Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Intellectual Ventures Management LLC, a patent-licensing firm that claims to own more than 30,000 patents and to have earned almost $2 billion in licensing fees, filed three patent-infringement suits against technology companies yesterday.
Defendants including McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp., Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Altera Corp. were sued for infringement in federal court in Delaware.
A total of 15 patents are involved: six in one suit largely related to computer chips; five in a second, also related to chips; and four in a third case, which focuses on computer security and e-mail management, according to court papers.
Intellectual Ventures, based in Bellevue, Washington, seeks jury trials and unspecified damages in the three suits. According to a company statement, the defendants “have chosen to ignore our requests for good faith negotiations and discussions,” so filing the suits “is the right choice for our investors, inventors and current licensees.”
The 10-year-old firm’s founder and chief executive officer is Nathan Myrhvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft Corp. Myhrvold has long characterized IV as an “invention company.”
According to Bloomberg data, these are the first patent-infringement suits filed by Intellectual Ventures. Webvention Holdings LLC of Wilmington filed two patent-infringement suits in July, accusing a wide range of companies of infringing a patent said to have been held by an IV shell company before it was transferred to the Delaware company.
In the three IV suits, named defendants include Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., Trend Micro Inc., Elpida Memory Inc., Microsemi Corp. and Lattice Semiconductor Corp.
“Symantec is aware of the lawsuit but we have nothing to add to the story,” said Nicole Kenyon, a spokeswoman for the Mountain View, California-based company.
“McAfee just received notice of the lawsuit this morning, so we still need to review the details. We aren’t typically able to comment on pending litigation,” Tracy Ross, a spokeswoman for Santa Clara, California-based McAfee, said yesterday.
Officials of Ichon, South Korea-based Hynix weren’t immediately available to comment on the lawsuits. Mike Sweeny, a spokesman for Trend Micro in Cupertino, California, had no comment. Stephanie Look, a spokeswoman for Tel Aviv, Israel-based Check Point, had no immediate comment.
John A. Amster, the former general manager of strategic acquisitions and vice president of licensing at Intellectual Ventures, said in a phone interview yesterday that the new suits by his old company didn’t surprise him. “We understand what people who are trying to monetize patents are trying to do. If people won’t pay them” a license fee, he said, “their recourse is to litigate.”
He now heads San Francisco-based RPX Corp., a subscription entity with 69 clients who pay the company a licensing fee to “buy as many patents as we can.” His company’s efforts are to get patents off the market so they can’t be asserted against the members.
To date RPX says it’s invested more than $250 million and acquired upward of 1,500 patents and removed them from the market. The company has achieved 89 dismissals from patent suits for 47 clients, according to an RPX e-mail yesterday.
Intellectual Ventures has hired some well-known IP litigators for the three cases, including John M. Desmarais, who quit Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis in May to form his own patent-enforcement firm, Desmarais LLP.
In May Desmarais, who had previously defended companies accused of patent infringement, said he would employ a “reasonable” approach toward enforcing the patents he owned, including 4,500 he bought in 2009 from Micron Technology Inc.
The three IV cases are Intellectual Ventures v. Check Point, 10-cv-1067; Intellectual Ventures v. Hynix 10-cv-1066; and Intellectual Ventures v. Altera 10-cv-1065; U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
NIH Won’t Force Licensing of Drug to Treat Rare Genetic Disorder
The National Institutes of Health rejected a request by patients with a neurological disorder to force owners of a drug patent to license other manufacturers.
Fabray disease patents have a genetic disorder that causes a range of problems including cardiac, renal and dermatological symptoms. Fabrazyme, a drug that replaces a deficient enzyme in patients with the disorder, is covered by patent 5,356,804, issued to Mount Sinai School of Medicine and licensed exclusively to Genzyme Corp. of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In March Genzyme, the world’s largest maker of enzyme-replacement therapies, said that in the wake of a manufacturing shutdown caused by contamination with a virus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required additional inspection of the facility.
The infection was discovered the previous year, and the plant closure caused shortages of Fabrazyme, and a second drug used to treat Gaucher disease.
The Fabray patients sent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -- of which the NIH is a party -- a petition in August, asking that what is known as “march in rights” be used to force the licensing of the drug patent.
The patients said that because of the drug shortages, patients were receiving only one-third the normal dose of the drug. Untreated patients have a life expectancy 28 years less than normal, they said. Cost for the Fabrazyme is about $253,000 a year, they said, claiming it is one of the most-expensive drugs on the market.
The European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended the lower dose for some classes of patients as a method of coping with the shortage.
Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a Dec. 1 memo that the request for the march-in rights was rejected because it wouldn’t solve the availability problem. He noted that “years of clinical studies and regulatory approval would be required before another manufacturer’s product could become available.”
He also noted that Genzyme said it expects the normal supply of Fabrazyme to be available in the first half of 2011. “Genzyme appears to be working diligently and in good faith to address the Fabrazyme shortage,” he wrote.
The Fabray patients said in a statement they will appeal the decision. In their statement they said Mount Sinai has agreed with the NIH not to seek any court orders barring infringement of the patent by other drug manufacturers during the period of shortage.
France, Germany Among Nations Urging for Patent Plan
France, Germany and eight other nations pushed to create a Europewide patent system to help Europe compete with the U.S. and China, leaving out those countries that rejected the plans over language issues.
EU nations last month failed to break a deadlock on creating a regionwide system over disagreements on what languages should be legally binding. Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, “has tried its utmost to find a compromise” for an EU-wide patent, the 10 countries said in a letter to the European Commission.
“It is clear that the objective of the creation of a unitary patent protection in the territory of the EU cannot be attained within a reasonable period of time by the Union,” the countries said in the Dec. 7 letter to Michel Barnier, the EU’s internal-market commissioner.
Attempts to reach an agreement since 2000 have faltered over the language issues. The 27 EU nations today share 23 official languages and numerous compromise proposals have failed to satisfy political demands or risked increasing translation costs for companies.
“We are ready, we are prepared to start the procedure” for creating a more harmonized EU patent system, Barnier told reporters in Brussels today. “The commission will present proposals on the future content of a single protection for patents across the EU.”
The new plans by the Brussels-based commission will be based on the latest compromise proposed by Belgium, said Barnier. “Many more” than the 10 countries that signed the letter will join this so-called enhanced cooperation system, he said.
The closest thing to a European Union-wide patent today is for companies to apply for a patent with the European Patent Office, which isn’t part of the EU and has 38 member countries. The patent then breaks up into a bundle of patents which companies must defend in each individual country.
Barnier already said after a meeting of EU industry ministers on Nov. 25 that the commission “will be ready to take action quickly and seriously” on the new plans.
Spain was among the main opponents to the latest compromise proposals, rejecting the idea to make English, French and German the official languages of a new EU patent system. Spanish EU Affairs Minister Diego Lopez Garrido on Nov. 10 told EU ministers at a meeting in Brussels that the plans discriminated against the Spanish language. Spain supports an English-only system.
EU ministers will meet again in Brussels on Dec. 10 to discuss the new plan. The letter to Barnier was signed by France, Germany, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden.
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Achte/Neunte Dismisses More than 4,000 Infringement Defendants
Achte/Neunte, the German film company that made the film “Far Cry,” has reduced the number of people it’s suing in a copyright-infringement case from 4,577 to 140. In the initial filing, no defendants were identified by name.
The suit alleged the 4,577 people had downloaded “Far Cry” without authorization using the BitTorrent technology for file transfer. The film, based on a video game by the same name, was released in 2008.
In November, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said the only people who could be sued were those within the jurisdiction of her court.
In a Dec. 6 court filing, Achte/Neunte said it was now suing only one named defendant, who has a Washington, D.C., home address, and 139 who weren’t identified. The film company said that in future court proceedings, it will be able to find the “true name” of the other defendants.
The case is now named Achte/Neunte Boll Kino Beteiligungs Gmbh v. Adrienne Neal, 1:10-cv-00453-RMC, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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Mattel’s ‘Royal Wedding’ Mark Predates Kate & William Frenzy
While Mattel Inc., the largest U.S. toymaker, has a registered U.S. trademark for “Royal Wedding,” the toys covered by the mark have nothing to do with the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Catherine Middleton set for April 29.
The El Segundo, California-based toymaker registered the term “royal wedding” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in September 2005, according to the patent office database. The term is used with toys, games, dolls, doll clothing and doll accessories.
Mattel has a line of princess dolls, including the “Fairy-Tastic Princess” who can be changed from a princess to a fairy and back again, according to the company website. The company also has a “Princess Royal Wedding Gift Set,” sold at Amazon.com Inc.’s website for $65.88.
EBay Inc., the company that runs an online auction website, is presently selling a Royal Garden Wedding Gift Set from Mattel’s Fisher Price line of toys for preschool children.
In the past, Mattel produced a toy based on Disney’s Little Mermaid animated film, the “Disney Princes Royal Wedding Gift Set,” sold through Target Corp. stores.
The U.K.’s Marketing Week reported yesterday that the U.K.’s Lord Chamberlain’s office has said that tea towels, aprons and T-shirts are on its list of items banned for commemorative purposes with reference to the wedding.
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