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February 2, 2016

Indiana Trademark Litigation: Holder of Verge Trademark Sues The Verge Group

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Indianapolis, Indiana - Indiana trademark attorneys for Plaintiff Indy Founders LLC d/b/a Verge of Indianapolis, Indiana filed a trademark infringement lawsuit with the court in the Southern District of Indiana. The lawsuit alleges that Vox Media, Inc. and The Verge Group LLC ("TVG") infringed the VERGE trademark, Registration No. 4,153,192, which has been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Indy Founders is in the business of creating and offering online publications and websites, as well as similar services, for startup technology entrepreneurs, investors, and collaborators. It states that it holds a federal registration on VERGE as a trademark and that the VERGE trademark has been used since at least as early as January 2011.

Defendant Vox Media is a partner and owner of Defendant TVG. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants are engaged in a business similar to Plaintiff's and that Defendants use the VERGE trademark in connection with their business, THE VERGE, and in their business' domain name, http://www.theverge.com/. Plaintiffs contend that Defendants' use of THE VERGE to identify their goods and services is unlawful.

In this Indiana trademark lawsuit, filed with the court by trademark lawyers for Plaintiff, the following claims are made:

• Count I: Trademark Infringement
• Count II: False Designation Of Origin
• Count III: Unfair Competition
• Count IV: Declaratory Judgment
• Count V: Indiana Crime Victims Act [Forgery under IC §35-43-5-2]
• Count VI: Preliminary and Permanent Injunctive Relief

• Count VII: Corrective Advertising

Indy Founders seeks a declaratory judgment, equitable relief, actual damages, treble damages, costs and attorneys' fees.

Continue reading "Indiana Trademark Litigation: Holder of Verge Trademark Sues The Verge Group" »

January 21, 2016

Reporting Computer, Internet-related or Intellectual Property Crime

Internet-related crime, like any other crime, should be reported to appropriate law enforcement investigative authorities at the local, state, federal, or international levels, depending on the scope of the crime. Citizens who are aware of federal crimes should report them to local offices of federal law enforcement.

A guide to reporting intellectual property crime:

Type of Crime

Appropriate federal investigative law enforcement agencies 

Copyright piracy (e.g., software, movie, sound recordings)

Trademark counterfeiting

Theft of trade secrets/Economic Espionage

The U.S. Department of Justice has also produced a guide, "Reporting Intellectual Property Crime: A Guide for Victims of Counterfeiting, Copyright Infringement, and Theft of Trade Secrets," available as a PDF file. This guide is contained in Appendix C of the Report of the Department of Justice's Intellectual Property Task Force (October 2004). The guide also contains the following checklists for reporting intellectual property crime to law enforcement:

Checklist for Reporting a Copyright Infringement or Counterfeit Trademark Offense (PDF)
Checklist for Reporting a Theft of Trade Secrets Offense (PDF)

Other government initiatives to combat cybercrime include:

National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center

The IPR Coordination Center's responsibilities include:

• Coordinating U.S. government domestic and international law enforcement activities involving IPR issues.
• Serving as a collection point for intelligence provided by private industry, as well as a channel for law enforcement to obtain cooperation from private industry (in specific law enforcement situations).
• Integrating domestic and international law enforcement intelligence with private industry information relating to IPR crime, and disseminating IPR intelligence for appropriate investigative and tactical use.
• Developing enhanced investigative, intelligence and interdiction capabilities.

• Serving as a point of contact regarding IPR law enforcement related issues.

The STOP Initiative (www.stopfakes.gov)

The stopfakes.gov website provides information to consumers and businesses on intellectual property, including information on how to report trade in fake goods.

Those with specific information regarding intellectual property crime can submit an IPR Coordination Center Complaint Referral Form.

December 7, 2015

Criminal Counterfeit Law: U.S. Marshals Selling Thousands of Bottles of Non-Counterfeit Wine of Convicted Wine Counterfeiter

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Marshals are currently auctioning approximately 4,711 bottles of wine, deemed authentic, that belonged to Rudy Kurniawan, the man convicted of fraud in federal court in 2013 for producing and selling millions of dollars of counterfeit wine.

