FTC, DuPont, Microsoft, TJX, RIM: Intellectual Property

Patent dispute settlements including so-called pay-for-delay deals between branded and generic drug companies jumped to 40 in the year ended in September from 28 the previous year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said.

The agreements, the most since the agency began collecting data in 2003, involved 31 different brand-name drugs with combined sales of more than $8.3 billion, the FTC said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Of the 40 settlements, almost half involved agreements by the branded firm not to market a so-called authentic generic that would compete with the generic company’s product, the FTC said.

“This year’s report makes it clear that the problem of pay-for-delay is getting worse, not better,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in the statement. “Until this issue is resolved, we will all suffer the consequences of delayed generic entry -- higher prices for consumers, businesses and the U.S. taxpayer.”

By delaying the entry of cheaper generics into the market, pay-for-delay deals cost Americans $3.5 billion annually, the FTC said.

The FTC has challenged several patent settlements in court, contending that they are anticompetitive and violate U.S. antitrust laws. One case, involving a generic testosterone treatment called Androgel, is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The agency also has supported legislation in Congress that would restrict pay-for-delay settlements.

DuPont Shareholder Sues Managers Over $1 Billion Court Loss

A DuPont Co. shareholder sued company directors and Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman, claiming mismanagement of the seed business led to a $1 billion judgment that threatens to wipe out the company’s cash.

In a complaint filed Jan. 16 in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, shareholder Robert Zomolosky asked a judge to force Kullman and the board to pay any damages stemming from DuPont’s loss of a patent lawsuit involving Monsanto Co.’s weed killer, Roundup. The jury award, the third-biggest last year, could grow to $3 billion depending on future legal rulings, according to the lawsuit.

The patent case grew out of the company’s effort to compete with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop business, which held 90 percent of the market for soybean and cotton seeds as of 2008, according to the lawsuit. Because DuPont’s research wasn’t producing results, company managers used Monsanto’s technology to try to create seeds that could resist Roundup, a key requirement for farmers, Zomolosky claims.

The Wilmington-based company plans to appeal the jury’s verdict, according to the complaint, and has asked the judge to overturn the award.

DuPont’s General Counsel Thomas L. Sager said in an e-mail statement that the company handled the Monsanto patent case appropriately.

“We are confident in the appropriateness of all our actions and the points raised in this lawsuit are simply a repetition of those we have repeatedly addressed in the course of the Monsanto litigation,” Sager said.

During that patent lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Richard Webber ruled that DuPont “knowingly perpetrated a fraud against the court,” by lying in court and to investors about its right to use Monsanto’s seed technology.

The shareholder complaint, filed on behalf of the company as a so-called derivative lawsuit, seeks a jury trial, corporate governance improvements and unspecified damages from directors.

The case is Zomolosky v. Kullman, 13-cv-00094, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Microsoft Seeks Patent on ‘Inconspicuous Mode’ Phone Technology

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, has applied for a U.S. patent on a technology that could make the use of a mobile phone less conspicuous in dark rooms.

Application 20130012270, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Jan. 10, is for what the Redmond, Washington-based company calls “inconspicuous mode for mobile devices.”

According to the application, the technology permits the adjustment of brightness and contrast to be less conspicuous, either by an adjustment initiated by the user or by sensors detecting environmental conditions.

Microsoft says that with mobile devices now having the capacity to perform many different functions, sometimes they are used in settings where others may be disturbed by a bright display, such as a bedroom, boardroom or movie theater. Also, the home screen of the device, when operating in the inconspicuous mode, would be less obtrusive than when in normal operation.

The software company applied for this patent in July 2011.

For more patent news, click here.


T.J. Maxx, Harris Tweed Authority Settle Trademark Dispute

TJX Cos.’ T.J. Maxx unit and the authority governing the use of the “Harris Tweed” standards have settled a trademark dispute, the Scotsman newspaper reported.

The Harris Tweed Authority complained that the Framingham, Massachusetts-based off-price retailer promoted and sold garments that weren’t made in accord with the standards required for the use of the mark, according to the Scotsman.

Regulations for the use of the name require that the fabric be hand-woven of pure virgin wool dyed and spun in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and woven in at-home workshops by island residents, the newspaper reported.

Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, according to the Scotsman.

For more trademark news, click here.


Pennsylvanian Pleads Guilty to Hockey Broadcast Infringement

A Pennsylvania resident pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement related to broadcasts of hockey games.

Michael Moore, 45, of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, admitted copying and selling recordings of hockey games and other hockey-related material. He did so through his www.HDHockey.Tv, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia.

He sold the DVDs for $19.99, and also operated a website -- www.BroadStreetBully.com -- through which subscribers could download video clips of copyrighted television broadcasts of hockey games and related material. This included broadcasts of an Olympic Games hockey match and National Hockey League games.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Moore’s house in 2008 and seized more than 2,000 unauthorized videotapes, as well as commercial-grade equipment for copying the tapes to DVDs. He also had equipment to record satellite broadcasts and to copy multiple DVDs at a time, according to the statement.

