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Fitbit, Jawbone, US Copyright Office, BMI, TiVo, Samsung, Toyota – the week in IP



Michael Loney


Fitbit countersuing Jawbone, the US Copyright Office’s registration system going down for a week, BMI registering record revenues, TiVo filings its first patent litigation since 2012, and Toyota’s patent application for a potential flying car were in the IP headlines this week

Also on the blog this week:

Kyle Bass vows to keep returning to the PTAB "kangaroo court"

Show us the evidence!

Your IP Stars research questions answered


Fitbit hits back at Jawbone

Fitbit has sued rival fitness tracker maker Jawbone for patent infringement, following Jawbone filing three suits against it in the summer, reports The Recorder.

Gibson Dunner & Crutcher filed a suit for Fitbit in the Northern District of California alleging infringement of three patents for wireless devices. The company has also filed a similar suit in the District of Delaware.

Jawbone filed a trade secrets lawsuit against Fitbit in May, and followed up with a patent infringement lawsuit in June and a complaint filed with the ITC in July seeking a ban on Fitbit imports.

These lawsuits could be the start of a trend in the wearable technology industry. Some view it as the next hot area for patent lawsuits.

In an analysis published in June, Envision IP said: "With the dust settling on the various patent lawsuits filed in recent years between many technology companies in the mobile space, the wearable technology industry could be the next frontline for patent disputes. Focused wearable device companies such as Fitbit and Jawbone have already shown their emphasis on obtaining patent protection, both organically and via acquisitions. Larger technology companies are also innovating in the space, with Apple, Google, Sony, Samsung, and Qualcomm all having patents related to wearable technology."



Dark times at the US Copyright Office

The US Copyright Office’s online registration system was down for a week.

The outage occurred after the registration system failed to come back online after scheduled maintenance. Applications had to be submitted through the mail. The Washington Post reported the outage cost the Office $650,000 and caused problems for about 12,000 customers.

The US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center said the outage is telling. The Office is operated by the Library of Congress,

"The General Accounting Office has been sounding the alarm about the inadequacies of the Library’s IT system, in particular," noted GIPC executive director Frank Cullen.

The GAO recently issued a report concluding the Library "does not have an IT strategic plan…is not effectively managing its investments…its implementation of key security and privacy management controls was uneven…it has not fully developed agreements with the other service units specifying expected levels of performance… The Library does not have the leadership needed to address these IT management weaknesses."

Cullen added: "But the issue is broader than a present lack of leadership."

He said the Library builds its systems for its own mission. Some lawmakers want to move the Copyright Office out from under the Library and allow it to modernise. Representatives Tom Marino and Judy Chu have co-authored a discussion draft of legislation designed to achieve that goal.

"American businesses and consumers deserve a Copyright Office that is suited to the modern era and the future," said Cullen. "Last week’s outage is yet more evidence that the Copyright Office needs authority over its own systems to make that happen. And we hope Congress gives this the attention it deserves."



BMI passes $1 billion mark

Music rights management agency BMI has exceeded $1 billion in annual review for the first time, according to the New York Times. Revenue for the year ending June 30 2015 was up almost 4% on the same period 12 months previously.

BMI distributed $877 million to its members, slightly less than the $883 million rival Ascap paid its members in the same period.

BMI received about $100 million from digital sources in the year, up 65%. The biggest chunk of its income came from cable and satellite sources, making up 34% of its US collections. Broadcast radio and television made up 33% and "general licensing" made up 19%. International sources accounted for $292 million of BMI’s revenues, which was down 5% on the previous 12 months.

In May, a federal judge ruled that Pandora’s royalty rate for using BMI’s music should increase to 2.5% from 1.75%.



Recording more patent revenue?

TV box company TiVo has sued Samsung for patent infringement, reports Ars Technica.

The company filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas alleging infringement of four of its patents. Three of the patents are related to a "multimedia time warping system" while the fourth is titled "trick play" and has been used in previous litigation.

This is TiVo’s first patent lawsuit since 2012. The company has received $1.6 billion in royalty payments from patent-related lawsuits, according to the complaint, with awards and payments from EchoStar, AT&T, Verizon, Motorola and Cisco.

TiVo sees its latest case as an indicator of how long it will be able to keep patent royalties coming in. "Today's action should help address one of the questions regarding the value, breadth, and applicability of TiVo's IP portfolio post the 2018 expiration of the '389 patent," Ars Technica quoted TiVo CEO Tom Rogers saying on an earnings call.


Toyota’s patent up in the air

Toyota has applied for a patent that could lead to a flying car, according to Bloomberg.

The patent was published in the USPTO’s database on September 3. It was applied for in March 2014, and features a "stackable wing for an aerocar".

The application says that the wing can change its shape. One configuration has the wing stacked on top of the car roof in "roadable mode" and one has a more aerodynamic shape for flight.



In our news and analysis this week:

Unitary Patent and UPC: five takeaways from the Patent Reform Forum

Former USPTO patent commissioner Focarino joins Oblon

China criminal enforcement: Be careful what you wish for

Three policy themes to be targeted in UK IPO research

Interview: Philippa Hall, chief economist, UK IPO

US business method patent applications fall 52.4% after Alice

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