Pfizer, Green Mountain, Google: Intellectual Property
Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the world’s biggest drugmaker, will add an over-the-counter version of AstraZeneca (AZN) Plc’s heartburn pill to its stable of consumer products that include the pain reliever Advil and the vitamin Centrum.
Pfizer has been looking to expand its consumer business, which generated $3.01 billion last year. The New York-based company last year discussed trying to get regulators to approve a nonprescription form of Lipitor, its top-selling cholesterol pill that lost patent protection in November.
AstraZeneca is trying to plot its strategy after the April resignation of Chief Executive Officer David Brennan, who had been criticized by investors for failing to bolster the London- based company’s pipeline of experimental drugs. Pfizer has been selling off its non-drug units and focusing on developing new medicines. While it’s shedding its infant nutrition and animal health businesses, Pfizer opted to keep its consumer business that includes over-the-counter treatments.
To obtain the rights to an over-the-counter Nexium, Pfizer paid AstraZeneca $250 million upfront with royalties from sales once the pill enters the market in 2014, the companies said yesterday in a joint statement.
With the deal, “Pfizer is continuing to enhance the value of our consumer health-care business,” Ian Read, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in the statement.
The Nexium deal may be the first of several such partnerships, Pfizer and AstraZeneca said. Both are “exploring the potential for a strategic partnership that could include similar agreements for other AstraZeneca prescription brands for which OTC versions might be appropriate,” the companies said.
Nexium was AstraZeneca’s third-biggest drug in 2011, with $4.4 billion in revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nexium loses patent protection in the U.S. in 2014. The agreement doesn’t change the sales rights for the prescription version of the drug, which will stay with AstraZeneca.
The over-the-counter version of the pill still has to be approved by regulators, the companies said in their statement. It could go on sale in the U.S. as soon as 2014, and other markets afterwards.
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Green Mountain Trademarks Rivo Name for Espresso Machine
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR), which plans to introduce an espresso maker this year to compete with Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), registered “Rivo” as a trademark for a machine to make such drinks.
The name Rivo, which means “stream” in Italian, was registered by Green Mountain’s Keurig Inc. unit this year for electric brewing and electric espresso machines, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Waterbury, Vermont-based Green Mountain previously said it is working with Luigi Lavazza SpA to develop an espresso maker.
“We’ve not made a product announcement related to that name,” Suzanne DuLong, a Green Mountain spokeswoman, said in an interview.
Green Mountain is facing more competition as grocers and other manufacturers, such as Safeway Inc. (SWY) and Rogers Family Co., make private-label capsules to fit into Keurig machines. While the main patents for K-Cups expire in September, Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Blanford has recently started selling the more- expensive Vue machine and single-serve cups.
The Rivo is another step to help Green Mountain combat emerging rivals as it struggles to accurately forecast capsule sales. Green Mountain’s espresso machine will likely compete with Starbucks’s Verismo single-serve beverage maker, which will be sold in the U.S. this year online, in some Starbucks cafes and in specialty retailers.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced in March that the Verismo would specialize in high-pressure, espresso drinks and would also make brewed coffee. The Seattle-based company hasn’t released pricing information for the Verismo.
Lavazza, based in Italy, owned 5 percent of Green Mountain as of February 24, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Buys Some Rights to Field & Stream Marks
The magazine, which was founded in 1895, focuses on outdoor activities related to hunting and fishing. According to a statement from Coraopolis, Pennsylvania-based Dick’s, the rights that were bought are for use of the mark in the hunting, fishing, camping and paddle categories.
Previously the company had leased these rights from the magazine since 2007. Now Dick’s is paying $25 million to own them, according to the Dick’s statement.
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Bulgari Accuses Kenneth Jay Lane of Copying Jewelry Designs
Bulgari SpA sued Kenneth Jay Lane Inc., saying the New York jewelry designer copies and imitates its rings and bracelets without permission.
Rome-based Bulgari accused Kenneth Jay Lane, in a complaint filed Aug. 13 in federal court in Manhattan, of copyright infringement, design patent infringement and unfair competition. The company, a unit of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (MC), seeks a court order to end the sale of allegedly infringing jewelry and unspecified damages.
“Bulgari’s jewelry items consist of distinctive and original designs, including design elements and features that have become synonymous with Bulgari in the eyes of the public, consumers and the luxury goods industry,” the Italian company said in the complaint.
Jonathan Wolfert, a lawyer who represents Kenneth Jay Lane in a separate trademark infringement case, didn’t return an e- mail or telephone call to his office seeking comment on the Bulgari lawsuit.
The case is Bulgari v. Kenneth Jay Lane, 12-cv-6194, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)
Google Can Appeal Class-Action Status of Digital-Book Case
Google Inc. (GOOG) can appeal the class-action status granted to a lawsuit over digital books, a federal appeals court in New York said yesterday.
U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in New York, sitting as a federal trial judge in the case, in May granted class-action or group status to a series of plaintiffs, including the Author’s Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers in lawsuits over electronic books.
Chin also granted a request for three individual plaintiffs to represent a nationwide class of copyright holders in the Author’s Guild suit.
The appeals court yesterday granted Google leave to appeal the class-action ruling while the case is still pending before Chin.
In July, Google asked Chin to dismiss the Authors Guild case, arguing that authors benefit from the project because their books can be more readily found, bought and read, while the public gains “increased knowledge.” Google also argued that the display of snippets of text is fair use under copyright law and that the authors haven’t been harmed by the display.
In his May ruling, Chin also rejected Google’s arguments that the groups lacked standing to sue over claims the search engine company’s digital scanning of millions of books infringed the copyright owners’ rights.
Maggie Shiels, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment on the court’s ruling.
The suits stem from Google’s plan, announced in 2004, to digitally scan books from public and university libraries to provide short excerpts of text to people who use its Internet search engine. The Authors Guild, individual authors and publishing companies sued in 2005, claiming the Mountain View, California-based company hadn’t sought authorization from the owners of the works.
Google has argued that the display of snippets of text is fair use under copyright law. Chin asked Google today why it was important at this stage of the case to determine the ownership of the copyrights.
Google said in a February court filing that it has scanned more than 20 million books, and that Web users can see excerpts in English from more than 4 million of them. The project began with the digitizing of books from the libraries of the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library.
The authors’ case is Authors Guild v. Google, 05-08136; the visual artists’ case is American Society of Media Photographers v. Google, 10-02977; U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Duke, Progress Ordered to Disclose Transactions Details
Duke Energy Corp. (DUK) and Progress Energy Inc. (PREX), were ordered to disclose some details of transactions with major customers they had argued was a trade secret, Capitol Broadcasting Corp. reported.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission told the two companies yesterday that the details they insisted should be protected didn’t involve technical information and had no independent commercial value, according to Capitol Broadcasting Corp.
Aug. 24 is the deadline for the companies either to file an appeal or release the public records, Capitol Broadcasting reported.
The public inquiry that lead to the utility commission’s ruling came in the wake of Duke’s acquisition of Progress, according to Capitol Broadcasting.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.