Round corners.

In the seemingly never ending litigation between Apple and Samsung, I get a lot of questions about the $1.5B award in the only win Apple has had during all these legal battles.

Apple Inc. was granted a design patent for the rounded corners of its iPad tablet device, Patent D670,286 for “The Ornamental Design For A Portable Display Device.” However, from the drawings submitted in connection with the patent application, it is fairly clear that the patent is intended to cover the rounded rectangular shape of the tablet’s face.

Although it may seem strange to patent the corner shape of an electronic device, U.S. patent law provides for granting design patents to any person who has invented any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation.

Unlike traditional patents, design patents only protect the appearance (ornamentality) of the article and not structural or utilitarian features.  In this case, Apple was granted protection for the rounded corners of the iPad which have no effect on how the device functions.

Although the design patent is yet another weapon in Apple’s fight against rival tablets, it is important to highlight that the patent only protects Apple from those who may try to mimic the look of the iPad and not its functionality.

How Can I Help?

As you can see, the way something looks can be as protectable as how it functions.  If you have a design you would like to patent, or you know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Apple v. Samsung: Redux for Juror Misconduct?

The ongoing intellectual property litigation between Apple and Samsung continues to make headlines months after the blockbuster verdict was announced.  Samsung is seeking a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct.

Samsung alleges that the foreman of the jury that awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages failed to disclose his involvement in two legal matters—a personal bankruptcy in 1993 and a lawsuit by his former employer, Seagate Technology Inc. According to court documents, Samsung has a “substantial strategic relationship” with Seagate and the lawyer who filed the complaint against juror Velvin Hogan is married to an attorney employed by the firm representing Samsung in its current IP litigation with Apple.

“Mr. Hogan’s failure to disclose the Seagate suit raises issues of bias that Samsung should have been allowed to explore,” Samsung argued in support of a new trial. The company also suggested that the juror failed to disclose the lawsuits in an effort to “secure a seat on the jury.”

Even if the juror was not entirely truthful, Samsung will likely have a difficult time proving bias. Federal courts have routinely held that not all juror biases adversely affect a litigant’s right to a fair trial.

Under the Supreme Court’s two-prong test, “[T]o obtain a new trial in such a situation, a party must first demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause.” Here, Hogan maintains that he was only asked to disclose his involvement in any litigation within the past ten years and that both matters occurred outside of the specified time period, according to a Bloomberg report.

How Can I Help?

As this case highlights, many IP cases do not end with a jury verdict. Through post-trial motions and the appeals process, litigants can continue to challenge prior rulings and, in some cases, ultimately prevail.

If you need help to protect or patent your ideas, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

MySpace Prevents Apple From Trademarking Logo.

Seeking to regain its relevance in the ever-changing world of social media, former giant MySpace may be able to rely on the momentum of a recent intellectual property victory over Apple. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board recently denied Apple’s bid to trademark its famous music icon after determining it was too similar to a mark already registered by MySpace. Both marks depict a double musical note in an orange rectangle.

Using traditional “likelihood of confusion” analysis, the Board concluded that an average consumer would be unlikely to discern the marks. As explained in the decision:

In view of the facts that the marks are similar, the goods and services are related and are encountered by the same classes of consumers, we find that applicant’s double musical note and design for “computer software [..]” is likely to cause confusion with the registered mark comprising a double musical note and design [..] for listening to MP3’s and for sharing MP3’s and music playlists with others.

The Board acknowledged that when placed side-by-side, certain differences between the two icons do exist. However, it was quick to note that “the test is not whether the marks can be distinguished when subjected to a side-by-side comparison, but rather whether the marks are sufficiently similar in terms of their overall commercial impression so that confusion as to the source of the goods and services offered under the respective marks is likely to result.”

The Board also rejected Apple’s argument that the trademark held by MySpace was weak because eight other trademarks using similar musical notes. Ultimately, the Board found that the Apple and MySpace marks had more in common than the other marks. The Board also cited the similarities in how the marks would be used. “Applicant’s software and the registrant’s services perform similar functions: controlling digital music,” it noted.

Even powerful companies like Apple do not always come out on top in intellectual property disputes.  MySpace was victorious in this case because it was able to demonstrate a likelihood of confusion with its existing mark.

