Sonos, Oxford University Press: Intellectual Property

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- D&M Holdings Inc., a Japanese maker of audio and video products, was sued for patent infringement by Sonos Inc.

The suit, filed Oct. 21 in federal court in Delaware, accuses D&M of infringing three patents related to wireless audio technology. Santa Barbara, California-based Sonos claims D&M’s HEOS by Denon system infringes three patents covering its own line of wireless home audio products.

The California company asked the court for an order barring further infringement of its patents, together with awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Claiming the infringement is deliberate, Sonos asked that the damages be tripled.

D&M’s Denon unit didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The case is Sonos v. D&M Holdings, 1:99-cv-09999, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.


Court Rejects 10 Percent Copying Guideline for Fair Use

In a case involving academic presses and a textbook publisher against the University of Georgia, a federal appeals court said that previous guidelines about copyright law’s fair-use standard are improper.

Plaintiffs in the case are Oxford University Press Inc., Cambridge University Press and Sage Publications Inc. of Thousand Oaks, California.

In its Oct. 17 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta found that a lower court “abdicated its duty” to “analyze each instance of alleged infringement individually” by drawing the fair-use baseline at 10 percent or one chapter of a work.

The suit, which began in April 2008, concerns university instructors making content available to students from books published by the academic presses without first obtaining permission or paying a licensing fee. Previous cases focused on so-called “course packs” that students buy containing excerpts from various books. This case deals with digital excerpts.

The appellate case is Oxford University Press v. J. Albert, 12-15147, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Atlanta). The lower court case is Cambridge University Press v. Patton, 1:08-cv-01425, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Sigma-Aldrich Reached Too Far With Non-Compete, Court Said

Sigma-Aldrich Corp.’s non-compete agreement was found to be unenforceable by a Missouri state appeals court.

The St. Louis-based chemical company had sued a former employee who moved to a competitor in 2013. The chemical company accused him of violating an employment agreement that barred him from working for a competing business.

In an Oct. 14 ruling, the Missouri Court of Appeals said the employment agreement was overbroad because it didn’t contain a geographic limitation accompanied by a specific limit on the class of competitors with whom contact is limited. The contract’s non-compete provision created “a global prohibition in which Sigma attempted to ban employees from working for any of its competitors globally in any capacity,” the court said.

The court also found that the items Sigma wished to protect aren’t trade secrets. Sigma “did not meet its burden” to show that the alleged trade secret wasn’t widely known within the company or to others involved in the business. Sigma also failed to prove that it had taken measures to guard the secrecy of what it claimed was misappropriated, the court said.

The case is Sigma-Aldrich Corp. v. Omar Vikin, ED100575, Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.


‘Simpsons’ Producers Sued for $250 Million Over Mob Character

Actor Frank Sivero, who played gangster roles in “The Godfather Part II” and “Goodfellas,” sued the makers of “The Simpsons” for $250 million, claiming the cartoon series misappropriated his name and likeness.

In a complaint filed Oct. 21 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sivero said 21st Century Fox America Inc., Fox Television Studios Inc. and “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening infringed his rights by basing a mobster character on him and the Frankie Carbone character he created in “Goodfellas.”

The character also shows up in “The Simpsons Movie” and video games based on the show, Sivero claimed. He said he’s harmed by the creation and uncompensated use of the cartoon character. Sivero also said the defendants misappropriated his ideas associated with a character he created for the two Oscar-winning gangster films.

In addition to money damages, Sivero asked the court for an order barring further infringement, and for awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

The “Simpsons” production company didn’t respond immediately to an e-mail seeking comment.

In July, Sivero sued a Deli Belly of El Cajon, California, saying its “Frankie Carbony” sandwich was named after the character he created. As of yesterday, the restaurant’s website didn’t list a sandwich by that name. It does offer a “Frankie” sandwich made from salami, mortadella, ham and provolone cheese.

The “Simpsons” case is Sivero v. Fox Television Studios Inc., BC561200, Los Angeles County Superior Court. The case against the restaurant is Sivero v. Deli Belly, BC550944, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Pizza Flavors Not Covered by Trademark Law, Texas Court Rules

A New York pizza-restaurant chain’s claims of trademark infringement were dismissed by a federal court in Texas.

New York Pizzeria Inc. filed the case in Galveston, Texas, in September 2013, claiming a former company official created a copycat restaurant chain in Texas that infringed its trademarks and trade dress.

In his Oct. 20 ruling, Circuit Judge Gregg Costa, who was sitting in that court by designation, dismissed the trademark and trade-dress claims, saying the flavor of the pizza wasn’t entitled to trademark infringement.

The pizza company’s claim that its trade dress was infringed by the manner in which the copycat restaurant plated up its ziti, eggplant and chicken Parmesan was also rejected by the judge. He said that while possibly the presentation of some fancy signature dishes could receive this protection, the pizza chain had failed to show that this was the case with its menu items.

The judge let stand several computer-misuse claims related to misappropriation of the pizza company’s trade secrets.

The case is New York Pizzeria Inc. v. Syal, 3:13-cv-00335, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston).

For more trademark news, click here.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at David Glovin

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