Samsung, Magna, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond: Intellectual Property

Dec 27, 2013 12:01 am ET

(This is a daily report on global news about patents, trademarks, copyright and other intellectual property topics. To be sent this column daily, click SALT IPREPORT <GO>.)

Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co.’s Samsung SDI unit applied jointly with Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH for a patent covering a battery-operated vehicle.

Application 20130346783, published yesterday in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, covers a “method and arrangement for monitoring at least one battery, battery having such an arrangement, and motor vehicle having a corresponding battery.”

The companies said in their application that the invention is related to battery safety functions.

On Dec. 19, electric-car company Tesla Motors Inc. said U.S. regulators reviewing battery-related fires concluded that Tesla’s Model S and charging system didn’t cause a fire in a Southern California garage last month.

Patent Suit Losers Should Pay Legal Costs More Often, Court Says

Patent owners who lose infringement lawsuits should have to pay the winners’ legal fees more often, a U.S. appeals court said in adding its views to a debate before Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington yesterday ordered a judge to analyze whether memory- cell maker Kilopass Technology Inc. should pay legal fees incurred by closely held competitor Sidense Corp.

The court must consider “whether Kilopass acted in bad faith in light of the totality of the circumstances” even if there’s no specific evidence of wrongdoing, Circuit Judge Kathleen O’Malley wrote.

The Federal Circuit, which handles U.S. patent appeals, has been grappling with how to crack down on owners who demand royalties on patents that may not be infringed or valid. The Supreme Court in October accepted two cases on the issue and Congress is considering legislation that would require losers in patent cases to pay winners’ fees.

The issue of legal fees is part of a broader debate over a rise in patent suits by businesses whose sole mission is to extract royalty revenue. Those entities, dubbed “patent trolls” by critics, filed 19 percent of all patent lawsuits from 2007 to 2011, according to the Government Accountability Office. A White House report said more than 100,000 companies were threatened last year with infringement claims.

“Too many patent owners are bringing claims that are meritless and then settling for a nuisance value with the expectation their claims would never be tested,” said Edward Reines, a lawyer with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in Redwood Shores, California, who also teaches at Stanford Law School. “The intrepid defendant who fights and wins ends up not being compensated for their fees.”

The case is Kilopass Technology v. Sidense Corp., 13-1193, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).

Magna Strikes Back at TRW Over Vehicle Back-Up Camera Systems

Magna International Inc.’s Magna Electronics filed a patent-infringement complaint Dec. 23 against TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, according to a notice published Dec. 24 on the agency’s website.

Magna seeks a ban on the importation of vision-based driver-assistance system cameras. The company claims TRW’s cameras infringe two of its patents.

TRW filed a trade commission complaint against Magna in September over a patent for imaging-processing chips used in Magna’s driver-assistance technology. It asked the commission to block imports of Magna’s China-made Eyeris cameras.

The two companies also have patent lawsuits against each other pending in federal court in Michigan.

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Amazon Is Told Plastic-based Pants With Deity Image Is Offensive

The Universal Society of Hinduism demanded that Seattle’s Amazon.com Inc. quit carrying pants bearing the imagine of another Hindu deity.

In a Dec. 26 e-mailed statement, the Reno, Nevada-based society said it finds the use of the image of the elephant- headed Ganesha “worn on one’s legs, crotch and hips” to be inappropriate.

The society said that the “Ganesha’s Dream” hot pants and bell bottoms were offensive and should be withdrawn. According to Amazon.com’s website, the pants are made by Teeki Inc. from recycled plastic through the use of solar energy.

Vernon, California-based Teeki says on its website that the pants are manufactured in California. The company also features images drawn from tarot cards, outer space, “deer medicine” and unicorns on its products.

The society earlier criticized the use of the Hindu deity Vishnu in an episode of ABC’s “Agents of Shield” television program, and persuaded Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters Inc. to quit selling socks with a Ganesha image. According to its website, Urban Outfitters is still selling tapestries, duvet covers and handbags with images of the elephant-headed Ganesha.

The group previously said it sought to erect a statue of the religion’s Lord Hanuman among monuments on the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol. It said Dec. 20 that Hindus are “heartbroken” over the reported decision by a state commission to declare a moratorium on new monuments there.

Bed Bath & Beyond Told Not to Sell Fake Chambord Coffee Makers

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., the Union, New Jersey-based housewares retailer, won’t be able to sell coffee makers bearing the “Chambord” trademark, except for those actually made by Bodum USA Inc.

According to an agreed-upon order filed in federal court Dec. 17, fake Chambord devices must be removed from stores.

Triegen, Switzerland’s Bodum AG’s U.S. unit had said that the housewares chain was selling coffee makers sold by one of the company’s competitors and using the Chambord mark without authorization. Hang tags on the offending merchandise indicated falsely that the fake products were Chambord coffee presses, and even included Bodum’s product identification number, according to court papers.

The Swiss company also accused the housewares chain of listing on its website the fake products as Chambord coffee makers.

Bodum sought awards of money damages, including profits Bed Bath & Beyond received from the sale of the allegedly infringing products, a court order for the seizure and destruction of all of the fake coffeemakers and promotional materials, and awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

Under terms of the Dec. 17 order, the retail chain agreed to remove and destroy or send to Bodum’s counsel all the fake coffee makers, and to remove all references to the fakes as “Chambord” on its website.

The order didn’t discuss possible damages.

The case is Bodum USA Inc. v. Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., 13- cv-08812, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Time Warner’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Most-Pirated TV Show in 2013

Time Warner Inc.’s HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was the television program most pirated in 2013, the news website TorrentFreak reported.

In 2013, there were 5.9 million downloads of the show made using the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, causing “Game of Thrones” to beat any other program by more than 1.7 million downloads, according to TorrentFreak.

Other frequently downloaded programs include “Breaking Bad,” which was downloaded 4.2 million times through BitTorrent; “The Walking Dead,” 3.6. million; “The Big Bang Theory,” 3.4 million, and “Dexter,” 3.1 million, TorrentFreak reported.

TorrentFreak said David Petrarca, director of “Game of Thrones,” has said that piracy gave the show “cultural buzz” that promoted the program.

For more copyright news, click here.

--With assistance from Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Charles Carter, Stephen Farr