Rolls-Royce, Trojans, Sanrio: Intellectual Property

United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney jet-engine unit filed patent-infringement complaints against Rolls-Royce Group Plc, a counterpunch in a dispute that may affect delivery of Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner airplanes.

Pratt & Whitney said it filed a complaint Nov. 5 at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington that claims the Trent 900 and Trent 1000 model engines made by London-based Rolls-Royce are infringing a patent for a swept-fan blade. A complaint making similar allegations was filed at the U.K. High Court in London, according to the company.

The Trent 900 is the same engine that failed on a Quantas Airbus A380 on Nov. 4 in Singapore.

A ruling in favor of Pratt & Whitney by the ITC would mean Rolls-Royce would be blocked from shipping engines for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, now in the final stages of flight testing. The U.K. lawsuit may limit shipments for the Airbus SAS A380, now in use by international carriers including Qantas Airways Ltd., and the Airbus A350XWB model powered solely by another version of the Trent engine.

“Pratt & Whitney’s case is very strong and we were left with no choice but to take these actions in light of Rolls-Royce’s aggression,” said Katy Padgett, a spokeswoman for East Hartford, Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney. “We regret that these actions are necessary, and we continue to be willing to discuss a mutually acceptable resolution to this dispute.”

The complaints escalate a legal battle that started when Rolls-Royce sued Pratt & Whitney in May, claiming the GP7200 Fan Stage infringed a patent for a design that gives the largest part of a jet engine greater resistance to damage by foreign objects, more stability and lower noise levels. It later added Pratt’s Geared TurboFan engines, as Airbus and Boeing consider getting more efficient engines on the bestselling A320 and 737 planes.

The Trent engine that powers the A380 competes with one built by a venture between General Electric Co. and Pratt, the GP7200. GE is the biggest jet-engine maker, ahead of Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney.

Pratt & Whitney countered with a lawsuit in September in federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, accusing Rolls-Royce of trying to interfere with potential business and unfair business practices. It amended that complaint to add the patent-infringement claim.

The ITC is a quasi-judicial agency set up to protect U.S. markets from unfair trade practices. It has the power to ban imports of products that infringe U.S. patents. It if agrees to investigate the complaint, a ruling would be given within 15 months.

Chicago-based Boeing and Toulouse, France-based Airbus weren’t named in the ITC complaint.

The September case is United Technologies Corp. v. Rolls-Royce Plc, 10-cv-01523, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (New Haven). The earlier case is Rolls-Royce Plc v. United Technologies Corp., 10-cv-00457, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

Astellas Sues Glenmark Over U.S. Patent for Eczema Cream

Units of Japan’s Astellas Pharma Inc. sued Indian generic-drug maker Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. for patent infringement, asking a federal judge in Delaware to block copies of the eczema treatment Locoid Lipocream until 2014.

The hydrocortisone butyrate cream’s formulation is covered by patent 5,635,497, which was issued in June 1997. The case was triggered by Glenmark’s seeking approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make a generic form of the drug.

Astellas is represented by Jack B. Blumenfeld of Wilmington’s Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP.

The case is Triax Pharmaceuticals LLC v. Glenmark Generics Inc. USA, 1:10-cv-00946-UNA, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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Siblings in Trojan Condom Counterfeit Ring Sentenced to Prison

A brother and sister were sentenced to prison for their roles in a counterfeiting ring that brought more than 1 million fake Trojan condoms and other consumer goods into New York.

Jian Hu, of Queens, New York, was sentenced Nov. 5 to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. His sister, Lin Hu, 37, of Temple City, California, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

The siblings pleaded guilty last year before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn, New York, to trafficking in counterfeit goods including clothing, power cords and other items. They denied dealing in the counterfeit condoms that other ring members had pleaded guilty to selling.

“This is a major counterfeit operation even without the condoms,” Cogan said. “We’re awash in this country in counterfeit goods. You can go out to Canal Street and see it.”

Cogan said he weighed the public safety risks posed by counterfeit electric cords the siblings had trafficked in and the economic harm posed by fake goods against pleas for leniency based on the fact that the pair were brought into the ring by an older brother, Jian Zhong Hu, who remains a fugitive in China.

“I was stupid and I was blind,” a sobbing Lin told Cogan, saying she regretted the dangers and damages she caused society.

Cogan had sentenced Jian “Jimmy” Wang on Aug. 11 to 37 months in prison for trafficking in more than 1 million counterfeit Trojan condoms. He was the first of the seven defendants in the case to be sentenced. All pleaded guilty except Jian Zhong Hu, also known as Andy.

The siblings were ordered to pay $14,425.91 in restitution to Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., and $495 to CAPS, Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos, and barred from working in business involving import-export.

The two were part of a six-year trafficking operation that specialized in counterfeit goods, according to prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn. They were listed as owners of ZX Trading Corp. in Queens, a sham company used to evade U.S. customs officials, prosecutors said.

Jian Hu and Lin Hu faced maximum sentences of 10 years in prison, said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for Lynch. Lawyers for both defendants requested leniency, asking for either home detention or a prison term of no more than eight months.

Cogan said Nov. 5 that the government had failed to prove the siblings had knowledge that their ring was involved in counterfeit condoms, which were at a separate warehouse from that used by ZX Trading.

Cogan also said Church & Dwight Co., which makes Trojan condoms in Virginia, couldn’t prove it was a victim of the siblings. The company can bring a separate case, he noted.

Geoffrey Potter, a lawyer for Church & Dwight, declined to comment.

“I cannot find by a preponderance of evidence that these defendants traded in counterfeit condoms,” the judge said in court, noting that there was a problem with the government’s evidence and witnesses to support that point.

The case is U.S. v. Hu, 08-cr-425, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Anheuser-Busch Sued Over Similar Labels for Its Tilt Alcopop

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV was sued for trademark infringement by United Brands Co. of San Diego, California.

The suit, filed Nov. 4 in federal court in San Diego, where United Brands is based, is related to Anheuser-Busch’s new packaging for its Tilt brand of flavored malt beverages.

United Brands claims the new Tilt 24-ounce can infringes the packaging for its 24-ounce cans of Joose. Both fruit-flavored beverages are billed as energy drinks, and contain alcohol, and fall into the category known as “alcopop.”

In 2008, Leuven, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch agreed to remove caffeine and extra stimulants from its Tilt drinks, after an investigation by 11 state attorneys general showed it was illegally marketing them to young people. Joose contains caffeine, according to the product’s website.

Among the similarities between Joose and the new Tilt packaging, United Brands claims, are the use of archaic fonts, and the depictions of dragons on the label. Both labels use a black background with colored elements in the design features, and both have crownlike graphics, according to court papers.

United Brands claims that the public is confused by the similarities between the two competing beverages’ packaging and that the Tilt packaging was redesigned to trade on the “reputation and goodwill” of its products.

United Brands asked the court to order Anheuser-Busch to quit infringing the marks, and for the destruction of all infringing materials. It also seeks an order for corrective advertising to be paid for by Anheuser-Busch disclaiming a connection between the two products, and for awards of money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

United Brands is represented by Nancy O. Dix of Chicago’s DLA Piper LLP.

The case is United Brands Co. v. Anheuser Busch Inc., 3:10-cv-02281-BEN-WMC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

For more trademark news, click here.


Sanrio Says It Will Appeal Dutch Copyright Infringement Ruling

Sanrio Co., the Tokyo-based maker of “Hello Kitty” toys and other themed items, said it will appeal a Dutch court’s Nov. 2 ruling that one of its characters infringes the copyright for a Dutch rabbit character, Miffy, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported.

The Dutch court ordered Sanrio to pay as much as 2 million euros ($2.8 million) if it doesn’t comply immediately with an order to quit making and selling its “Cathy” rabbit products in the Netherlands, according to the Daily Mail.

Sanrio said in a statement that it didn’t think it infringed, and will appeal the ruling, the newspaper reported.

The Miffy character was created in 1955, according to the newspaper.

Cooks Source Facebook Page Hit with Wrath of Web Users

A cooking magazine accused of using material from a website without authorization and refusing to pay the author is being hit with hundreds of snide comments by users of Facebook Inc.’s social media site.

Cooks Source Magazine, which according to its website is published in Western New England, allegedly picked up a story about the history of apple pie from the blog written by Monica Gaudio, refused to pay her, and told her she should be the one paying because her piece was in need of editing, according to Agence France Presse.

The publication’s website gives no contact information, and refers readers to its Facebook page, which also lists no contact information. What its Facebook page does have is screen after screen of comments from users such as “Cooks Source makes meatballs with Spam and always for free,” “Cooks Source invented the recipe for soylent green” and “Cooks Source drinks room temperature white wine in plastic cups.”

A satiric “Cooks (Open) Source Magazine” Facebook page has been set up, as has one called “Cooks Source Mag,” which appears to have some connection to the magazine.

According to the “Cooks Source Mag” Facebook page, the new page was established because its previous one was hacked. According to a posting on the Cooks Source Mag page, the magazine won’t be stopped and the company “will take further action against anyone caught hacking.” That page also bears the statement that “any untruthful post will be considered libelous.”

The magazine said on that page that it has received comments from people who “do not seem to understand a few basics yet they seem to be all experts in the print business.”

China Sets Up Task Force to Combat Piracy, Government Says

China has set up a task force led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan to combat intellectual property rights violations especially the pirating of software and audio-visual products, according to a statement posted on the central government’s website.

The vice premier, in a meeting Nov. 5 with Corning Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wendell P. Weeks, said China and the U.S. should avoid politicizing their economic issues, the Chinese news site reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

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