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Patent court torn on software

The nation’s top patent court issued a deeply divided opinion Friday on how to determine if software is eligible for legal protection, reflecting the broader debate that has split the computer industry.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which handles all patent appeals, issued a 135-page decision by 10 circuit judges that included five viewpoints and “additional reflections” from Chief Judge Randall Rader.

“We have propounded at least three incompatible standards, devoid of consensus, serving simply to add to the unreliability and cost of the system of patents as an incentive for innovation,” Circuit Judge Pauline Newman wrote.

Google, Facebook and JPMorgan Chase are among the companies that argued that patent standards for software are too lax. A group whose members include software-makers Microsoft and Oracle warned the appeals court that limiting protection for software could hurt the nation’s economy.

The case centered on patents owned by Melbourne, Australia- based Alice Corp. over ways to minimize risk in certain computerized-trading platforms. The court ruled CLS Bank International won’t have to face patent-infringement claims by Alice Corp.

True Religion Apparel agrees to buyout offer

True Religion Apparel, best known for its high-priced denim, has agreed to a buyout offer of about $826 million from the investment management firm TowerBrook Capital Partners LP.

The announcement Friday comes seven months after True Religion said it was exploring strategic options. Like many high-end jean companies, True Religion saw its business suffer in recent years as recession-scarred shoppers no longer wanted to pay $200 for a pair of jeans.

In March, its CEO Jeff Lubell stepped down and was named chairman emeritus and a creative consultant.

TowerBrook Capital has previously invested in companies including designer shoe marketer Jimmy Choo and athletic apparel retailer Odlo but has since sold those stakes.

Government sells more shares of GM

The government has sold another piece of its stake in General Motors Co. The Treasury Department said Friday in its April report to Congress that this year it has sold 58.4 million shares of GM stock and earned net proceeds of $1.6 billion.

At the end of April, Treasury had recovered about $30.7 billion of the $49.5 billion bailout it gave the Detroit automaker. That means that taxpayers are still $18.8 billion in the hole.

GM stock sold in April in a range of $27.52 to $30.84 per share. For the government to break even on its investment, the remaining stock would have to sell for more than double the April high.

On Friday GM shares closed at $31.42, down 23 cents.

US officials probe Corvette headlamps

U.S. auto safety regulators are investigating complaints that the low-beam headlights can go dark without warning on some Chevrolet Corvettes.

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers more than 103,000 Corvettes from the 2005 through 2007 model years.

The agency says it has gotten 30 complaints from owners. No crashes or injuries have been reported.

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