The U.S. Supreme Court gave generic-drug makers a boost in seeking federal approval for treatments, ruling that they can sue their brand-name rivals for overstating the reach of their patents.
The justices yesterday unanimously sided with Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Inc., a generic-drug company trying to sell a lower-cost version of Novo Nordisk AS’s Prandin diabetes drug.
The decision gives generic companies what they say is an important tool to prevent brand-name drug makers from abusing the Food and Drug Administration approval process to thwart competition. It overturns a lower-court ruling that a 2010 Morgan Stanley research report said would have let brand-name companies delay generic versions of select drugs.
Caraco and its parent company, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (SUNP), contend that Novo improperly extended its monopoly over Prandin until 2018 by misrepresenting to the FDA the reach of one of its patents.
The case is Caraco v. Novo Nordisk, 10-844, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).
Cox Communications Sues Sprint Over Telecommunications Patents
Cox Communications Inc. sued a Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) unit in Delaware federal court, seeking a ruling that it doesn’t infringe 12 Sprint telecommunications patents and that the patents aren’t valid.
Cox, based in Atlanta, also contends Sprint Communications Co. is infringing two of its patents for data management, according to a complaint filed yesterday in Wilmington.
“There is a substantial controversy between the parties of sufficient immediacy and reality,” Cox said in court papers. “The Cox entities do not infringe any valid and enforceable claim of the Sprint patents.”
The Delaware lawsuit stems from a related complaint filed by Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint in December in Kansas City, alleging Cox infringes the 12 patents.
Scott Sloat, a Sprint spokesman, didn’t immediately return voice and e-mail messages seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Cox provides video, high-speed Internet and telephone services. Sprint provides wireless, wireline and Internet access, among other services.
The case is Cox Communications v. Sprint Communications, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
Nokia Seeks Patent on Tattoos That Tingle When Phone Rings
Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), maker of the Lumina smartphone, is seeking a patent on a technology that could give its users at least a skin-deep connection to their devices.
Application 20120062371, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March, covers what the Espoo, Finland-based company calls “Haptic Communication.” This would involve the use of a material attachable to the skin that is capable of detecting a magnetic field and transferring a perceivable impulse to the skin.
According to the application, this apparatus could be a tattoo made with ferromagnetic powder that is either visible or invisible. Other possible methods of attaching this to the skin would be spraying the ferromagnetic pattern on the skin, or attaching adhesive tape or a decal with the pattern.
One drawing accompanying the application indicated that the device could be attached to the user’s fingernail. Other possible sites are the arm or abdomen.
The tattoo would tingle in response to a signal from the mobile device, indicating that the phone is ringing. Other possible uses could include hidden identification to serve as a password for the mobile device, which can be unlocked when it’s brought into proximity with the tattoo.
Nokia suggests in the application, filed in September, that the technology could also be used for laptops, desktop computers, gaming devices, personal digital assistances and Internet tablets.
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Homer Simpson’s ‘Duff’ Beer Trademark Sought by German Brewer
Duff Beer UG, a German beer maker, asked a European Union court to allow it to register an EU trademark for Homer Simpson’s favorite beverage.
The brewer sells “the legendary Duff beer” without mentioning the Simpsons on its packaging or its website. News Corp. (NWSA)’s Twentieth Century Fox Film, which makes the long-running cartoon show “The Simpsons,” has two earlier EU trademarks to the fictional beer. News Corp. won an Australian court case stopping another producer selling Duff beer in 1996.
Duff Beer, based in Eschwege, Germany, filed a suit with the EU’s general court in Luxembourg, asking the court to overturn a decision by the EU trademark agency that prevented it from registering “the figurative trademark ‘Duff’ in black, white and red,” according to a filing published on April 14.
A Belgian court last year annulled Twentieth Century Fox’s two European trademarks for Duff as misleading because they weren’t registered for an actual beverage. Duff Beer is also asking the EU court to wait for final decisions from the Belgian cases.
The case is T-87/12 - Duff Beer v. OHIM, Twentieth Century Fox Film (Duff).
Australia Judges Query Cigarette Makers’ View of Plain Packs
Tobacco companies’ claims that Australia was illegally seizing their trademarks with a law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packages was questioned by judges who said companies would still retain their brand names on the new packs.
“The name itself would be important for reputation and goodwill,” said Justice Susan Crennan, a member of the seven- judge panel of the High Court of Australia in Canberra where the challenge to the law is being heard.
