Google, Select Brands, Dotcom: Intellectual Property

Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility didn’t act in good faith when it demanded patent royalties from Microsoft Corp. for use of video-compression and Wi-Fi technology, a federal jury said Sept. 4.

The jury in Seattle acted in its first day of deliberations. Microsoft was awarded about $14.5 million in damages, the Seattle Times newspaper reported in a blog post.

The verdict could help the two companies resolve a dispute over patent royalties for both fundamental technologies in electronic devices and features that make them easier to use. More broadly, the case is one front in a global debate on how to handle patents that relate to technology included in industry standards used by all manufacturers.

Microsoft claimed that Motorola Mobility acted unreasonably by demanding royalties of 2.25 percent of the price of an Xbox video-gaming system or a computer that runs on the Windows operating system, and then threatening to get a court order halting sales of the products if the money wasn’t paid.

Motorola Mobility said the October 2010 letters sent to Microsoft were a common opening offer that it used in negotiating patent licensing with other companies for years. Rather than sitting down to negotiate a licensing agreement as other companies do, Microsoft went to the courts, Motorola Mobility said.

Microsoft has said the royalty demand would equal more than $4 billion a year, a figure Motorola Mobility disputed.

U.S. District Judge James Robart, who presided over the trial, determined in April that the appropriate royalty rate was about a half-cent per unit for video-decoding technology and 3 1/2 cents for wireless technology. Microsoft said that would equal about $1.8 million a year.

The issue for the jury was whether Motorola Mobility’s actions were in keeping with the standards of good faith and fair dealing. Robart, in pre-trial rulings, said Motorola Mobility’s offers have to be made in good faith, though the initial offer doesn’t have to be on fair terms as long as the result is fair.

The case is Microsoft Corp. v. Motorola Mobility Inc., 10-cv-01823, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle). ViaSat Files Second Patent Suit Against Space Systems/Loral

ViaSat Inc., a provider of satellite networks services, filed a second patent lawsuit against MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates Ltd.’s Space Systems/Loral unit.

In the new complaint, filed yesterday in federal court in San Diego, ViaSat claims that the Palo Alto, California-based competitor infringes three patents relating to frequency use for satellite communication.

In dispute are patents 8,213,929; 8,254,832 and 8,285,202. ViaSat, based in Carlsbad, California, claims that the high-capacity broadband satellites SS/L supplies to Hughes Network Systems LLC infringe the patents.

SS/L was aware of the patents and a contract between the companies specified that SS/L not file patent applications on technology owned by ViaSat, according to complaint. ViaSat said SS/L used the intellectual property to solicit and win a bid to make a satellite for Hughes.

The company asked the court for an order barring unauthorized use of its technology by SS/L, money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Alleging the infringement was done knowingly, ViaSat asked that damages be tripled.

SS/L didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

ViaSat claimed in a suit filed in February 2012 that SS/L infringed three other satellite-communications patents. A final pretrial conference in that case is set for February, according to the docket.

The new case is ViaSat Inc. v. Space Systems/Loral LLC, 13-cv-02074, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego). The previous case is ViaSat Inc. v. Space Systems/Loral Inc., 12-cv-00260, same court.

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METL’s Agro Unit Wins Trademark Judgment Over ‘Poa’ Mark

A Tanzanian grain-milling company has lost its appeal of a trademark-infringement judgment in a case brought by a unit of the wholesale distributing company Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Ltd. of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Tanzania Daily News reported.

Salim Bakhresa & Co. was appealing an infringement judgment over its use of the word “Poa,” a trademark belonging to the METL unit known as Agro Processing & Allied Products Ltd., according to the newspaper.

Agro registered the mark in March 2001, after which the Bakresa company filed multiple applications to register marks containing “Poa” and began using them even though the registrations were rejected, the newspaper reported.

Bakresa was found to have infringed Agro’s marks and ordered to pay more than 730 million shillings ($452,000), which the company appealed unsuccessfully, according to the Tanzania Daily News.

Japan to Modify Trademark Law to Register Sounds, Moving Images

Japan is considering modifying its trademark law to enable the registration of sounds, moving images and colors used in commercials, the Yomimuri Shimbun reported.

This is in response to U.S. requests that its trading partners put in place a trademark registration system comparable to what is used in the U.S., according to the newspaper.

Japan’s government will submit a bill revising the trademark system to the legislature this year, the Yomimuri Shimbun reported.

Presently, only items with a clearly defined visual form can be registered as trademarks in Japan, according to Yomimuri Shimbun.

Taiwan Bakery Faces Chinese Fines for Use of Unregistered Marks

Top Pot Bakery, a Taiwan-based baker, is facing potential fines for not registering its trademarks in China while doing business in Shanghai, the Shanghai Daily reported.

The company has two stores in Shanghai, and according to the newspaper, can be fined as much as 20 percent of sales if they are found using unregistered trademarks.

The store is also under investigation for allegedly failing to supply proof to support some of the claims in its advertisements, according to Shanghai Daily.

Companies that can’t prove the accuracy of their ads can be fined as much as five times the cost of the advertising fees, the newspaper reported.

Select Brands ‘Mumbo’ Mark Isn’t Generic, Appeals Board Says

Select Brands LLC, a Chicago-based food company, successfully defended its “Mumbo” trademark for a spicy food sauce against a Washington challenger who claimed the term was generic and not entitled to registration, the Washington Post reported.

Arisha Jones of Capital City Mumbo Sauce had argued that the term is generic and originated in Washington rather than Chicago, according to the Post.

An appeals board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office disagreed, saying Jones failed to present evidence that the mark had become generic, the newspaper reported.

Select Brands has asked Jones to quit using the term “mumbo” for her sauce, and Jones has refused and is seeking pro bono legal help for the appeal she plans to file of the board’s ruling, according to the Post.

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Sudoku Rules Provide Method of Watermarking Images Against Theft

Scientists in Malaysia have figured out a way to place a digital watermark on an image in such a way that potential infringers would find it impossible to scrape it away or crop it out of the image, the Science Codex science news website reported.

They developed a system based on the permutation rules used in the popular number-placement puzzle Sudoku, according to Science Codex.

The formula is used to create a watermark -- which identifies the source of the image -- so evenly distributed that it can’t be be cropped out and potential unauthorized users can be identified easily, Science Codex reported.

The scientists from the Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia in Johor, Malaysia, learned that they can defeat more than 94 percent of the attempts to crop out the image, according to the science news website.

Dotcom Resigns Mega Post, Will Concentrate on Extradition Fight

Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand-based Internet entrepreneur who faces extradition to the U.S. in a criminal copyright case, has resigned as a director of his Mega data-storage company, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Mega Chief Executive Officer Vikram Kumar said that Dotcom resigned his post in order to put more of his energy into the extradition case, to build a political party, and to develop a new Web-based music service, according to the Herald.

Dotcom has filed papers with New Zealand’s Supreme Court seeking to learn more about the evidence the U.S. government is presenting in the extradition case, the Herald reported.

He has used Twitter Inc.’s short-messaging service to tell followers that he plans to start a New Zealand political party with possible elections at the end of 2014, the newspaper reported.

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