The wine is being sold in two online auctions, one that started November 24 and one that started December 1 at www.txauction.com. The auctions close on December 8 and December 15, respectively.

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"It may sound ironic that we are selling wine that belonged to a convicted wine counterfeiter," said Assistant Program Manager Jason Martinez of the U.S. Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division, "but we are duty-bound to recoup as much value from the sale of these authentic wines as possible to compensate those who were victims of his fraud."

The wine was being stored by Kurniawan in a California wine storage facility. It is believed that much of it was destined to be used in the production of fake high-end wines in his now-infamous scheme. Some of the authenticated, high-value wines that Kurniawan stored at the facility are included in the auction. Net proceeds from the sale of the wine will be made available to the court to be returned to victims in the case.

The Marshals contracted for the wine authentication and appraisal. The contract was awarded to Stephanie Reeves, of Houston, who worked with a team that included Michael Egan of Bordeaux, France. Egan was involved in the Kurniawan federal court case as the principal expert witness for the prosecution at trial. Specifically, Egan inspected the bottles with the most risk of being counterfeit, and he uncovered a quantity of counterfeit bottles that were removed from the collection being sold.

Kurniawan, 39, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is serving his sentence at Taft Correctional Institute in California.

The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is a key component of the federal government's law enforcement efforts to combat major criminal activity by disrupting and dismantling illegal enterprises, depriving criminals of the proceeds of illegal activity, deterring crime and restoring property to victims. The U.S. Marshals Service plays a critical role by efficiently managing and selling assets seized and forfeited by DOJ. Proceeds generated from asset sales are used to operate the Asset Forfeiture Program, compensate victims and support various law enforcement and community initiatives.

Practice Tip: For more information on the case, see:

www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/september/rare-wine-dealer-sentenced-in-counterfeiting-scheme

www.fbi.gov/newyork/press-releases/2014/prominent-wine-dealer-rudy-kurniawan-sentenced-in-manhattan-federal-court-to-10-years-in-prison-for-selling-millions-of-dollars-of-counterfeit-wine

November 30, 2015

Criminal Copyright Law: Operator of Second-Largest Music Piracy Website in the U.S. Sentenced to 3 Years for Criminal Copyright Infringement

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Norfolk, Virginia - District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced copyright infringer to prison.

Rocky P. Ouprasith, 23, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was sentenced recently to 36 months in prison for reproducing and distributing without permission millions of infringing digital copies of copyrighted works, including copies of popular songs and albums before they were commercially available. Ouprasith was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $45,288.62, and to forfeit $50,851.05.

This case represents the first criminal copyright infringement sentence imposed for a cyberlocker operator in the United States.

"Ouprasith operated the second largest online file sharing site in the United States, averaging nearly 4.5 million visits per month and resulting in an estimated collective loss of more than $10 million per month to the rightful owners," said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "I believe this sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime and will promote greater respect for the law and property rights of others."

"HSI is responsible for enforcing federal regulations that exist to protect American businesses from unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft," said Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"). "Online piracy has a serious financial impact to business, which is felt at every level of a transaction - from the producer to the point-of-sales clerk."

Ouprasith pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2015. According to court documents, between May 2011 and October 2014, Ouprasith operated RockDizMusic.com, a website originally hosted on servers in France and later in Canada, from which Internet users could find and download infringing digital copies of popular copyrighted songs and albums. Ouprasith admitted that he obtained digital copies of copyrighted songs and albums from online sources, and that he encouraged and solicited others, referred to as "affiliates," to upload digital copies of copyrighted songs and albums to websites, including RockDizFile.com, that were hosted on servers in Russia, France and the Netherlands, and that hosted hyperlinks to content being offered for download on RockDizMusic.com. Ouprasith further admitted that to encourage such activity, he agreed to pay the affiliates based on the number of downloads from his website.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in 2013, RockDizFile.com was the second-largest online file sharing website specializing in the reproduction and distribution of infringing copies of copyrighted music in the United States. Ouprasith admitted that in 2013 and 2014, he either ignored or pretended to take remedial action in response to complaints from copyright holders and their representatives that the website contained links to infringing copies protected songs and albums.

