Archive by Author | Gershon Abramoff

Smartphone Wars

In what could be a new blow to ailing smart-phone maker Research-in-Motion, Nokia Corp. has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the renowned Blackberry manufacturer for allegedly breaching a patent licensing agreement.

Nokia bases its claims on a patent licensing agreement with RIM. The dispute arose out of the scope of the licensing agreement: Nokia claiming that it covers patents for GSM, WCDMA and CDMA2000 technologies, while RIM states that the license also covers WLAN technology.

The suit comes on the heels of an arbitration held in Stockholm, Sweden whereby, according to Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant, RIM was found to have breached the contract at issue. The legal action pending in the United States seeks to enforce the Stockholm arbitral award.

It is unclear whether RIM will move the court to set aside the arbitral award. Arbitral awards are most often enforced in American courts and are notoriously difficult to set aside. The current law governing the enforcement of arbitral awards, the Federal Arbitration Act, seriously limits judges’ abilities to look behind the ruling of an award and only allows courts to overrule arbitration panels on certain limited and enumerated grounds. For example, RIM would have to prove that an arbitrator was impartial and therefore jeopardized the fairness of the proceeding.

Since May, Nokia has also been battling RIM in both US and German courts, claiming that RIM and HTC and ViewSonic have infringed a number of its patents.

Grupo Clarín Battles Argentina Government Over Media Law

Grupo Clarin and the Argentinian Government brace for legal face-off.

 A legal showdown between major media conglomerates and the Argentinian government is quickly brewing after the Argentinian government stated that it planed to seize and auction-off certain broadcast licenses as well as cable TV and fiber-optic Internet networks owned by media companies. The sell-off is being carried out pursuant to a recent media law. The stakes are high as a Supreme Court battle is about to unfold wherein free speech, antitrust, and private-property rights issues will be raised.

The media law in question is a 2009 federal law which disallows cable TV companies from holding more than 24 broadcast licenses nationwide. Grupo Clarín SA, a major media company who owns Cablevisión, who is openly defying the law, has between to 237 and 158 licenses nationwide. Other conglomerates, like Uno Medios, also surpass the 24-license cap imposed by the 2009 law.

While all media companies have been granted an injunction staying the sell-off, this injunction is set to expire on December 7th 2012. After this deadline, the federal agency created to enforce the law is set to begin sell-offs of both media licenses and infrastructure – a move that is seen by some as an expansion of the law which had been thus-far interpreted to cover only licenses.

Opponents of the law, like Clarín and Uno Medios, have called the law unconstitutional on grounds that it violations private-property rights and free speech. As a response, last week, Argentina’s Congress passed a law that allows the government to present its case directly the Argentinian Supreme Court, bypassing the typical channels through federal trial and appeals courts. Some have criticized this move and question whether direct Supreme Court appeal will only worsen an already dysfunctional federal appeals system. Last week’s law came on the same day that Mr. Martin Sabbatella, a government agent, approved the sell-off plan.

Grupo Clarín, one of the only media companies that doesn’t depend on government advertising or public funds, believes it is unfairly targeted by the 2009 law. The government, spearheaded by President Kirchner, has countered by saying that Clarín’s defiance is an attempt to undermine the anti-monopoly law and the December 7 deadline, which apply to all media companies equally. The law is intended to give broadcast licenses to local communities and requires theatres to show more local films.

Grupo Clarín is a media conglomerate which own newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations and provides cable TV. It is slated to petition the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the 2009 law. There is a strong likelihood, however, that the Supreme Court, dominated by the President Kirchner’s nominee’s, will refuse the case and could simply send it down to a lower court judge.

NOTE: Photo from Wall Street Journal.

Singling Out Future Hits

Over the past decade, Swizz Beatz has evolved into one of the most innovative and influential music producers in the music industry. After having concocted a number of hits with the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and others, his clout has grown to the point where he now represents a benchmark for trends in the music industry. “Everyday Birthday,” Beatz’s newest track, may signal that the winds are blowing in a new direction in the music industry: away from full LPs and toward singles. The single, and its pricey Hangover-inspired music video shot in Cannes, France, have been released independently from any studio album.

“I don’t want to force an album down anyone’s throat,” Swizz Beatz declared in an interview.

What’s more, the stand-alone single features Ludacris and Chris Brown, two hugely successful and influential artists. They also partnered up to shoot a $1 million video in the French Riviera, which will become available for purchase on Apple’s iTunes on November 13th. The video was funded in part by product placement from Addidas AG’s Reebok, with whom Beatz works as vice president of sports style marketing, design, and brand music development.

From a creative point of view, this method offers more flexibility and reactivity to an ever voracious and demanding fan base. “Because I’m a producer and more of a maestro, picking a moment and releasing one track works better for me,” Swizz Beatz said. Financial backers may also prefer a method of financing small projects as this exposes less of their capital and allows for more hedging.

It may be too soon to tell whether this type of autonomous single signifies a turning point in the way the music industry produces hits in an era of playlists and .99¢ downloadable single songs. In any event, it is a rising trend that heavy-hitters seem to be buying into and that players in the music world need to be aware of.

Here is a link to the video:

Chanel pulled a “Don Draper” in Wednesday September 26th’s Women’s Wear Daily by publishing this full-page ad warning against unauthorized use of the Chanel trademark.

Criminal Sanctions for Street Artist in Copyright Dispute

ImageIt is easy to forget that intellectual property laws are not all about obtaining money damages in the event of an infringement. Just ask Shepard Fairey, the famed street artist behind the emblematic “Hope” poster that became the face of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid, who was sentenced on Friday September 7th to two years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and fined $25,000 for lying during a copyright dispute with the Associated Press over the famed image.

Mr. Fairey, 42, admitted to having falsified evidence and lying in a counter suit he brought against the Associated Press. The news agency was accusing the street artist of violating their copyrights by using their picture of then-Senator Obama without their consent and modifying it as part of the 2008 “Hope” poster.

Mr. Fairey explained that he had realized that the photos were identical only after he had filed a countersuit. As a consequence he created false documents, deleted electronic documents, and blatantly lied by maintaining that the two photographs were distinct. Mr. Fairey came forward with the truth in February and pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of criminal contempt. He avoided jail time by coming forward with the truth as early as possible, doing so before a government investigation began.

Mr. Fairey is a world-renown street artist, linked to famed artists such as Banksy, with whom he appeared in last year’s “mockumentary” Exit Through the Gift Shop. A retrospective of his work was held at the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston in 2009.

After the sentencing, Garry Pruitt, the president and CEO of Associated Press stated: “all of us at the Associated Press are glad this matter is finally behind us. We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.”

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