Microsoft, VF, CIAA, Nolo, RIAA : Intellectual Property

The top lawyers for Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp., saying software patents are important drivers of U.S. innovation and economic growth, pressed Congress yesterday to reject calls to limit that legal protection.

Companies including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. have said too many software patents are being used primarily to generate lawsuits instead of contributing to new products and services. Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, and Oracle say discussions of ways to curtail litigation shouldn’t become an excuse to limit the ability to patent software.

“My biggest concern, and the concern of many other software companies, is that there’s going to be a move to somehow reduce or diminish protection for software,” Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley said in an interview in Washington.

Daley and her counterpart at Microsoft, Brad Smith, joined software and manufacturing executives meeting yesterday with lawmakers and congressional staff members to defend patents for computer programs.

“We have a patent system that has important strengths but it also has some significant weaknesses,” Smith said in the same interview.

Any new legislation should be directed at ways to reduce litigation rather than undermining software patents, said Robert Holleyman, president of Washington-based BSA - The Software Alliance.

One proposal Google, Microsoft and Oracle agree on is to make the loser in a patent lawsuit pay the winner’s legal costs, a move they say would discourage lawsuits by patent owners with dubious claims.

Large technology companies are united in their ire at owners of software patents who sue dozens or even hundreds of companies claiming to have invented aspects of technologies including online shopping, Internet mapping and tracking delivery vehicles.

Of the more than 5,600 patent-infringement lawsuits filed in the U.S. last year, more than 12 percent were filed by just 10 companies over software, according to Bloomberg Law data.

The issue has drawn the attention of President Barack Obama, who on Feb. 14 said patent legislation he signed in 2011 “hasn’t captured all the problems” of the patent system, such as the litigation by patent owners derisively called “trolls.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent law, is considering a case that could determine when computer programs are eligible for legal protection.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is holding meetings on possible changes to the way it handles applications for software programs, and is considering rules requiring more disclosure about the “real party in interest” in patents and applications.

Apple-Samsung Judge Says Companies Must Narrow Patent Suit

Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. must narrow their patent-infringement lawsuit case scheduled for trial in 2014, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, told lawyers from both companies yesterday that they must “focus and streamline” their cases to 25 patent claims, or elements of the patents at issue, and 25 accused products.

Koh made the request from the bench in the latest of two related patent cases. The lawsuit was filed last year and covers technology in newer smartphones made by both companies, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Apple’s iPhone 5.

“We’ll keep narrowing and narrowing,” Koh said. “You’ve already been litigating this thing for a year; you must know something about what’s your best case.”

In a filing last week, Cupertino, California-based Apple included Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones and tablet computer in the case. Samsung claimed “all generations” of Apple’s iPhone and iPads infringe at least three of its patents, according to its filing.

Koh last month rejected Apple’s request to add additional damages to the first patent-infringement case between the two companies in San Jose. In that case, a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion, finding the Suwon, South Korea-based company infringed six of the iPhone maker’s mobile-device patents.

Last year’s case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11-cv-1846, the case scheduled for trial next year is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-cv-630, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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VF’s 7 For All Mankind Loses Trademark Lawsuit at EU Top Court

Jeans maker 7 For All Mankind lost a final bid to get the European Union trademark rights to its name after the EU’s top court ruled in favor of an Italian backpack manufacturer.

The EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg yesterday dismissed an appeal by the company to get trademark rights across the 27-nation bloc for “Seven For All Mankind.” The ruling can’t be appealed.

The VF Corp. unit previously won the rights to the name in 2010 when the bloc’s trademark authority in Alicante, Spain, rejected a challenge by Italian company Seven SpA. The agency said there was no likelihood of confusion with the Italian company’s trademarks for the word Seven. A lower EU court later overturned that decision.

The EU General Court in 2011 ruled that “there is a certain overall similarity between the marks at issue” because the presence of the word Seven in the names “is not insignificant.”

That court, the region’s second-highest, “did not commit the error of law alleged by the applicant,” the Court of Justice ruled, dismissing all points of appeal that were raised.