British American Tobacco Plc (BATS), Europe’s biggest cigarette maker, and Japan Tobacco Inc. (2914) were joined by Philip Morris International Inc. (PM), the largest publicly traded tobacco manufacturer, and Imperial Tobacco Group Plc (IMT), maker of Gauloises Blondes, in a challenge to the Australian ban on logos.
The Australian ban, the first of its kind in the world, is being watched by governments around the globe. A High Court ruling upholding the law, which is due to go into effect Dec. 1, might prompt other countries to follow suit, further eroding the value of the tobacco companies’ brands.
The government crossed a line with the new rules, moving from regulating tobacco sales by requiring warning messages to “commandeering people’s property,” Bret Walker, a lawyer for Imperial Tobacco, told the court.
Australia’s government is confident the law will be upheld, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon told reporters before the start of the hearing.
“We must make plain packaging a big success so that it becomes the success of the world,” Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization’s director general, said March 22 at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore.
Under the plain packaging law, cigarettes will be sold with no company logos and the same font for all brands on a dark brown background. Graphic health warnings will cover 90 percent of the back of the package and 70 percent of the front. The law was approved by the Australian Senate on Nov. 10.
BAT makes Dunhill, Pall Mall and Australia’s best-selling cigarette brand, Winfield. Philip Morris is the maker of Marlboro cigarettes.
The case is British American Tobacco Australia Ltd. v the Commonwealth of Australia. S389/2011. High Court of Australia (Canberra).
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Alibaba Hires Ex-U.S. Official to Aid Washington Lobbying
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. hired former U.S. official James Mendenhall as China’s biggest e-commerce company steps up an appeal to Washington to remove its Taobao site from a list of “notorious markets” for piracy.
Mendenhall, of Chicago’s Sidley Austin LLP, will represent Alibaba in talks with the U.S. government and industry groups over intellectual property rights protection, John Spelich, a Hong Kong-based spokesman at the Chinese Internet company, said in an e-mail yesterday.
Taobao, China’s biggest shopping website, was among more than 30 online and physical markets worldwide identified in a U.S. Trade Representative Office report in December for helping the sale of pirated and counterfeit goods. The hiring of Mendenhall, a general counsel for the USTR under the George W. Bush administration, came after Alibaba contracted Washington lobbying firm Duberstein Group Inc. last year.
Mendenhall and Duberstein are helping in Alibaba’s talks with U.S. content-industry groups.
Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), the biggest U.S. portal, is the largest shareholder in closely held Alibaba Group, based in Hangzhou, east China, with a stake of about 40 percent. Alibaba runs e- commerce units including Taobao, the Alibaba.com site for business owners, and the Juhuasuan coupons site.
“We have been talking to their counsel about steps that Taobao could take to reduce its role as a hub for the distribution of infringing content,” Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, a spokeswoman at the Recording Industry Association in Washington, said by e-mail.
The Motion Picture Association had recent talks with Alibaba, Washington-based spokesman Howard Gantman said in an e- mail.
Taobao employs about 200 people in its Information Safety department, which aims to stop sales of infringing products, Spelich wrote in a Feb. 10 letter to the USTR. Taobao had removed 63 million infringing product listings by the end of last year, it said.
Canada Post Claims Geolytica Infringes Post Code Database
Geolytica Inc., a provider of demographic data, gives users access to a database of the postal codes, which Canada Post says infringed the copyright for its database, according to the newspaper.
That database was developed by using crowd-sourcing techniques, not data from Canada Post, Geolytica’s lawyers claiming, the Globe and Mail reported.
Canada Post, a self-sustaining crown corporation, sells businesses access to its database, and says it relies on revenue from such sales, according to the Globe and Mail.
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Cozen O’Connor Grabs Nine IP Specialists From Duane Morris
Cozen O’Connor hired nine patent specialists from Duane Morris LLP, the Philadelphia-based firm said in a statement.
The nine lawyers have specialized in litigation for clients in the pharmaceutical and consumer electronics industry. They have represented makers of generic drugs in disputes related to biosimilars.
This is the second major hire of IP lawyers by Cozen O’Connor in the past year. In June, the firm hired 19 IP specialists from New York’s Cohen, Pontani, Lieberman & Pavane LLP.
K&L Gates Hires Andrew J. Kozusko III for IP Practice Group
K&L Gates LLP hired Andrew J. Kozusko III for its IP practice, the Pittsburgh-based firm said in a statement.
Kozusko, a litigator, joins from Philadelphia’s Duane Morris LLP. He has represented clients in the pharmaceutical, life science and nanotechnology industries.
He has two undergraduate degrees from Grove City College and a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
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