Microsoft, Yahoo, Corbis, Woolworth: Intellectual Property

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, sued Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. in London’s High Court.

Court papers didn’t give details on the content of Microsoft’s claim against Motorola Mobility, which is being acquired by Google Inc., maker of the Android operating system.

The suit was filed Dec. 23, three days after Microsoft won a ruling before the U.S. International Trade Commission over claims Android-based smartphones infringe Microsoft’s patents, and two weeks after a hearing in Germany over similar claims alleged by Microsoft against Motorola Mobility.

The ITC, which issued two findings on the matter last month, said some features of Android phones use licensed technology without permission, rulings which fell short of Microsoft’s original broader claims that its inventions are widely used in Android phones. Motorola Mobility General Counsel Scott Offer said at the time that the majority of that ruling is favorable to the handset maker and may provide clarity on what Microsoft owns to avoid potential infringement.

Lacretia Taylor, a spokeswoman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, didn’t have an immediate comment on the U.K. lawsuit.

Gemma Priscott and Jennifer Erickson, spokeswomen for Motorola Mobility, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Google said Aug. 15 it would buy Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion to obtain patents that may be used to fend off suits targeting handsets and tablet computers that use Android. Microsoft makes its own mobile-operating system, Windows Phone 7, which competes with Android.

The case is Microsoft Corporation v. Motorola Mobility Inc., case no. HC11C04536, High Court of London, Chancery Division (London).

Yahoo!, Augme Patent Infringement Case Trial Date Set for 2013

The jury trial in Yahoo! Inc.’s patent infringement case brought by mobile-marketing company Augme Technologies Inc. is set for January 2013, according to an Augme announcement.

New York-based Augme sued Yahoo! in federal court in San Francisco in November 2009, accusing the Sunnyvale, California Internet company of infringing to patents related to web-page functionality. In dispute are patents 6,594,691 and 7,269,636.

In November 2010 Yahoo asked the court to dismiss the case. That was rejected by a magistrate judge in December of that year. In September 2011 the magistrate judge issued a ruling on the reach of the patent -- known as a “Markman” ruling -- that Augme said “is believed to be favorable to the company.”

The case is Augme Technologies Inc. v. Yahoo Inc., 3:09-cv-05386-JCS, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

For more patent news, click here.


Texas A&M Says It Will Consider How to Enforce ‘12th Man’ Mark

Texas A&M University is in discussion with its lawyers over a stunt that occurred at the National Football League playoff game Jan. 8 between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, the Texas Tribune reported.

A man parachuted into the stadium with a “12th Man” flag trailing behind him, a trademark that is registered to the Texas school, according to the Tribune.

The flag was seen during the broadcast and the university objects to the use of its marks by others without authorization, the newspaper reported.

The phrase, which refers to football fans as the “12th Man,” has previously been the subject of a dispute between the school and the Seattle Seahawks NFL team, which was resolved by a licensing agreement between the two entities, according to the Tribune.

Corbis Acquires Product-Placement Consulting Firm NMA Group

Corbis Corp., the Seattle-based photo archive company owned by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, acquired a Los Angeles-based product placement agency.

According to a joint company statement issued yesterday, the GreenLight media-licensing unit of Corbis has acquired Norm Marshall & Associates, which is also known as NMA Group.

NMA, founded in 1979, has coordinated “thousands of iconic placements” in film and television productions. The company also does “celebrity seeding,” through which it places branded products in the hands of various celebrities.

One of the companies for which it does celebrity-seeding work is Dutch brewer Heineken NV. NMA says on its website that it has “seeded” Heineken with Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Kwanten, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Michelle Trachtenberg, Ian Somerhalder, John Krazinski and Chris Pine.

Among the other companies with which NMA works are General Motors Co., Motorola Inc. and Puma SE.

NMA will operate as an independent business unit of GreenLight, Corbis said in the statement. Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

Yves St. Laurent’s Color Argument Supported by Legal Academics

Yves St. Laurent SAS/France has found a few friends in its trademark battle with French shoe designer Christian Louboutin SA over red soles for women’s shoes.

A group of 11 law school professors submitted a brief Jan. 3 to a federal appeals court on behalf of St. Laurent.

The professors argued that the protection of single colors in fashion markets “should be rejected in order to preserve freedom of innovation and competition.”

They are arguing that the choice of red soles for the St. Laurent shoes was an aesthetic determination rather than an indicator of source. “If Louboutin had never existed, YSL would have the same aesthetic reasons for choosing to use a red sole on a red shoe,” they said, noting that the case record indicated that St. Laurent used red soles for some of its shoes as an esthetic element “long before Louboutin designed shoes.”

Louboutin sued St. Laurent in federal court in Manhattan in April, claiming the use of red shoe soles by St. Laurent infringed its trademarks. The trial court rejected the shoemaker’s request to bar St. Laurent shoes with red soles, and Louboutin filed an appeal of that ruling in mid-October.

In November Tiffany & Co., the luxury jewelry company, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Christian Louboutin.

New York-based Tiffany, which packages its jewelry items in distinctive robin’s-egg blue boxes, weighed in on Louboutin’s behalf. In its filing, Tiffany noted that it has a registered trademark for its “Tiffany blue” color.

The company argues that the lower court holding that a single color for a fashion item can never be a valid trademark “is not supported” by trademark law.

The case is Christian Louboutin SA v. Yves St. Laurent America Inc, 11-3303, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The lower court case is Christian Louboutin SA v. Yves St. Laurent America Inc., 1:11-cv-02381-VM, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Woolworths Accused of Cloning Bottler’s Entire Product Line

Woolworths Holdings Ltd. has become the target of a campaign on one of Facebook Inc.’s pages following the retailer’s adoption of a new line of soft drinks, South Africa’s Times newspaper reported.

The owner of Frankie’s soft drinks, a bottler in South Africa’s Natal region, claimed the retail giant cloned his entire product range, according to the Times.

This happened after Frankie’s Mike Schmidt met with Woolworths about carrying his products and was told they were out of character for the chain, the Times reported.

Woolworths managing director Zyda Rylands told the Times that her company hasn’t infringed “any copyright, intellectual property nor registered trademark.”

For more trademark news, click here.


Elisa Blocks Pirate Bay Website Pending Finnish Court Appeal

Elisa Oyj, Finland’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers, has temporarily blocked the Pirate Bay file-sharing website to users by court order.

Elisa banned access to the website after receiving an enforcement order related to a court ruling in October, the Helsinki-based company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The Helsinki District Court ruled against Elisa based on a complaint by the local branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, Elisa said. The company has appealed the decision.

The Swedish-founded Pirate Bay site enables downloading of digitized music and films using software called BitTorrent which enables complete works to be assembled from pieces on other users’ computers. Telenor ASA, Norway’s largest operator, successfully argued in a Norwegian court in 2010 that the company shouldn’t be ordered to block the website.

“According to information received from the collection authorities, we have to implement the measures requested until the court case is completed,” Henri Korpi, Elisa’s head of consumer subscriptions business, said in the statement.

“The parties should now concentrate on measures that would really reduce piracy,” Korpi said. “That includes making digital distribution available at a reasonable price and at the same time as releases on other media.”

The block affects users of both Elisa and Saunalahti branded services in Finland and covers more than 30 Pirate Bay domains.

The IFPI and the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Center also filed blocking actions against TeliaSonera AB and DNA Oy in Finland on Nov. 25, said Antti Kotilainen, executive director of the anti-piracy center, which represents the IFPI in defending the copyrights of major record companies in Finland.

Decisions in those cases are expected in February or March, Kotilainen said. TeliaSonera, Elisa and DNA together account for 80 percent of broadband users in Finland, Kotilainen said.

Pirate Bay’s four founders were each sentenced to one year in prison in 2009 by a Swedish court. Three of the men had their jail sentences reduced on appeal in 2010.

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. Updates with Texas A&M item in trademark section.)
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