Twitter, Pfizer, Reynolds: Intellectual Property

Lawyers representing Newt Gingrich have sent a cease-and-desist letter to an advocacy group, accused it of trademark infringement for using the former Speaker of the House’s name in communications on Twitter Inc.

Washington’s McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP sent the letter to the Truth About EFCA.Org, an advocacy group based in Ontario, California, that favors the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, known as the EFCA.

Using the names of Gingrich, Saul Anuzis and the American Solutions for Winning the Future infringes trademarks, constituted false advertising, commits wire fraud and violates both Twitter’s online agreement and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to the letter. Such postings also can trigger charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the firm said in the letter.

Anuziz is the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. American Solutions is an advocacy group founded by Gingrich and others. It’s known for promoting oil drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Reserve and for opposing EFCA, which would make it easier for employees to join labor unions.

According to documents attached to the letter, Twitter postings advocating the EFCA legislation invite others to “join@newtgingrich @Sanuzis in signing the EFCA Freedom Not Fear petition.”

San Francisco-based Twitter provides a real-time short messaging service through which users send 140-character updates to each other about their lives. A Twitter message with the “@” sign before a user name is regarded as addressed to the person who uses that name.

The letter, signed by McKenna partner Stefan C. Passantino, doesn’t see it that way. Instead, it threatens legal action for which “enhanced monetary damages and perhaps even personal or criminal liability for responsible companies and individuals are available.”

Patents

Pfizer Adds to Generics Business in Deal With Indian Drugmakers

Pfizer Inc. agreed to buy rights to 75 generic drugs from India’s Aurobindo Pharma Ltd. and Claris Lifesciences Ltd. as part of its strategy to increase sales of cheaper medicines in developing countries.

The New York-based drugmaker will purchase rights from Hyderabad, India-based Aurobindo to 60 generic treatments for infections and mental illness that will be sold in 70 countries, including China, India and Brazil, Pfizer said yesterday in a statement. Its agreement with Claris, of Ahmedabad, India, adds 15 injectable drugs that are now off patent. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, plans to add at least $3 billion in annual revenue from sales in developing countries by 2012, said Jean-Michel Halfon, head of Pfizer’s emerging markets unit. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Kindler is trying to cut dependence on brand-name prescription medicines sold mostly in the U.S. and Europe and offset $10 billion that the company expects to lose when rival copies of its top-selling cholesterol pill Lipitor reach the market. Lipitor loses patent protection in 2011.

“We will be able to offer medicines now not just to the middle of the pyramid but also to the bottom of the pyramid in emerging markets,” said Halfon in a telephone interview. “It is very important for Pfizer to be able to serve the patients in emerging markets and meet the specific needs of these patients.”

Most of the medicines will be targeted at lower- to middle- class people in developing nations, Pfizer said.

About a quarter of Pfizer’s 2008 sales came from 300 products that have lost patent protection. Pfizer said in March that it plans to add more than 200 pills and 60 injections to its generic business.

Star Scientific Seeks Damages Against Reynolds American

Reynolds American Inc. violated a patented formula for reducing carcinogens in cigarettes, Star Scientific Inc. claimed at the start of a trial where it may seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

“We’re here today because Reynolds Tobacco Co. stole our invention,” Richard McMillan, an attorney for Petersburg, Virginia-based Star, told a federal jury in Baltimore.

Jonnie Williams, Star’s chief executive officer, created the “gold standard” for reducing tobacco-specific nitrosamines, which cause lung cancer, using an old Maytag clothing dryer and microwave ovens from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., McMillan told the jury. Reynolds later took that invention as its own, Star claims.

U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis initially threw out the case in June 2007, saying Star deceived the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in obtaining formal rights to the invention. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed that order, finding Garbis’s decision was “based on factual findings that we deem clearly erroneous.”

Reynolds claims the patent is invalid and that the curing process used by the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based company was invented by its own scientists.

“By the time Williams applied” for a patent, Reynolds was “already using a separate method for curing tobacco,” Richard Kaplan, a Reynolds attorney, told the 14 jurors. Twelve of them will decide the case.

Star didn’t say how much it is seeking in court. Paul Perito, Star’s chief operating officer, said in an interview in November that damages may total more than $1 billion if the jury finds Reynolds willfully infringed the patent.

In addition to damages, Star also might seek to bar Reynolds from selling tobacco that uses the same curing process.

Star initially sued Reynolds in 2001 over its StarCured process. Garbis on March 20 denied a Reynolds request to suspend the jury trial while the patent was being examined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Last week, Garbis rejected a Reynolds request to have Star’s patents declared invalid. In his May 14 order, Garbis said the patents’ validity is up to the jury to decide.

The case is Star Scientific Inc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 01cv1504, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Renew Cross-Licensing Agreement

Microsoft Corp., the largest software company in the world, renewed a patent cross-licensing agreement with Hewlett-Packard Co., the two companies said in a joint statement yesterday.

Terms of the agreement, which covers a broad range of products, weren’t disclosed. The patent portfolio belonging to Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard covers printing, personal computing, software, services and information technology infrastructure.

In a conference call, Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd said yesterday Hewlett-Packard’s sales of printers and personal computers have shown no signs of rebounding. The company announced it was cutting another 6,400 jobs in the next 12 months.

Copyright

Google to Digitize University of Michigan Library

Google Inc. signed an agreement to create digital versions of millions of works in the library of the University of Michigan, the first school to reach a deal with Google since the company settled a copyright lawsuit.

The agreement amends a contract between the school and Mountain View, California-based Google to make complete books available to the public on the Internet, Kelly Cunningham, a Michigan spokeswoman, said yesterday in a phone interview. Before, books under copyright had a limited number of pages available, she said from the school in Ann Arbor.

The University of Michigan, which is receiving no money from Google, will get free access to the online collection for 25 years, Cunningham said. The school’s library has about 8 million works, with about 75 percent under copyright, said Jack Bernard, assistant general counsel for the school. Google has been scanning Michigan’s books and journals since 2004, and so far has digitized about 3 million, Bernard said. The deal will expand the public’s access to books that were inaccessible because of copyright law, he said.

“Lots of copyrighted material is no longer in print, so you can’t buy them, and it’s often hard to determine who the rights holder is, so it’s difficult to put them back into print, Bernard said. “We’re going to make these works available to the public.”

Google reached a $125 million settlement in October with the Author’s Guild, an advocacy group in New York, and book publishers including McGraw-Hill Cos., based in New York, and John Wiley & Sons Inc., based in Hoboken, New Jersey, which claimed Google’s scanning project was a violation of copyright law. The settlement gives authors and publishers 63 percent of any revenue Google gets from selling licenses to individuals and other institutions, as well as from placing advertising next to the books.

As part of the settlement, authors can opt out of the deal and their books won’t be in Google’s collection, Bernard said.

“We’re thrilled to work with the university to promote the public’s access to knowledge and to ensure that people will be able to use these books for generations to come,” said Jennie Johnson, a spokeswoman for Google.

Google operates the world’s most-used Internet search engine. One of the company’s founders, Larry Page, graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

The settled cases were The Author’s Guild v. Google Inc., 05cv8136 and McGraw-Hill Cos. v Google Inc., 05cv8881, both U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Amazon’s a9.com Wins Dismissal of Perfect 10 Infringement Claim

Amazon.com Inc.’s a9.com unit won dismissal of copyright- infringement claims brought by Perfect 10 Inc.

Perfect 10, publisher of a men’s magazine featuring photos of nude women, sued Amazon and its a9.com unit for copyright infringement in federal court in Los Angeles in June 2005.

The suit related to thumbnail images of its photos that came up as results of A9’s offering of search results from various sources. People put photos from the magazine online, and they were found by search engines.

On May 12, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz kicked out Perfect 10’s claims of contributory infringement against A9. He said that Perfect 10 had failed to send a9 copyright infringement notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Sending them to Amazon wasn’t sufficient, he said in his order. He noted that the procedure for making copyright- infringement claims was published on A9’s Web site from its inception, including an address and telephone number in Palo Alto, California, and a link that would take the user to an online complaint form.

Norman Zada, Perfect 10’s president, sent Amazon eight different DMCA take-down notices relating to the magazine’s content that was allegedly showing up on A9. He didn’t send these to A9, according to court papers.

Matz said that A9 had complied with all the requirements of the DMCA, so was entitled to the law’s “safe harbor” protections.

The case is Perfect 10 v. Amazon.com Inc., 2:05-cv-04753- AHM-SH, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

SulphCo Wins Dismissal of IP Talisman’s Misappropriation Suit

SulphCo Inc., a U.S. maker of equipment that removes sulfur from oil, won dismissal of an IP misappropriation case brought by Talisman Capital Talon Fund Ltd.

Talisman had sued Houston-based SulphCo in federal court in Reno, Nevada, in June 2005. Talismal claimed that when Rudolph W. Gunnerman transferred IP rights, including trade secrets, formulae, data, records and software to Capitol Strategies Fund in April 2003, this included his sulfur-removal technology. Capitol Strategies then assigned all its rights to the IP covered in that agreement to Talisman in May 2005.

Gunnerman was the founder of Clean Fuels Technology, a company established to develop cleaner burning fuels. The court ruled, in an order handed down May 14, that the technology Gunnerman developed at Clean Fuels Technology is what was transferred first to Capitol Strategies and then to Talisman.

The court said SulphCo, a company Gunnerman started in 2000, used a different technology unrelated to his work at Clean Fuels.

U.S. District Judge Brian E. Sandoval noted that in November 2000, Gunnerman entered into an agreement with Clean Fuels Technology in which the company acknowledged Gunnerman was free to develop the sulfur-removal technology at SulphCo, and that this was “separate and apart from” the original company.

These agreements are “legal and binding,” Judge Sandoval said, and tossed out the case.

Talisman was represented by Aimee M. Quirk, Andrew R. Lee and Emily E. Eagan of New Orleans-based Jones, Walker, Waechte, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre and Kent R. Robison of Reno’s Robison, Belaustegui, Sharp & Low.

Gunnerman and SulphCo were represented by Benjamin G. Chew and T. Michael Guiffre of Washington’s Patton Boggs LLP; Jeffrey M. Tillotson and John D. Volney of Dallas-based Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox LLP; and Jack G. Angaran of Reno’s Georgeson Angaran Chtd.

The case is Talisman Capital Talon Fund Ltd. v. Rudolf W. Gunnerman, 3:05-sv000354-BES-VPC, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Reno).

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at vslindflor@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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