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Originally published September 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 20, 2007 at 4:50 PM


Business Digest

Starbucks sued for alleged patent infringement

Starbucks was sued for allegedly infringing another company's patented design for a nonelectric coffee maker. Bodum USA, based in New York...


Infringement of patent alleged

Starbucks was sued for allegedly infringing another company's patented design for a nonelectric coffee maker.

Bodum USA, based in New York, accused Seattle-based Starbucks of copying its silver-domed glass carafe design and selling the copy as its own "Anniversary Press" coffee maker. Both products are available in the U.S., according to the complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Chicago. The suit seeks more than $10 million in damages.

"Starbucks has sold Bodum's coffee makers for at least 20 years in its stores and, therefore, is well aware of Bodum's trade dress and celebrity," attorney David Bennett wrote in the complaint, referring to the look and reputation of the company's products.

Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman said the company wasn't aware of the complaint and couldn't immediately comment.

Oil prices

Record highs reached again

Oil prices reached record highs for the seventh straight session Wednesday after refineries in California and Texas said they had new outages and the government reported surprisingly large declines in oil inventories.

While oil futures jumped to a new trading high of $82.51 a barrel in the moments after the inventory report was released in the morning, they spent much of the day alternating between gains and losses before reports of refinery failures led to late-session buying.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery rose 42 cents to settle at a record $81.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Dow Jones Newswires reported that ExxonMobil shut down a crude-processing unit at its 348,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Beaumont, Texas, and that a piece of gasoline-making equipment at Chevron's 266,000 barrel-a-day refinery in El Segundo, Calif., had been shut down. The impact on production was unclear.



Materials in Nano now cost 19% less

Apple cut the cost of materials in one of its latest iPod Nano models to the lowest ever, research firm iSuppli says.

Analysts iSuppli took apart the new 4-gigabyte Nano to identify its components. The $149 device's parts cost Apple $59, a 19 percent decrease from the 2006 version, the research firm said Wednesday in a report.

The analysis, which doesn't reflect marketing, research or packaging costs, found that almost all the new Nano's components were from manufacturers that hadn't contributed to earlier versions.

Boise-based Micron Technology made the new Nano's flash memory, the most expensive component. It's the first time iSuppli has found Micron parts in an iPod.


PlayStation 3's "Home" delayed

In yet another embarrassing setback for Sony, the company said today it is delaying until spring the launch of its "Home" virtual world for PlayStation 3, initially planned for later this year.

The announcement at the Tokyo Game Show came from Kazuo Hirai in his first major public appearance as new CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. The delay is to improve the product's quality, he said.

"Home" is a real-time interactive online world much like Linden Lab's "Second Life." Sony has shown the demonstration video with much fanfare, promising new kinds of businesses, such as advertising and electronic shopping, as well as games.

Hirai, acknowledged the game console had failed to live up to sales targets. He promised to listen more to complaints and suggestions from game creators and fans.

Apple Computer

SEC subpoenas Jobs for deposition

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission to give a deposition in a backdating lawsuit against the company's former general counsel, two people familiar with the matter said.

The subpoena isn't part of an SEC investigation, one said. It seeks Jobs' testimony in the SEC's lawsuit against Nancy Heinen, who was sued for allegedly backdating stock-option grants to Jobs and members of his executive team, said the people, who requested anonymity.

Heinen was sued for allegedly backdating a 7.5 million share-option grant to Jobs in 2001 and an earlier grant to his executive team. Jobs recommended some favorable dates on options other than his own, Apple said last year.


Switch to digital TV is said to lack leader

A congressional investigator warned a Senate panel Wednesday there is no lead agency responsible for helping the U.S. navigate the shift to digital TV broadcasting.

"It is pretty clear to us that there is no one in charge," Mark Goldstein, director of physical infrastructure issues with the General Accountability Office (GAO), told the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Nondigital television sets that are not attached to a cable or satellite service and not equipped with special converter boxes will no longer work when broadcasters stop transmitting analog signals Feb. 18, 2009.

Goldstein said there is a lack of coordination between the agencies in charge of the transition: the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

He suggested the lead agency should probably be the FCC, but noted "there seems to be some confusion" between Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and other commissioners about the agency's responsibilities.

Sprint Nextel

CEO says 2 systems about 80% linked

More than two years after the acquisition that formed Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest wireless provider is about 80 percent done weaving the two sides together, the company's chief executive officer said Wednesday.

In a meeting with analysts in New York, Gary Forsee also said the company should see profit margins improve as it begins next year to pare down its two wireless networks to create one.

Sprint, based in Reston, Va., with operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., bought Nextel Communications in August 2005 and has struggled with technical problems that led hundreds of thousands of customers to drop the service.

This year, the company began selling hybrid phones that work on both the Nextel network and Sprint's regular CDMA network, and it expects to have 2 million of the devices operating by the end of the year, Forsee said.


Economist warns of serious recession

A Yale economist who has long predicted this decade's housing market bubble would deflate says the residential real-estate downturn could spiral into "the most severe since the Great Depression" and could lead to a recession.

Robert Shiller, in testimony for a hearing of Congress' Joint Economic Committee, said the loss of a boom mentality among the public may bring on a drop in consumer confidence that poses a "significant risk" of a recession within the next year.

Meanwhile, Congressional Budget Office chief Peter Orszag said financial-market turmoil and weakened consumer confidence pose economic threats but are not likely to cause a recession.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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UPDATE - 09:32 AM
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UPDATE - 07:54 AM
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