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Amgen, Pfizer, Harry Potter: Intellectual Property

Amgen Inc. won a U.S. court ruling that bars Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. from selling a generic version of the kidney drug Sensipar until at least 2016.

Teva can’t enter the market until the last of three patents expires, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle in Wilmington, Delaware, ruled Jan. 7. The judge rejected Teva’s arguments that the patents are invalid.

Sensipar, whose chemical name is cinacalcet hydrochloride, generated $320 million in U.S. sales in the first nine months of last year for Amgen, the Thousand Oaks, California-based company said Oct. 25. Amgen, along with patent partners NPS Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Brigham & Women’s Hospital Inc. of Boston, sued in 2008 to prevent Teva from selling a copy of the medicine.

One patent expires in 2015, and two expire in 2016, according to information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website. NPS spokeswoman Susan Mesco said one of the patents has been extended until March 2018, to compensate the company for the time it took to receive regulatory approval.

For NPS, the ruling may mean about $300 million in additional royalties through the life of the patents, said Francois Nader, chief executive officer of the Bedminster, New Jersey-based company. The Sensipar royalties have helped fund the company’s research into two other medicines that are undergoing testing, he said.

“It’s a nice cushion to have the royalty stream of this magnitude,” Nader said in a telephone interview.

Teva, based in Petah Tikva, Israel, filed a lawsuit in 2009, claiming Amgen’s drug is “made in part by use of a process that infringes” a Teva patent. That case is pending in federal court in Philadelphia. Denise Bradley, a spokeswoman for Teva, said the company had no comment on the Jan. 6 decision.

David Polk, a spokesman for Amgen, didn’t have an immediate comment.

Sensipar, first approved by regulators in 2004, is used to treat complications from kidney disease. The drug lowers high parathyroid-hormone levels -- a condition linked to heart and bone problems -- in patients receiving kidney dialysis.

The Delaware case is Brigham & Women’s Hospital Inc. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., 08cv464, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington). The Pennsylvania case is Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. v. Amgen Inc., 09cv2256, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

Pfizer Sues Novartis’ Sandoz Unit Over Vfend Antifungal Drug

Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drugmaker, sued the Sandoz unit of Switzerland’s Novartis AG in federal court in Delaware, alleging infringement of two U.S. patents for the antifungal medicine Vfend.

The drug is used to treat people with fungal infections related to AIDS and other diseases that affect immune systems.

Sandoz is accused of infringing patents 5,364,938, issued in November 1994; and 6,632,803, issued in October 2003.

The suit aimed to keep generic copies of the drug off the market until the patents expire.

Pfizer is represented by Jack B. Blumenfeld and Maryellen Noreika of Wilmington’s Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP and Bruce R. Genderson, Christopher N. Manning and Jamie Lynne Simpson of Washington’s Williams & Connolly LLP.

The case is Pfizer Inc. V. Sandoz Inc., 1:11-cv-00023-UNA, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Ferrari Seeks Patents on Driver-Monitoring Technology

Ferrari SpA filed applications to patent an automotive technology that will adjust a car’s stability and traction control systems to conform with a driver’s physical and mental state, the U.K.’s website reported.

The applications cover a network of biometric sensors to monitor the driver’s blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, eye blink rate, electrical activity in the brain, surface temperature and degree of perspiration, according to Autocar.

Diagrams accompanying the applications indicate that sensors would be mounted through the automobile’s cabin, including its ceiling, dashboard, the steering wheel and the driver’s seat area, Autocar reports.

In its applications, Modena, Italia-based Ferrari says the car’s dynamic performance may be modified to enhance driving safety, or, in the case of “an alert, responsive driver,” to enhance driving pleasure and/or performance, according to Autocar.

For more patent news, click here.


‘Potter’ Copyright Suit Against Scholastic Dismissed

Scholastic Corp., U.S. publisher of the bestselling “Harry Potter” novels, won a copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by the estate of an author claiming one of the books copied his work.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan dismissed the suit brought by the trustee for the estate of Adrian Jacobs against New York-based Scholastic because the books were too different.

“The contrast between the total concept and feel of the works is so stark that any serious comparison of the two strains credulity,” Scheindlin wrote in an opinion filed Jan. 6, granting Scholastic’s motion to dismiss the case.

