Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sony and 3M settle intellectual property dispute [International]

The bickering that boiled over into a patent dispute earlier this year between 3M and Sony has finally ceased, but it seems like Lenovo and friends may actually still be fighting their own battles with the innovative giant.

Nevertheless, Sony Corporation and Sony Electronics are now "licensed sources of batteries containing 3M's cathode technology," and while specific terms of the settlement shall remain confidential, we're sure it was no small sum that Sony was required to pay out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Oracle Expands SAP Lawsuit [US]

Business software maker Oracle Corp. has added copyright infringement and breach of contract claims to a lawsuit alleging rival SAP AG trespassed on its computers to obtain secret product information so it would have a better chance to reel in new customers.

The documents filed June 1 in San Francisco federal court expands on a complaint that Oracle filed against Germany-based SAP in late March. The lawsuit charges SAP with "corporate theft on a grand scale" -- blunt language that underscores the increasingly cutthroat battle between the two rivals.

Redwood Shores-based Oracle alleges that SAP trampled on its intellectual property rights by heisting computer code and claiming it as its own.

In an example cited in the amended complaint, Oracle alleged that SAP broke into its computers in January to heist a software update addressing this year's change to an earlier start for Daylight Savings Time.

A SAP subsidiary that services Oracle software subsequently posted an identical solutions, Oracle alleged. SAP's recommended repairs even contained a few minor errors that Oracle later fixed, according to the complaint.

In a statement, SAP said it would respond to Oracle's allegation in its own court documents to be filed by July 2. "At that time, SAP will set the record straight," the statement said.

SAP has long been the market leader in business applications software, which helps companies, schools and government agencies to manage their payrolls, vendor relationships and various other administrative tasks.

Although it still makes more of its money from database software, Oracle has emerged as a more formidable threat in the business applications market by buying many of the industry's other players. Oracle has spent more than $25 billion since its shopping spree began in early 2005 with its acquisition of PeopleSoft Inc.

The SAP subsidiary that has become the focal point of Oracle's lawsuit was founded by several former PeopleSoft employees.

Court Orders ISP to use Content Filter: SABAM v SA Scarlet [Belgium]

A Belgian court has ordered an internet service provider to use filtering technology on its systems to root out copyright-infringing content. In SCRL Societe Belge Des Auteurs v SA Scarlet (No. 04/8975/A) the ISP Scarlet (formerly Tiscali) was found liable in 2004 for the unauthorised exchange of music files through its service and, in a judgment made available this week, the Belgian Court of First Instance has ordered Scarlet to put into place blocking and filtering mechanisms to stop its users sending or receiving music through peer-to-peer applications.

The Court had been understandably reluctant to enforce its 2004 injunction against Scarlet without knowing if an effective technical solution existed so it ordered an expert evaluation. The experts looked at various solutions – including the Audible Magic application “CopySense Network Appliance” – and found that there were affordable measures Scarlet could take to block P2P on its network without affecting other legitimate internet exchanges.

Scarlet now has six months to implement a suitable solution, which the Court said should cost no more than €0.50 per month per user and was therefore “not excessive”.

Aside from the slightly-uncomfortable notion of a court making technical and commercial evaluations of IT products, it is perhaps most surprising that a European court has ordered a telecoms provider to explore the information in its systems at all. The court apparently did not fully consider the “Mere Conduit” protections for ISPs (known in the US as “Safe Harbor”) though it took pains to distinguish this filtering and blocking order from any type of “surveillance” which would have been contrary to EU law.

This decision will be seen as a foothold for music companies in its fight against P2P file sharing, but most of the big questions – especially those regarding secondary liability, telecoms’ immunity and free speech – remain unanswered. IF Belgium has correctly implemented the underlying EU laws and this court has correctly interpreted those laws, and other EU countries have similar correct implementations, then this decision may be followed – though not as a precedent – elsewhere within the EU. This is, however, a big IF and, in any case, Scarlet may yet appeal the decision.