U.S. Patents, AstraZeneca, Rowling, Apple, Cristal: Intellectual Property

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would increase funding for the Patent and Trademark Office by $129 million to help the agency reduce a backlog of patent applications.

President Barack Obama requested funding this month, saying the money for salaries and expenses would help spur innovation by making the agency more effective. His administration has linked intellectual property protection with economic expansion.

The patent office is struggling to reduce a backlog of more than 700,000 applications as of Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year. On average, it takes 34.6 months to complete the process for gaining patent protection and the office is seeking to reduce that to 20 months by fiscal 2014.

U.S. manufacturing and competitiveness are “enhanced” by obtaining patents, Brian Pomper, director of the lobbying group Innovation Alliance, said in a statement. The group’s members include Qualcomm Inc., the biggest maker of mobile-phone chip; trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald LP; and LSI Corp., which makes chips that control hard disks and computer networks.

Without legislation, any revenue collected by the agency from fees that exceed its $1.89 billion current annual budget would be deposited with the U.S. Treasury to be spent by Congress on other programs.

Obama has proposed a $2.32 billion budget for the agency in the year starting Oct. 1. The agency plans to hire 1,000 patent examiners in each of the next two fiscal years to reach its goal of reducing the pending-application rate. In fiscal 2009, the agency stopped hiring and cut back programs because fee collections fell.

The measure is H.R. 5874.


AstraZeneca Lifts Forecast, Buyback Amid Brilinta Win

AstraZeneca Plc raised its earnings forecast for the third time this year and doubled a share buyback plan as the anti-clot drug Brilinta moved one step closer to approval and a U.S. court upheld a patent on the Crestor cholesterol medicine.

The U.K.’s second-largest drugmaker won the backing of a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel July 28 for approval of Brilinta, a potential rival to Sanofi-Aventis SA and Bristol- Myers Squibb Co.’s Plavix, which had $9.8 billion in sales last year. The company also won a legal victory last month when a U.S. court upheld a patent on Crestor, RE37,314, removing a threat to the drug’s $4.5 billion in revenue.

The company will attempt to introduce Brilinta in nine markets other than the U.S., including Europe, Canada and Brazil, Chief Executive Officer David Brennan said on a conference call yesterday.

Outside advisers to the FDA voted 7-1 July 28 in favor of using Brilinta to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death in patients with severe chest pain or earlier heart attacks. The FDA is scheduled to decide on Brilinta in September.

AstraZeneca is relying on small acquisitions, expansion in emerging markets and treatments from its own labs to replenish revenue over the next four years as patents expire on top- sellers Nexium for ulcers and the antipsychotic Seroquel, medicines that generated a combined $9.83 billion last year.

For more, click here, and for video of Brennan’s interview, click here.

Covidien Wins Reversal of Becton Dickinson Verdict

Covidien Plc won its bid to reverse a $58 million damage award to Becton, Dickinson & Co. over a patent related to safety needles.

A federal appeals court yesterday said the trial judge erred in his interpretation of the patent and should have ruled that Covidien didn’t infringe the patent.

The dispute focused on hypodermic needles that have a guard to prevent people from getting accidentally stuck. The opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals from the Federal Circuit was posted on the court’s website.

The needle shields are used with one hand, and slide forward after use to cover the tip and avoid accidental “sticks” that might transmit AIDS or hepatitis through the blood to medical workers.

The original case is Becton, Dickinson & Co. v. Tyco Healthcare Group LP, 02-CV-1694, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington). The appeals case is Becton, Dickinson & Co. v. Tyco Healthcare Group LP, 2009-1053,-1111, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).

To see the patent, click: 5,348,544.

Colgate Seeks Trademark Ruling on GlaxoSmithKline

Colgate-Palmolive Co. asked a federal court to rule that its new “Triple Action” toothpaste doesn’t infringe GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s trademarks for its Aquafresh product.

Colgate said in its complaint that consumers won’t be confused by similarities between the products. The company also argued Glaxo hasn’t sought to assert trademarks on the product in the past, signaling it recognizes the toothpaste’s tri-color design and the phrase “Triple Protection” aren’t “source identifying.”