How Can I Help?

If you need help selecting or protecting your brand or trademark, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Should the U.S. Let Experts Go “Hot Tubbing?”

The ongoing patent litigation between Apple and Samsung is not confined to the United States.  Similar legal battles are simultaneously taking place all over the world in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia, just to name a few.

These lawsuits provide a unique glimpse into the legal systems of other countries, particularly how they deal with complex intellectual property disputes. For instance, Australia’s expert process has caught the attention of many here in the United States.

The popular term for Australia’s method of expert testimony—the hot tub approach—may have a lot to do with the buzz surrounding it. But it is also credited with saving both time and expense and, most importantly, making complicated cases easier to understand for judges and juries.

The hot tub method, formally called concurrent evidence, allows expert witnesses to offer their opinions in the form of a discussion, as opposed to taking the stand one by one. It is also employed by courts in Europe and Asia.

Proponents of the hot tub approach not only tout its efficiency, but also argue that it leads to better evidence because experts can be questioned by their peers rather than exclusively by attorneys. Advocates also maintain that the approach often leads to more open and frank discussions between experts for both sides during which they can often find common ground and/or focus their attention on the most contentious issues.

At this point, there is no great movement to adopt “hot tubbing” here in the U.S., where the process of cross-examination is used almost exclusively to examine expert witness. However, it may warrant consideration given the increasing complexity of IP disputes.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, needs help with intellectual property lawsuit, I can help you evaluate your case and help plan a strategy for litigation.  To protect your valuable intellectual property rights; please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Slow Down There Big Boys!

Apple and Samsung have been ordered by U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh to narrow their patent-infringement lawsuit case scheduled for trial in 2014.

The Judge told lawyers from both companies that they must “focus and streamline” their cases to 25 patent claims, or elements of the patents at issue, and 25 accused products.

Koh stated that  “You’ve already been litigating this thing for a year; you must know something about what’s your best case.”

In yet another round of squabbling, Apple filed a motion to include Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones and tablet computer in the case. Samsung retaliated by claimed “all generations” of Apple’s iPhone and iPads infringe at least three of its patents.

Koh last month rejected Apple’s request to add additional damages to the first patent-infringement case between the two companies in San Jose. In that case, a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion, finding that Samsung infringed six of the Apple’s patents.  However, that verdict is being disputed by Samsung due to various problems with the jury and other procedural issues.

I have to note that Apple has sued Samsung everywhere else in the world and, for the most part, lost all those cases except the one filed in their own backyard.  Apple even got into trouble in England when they did not place a court ordered apology on their UK website.  The court was so unhappy that they made Apple pick up Samsung’s legal fees for the affair.

At some point the “Big Boys” will have to grow up and do a deal that will make both their shareholders breathe easier.  If this continues on too much longer, the litigation will start to affect the bottom line of both companies.

One can only hope for a little common sense, but, alas, I haven’t seen any sign of it yet.

How Can I Help?

If you need help protecting your patented idea in the United States or around the world, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman

A Role Reversal For Apple.

Several well-known Chinese authors have filed a copyright lawsuit in China against Apple for selling unlicensed copies of their books on Apple’s iTunes store website. The case represents an interesting role reversal given that U.S. companies are unusually alleging copyright infringement of their products by companies in China.

In this case, three lawsuits have been filed with the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court.  In total, 12 writers claim 59 titles were sold without permission through Apple’s online store. The lawsuits seek $3.5 million in damages.

Wang Guohua, a Beijing lawyer representing the writers, stated that while Apple removed some books after the lawsuit was filed in January, others have reappeared, apparently uploaded by developers that sell apps through the Apple Store. Wang also indicated that other Chinese authors have lodged complaints and additional lawsuits would be forthcoming.

This is not the only intellectual property lawsuit Apple is facing in China.  Apple is in a contentious trademark dispute with Proview Electronics Co. over the ownership of the iPad trademark in China.

How I Can Help

I understand the challenges faced by small businesses seeking to protect their valuable intellectual property and I can work with you to come up with a plan that meets both your IP and business goals.

If you need help to file a patent, copyright or trademark, foreign or domestic, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman