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Merck, Pfizer, Apple, Madonna: Intellectual Property

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Merck & Co. sued Impax Laboratories Inc. to prevent U.S. sales of a generic version of the cholesterol drug Vytorin.

Impax, based in Hayward, California, is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to sell a copy of Vytorin. Merck and its Schering-Plough unit sought to block approval by filing a patent-infringement lawsuit Aug. 19 in federal court in New Jersey, Impax said in a statement Aug. 20.

Merck acquired full rights to Vytorin with its $50 billion purchase of Schering-Plough Corp. last year. Global 2009 sales of the drug were $2.1 billion, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck said Feb. 16. Vytorin combines the compound ezetimibe that’s in Merck’s Zetia with simvastatin, the active ingredient in Zocor.

Merck has also sued Mylan Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s biggest generic-drug maker, to prevent them from selling a copy of Vytorin until a patent expires in 2017.

Patients Should Stay with Pfizer’s Patented Lipitor, Study Says

Switching to a generic cholesterol-lowering drug from Pfizer Inc.’s patented Lipitor raised heart disease rates, a study of Dutch patients found. Lipitor, the top-selling drug in the world, is set to lose patent protection next year.

Researchers used a simulation to predict that 22 percent of patients taking a generic copy of Merck & Co.’s Zocor would develop heart disease during a 20-year period, compared with 20 percent of those on Lipitor, according an abstract of the study posted on the website of the European Society of Cardiology.

Prescribing Lipitor is “sound from a health economic perspective,” the Dutch researchers said in the abstract.

Doctors in the Netherlands have been required to justify prescribing brand-name cholesterol medicines since January 2009, the researchers from Pfizer and the University of Melbourne in Australia said. The study took into account that some patients were switched to the generic drug at a dose that wasn’t equivalent to the brand-name Pfizer cholesterol pill.

The study will be presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference set to start Aug. 28 in Stockholm.

Apple Seeks Patent on Enhanced Security for Electronic Devices

Apple Inc., maker of the iPad and iPhone, is seeking a patent on a method of excluding unauthorized users for portable electronic devices.

Application 20100208821, published in the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Aug. 19, is for a system that can bar access to the device to those who fail to meet predetermined criteria.

The identity of the authorized person can be confirmed by comparing it to stored data in the device, either the person’s facial appearance, the voice or the heartbeat.

This method of identification can help prevent others from using credit card numbers, passwords, social security number, bank information or other personal data stored in the device.

The device can also detect suspicious behavior, such as entering an incorrect password a predetermined number of times in a row. According to the application, “jailbreaking,” -- the unlocking of the operating system to permit downloading of applications not approved by Apple -- also constitutes suspicious behavior. In July the Librarian of Congress said jailbreaking doesn’t violate copyright protections.

When suspicious behavior is detected, the technology covered by the application enables the device to collect information related to the unauthorized use, including the device’s location, and transmit it to what is definite as a “responsible party.” This information could come in the shape of a message such as “Warning, your electronic device may have been stolen.” Such data could be sent to a social media or blog application. The device can also be disabled.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, applied for this patent in February, 2009, with the assistance of New York’s Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.

University of Illinois Top Undergraduate Source of Patent Bar

The University of Illinois is the leading school where members of the patent bar received their undergraduate degrees, according to a study done by three law school professors.

Professors Thomas G. Field Jr. and Jon R. Cavicchi of the the Franklin Pierce Law Center, and Ralph D. Clifford of the University of Massachusetts analyzed patent-bar applications submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to the Patently-O Blog written by Professor Dennis Crouch from the University of Missouri School of Law.

The study looks at patent attorneys registered through May 2006 and ranks the schools by the numbers of their graduates that have applied to be admitted to the patent bar.

The other top-nine schools are, in order, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Cornell University, University of California at Berkeley, Purdue University, University of Texas, University of Wisconsin, University of Maryland and University of Wisconsin.

Applicants who wish to be admitted to the patent bar generally need to have an undergraduate degree in science or engineering. The study, which also argues that the Patent Office should consider a degree in computer science an appropriate background for admission to the patent bar, was published in the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology.

For more patent news, click here.


Righthaven Accused of Misconduct; Says it Sues to Save Newspaper

Righthaven LLC, the Las Vegas entity that has filed more than 95 copyright infringement suits since March 2010 against websites that have posted stories from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was accused of legal misconduct by one of the companies it sued.

Realty One Group Inc., a Las Vegas-based real estate firm, was sued for infringement in June 2010. Righthaven said the firm infringed the newspaper’s copyright by posting on a website an article about housing sales that was published originally in the newspaper.

In a July 29 court filing, counsel for Reality One responded, saying Righthaven is committing the form of legal misconduct known as barratry, which is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as “the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up quarrels and suits.”