Moore is set for sentencing April 15, according to court filings. He faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of as much as $250,000, and has agreed to forfeit some of the seized items and $155,612 in proceeds from his business.

The case is U.S.A. v. Moore, 2:11-cr-00666, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

Charles Bronson Trust, Filmmakers Sue Studios Over Royalties

Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment and three other Hollywood studios were sued by filmmakers and the estate of the late actor Charles Bronson over claims they underpaid royalties on home video sales.

Sony Pictures calculates the share of its profit from home videos it pays the trust based on only 20 percent of its revenue from home video sales, rather than the full 100 percent, Larry Martindale, the trustee of the Bronson Survivors’ Trust, said in a complaint filed Jan. 16 in California state court in Los Angeles.

The Bronson trustee accuses the studio of breach of contract and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. He also seeks to represent other so-called profit participants nationwide in a class-action lawsuit.

When home video distribution started, the studios used independent distributors that paid the studios a 20 percent royalty from their sales, from which profit participants were paid, according to the Bronson trustee’s complaint. The studios have since set up their own in-house home video distribution operations, according to the complaint.

Bronson, who died in 2003, starred in movies including “The Dirty Dozen,” “Death Wish” and “The Magnificent Seven.”

Similar complaints were filed by Colin Higgins Productions Ltd., the business entity of the late “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “Foul Play” writer and director Colin Higgins, against Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios.

“Singin’ in the Rain” and “Funny Face” director Stanley Donen filed a lawsuit against News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox. His 1974 profit participation contract with Fox for “Lucky Lady” provides that he should get 5 percent of the “adjusted gross receipts” of the movie after the break-even point based on 100 percent of the gross receipts, according to Donen’s complaint.

Erica Netzley, a Sony Pictures spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement that, “We have not been served and do not have any comment at this time.”

Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for Universal, and Paramount spokesman Robert Lawson declined to comment on the lawsuits. Chris Petrikin, a Twentieth Century Fox spokesman, also declined to comment.

The cases are Colin Higgins Productions v. Paramount Pictures, BC499179; Colin Higgins Productions v. Universal City Studios, 499180; Stanley Donen Films v. Twentieth Century Fox, BC499181; Martindale v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, BC499182, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Advanced Micro Devices Sues Ex-Employees Over Trade Secrets

Advanced Micro Devices Inc., a maker of processors for personal computers, accused ex-employees in a lawsuit of taking “sensitive” company documents when they went to work for competing chipmaker Nvidia Corp.

The former employees transferred more than 100,000 electronic files pertaining to its graphics business in the days before they left the company, Advanced Micro said in a filing dated Jan. 14 in federal court in Boston. The employees also recruited other AMD workers to leave, the company claims.

“This is an extraordinary case of trade secret transfer/misappropriation and strategic employee solicitation,” Sunnyvale, California-based Advanced Micro said in the complaint.

The documents included confidential information on licensing agreements with significant customers, proposed strategies concerning licensing and technical information about new products and processes the company is developing, the company said.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman issued a temporary restraining order requiring the defendants to preserve all copies of AMD materials and computer storage devices and to refrain from disclosing confidential AMD information and attempting to hire any AMD employees.

Peter Mee, a lawyer for the four defendants, said he had no immediate comment. Bob Sherbin, a spokesman for Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Nvidia isn’t a defendant in the case.

Three of the former employees -- Robert Feldstein, Manoo Desai and Nicolas Kociuk -- transferred secret files to storage devices, according to the complaint. Feldstein, Desai and a fourth defendant, Richard Hagen, violated agreements not to solicit other employees for a period of time after leaving the company, AMD claims.

They all worked at AMD’s site in Boxborough, Massachusetts, according to the complaint.

Advanced Micro asked for monetary damages and a permanent injunction to prevent disclosures.

The case is Advanced Micro Devices v. Feldstein, 13-40007, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

RIM Patents Anti-Espionage Technology for Mobile Devices

Research In Motion Ltd., the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry mobile device, received a U.S. patent that may make it more difficult to use cameras in mobile phones to commit industrial espionage.

According to patent 8,346,072, the technology would make it impossible to shoot a photo using the mobile device unless the device has been focused steadily on the subject for a predetermined length of time.

The aim of this restriction is to make the process of taking the photo more conspicuous and thus more readily detected. Additionally, boundaries and restrictions could be communicated to the device as part of an information technology policy, according to the patent.

RIM said that while consumers enjoy using cameras embedded in their mobile phones and other hand-held devices, “many corporations and governmental agencies are wary of small portable cameras.”

Portable cameras can be used to take photos of confidential documents, which may then be stored and transmitted wirelessly, and confidential material “can be improperly divulged and/or used for improper purposes,” according to the patent. The “ubiquitous presence of handheld communication devices in the business environment makes it difficult for businesses to control their use,” RIM said.

Embedded cameras could be configured so they couldn’t shoot photos in specific geographic areas, or they wouldn’t take and record a photo unless they had been held in a steady position for as long as 10 seconds, according to the patent. RIM says that with these time limits, surveillance procedures would be more likely to identify unauthorized photos.

The Canadian company applied for the patent in July.

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