Samsung, Pennzoil, GM, Kickstarter: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co., maker of the Galaxy mobile phones and tablets, led all other companies in application filings with the European Patent Office in 2014, according to the office’s annual report, released Feb. 26.

The South Korean company filed 2,541 patent applications with the office last year. Royal Philips NV came in second, with 2,317, followed by Germany’s Siemens AG, with 2,133.

The top U.S. filers were Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego, with 1,459, and Santa Clara, California-based Intel Corp. with 1,054.

Total filings from U.S. companies grew 8.6 percent over the previous year, and Chinese entities increased their filings 18 percent, according to the report. Japan had a 4.4 percent decrease in patent filings with the EPO.

In all, there was a 3.1 percent increase in patent filings with the EPO last year, to more than 274,000. The previous year’s total was 266,000, according to the report.

The biggest increase in applications came in the biotechnology sector, which grew 12 percent. The biggest drops were in pharmaceuticals, down 5.4 percent, and machinery, pumps and turbines, which declined 3.2 percent,

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Shell’s Pennzoil-Quaker State Wins Battle Against Texas Pit Stop

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Pennzoil-Quaker state unit has prevailed in a trademark dispute with the operator of a quick-stop oil-change facility.

In its Feb. 23 ruling, the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said a lower court erred in permitting Miller Oil’s Pit Stop U.S.A. of Houston to continue using Pennzoil marks in spite of a demand that it stop.

The dispute began when Pennzoil discovered that the bulk oil Pit Stop was selling wasn’t from Pennzoil, despite an agreement they had. Under the terms of the deal, Pennzoil marks could be used only with Pennzoil products. Pennzoil demanded that Pit Stop quit using its marks.

Pennzoil sued for trademark infringement and a trial court said the oil-change company could continue to use Pennzoil signs as long as it continued to promote and feature Pennzoil products, didn’t advertise or promote another brand, and bought its products directly from a Pennzoil-approved source.

That wasn’t enough for Pennzoil, which appealed. The circuit court said the lower court abused its discretion in permitting the use of the marks.

The case is Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. v. Miller Oil & Gas Operations, 13-20558. The lower-court case is Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. v. Miller Oil & Gas Operations, 10-cv-04045, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

GM Selects ‘Badlands’ as Truck Name, Files Trademark Application

General Motors Co. is seeking to register “badlands” as a trademark, according to a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In its Feb. 16 filing, the Detroit-based automaker said it would use the mark for trucks.

Badlands are a rocky terrain with little vegetation. Badlands National Park in South Dakota features a landscape of pinnacles buttes and spires that contains fossil beds.

Other trucks with geographic names include the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Tacoma and Dodge Dakota.

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Kickstarter Crowdfund Site Rejects Claim Over Wooden Turntable

Kickstarter Inc., the New York-based crowdfunding company, rejected a copyright claim by a maker of wood-based turntables, Engadget reported.

Joe Scilley, maker of the Audiowood turntables, complained that Silvan Audio Workshops’ turntable, the subject of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $14,000, infringed his copyrights and trademarks, according to Engadget. Both products feature a slab of wood with a turntable attached.

Kickstarter told Scilley that the dispute with Silvan Audio “falls outside our copyright and trademark policies and is not one we are equipped to assess or act upon,” Engadget reported.

Silvan Audio posted a notice on its Kickstarter site that it’s not related to Audiowood and said it has “a ton of respect for what they’re doing,” according to Engadget.

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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Man Who Sent U.S. Fighter Jet Secrets to Iran Pleads Guilty

A man accused of trying to share advanced U.S. fighter jet information with Iran pleaded guilty to violating a federal arms export control law, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Mozaffar Khazaee, 60, who was arrested a year ago as he was about to board a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Tehran, entered his plea Wednesday before a federal judge in Hartford, Connecticut. He faces as long as 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The Iranian-born former Manchester, Connecticut, resident worked for three U.S. defense contractors from 2001 to 2013, according to prosecutors.

Starting in 2009, “Khazaee stole sensitive, proprietary and controlled technology to send it to Iran,” prosecutors said. Among that material was jet engine information for the U.S. Air Force’s F35 Joint-Strike and F22 Raptor fighters.

The government began investigating Khazaee, also known as Arash Khazaie, in November when U.S. customs agents inspected a shipment he had sent to Long Beach, California, from Connecticut, bound for Hamadan, Iran, prosecutors said previously.

While documents accompanying the shipment indicated it contained household goods, a search revealed boxes of documents, including technical manuals, specification sheets and other materials related to the F35 program and jet engines, according to court filings.

He faced three counts of interstate transportation of stolen property, each subject to a maximum prison term of 10 years.

The case is U.S. v. Khazaee, 14-cr-00009, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (New Haven).


Apple Plays Odds for Overturning $533 Million Verdict

If Apple Inc.’s past is anything to go by, it won’t have to worry about paying the $533 million that a jury said the company owes for infringing patents related to data management in iTunes.

The iPhone maker has already gotten two big patent verdicts it lost in the same Texas district tossed, and it has pledged to fight the Feb. 24 jury decision. The company plans to appeal through a separate court in Washington where judges have sought to rein in patent holders that seek to extract high royalty payments from companies.

“This award won’t hold up,” said Michael Carrier, a law professor at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey. “If there’s a large verdict in the district court, by the time it makes it through the appeals process, that verdict is slashed dramatically or overturned.”

Closely held Smartflash LLC claimed that Apple infringed three patents and was seeking $852 million in damages. Apple said it shouldn’t have to pay more than $4.5 million.

On Wednesday, the day after the verdict, Smartflash filed a second suit against Apple, claiming the iTunes Store, App Store, its iAd Network for advertising and company devices infringe all seven of Smartflash’s patents, including three that were the subject of the trial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which specializes in patent law, has narrowed the scope of claims about features of complex devices. It overturned a $368.2 million damage award won by VirnetX Holding Corp. in Texas over security features.

While it’s hard for large verdicts to stand, “if these are core patents in digital-rights management, that’s what makes the whole system go,” said Michael Risch, a professor at Villanova University School of Law in Pennsylvania. “This is how they protect content on the device.”

In recent years, Apple has been the most-sued company over patents. It often settles and has a mixed record at trial.

The cases are Smartflash LLC v. Apple Inc., 13-447 and 15-145, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).

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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