Realty One claimed that Righthaven buys the copyright to a Review-Journal article after the alleged infringement occurs, and “likely purchases the copyright with the specific intention of pursuing this action.” The posting of the Review-Journal article, in any case, fell within copyright law’s “fair use” doctrine, Realty One said in its posting.

Righthaven responded in an Aug. 16 filing, saying its pursuit of the copyright infringement claim “is well-founded both in fact and in law, and is entirely devoid of illegality or transgression.” The posting of the article on the blog wasn’t fair use, Righthaven said, and it “materially impaired the value of and potential market for the work.”

The response also addressed the fiscal crisis presently affecting the newspaper industry. “It is no secret that newspapers across the country are in distress as readership numbers of drastically declined,” Righthaven said. Newspapers “must be protected in light of the aggregate effect of Internet-based copyright infringement.”

Righthaven then laid out its strategy, saying it has begun “a systematic, well-founded approach directed towards stemming the tide of Internet-based infringements, and protecting the potential market for, and value of, the tide of Internet-based infringements.”

Other newspapers are “prudently beginning to adopt the Righthaven approach,” Righthaven said in its filing.

The Last Vegas Review-sun is owned by Stephens Inc.’s Stephens Media Group unit. The media group, based in Las Vegas, published newspapers in Arkansas, Hawaii, Nevada, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Washington state, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Additionally, it operates the website, and a number of websites associated with its various newspaper holdings.

Realty One and two named defendants associated with Reality one are represented by Sergio Salzano of Las Vegas-based Lynch, Hopper & Salzano LLP. Righthaven is represented by Steven A. Gibson and J. Charles Coons, who are both in-house counsel.

The case is Righthaven LLC v. Realty One Group Inc., 2:10-cv-01036-LRH-PAL, U.S. District Court, District of Nevada (Las Vegas).

For more copyright news, click here.


Time Warner Seeks to Ban ‘Harry Popper’ Condom Packaging

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Brothers Entertainment unit filed a trademark infringement suit in Switzerland against a Swiss condom maker, United Press International reported.

The company objects to the packaging for the “Harry Popper” condom made by Magic X, the wire service reported.

A lawyer for Magic X insisted the condom -- whose packaging shows a humanoid condom wearing round glasses and waving a magic wand -- “has nothing to do with Harry Potter,” according to UPI.

The case will be heard by the Cantonal Court in Schwyz, Switzerland, which will decide if the packaging should be banned, the wire service reported.

Madonna Sued by Clothing Company Over ‘Material Girl’ Mark

Pop entertainer Madonna was sued for trademark infringement by a California clothing company.

L.A. Triumph Inc. of Cerritos, California, says it and its predecessor have been selling a line of women’s clothing under the trade name “Material Girl.” The predecessor company -- OC Mercantile Corp. -- registered a state trademark for the term in 1997 in California, according to the complaint filed Aug. 19 in federal court in Los Angeles.

Madonna’s line of “Material Girl” clothing, and an associated website, which were introduced in 2010, infringe the trademarks and cause confusion in the marketplace, L.A. Triumph claims in its court filings. The company also objects to an application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December 2009 to register “Material Girl” as a trademark.

L.A. Triumph claims because it used the mark first, Madonna and her MGB Inc. company have no right to the trademark.

It asked the court to declare it alone has the right to the “Material Girl” mark for clothing, and that the pending trademark application should be denied. The company also requested money damages. It said it will add as defendants the retailers that are selling Madonna’s clothing line.

L.A. Triumph is represented by Christopher W. Arledge, Imran Farooq Vakil, and Peter R. Afrasiabi of One LLP of Newport Beach, California.

The case is L.A. Triumph Inc., v. Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, 2:10-cv-06195-SJO-JC, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Trademark Application Filed for ‘.Secure’ by Wisconsin Company

A Wisconsin company has filed an application to register “.secure” as a trademark, according to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The application, filed by Asif LLC of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, is for use of the term with domain-name registration services.

In 2008 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers voted to allow new top-level domain names. These are suffixes in web addresses such as “.com,” “.org,” and “.edu.”

Other top-level domain names already in use are “.jobs,” “.travel,” and “.biz.”

For more trademark news, click here.

IP Moves

Ballard Spahr Hires Quicker to Expand Atlanta IP Practice

Ballard Spahr LLP hired Katrina M. Quicker for its IP Practice, the Philadelphia-based firm said in a statement.

Quicker, a litigator, joined from Atlanta’s King & Spaulding LLP. She has recently served as special assistant attorney general for the State of Georgia for IP issues.

She has represented clients in patent, trademark, trade dress, copyright, trade secret, and non-compete litigation. Her clients are principally in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and chemical industries.

She has an undergraduate degree from Indiana University and a law degree from the University of Toledo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at

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