In October 2014, federal law enforcement authorities shut down RockDizMusic.com and RockDizFile.com, and law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands and France seized file-hosting servers utilized by Ouprasith.

According to court documents, the market value of Ouprasith's illegally pirated material was more than $6 million.

This sentencing is related to the many efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property ("IP Task Force"). The IP Task Force supports prosecution priorities, promotes innovation through heightened civil enforcement, enhances coordination among federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, and focuses on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.

Practice Tip: To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to www.justice.gov/dag/iptaskforce.

Continue reading "Criminal Copyright Law: Operator of Second-Largest Music Piracy Website in the U.S. Sentenced to 3 Years for Criminal Copyright Infringement" »

October 15, 2015

DOJ Announces New Strategy to Combat Intellectual Property Crimes

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Washington, D.C. - The Justice Department has announced a new approach to combat intellectual property crimes. Grants to state and local law enforcement agencies totaling more than $3.2 million were also announced.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch stated recently that the Justice Department will launch a new collaborative strategy to partner more closely with businesses in intellectual property enforcement efforts. Additionally, over $3.2 million will be awarded to ten jurisdictions to support state and local task forces in the training, prevention, enforcement and prosecution of intellectual property theft and infringement crimes.

"The digital age has revolutionized how we share information, store data, make purchases and develop products, requiring law enforcement to strengthen our defenses against cybercrime - one of my top priorities as Attorney General," said Attorney General Lynch. "High-profile instances of hacking - even against large companies like Sony and Target - have demonstrated the seriousness of the threat all businesses face and have underscored the potential for sophisticated adversaries to inflict real and lasting harm."

The new FBI collaborative strategy builds upon the work previously done by the department while also working with industry partners to make enforcement efforts more effective. As part of the strategy, the FBI will partner with third-party marketplaces to ensure that they have the right analytical tools and techniques to combat intellectual property concerns on their websites. The bureau also will serve as a bridge between brand owners and third-party marketplaces in an effort to mitigate instances of the manufacture, distribution, advertising and sale of counterfeit products. This new strategy will help law enforcement and companies better identify, prioritize and disrupt the manufacturing, distribution, advertising and sale of counterfeit products. Crimes will then be investigated by the FBI and other partners of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and finally prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Further, the Office of Justice Program's Intellectual Property Enforcement Program ("IPEP") will award $3.2 million in grants to aid state and local law enforcement in addressing intellectual property crimes.

Local award recipients announced included the following:

City of Austin Police Department: $400,000

City of Hartford Police Department: $399,545

Cook County State Attorney's Office: $400,000

Baltimore County Police Department: $120,174

North Carolina Department of Secretary of State: $367,076

New Jersey State Police: $269,619

City of Phoenix Police Department: $253,129

City of Portland Police Department: $373,569

Virginia State Police: $253,128

City of San Antonio Police Department: $400,000

Since IPEP's establishment in 2009, the department has invested nearly $14.8 million for 41 task forces across the country. These grants have supported the arrests of 3,522 individuals, the dismantling of 1,882 piracy or counterfeiting organizations and the seizure of $266,164,989 in counterfeit property, other property and currency in conjunction with IP enforcement operations.

The department also launched a new intellectual property website http://www.justice.gov/iptf to serve as a both a resource to companies facing intellectual property challenges as well as a mechanism to educate the public on how intellectual property theft is a growing threat to the country's public safety and economic well-being.

Practice Tip: Intellectual property theft refers to the violation of criminal laws that protect copyrights, patents, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property and trade secrets both in the United State and abroad. Faulty and counterfeit products are often sold to unsuspecting consumers and can pose a significant threat to their health and safety. In a few circumstances, these activities are used to fund dangerous or violent criminal enterprises or organized crime networks.

October 14, 2015

Indiana Patent and Trademark Litigation: Global Archery Sues Seattle-Based Company for Infringement

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Fort Wayne, Indiana - An Indiana intellectual property attorney for Global Archery Products, Inc. of Ashley, Indiana commenced litigation in the Northern District of Indiana alleging trademark and patent infringement by Jordan Gwyther d/b/a Larping.org and UpshotArrows.com of Seattle, Washington.

Two patents are at issue in this lawsuit: U.S. Patent No. 8,449,413 (the "`413 Patent") and U.S. Patent No. 8,932,159 (the "`159 Patent"). Both are entitled "Non-Lethal Arrow." Also at issue are U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4,208,867 and 4,208,868 for ARCHERY TAG for use in connection with non-lethal arrows. The patents and trademarks have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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Global contends that Jordan Gwyther d/b/a Larping.org ("Larping") is selling and offering for sale several products including a "Crossbow Bolt," a "Flat Tip Larp Arrow," a "Glow in the Dark Larp Arrow" and a "Round Tip Larp Arrow." These arrows are marketed at www.upshotarrows.com. Global asserts that Larping is violating Global's trademark rights by, inter alia, using the ARCHERY TAG trademark on advertising and as a paid "key word" on one or more search engines in connection with the marketing of these products. Global also claims that Larping's products infringe upon two of Global's patents.

In addition to patent infringement and trademark infringement, Global asserts various additional claims against Larping. The counts listed in this federal lawsuit are as follows:

• Count I: Infringement of the '413 Patent by Larping
• Count II: Infringement of the '159 Patent by Larping
• Count III: Infringement of Federal Trademarks
• Count IV: False Designation of Origin/Unfair Competition
• Count V: False Advertising
• Count VI: Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations
• Count VII: Tortious Interference with Business Relationships
• Count VIII: Criminal Mischief

• Count IX: Deception

Global seeks equitable relief along with damages, including punitive damages, costs and attorney fees.

Continue reading "Indiana Patent and Trademark Litigation: Global Archery Sues Seattle-Based Company for Infringement" »

August 24, 2015

Introduction to Criminal Copyright Infringement - Fourth Element: Commercial Advantage or Private Financial Gain

The fourth element of a criminal prosecution for copyright infringement requires that the 

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government prove that the defendant engaged in an act of copyright infringement "for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain." It is unnecessary that a profit be made as a result of the infringing activities. This interpretation was intended to exclude from criminal liability those individuals who willfully infringe copyrights solely for their own personal use, although those individuals may still be pursued by the copyright holder in civil court.

It is a common misconception that if infringers do not charge subscribers a monetary fee for infringing copies, they cannot be found guilty of criminal copyright infringement. While evidence of discrete monetary transactions (i.e., the selling of infringing goods for a particular price) provides the clearest evidence of financial gain, such direct evidence is not a prerequisite for the government to prosecute.

Instead, the government gives a broader interpretation to the requirement of a "commercial or financial purpose." The Department of Justice's interpretation of the phrase "for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain" does not require the payment in money for infringing works. Instead, payment by trading anything of value for infringing copies could constitute seeking a "commercial advantage or private financial gain." Thus, "bartering" (i.e., the practice of exchanging infringing works for other infringing works) that results in the unauthorized dissemination of infringing product can trigger criminal prosecution.

August 17, 2015

Introduction to Criminal Copyright Infringement - Third Element: Willfulness

The third element of a criminal prosecution for copyright infringement requires that the 

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government establish that the defendant possessed criminal intent to infringe the holder's copyrighted work. Courts generally agree that a "willful" act must be "an act intentionally done in violation of the law."

However, in defining willfulness when it comes to copyright infringement, courts differ in their interpretations of which of the two acts - copying or infringing - requires willful intent. The minority view, endorsed by the Second and Ninth Circuits, holds that "willful" means only intent to copy, not intent to infringe. The majority view, however, looks for intent to infringe rather than merely intent to copy, thus, requiring the government to demonstrate a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty.

This construction provides a rare but significant exception to the maxim that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Indeed, under this construction, were a defendant to satisfy the finder of fact either that he was not aware of laws prohibiting copyright infringement, or that he did not believe his acts to be infringing, such might constitute a defense to the criminal charge. It would not constitute a defense to a civil lawsuit for copyright infringement, however, as civil infringement remains a strict liability wrongdoing.

August 14, 2015

Introduction to Criminal Copyright Infringement - Second Element: Infringement

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The second element of a criminal prosecution for copyright infringement requires that the government prove that the defendant infringed upon the holder's rights in its copyrighted intellectual property. Although the term "infringement" itself is not specifically defined in the copyright statute, 17 U.S.C. § 501(a) provides that: "[a]nyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by [17 U.S.C. §§ 106 to 118] . . . is an infringer of the copyright." Thus, the concept of infringement is defined by reference to the exclusive rights conferred on a copyright owner by 17 U.S.C. § 106. Those exclusive rights include the right to display or perform the work publicly, as set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 106(4)-(5), along with the right to reproduce and distribute copies of the work, as set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 106(1) and (3). The unauthorized exercise of these rights will constitute an act of infringement and will give rise to a civil infringement claim by the copyright holder and perhaps prosecution by the government.

Generally, infringement is established by evidence of copying. However, because copying often cannot be directly attributed to the defendant, copying can be established indirectly through evidence that the defendant had access to the original copyrighted work, and that the defendant's work is substantially similar to it.

With regard to prosecution for alleged infringement of copyrighted computer programs, a court must also decide separately whether or not the copies at issue were lawfully made under 17 U.S.C. § 117, which authorizes such duplication in certain circumstances. Thus, unlike copies of other types of copyrighted works, copies of computer programs are not automatically presumed to be unauthorized.

The concept of infringement includes a host of statutory exceptions to the exclusive rights created by copyright law, many of which involve conduct that is already specifically exempted from criminal liability by the heightened proof requirements of 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Other limitations, such as the fair use doctrine and the first sale doctrine, may also apply to criminal cases.

August 7, 2015

Introduction to Criminal Copyright Infringement - First Element: Existence of a Valid Copyright

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The first element of a criminal prosecution for copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) requires proof that the copyright at issue is a valid copyright. This may be established by demonstrating that the formal requirements of copyright registration have been satisfied. Although registration of a copyrighted work is not necessary to obtain copyright protection, it is usually required before prosecuting a copyright defendant in criminal court.

Registration of a copyright is typically proven by obtaining a certificate of registration from the Register of Copyrights. Under 17 U.S.C. § 410(c), a certificate of registration "made before or within five years after the first publication of the work shall constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright. . . ." If the defendant contests the validity of the copyright at issue as a defense in a criminal prosecution, the government would need to make an independent evidentiary showing that the copyright is valid. This would involve showing that the copyright was not obtained by fraud and the registration certificate is genuine.

July 31, 2015

Criminal Copyright Infringement - 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319

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The principal criminal statute protecting copyrighted works is 17 U.S.C. § 506(a), which provides that "[a]ny person who infringes a copyright willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain" shall be punished as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Section 2319 provides, in pertinent part, that a 5-year felony shall apply if the offense "consists of the reproduction or distribution, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies or phonorecords, of 1 or more copyrighted works, with a retail value of more than $2,500." 18 U.S.C. § 2319(b)(1).

The 1992 amendments to section 2319 have made it possible to pursue felony-level sanctions for violations relating to all types of copyrighted works, including computer software and other works written, stored or transmitted in a digital format, if the other elements of the statute are satisfied. Felony penalties attach only to violations of a victim's rights of reproduction or distribution in the quantity stated. A misdemeanor shall apply if the defendant does not meet the numerical and monetary thresholds, or if the defendant is involved in the infringement of the other rights bestowed upon the copyright holder, including the right to prepare derivative works, or the right to publicly perform a copyrighted work.

There are four essential elements to a charge of criminal copyright infringement: (1) that a valid copyright; (2) was infringed by the defendant; (3) willfully; and (4) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. Attempts to infringe are prohibited to the same extent as the completed act. Conspiracies to violate the Copyright Act can be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 371. A minority of courts also require that the government prove the absence of a first sale, and refer to this as a fifth element of a section 506(a) offense. However, the majority position is that the absence of a first sale is an affirmative defense.

The elements of criminal copyright infringement will be discussed in upcoming blog posts.

July 29, 2015

Criminal Copyright Law: An Introduction

The law of copyright is codified at Title 17 of the United States Code. The principal prohibitions relating to criminal copyright infringement are set forth at 17 U.S.C. § 506(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 2319. Titles 17 and 18 also contain a number of other provisions that make illegal certain practices which are inconsistent with Congress' copyright protection scheme.

In the past several years, these criminal sanctions have been revised significantly, and the penalties for criminal infringement of copyrights have been increased. Under the Copyright Felony Act of 1992, infringement of a copyrighted work may now constitute a felony under federal law, depending on the number of infringing copies reproduced or distributed in a 180-day period, and their retail value.

June 19, 2015

Indiana Trademark Litigation: ArcelorMittal Sues Arillotta et al. for Tarnishment, Deception and Forgery

Hammond, Indiana - Trademark attorneys for ArcelorMittal USA LLC of Chicago, Illinois sued alleging violations of intellectual property rights and other rights. The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Indiana, alleges that Albert Arillotta, Global Demolition and Recycling, LLC, NMC Metals Corporation, and Arillotta Enterprises, LLC, all of Swampscott, Massachusetts, engaged in false designation of origin and false endorsement; dilution by blurring and tarnishment; deception; forgery; and deceptive trade practices.

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ArcelorMittal is a producer and supplier of steel products. It owns and operates a steelmaking facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana. ArcelorMittal claims rights in federal trademark registrations to "ArcelorMittal" (Reg. Nos. 3908649 and 3643643) and "Mittal" (Reg. No. 4686413).

In 2012, Plaintiff ArcelorMittal solicited proposals for the installation of a pig iron casting machine at its Burns Harbor steelmaking facility. Plaintiff indicates that Arillotta, through his company Arillotta Enterprises, Inc., submitted a proposal for the project but that it was rejected. Nonetheless, contends ArcelorMittal, Arillotta subsequently represented to various third parties that "Arcelor Mittal Burns Harbor" and Defendant(s) had, in fact, entered into a contract for such an installation. Plaintiff further claims in its federal lawsuit that Arillotta forged the signature of two individuals, Michael Rippey and Louis Schorsch, listed as officers of ArcelorMittal, on documents related to this false claim.

Plaintiff also indicates in this lawsuit that Arillotta, when later unable to make payments owing on another contract, falsely claimed that ArcelorMittal would wire transfer $338,200.00 to cover an initial payment. When no such payment was forthcoming, because Plaintiff indicates that no such agreement existed, the payee on that contract then began to demand the money directly from ArcelorMittal.

ArcelorMittal contends that, in sum, "Arillotta has forged contracts and purchase orders purporting to represent in excess of ten million dollars ($10,000,00.00) worth of commercial activities between the defendant companies and ArcelorMittal when, in fact, ArcelorMittal has not hired Arillotta or his companies to perform any of the work shown in the forged contracts and purchase orders."

In its complaint against Arillotta and the other Defendants, trademark lawyers for ArcelorMittal list the following counts:

• Count I: False Designation of Origin and False Endorsement
• Count II: Dilution by Blurring and Tarnishment
• Count III: Deception
• Count IV: Forgery
• Count V: Deceptive Trade Practices

Plaintiff ArcelorMittal asks the court for injunctive relief, money damages, costs and attorneys' fees.

Continue reading "Indiana Trademark Litigation: ArcelorMittal Sues Arillotta et al. for Tarnishment, Deception and Forgery" »

May 28, 2015

New EFF "404" Report Shows How Restrictive Copyright Policies Stifle Online Speech Worldwide

San Francisco, California - Overly-broad intellectual property ("IP") laws in Russia, Colombia, and Pakistan - which U.S. trade regulators say aren't tough enough - stifle access to innovation and threaten artists, students, and creators around the globe with prison, censorship, and state prosecution, the Electronic Frontier Foundation ("EFF") said in a new report released recently.

EFF's "Special 404 Report" is a response to the "Special 301 Report." The latter report, which EFF called biased and "a deeply flawed annual assessment of international intellectual property rights policies," was released in April by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative ("USTR"). The Special 301 Report is used to pressure countries to adopt IP laws supported by some powerful business interests.

In a first-of-its-kind analysis countering what EFF called the USTR's "name and shame" tactics, EFF argues that the Special 301 Report paints a one-sided picture of IP rights and fails to disclose the damaging results of draconian IP policies. Examples include a human rights activist in Russia who was targeted by prosecutors using criminal copyright law, a biologist in Colombia who faces prison for sharing research, and students in Pakistan who struggle to exercise their rights under local law to study academic papers.

"The Special 301 Report is built on an opaque process that echoes the desires of certain members of private industry, like Hollywood rights holders," said Jeremy Malcolm, EFF senior global policy analyst. "It's meant to push countries to adopt stiffer IP laws, even if such laws aren't in the best interests of the citizens of that country. Our report shows how, in countries targeted by the USTR report, stringent intellectual property laws have had shameful and frightening consequences."

EFF's 404 report - named after the error code that appears on the web to show browsers that something is missing - features case studies from Canada, Chile, Pakistan, Romania, Colombia, and Russia. In addition to showing the chilling effects of copyright policies that the Special 301 Report condemns as not tough enough, the 404 report also highlights how flexible fair use interpretations can benefit communities, culture, and the economy. Additionally, EFF covers flaws in the USTR report, including lack of balance, questionable legal basis, lack of set criteria for analyzing copyright policies, and exclusion of a means by which countries can challenge findings.

"Our report puts a human face on the victims of defective IP policy, and tells the story of Diego Gomez, a masters student in Colombia who could be jailed and face huge fines after the government criminally prosecuted him for sharing an academic paper on Scribd,'' said Maira Sutton, EFF global policy analyst. "Countries around the globe should be skeptical when considering the recommendations of the USTR Special 301 Report and push for fair use and open access when adopting and enforcing IP laws."

For the full report visit: https://www.eff.org/special-404

This edited article as provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group which advocates for innovators and users of technology. The article has been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

May 27, 2015

Chinese Professors Among Six Defendants Charged with Economic Espionage and Theft of Trade Secrets

Los Angeles, California - Chinese professors have been accused of having stolen valuable technology from Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions to benefit a university in the People's Republic of China.

On May 16, 2015, Tianjin University Professor Hao Zhang was arrested upon entry into the United States from the People's Republic of China ("PRC") in connection with a recent superseding indictment in the Northern District of California, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson of the FBI's San Francisco Division.

The 32-count indictment, which had previously been sealed, charges a total of six individuals with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets for their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of universities and companies controlled by the PRC government.

"According to the charges in the indictment, the defendants leveraged their access to and knowledge of sensitive U.S. technologies to illegally obtain and share U.S. trade secrets with the PRC for economic advantage," said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. "Economic espionage imposes great costs on American businesses, weakens the global marketplace and ultimately harms U.S. interests worldwide. The National Security Division will continue to relentlessly identify, pursue and prosecute offenders wherever the evidence leads. I would like to thank all the agents, analysts and prosecutors who are responsible for this indictment."

"As today's case demonstrates, sensitive technology developed by U.S. companies in Silicon Valley and throughout California continues to be vulnerable to coordinated and complex efforts sponsored by foreign governments to steal that technology," said U.S. Attorney Haag. "Combating economic espionage and trade secret theft remains one of the top priorities of this Office."

"The conduct alleged in this superseding indictment reveals a methodical and relentless effort by foreign interests to obtain and exploit sensitive and valuable U.S. technology through the use of individuals operating within the United States," said Special Agent in Charge Johnson. "Complex foreign-government sponsored schemes, such as the activity identified here, inflict irreversible damage to the economy of the United States and undercut our national security. The FBI is committed to rooting out industrial espionage that puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage in the global market."

According to the indictment, PRC nationals Wei Pang and Hao Zhang met at a U.S. university in Southern California during their doctoral studies in electrical engineering. While there, Pang and Zhang conducted research and development on thin-film bulk acoustic resonator ("FBAR") technology under funding from U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). After each earned a doctorate in approximately 2005, Pang accepted employment as an FBAR engineer with Avago Technologies ("Avago") in Colorado and Zhang accepted employment as an FBAR engineer with Skyworks Solutions Inc. ("Skyworks") in Massachusetts. The stolen trade secrets alleged in the indictment belong to Avago or Skyworks.

Avago is a designer, developer and global supplier of FBAR technology, which is a specific type of radio frequency (RF) filter. Throughout Zhang's employment, Skyworks was also a designer and developer of FBAR technology. FBAR technology is primarily used in mobile devices like cellular telephones, tablets and GPS devices. FBAR technology filters incoming and outgoing wireless signals so that a user only receives and transmits the specific communications intended by the user. Apart from consumer applications, FBAR technology has numerous applications for a variety of military and defense communications technologies.

According to the indictment, in 2006 and 2007, Pang, Zhang and other co-conspirators prepared a business plan and began soliciting PRC universities and others, seeking opportunities to start manufacturing FBAR technology in China. Through efforts outlined in the superseding indictment, Pang, Zhang and others established relationships with officials from Tianjin University. Tianjin University is a leading PRC Ministry of Education University located in the PRC and one of the oldest universities in China.

As set forth in the indictment, in 2008, officials from Tianjin University flew to San Jose, California, to meet with Pang, Zhang and other co-conspirators. Shortly thereafter, Tianjin University agreed to support Pang, Zhang and others in establishing an FBAR fabrication facility in the PRC. Pang and Zhang continued to work for Avago and Skyworks in close coordination with Tianjin University. In mid-2009, both Pang and Zhang simultaneously resigned from the U.S. companies and accepted positions as full professors at Tianjin University. Tianjin University later formed a joint venture with Pang, Zhang and others under the company name ROFS Microsystem intending to mass produce FBARs.

The indictment alleges that Pang, Zhang and other co-conspirators stole recipes, source code, specifications, presentations, design layouts and other documents marked as confidential and proprietary from the victim companies and shared the information with one another and with individuals working for Tianjin University.

According to the indictment, the stolen trade secrets enabled Tianjin University to construct and equip a state-of-the-art FBAR fabrication facility, to open ROFS Microsystems, a joint venture located in PRC state-sponsored Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA), and to obtain contracts for providing FBARs to commercial and military entities.

The six indicted defendants include:

• Hao Zhang, 36, a citizen of the PRC, is a former Skyworks employee and a full professor at Tianjin University. Zhang is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, economic espionage and theft of trade secrets. Zhang was arrested upon entry into the United States on May 16, 2015.

• Wei Pang, 35, a citizen of the PRC, is a former Avago employee and a full professor at Tianjin University. Pang is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.

• Jinping Chen, 41, a citizen of the PRC, is a professor at Tianjin University and a member of the board of directors for ROFS Microsystems. Chen is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.

• Huisui Zhang ("Huisui"), 34, a citizen of the PRC, studied with Pang and Zhang at a U.S. university in Southern California and received a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering in 2006. Huisui is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.

• Chong Zhou, 26, a citizen of the PRC, is a Tianjin University graduate student and a design engineer at ROFS Microsystem. Zhou studied under Pang and Zhang, and is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.

• Zhao Gang, 39, a citizen of the PRC, is the General Manager of ROFS Microsystems. Gang is charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.

The maximum statutory penalty for each of the charges alleged in the superseding indictment is as follows:

• Count One: conspiracy to commit economic espionage: 15 years imprisonment; $500,000 fine or twice the gross gain/loss; three years' supervised release; and $100 special assessment.

• Count Two: conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets: 10 years imprisonment; $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain/loss; three years' supervised release; and $100 special assessment.

• Counts Three through Seventeen: economic espionage; aiding and abetting: 15 years imprisonment; $500,000 fine or twice the gross gain/loss; three years' supervised release; and $100 special assessment.

• Counts Eighteen through Thirty-Two: theft of trade secrets; aiding and abetting: 10 years imprisonment; $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain/loss; three years' supervised release; and $100 special assessment.

Zhang was arrested on May 16, 2015, upon landing at the Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from the PRC. He made his initial appearance recently in Los Angeles before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg of the Central District of California, who ordered the defendant transported in custody to San Jose for further proceedings. His next scheduled appearance will be before the U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila of the Northern District of California, at a date to be determined.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI's Palo Alto Resident Agency/San Francisco Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matt Parrella and Dave Callaway of the Northern District of California, in consultation with the National Security Division's Counterespionage Section.

Zhang Superseding Indictment