Colgate’s request for a ruling came in response to GlaxoSmithKline’s applications for new trademarks for Aquafresh. Colgate’s complaint said the applications showed Glaxo’s intent to gain exclusive rights to the so-called nurdle design. The New York-based company asked the court in Manhattan to cancel those marks.

Glaxo filed the new trademark applications for the nurdle design after it raised objections with Colgate about the branding of Colgate’s new product, according to the complaint.

The case is Colgate-Palmolive Co. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, 10-5728, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For other patent news from yesterday, click here.


Rowling Seeks Dismissal of Author’s Suit, Telegraph Says

A lawyer for J.K. Rowling, author of the “Harry Potter” books, asked the High Court in London to dismiss a copyright- infringement lawsuit brought by the estate of Adrian Jacobs, author of a book about wizards, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.

The estate claims that Rowling plagiarized from Jacob’s book. Rowling didn’t copy Jacobs’s work and the case should be dismissed before going to trial, barrister John C. Baldwin told the High Court on July 28, according to the newspaper.

Both books included wizards and a wizards’ contest, and references to trains, the Telegraph said.

The estate sued Rowling and her British publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, in June 2009. At the time, Rowling said she had never heard of Jacobs or his 1987 book, “Adventures of Willy the Wizard: Livid Land No. 1,” before the first accusations of plagiarism were made in 2004.

The estate brought a related lawsuit in federal court in New York against Scholastic Corp. and claimed that Rowling and Jacobs shared the same literary agent.

The U.K. case is Paul Gregory Allen v. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, HC091979, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division. The U.S. case is Paul Gregory Allen v. Scholastic Inc., 1:10-cv-05445, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

For other copyright news, click here.


Apple Sues Companies Over Knockoff IPod, IPad Gear

Apple Inc. sued companies it said are selling unauthorized electronic accessories such as chargers, speakers and cables for the iPod music player, iPhone and iPad tablet computer.

Many of the accessories are of “inferior quality and reliability, raising significant concerns over compatibility with and damage to Apple’s products,” Apple said in the complaint, filed in federal court in San Francisco.

In the complaint, Cupertino, California-based Apple said the unauthorized products are infringing as many as 10 patents and violating its trademarks. Apple collects a royalty of 20 percent to 25 percent from each sale of a licensed accessory, according to Shaw Wu, an analyst with Kaufman Bros. LP in San Francisco.

The complaint, filed July 22 in federal court in San Francisco, identifies six sellers based in California and one in Washington and said Apple could name as many as 20 more companies. Calls or e-mails to five of the companies weren’t immediately returned, and contact information for two companies couldn’t be obtained.

Apple is represented in the case by Theodore T. Herold, Andrew T. Oliver and Robert D. Tadlock of Townsend & Townsend & Crew, LLP in Palo Alto, California.

The defendants haven’t yet responded to the suit.

The case is Apple Inc. v. eForCity Corp., 10-3216, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Champagne Louis Roederer Wins Cristal Trademark Case

Champagne Louis Roederer, the maker of Cristal, won a trademark infringement case against J. Garcia Carrion SA over the labeling of sparkling wine.

Reims, France-based Roederer sued winemaker Garcia Carrion in 2006, saying the Spanish company began importing Cristalino sparkling wine into the U.S. long after Cristal was introduced in the country.

Garcia Carrion and distributor CIV USA must restrict the use of the “Cristalino” brand on the products they sell in the U.S., U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen in Minneapolis said in a July 27 order. Garcia Carrion may use “Cristalino” only as part of the phrase “Jaume Serra Cristalino” along with a disclaimer stating the product isn’t affiliated with Cristal or Roederer, Ericksen said.

She also restricted the use of lettering and colors on Cristalino bottles.

Roederer began making Cristal champagne after being asked to produce a wine for Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1876 and has been selling it in the U.S. since 1937.

The case is Champagne Louis Roederer v. J. Garcia Carrion SA, 06-00213, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.

For other trademark news from last week, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carla Main in Jersey City, New Jersey, at cmain2@bloomberg.net.

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