An appeals court on Feb. 29 ordered the ITC to review findings on one GE patent, reviving part of the case.
Mitsubishi Heavy filed an antitrust lawsuit in Arkansas accusing GE of trying to monopolize the wind-turbine market. That suit is on hold pending the outcome of the patent cases. The company also has a patent-infringement complaint against GE in federal court in Orlando, Florida.
The case is General Electric Co. (GE) v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., 10-cv-276, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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Humana Sues Preval Over ‘Concentra’ Ads on Limbaugh Program
The suit, filed March 7 in federal court in Louisville, is against Preval Group LLC of Portland, Maine. Humana is objecting to Preval’s use of “Concentra” for memory-enhancing pills that are advertised on Limbaugh’s program.
After Limbaugh used derogatory language in late February in reference to a witness who testified before Congress, Humana said it began to receive a storm of protests from customers who said they would no longer do business with the company.
The customers were mistakenly connecting Preval’s Concentra, which is advertised on the program, with Humana’s Concentra Health Services unit, which provides health services in 40 states, according to the complaint.
Humana said it has received negative phone calls, and negative comments were posted on the company’s website and on its Twitter and Facebook accounts complaining about a supposed association with Limbaugh.
The healthcare company claims that Preval is deliberately advertising on the program to “garner widespread attention” when the program and the placement of advertisements are “a national controversy widely discussed in the media.”
The complaint quotes a statement from one former customer who said that “so long as you continue to advertise on Rush Limbaugh’s show, your facilities will receive absolutely no referrals from me or any of the entities I manage.”
Humana said it has suffered irreparable harm as the result of Preval’s unauthorized use of the trademark because the public is falsely led to believe there is some sort of affiliation between the advertised product and the healthcare company.
Even before the controversy arose over the Limbaugh program, Humana said it had issues with Preval. In November 2001 the company sent Preval a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the Maine-based company halt all uses of the term “Concentra.” In response, Preval said it was winding down its Concentra operations and would stop selling the product once its inventory was depleted.
Preval and Humana “are currently working to reach an agreement,” Preval spokeswoman Jackaline Rutter said in an e-mail yesterday. She said the company didn’t buy Concentra advertising targeted for the Limbaugh show. Instead, it bought advertising to air anything between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in New York. The ads aired during a time when Limbaugh was broadcast in New York, she said.
Rutter added that her company “is disappointed by the recent offensive comments by Rush Limbaugh” and has discontinued advertising on the show. The company “will consider the concerns of our customers and the public with respect to further advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show,” she said.
Humana asked the court to bar Preval’s use of the term “Concentra” and for awards of money damages, including profits derived from the alleged infringement, together with extra damages intended to punish Preval for its actions.
Humana also asked for an order for the destruction of all Preval promotional materials related to “Concentra,” and for awards for litigation costs and attorney fees.
The case is Humana Inc., v. Preval Group LLC, 3:12-cv-00123-CRS, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky (Louisville).
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Hungary’s Schmitt to ‘Respect’ Plagiarism Ruling, Bruxinfo Says
Hungarian President Pal Schmitt said he will “respect” the ruling of a university panel that is probing his doctoral thesis after media reports said it was plagiarized, Bruxinfo reported, citing an interview with the president.
Schmitt repeated that he rejects the allegations of plagiarism, according to the transcript of the interview posted yesterday on Bruxinfo’s website. He said the allegations may have surfaced because he has “helped” the government’s work as president, Bruxinfo said.
In response to a question on whether he should resign, Schmitt said he was still considered a “satisfactory president for two-thirds of the country,” Bruxinfo reported.
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Ex-DuPont Employee Pleads Not Guilty in Trade Secrets Case
Ex-DuPont Co. (DD) worker Robert J. Maegerle pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal trade secrets from his former employer in an economic espionage case alleging he and others gave the secrets to China’s Pangang Group Co. (000629)
Maegerle, 76, a process engineer for DuPont from 1956 to 1991, had detailed knowledge of DuPont’s titanium dioxide technology and expertise in building production lines for the substance, a widely used white pigment, according to a revised indictment filed Feb. 7.
At the center of the case is Walter Liew, the owner of an Oakland, California-based company who had contracts with state-owned Pangang. Prosecutors said in court papers that Liew claimed he was directed by a Chinese government official to obtain technology needed for China to build pigment factories.
As far back as 1998, Maegerle gave Liew secret information from Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont, including trade secrets about the process and equipment needed to design a plant to make titanium dioxide, known as Ti02, prosecutors said in the indictment. DuPont is the world’s largest maker of Ti02 and won’t sell or license its technology to other companies.
Maegerle is accused of e-mailing Liew photographs in 2005 from DuPont plants with information about the company’s technologies for a cost-efficient process to develop the substance, according to the indictment.
Maegerle, Liew and a former DuPont employee, Tze Chao, provided information to Pangang in 2008 for the design and construction of a new plant to make 100,000 metric tons of titanium dioxide a year, prosecutors said. After DuPont filed a trade-secret lawsuit against Liew, Maegerle gave the Californian information for responding to the case which falsely stated that nothing from DuPont was used by Liew, according to prosecutors.
In addition to the conspiracy count, Maegerle is charged with attempted theft of trade secrets, aiding and abetting and conspiring to tamper with witnesses and evidence. The most serious charge, tampering, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and at least a $250,000 fine.
Jerome Froelich, Maegerle’s attorney, appeared with his client and entered a not guilty plea.
Liew, his wife, Christina, and Pangang have also been charged. Chao, 77, who was with DuPont from 1996 to 2002, pleaded guilty March 1 to one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and is cooperating with the government.
Christina Liew pleaded not guilty yesterday. Liew’s arraignment is scheduled for March 21.
The case is U.S. v. Liew, 3:11-cr-00573, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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