Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

Australian Regulator Issues Company Infringement Notice for False Affiliation
Asia Pacific

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that “Greenthumbs Environmental Services Pty Ltd, trading has Green Energy Australia (GEA), has paid an infringement notice of $6,600 for misrepresenting in promotional material that it was affiliated with the Clean Energy Council”, the key body that represents the renewable energy sector. The misleading conduct involved an email sent out by GEA which “prominently displayed the Clean Energy Council’s logo followed by the words ‘programme partners’”.

ACCC’s media release (11 May 2012)
(Source: ACCC)

International Trade Commission (ITC) Rules Against Apple in Patent Case

A judge for the International Trade Commission (ITC) has issued a preliminary ruling that Apple Inc. infringed a patent held by Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc (Motorola) in making its iPhones, iPads and other products. The patent is for eliminating interference during voice and data transmissions. Motorola accused Apple of violating three additional patents including one for touchscreen technology, but the judge did not find in favor of Motorola on those claims. Motorola released a statement indicating they were pleased with the ruling. Apple released a statement noting that it was found to have not infringed three of Motorola’s patents. It also expressed confidence it would have a very strong case in its appeal of the ruling on the patent for eliminating interference during voice and data transmissions, saying that a court in Germany had found the patent invalid. Motorola has related lawsuits against Apple in Florida and Illinois. Apple and Motorola have also sued each other over various patents in other venues. Companies often file patent lawsuits with the ITC because the trade panel can prevent the importation of infringing products and it cases are usually adjudicated quickly.

New York Times: Apple Infringes on Motorola Mobility Patent, I.T.C. Says (24 April 2012)
(Source: New YorkTimes)

Facebook vs Yahoo: Patent Infringement Accusations Go Back and Forth

Facebook has responded to the lawsuit Yahoo filed against it last month claiming Facebook’s violations of ten Yahoo patents by denying Yahoo’s claim and arguing that Yahoo has actually violated Facebook’s patents. Facebook also claims the patents that are the subject of its claims accounted for over 80% of Yahoo’s revenue last year. Among the areas Facebook claims these patents cover are display advertising, content personalization and photo sharing. These actions have intensified the conflict between the companies. Patent battles have become increasingly common in the technology industry, but less so with Web based companies. The battle between Yahoo and Facebook is the first major patent battle between these types of companies. The two companies have worked collaboratively on several projects with Yahoo integrating Facebook’s news activity feed into its site. The sparring suggests that the cases will not be settled in the near future.

New York Times: Facebook Accuses Yahoo of Infringing on Patents (3 April 2012)
(Source: New York Times)

Police Payments Charitable, Company Claims
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Age reports that satellite television encryption technology company News Datacom System (NDS), a former subsidiary of News Corp, has had to defend itself from claims that payments to Surrey Police for “unspecified work” were in exchange for assistance in accessing rival companies’ encryption codes. Reportedly, a NDS statement confirmed that the company had made a “one-off charitable donation of £2,000 to Surrey police in August 2000″. However, according to The Australian, the NDS statement also clarified that “[t]hese allegations, instigated by our competitors, [have] been investigated by the United States Department of Justice, a federal court jury, a federal trial court, and a federal appellate court who have all rejected allegations that NDS was responsible for TV piracy or that NDS distributed codes that facilitated that piracy”.
The Australian: NDS slams ‘piracy’ claims (29 March 2012)
The Age: News Corp subsidiary paid British police for ‘assistance’ (30 March 2012)
(Source: The Age; The Australian)

Facebook Sued by Yahoo for Alleged Patent Breach

Reuters reports that Yahoo has commenced legal proceedings against Facebook, alleging that the social networking site used ten patents belonging to Yahoo without a proper licence to do so. The patents reportedly include methods and systems for advertising online. The lawsuit reportedly claims that Facebook was considered “one of the worst performing sites for advertising” before it adopted Yahoo’s ideas and that “Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and [chief executive officer], has conceded that the design of Facebook is not novel and is based on the ideas of others”. According to Reuters, two of the ten patents directly relate to “social networking technology”, while the others focus on online advertising, “including methods for preventing ‘click fraud’, as well as privacy and technology for customising the information users see on a [w]eb page”. Reportedly, University of Wisconsin professor Shubha Ghosh, who specialises in intellectual property, stated that a lot of other companies would be liable if what Yahoo claimed was in fact true; however, Yahoo has not stated if it will bring claims against other social networking companies.
Reuters: Yahoo sues Facebook for infringing 10 patents (12 March 2012)
(Source: Reuters)