Rambus, Pfizer, Disney, Couristan: Intellectual Property

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Rambus Inc., a designer of high-speed memory chips, won an appeals court ruling yesterday that forces the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reconsider the validity of one of its patents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said the agency erred in its analysis of whether the patent was an obvious variation of earlier know-how and remanded the case for further review. The court did uphold part of the patent office decision. The opinion was posted on the court’s website.

The patent at issue -- 6,260,097 -- was issued in July 2001 and was at issue in a patent dispute between Rambus and Nvidia Corp. of Santa Clara, California.

For more patent news, click here.


Pfizer Complaint Triggers Raid on Fake Viagra in Philippines

Pfizer Inc., maker of the erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra, filed a trademark complaint that resulted in the seizure of 1 million Philippine pesos ($23,028) worth of fake Viagra pills, the Philippines’ Freeman newspaper reported.

After making a test buy, the country’s National Bureau of Investigation arrested a Chinese citizen in connection with the sale of the fakes, the newspaper reported.

In addition to the fake Viagra, law enforcement officials found boxes of a fake version of another manufacturer’s drug used to treat erectile problems, according to the Freeman.

Pfizer consultant Maximo Ocampo told the newspaper that the product was being sold by street vendors who were getting their stocks from the Chinese citizen, the Freeman reported.

University of Alabama Calls Foul on Houndstooth Mafia

The University of Alabama filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against an Alabama company that creates goods for fans of the school’s football team.

In the complaint filed Sept. 19 in federal court in Alabama, the school accused Houndstooth Mafia Enterprises LLC of infringing the university’s trademarks associated with its former football coach, the late Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Bryant, who coached the team from 1958 to 1982, was known for wearing a fedora in a houndstooth-patterned fabric.

Houndstooth Mafia, of Smiths Station, Alabama, sells clothing that is similar to products sold by the university and is likely to confuse potential buyers into thinking it has the school’s endorsement, according to the complaint.

The school also objects to a website operated by the company and to Houndstooth Mafia’s application to register the term as a trademark.

The school was unsuccessful in opposing the application. On July 23 an appeals board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office found that the school failed to show that the mark “closely approximates the identity or persona of either Coach Bryant or the university.”

The board said the mark doesn’t falsely suggest a connection with the school and isn’t disparaging. The board dismissed the opposition with prejudice, which means that the school isn’t free to re-file it.

In the suit, the school asked the court to order the patent office not to register the mark, and to vacate the board’s opinion. Additionally, the school wants the court to to bar the company’s use of the term “Houndstooth Mafia,” and to order a recall of all allegedly infringing merchandise. The school asked for damages, the company’s profits attributable to the alleged infringement, and attorney fees and litigation costs.

The school is known for aggressive protection of its intellectual property rights. Last September, it backed down from its pursuit of a local bakery for selling cakes and cookies featuring a red letter A. The school also engaged in lengthy litigation with the artist who designed the U.S. postage stamp honoring Bryant, objecting to the artist’s refusal to take a license to make commercial prints of images he made of the team.

The new case is Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Houndstooth Mafia Enterprises, 7:13-cv-01736, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama.

For more trademark news, click here.


Disney Sues Pennsylvania Theater Company Over Live Performances

Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Enterprises unit sued a theater company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for copyright infringement.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in federal court in Allentown, Pennsylvania, accused Entertainment Theatre Group of presenting a stage production -- “Broadway: Now & Forever” -- that infringes the company’s copyrights.

According to court papers, Entertainment Theatre Group, which does business as American Music theater, is using content from “Mary Poppins,” “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man” without authorization.

Disney said in the complaint that American Music Theatre advertises its “Broadway: Now & Forever” show as a re-creation of “the greatest moments ever on stage.” Disney says the show uses its trademarks, artwork, songs and other properties deliberately and without permission.

The Burbank, California-based film company asked the court to bar further infringement of its copyrights and to award at least $1.65 million in damages, plus attorney fees and litigation costs. Disney also seeks additional damages for what it says is trademark infringement and asked that the amount be tripled to punish the theater company.

Entertainment Theatre Group didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

The case is Disney Enterprises Inc. v. Entertainment Theatre Group, 13-cv-05570, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Allentown).

Couristan Takes Issue With Rug-Pattern Camouflage Costumes

Couristan Inc., a rug manufacturer based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, sent a cease-and-desist letter to two participants at a conference where attendees wear science-fiction, superhero and fantasy costumes, the Daily Dot reported.

The rug company objected to costumes worn by two attendees that matched the carpeting at the Atlanta Marriott Hotel where the DragonCon event was held, according to the Daily Dot.

The carpet-pattern camouflage costume was so popular with conference attendees that the designer -- Atlanta-based Volpin Props -- began offering similar costumes for sale and promoting them on its Facebook Inc. social media page, the Daily Dot reported.

Volpin Props commented on Couristan’s position that the costumes infringed in a statement on the Facebook page, saying that “the absurdity is palpable.”

Burmese Artists Say Unauthorized Work Hangs in Innwa Bank Lobby

Eight Burmese artists are seeking compensation from a bank in that nation’s city of Yangon over what they say is unauthorized use of a painting they jointly created, Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group reported.

The artists said they were hired to create a landscape painting to be placed in the departure lounge of the Yangon airport, according to Eleven Media Group.

The artists claim their painting was reproduced on vinyl with a quarter of it cut out, and then hung in the lobby of the Innwa Bank, Eleven Media Group reported.

The administrative manager of the bank told Eleven Media Group that the bank is willing to negotiate with the artists.

Indian Director Wins Dismissal of ‘Fashion’ Copyright Suit

Bollywood director Madhur Bhandarkar persuaded a Mumbai court to dismiss a copyright lawsuit brought over his film “Fashion,” the Indian Express reported.

He was accused of infringing the copyright to a book written by Seema Seth, according to the newspaper.

In addition to Bhandarkar, Seth sued the film’s writer and UTV Motion Pictures Plc, the newspaper reported.

Although given almost a year after the filing of the initial complaint to present evidence of the infringement, Seth failed to appear in court, according to the Express.

Denmark to Devote More Resources to Criminal Copyright Cases

Denmark has begun a two-pronged attack on copyright violators, the Copenhagen Post reported.

Under a plan developed by the public prosecutor’s office, the Statsadvokaten for Saerlig Okonomisk of International Kriminalitet, Denmark’s so-called “fraud squad” would be delegated to handle a “substantial number” of the criminal copyright cases, according to the Post.

On the local level, each police district will have one officer designated as the contact point for copyright-related crimes, and the fraud squad will be available to local police departments when needed.

Marie Fredenslund, head of Rettighedsalliancen, an association of copyright owners, hailed the changes and told the newspaper that that a year ago, when content owners contacted law enforcement about copyright crimes, “they wouldn’t have any idea what we were talking about.”

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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