7 For All Mankind first applied in 2005 for the EU trademark to cover products such as jewelry, belts, suitcases and backpacks. Representatives for VF in Greensboro, North Carolina, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment on the decision, or answer calls before regular office hours.

The case is: C-655/11 P, Seven for all mankind v. Seven.

CIAA Files Infringement Suit in Advance of Hoops Tournament

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the 101-year-old athletic conference composed of traditionally African-American colleges, sued multiple defendants for trademark infringement.

The Washington-based CIAA filed the suit in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 14, less than two weeks before its annual basketball tournament is to be held in Charlotte beginning Feb. 25.

Multiple entities are making unauthorized use of the association’s marks to trade off its fame, according to the complaint. The conference complained of infringing Internet domain names, party planners’ and concert promoters’ unauthorized use of CIAA trademarks, and the sale of counterfeit merchandise such as athletic gear and souvenirs.

Sellers of the fake merchandise move it from city to city, using itinerant peddlers “without offices, identification, licenses or addresses,” according to court papers.

During the tournament, local law enforcement officers are dedicated to on-site safety and security and don’t have the priority or the time to deal with counterfeiters as a criminal matter, the CIAA said. As a result, the conference said an order permitting seizure of unauthorized merchandise is needed.

Additionally, the conference asked for an order barring future infringement of its marks, awards of attorney fees and litigation costs, money damages, and the transfer of infringing Internet domain names.

The case is Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association V. Allure Life Entertainment Group LLC, 3:13-cv-98, U.S. District Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte).

Student Facebook Page Taken Down as School Says Mark Infringed

Following a request from school officials, students at Sam Houston State University took down a page on Facebook Inc.’s social media site where students could use a Web-survey tool to make any confession they wanted to make, the Houstonian newspaper reported.

Kris Ruiz, marketing director at the school, said trademark concerns prompted the request for removal of the “SHSU Confessions” page, according to the newspaper.

University policy is to respond to apparent violations rather than seek them out, Ruiz said, according to the Houstonian.

A new page with the same function was put up on Facebook as “Prison City Confessions,” according to the newspaper.

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Internet Brands Unit Sued Over Divorce Handbook License

Internet Brands Inc.’s Nolo unit was sued for copyright infringement by a competing provider of self-help legal information.

Pennsylvania Full Court Press Inc. claims Nolo had a license for a limited period of time to publish and sell an electronic edition of a book it produced. Nolo continued to sell the product after the license expired in 2004, according to the complaint filed Feb. 20 in federal court in Philadelphia.

Full Court Press said it lost sales and was otherwise damaged as a result of Nolo’s conduct. The company asked the court to order removal of its book -- “No-Fault Divorce in Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Law, With Forms for Filing Your Own Divorce” -- from all Nolo computers and for awards of money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

Internet Brands, based in El Segundo, California, didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.

The case is Pennsylvania Full Court Press Inc. v. Nolo Inc., 2:13-cv-00918, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

RIAA Says Takedown Requests Not Stopping Infringement

The Recording Industry Association of America, the leader among copyright owners requesting that Google Inc. take down search results linking to allegedly infringing content, says the company’s efforts haven’t had the desired effect.

In a report released yesterday, Washington-based RIAA said it analyzed the websites listed as “serial infringers” in Google’s Copyright Transparency Report and found that they “still managed to appear on page 1 of the search results over 98 percent of the time in the searches conducted.”

Authorized download sites such as Apple Inc.’s iTunes, Amazon.com Inc. and eMusic only appeared in the top 10 results for little more than half of the searches, the music-industry trade group said in the report.

“In other words, whatever Google has done to its search algorithms to change the ranking of infringing sites, it doesn’t appear to be working,” RIAA said. More study of Google’s response is needed, the group said.

According to Google’s report, in the past month, RIAA was the leading copyright owner reporting allegedly infringing sites, listing almost 2.36 million URLs.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, said that in the last six months of 2011, it took down 97 percent of the search results specified in takedown requests made during that period.

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