The trustee claimed J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth of the seven novels in the series, copied Jacobs’s “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard -- No. 1 Livid Land.” “Goblet” was published in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2000. “Willy” came out in the U.K. in 1987 and hasn’t been published in the U.S.

Scheindlin noted that “Willy,” a 32-page work with 16 pages of illustrations, is about an adult who takes part in a wizards’ contest. “Goblet,” a 734-page novel with few illustrations, features a teenager who participates in a tournament between rival schools of magic.

The estate of Jacobs “regrets” that its lawsuit has been dismissed, Max Markson, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “The estate’s U.S. attorneys are presently analyzing the judgment with a view to lodging an appeal,” he said.

Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels have sold 400 million copies worldwide, and there are 141 million in print in the U.S., said Kyle Good, a spokeswoman for Scholastic. There are 19 million copies of “Goblet” in print in the U.S., she said. Scholastic doesn’t release U.S. sales figures for the novels.

Jacobs died in 1997. In the complaint, the trustee said that Jacobs and Rowling were represented at one time by the same literary agent, Christopher Little.

The U.S. ruling has “no legal bearing” on a copyright case brought by the estate in the U.K. against Rowling and her British publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, Markson said. He said that case is scheduled for trial in February 2012.

The case is Allen v. Scholastic, 10-5335, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The U.K. case is GLC 72/10 Allen v. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Dispatch Demands Takedown of ‘Golden Voice’ Video from YouTube

The Columbus Dispatch, whose video of a homeless man with a “golden voice” was seen by millions on Google Inc.’s YouTube video-sharing site, demanded the removal of the video and claimed its copyright was infringed.

The video of Ted Williams triggered a media frenzy that included multiple television appearances including a televised reunion with his elderly mother. Williams was also reportedly offered announcing jobs by several media outlets and the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

In a statement posted on the newspaper website Jan. 7, the Dispatch said the video was posted on YouTube by an unauthorized person Jan. 4, and that this posting violated the newspaper’s copyright. Following the Dispatch’s demand under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube removed the video, according to the statement.

“At no time was ‘The Columbus Dispatch’ trying to prevent anyone from seeing our video,” the newspaper said in its statement. The Dispatch has since reposted the video on YouTube “under our copyright,” the company said.

For more copyright news, click here.


U.K. IP Seminar to Address Issues Related to Royal Wedding

In anticipation of the royal wedding in April, a U.K. provider of continuing legal education is presenting a seminar on IP issues related to the event.

The April 29 wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton will raise many questions related to IP rights, according to the brochure promoting the seminar.

Central Law Training of Birmingham in the U.K. is offering “The Royal Wedding and British Business: Intellectual Property Perspectives on Major Events,” a one-day seminar set for Feb. 8 in London.

Among the topics that will be covered are the IP business generated by weddings and other royal events; royal trademarks; getting clearance for royal memorabilia; and what to do with unsold stock after the event.

Other issues to be covered are ambush marketing, the use of clips and short audio-visual extracts from the televised coverage of the wedding, and fashion IP issues raised in connection with the wedding.

Nicola Solomon of London-based Finers Stephens Innocent LLP is making the presentation on the fashion issues. According to the brochure, she will discuss copyright, design rights and other issues arising from Katherine Middleton’s wedding dress and wedding ring.

Southwest Specialty Claims ‘Spontaneous Combustion’ Infringed

Southwest Specialty Foods Inc., a Phoenix-based maker of hot sauces, sued an Ohio competitor for trademark infringement.

According to the complaint filed Jan. 6 in federal court in Phoenix, Crazy Uncle Jester’s Inferno World LLC of Dayton, Ohio, is accused of infringing Southwest Specialty’s “Spontaneous Combustion” trademark. The Arizona company claims it has used the mark since January 1996, and that it’s harmed by Uncle Jester’s registration of the same mark in January 2010.

In its court papers, Southwest says it registered the phrase as a trademark in 1997, and the mark was canceled in April 2008. Southwest said it “had no intent to abandon the mark and has never abandoned the mark.”

According to a January 2009 BusinessWeek story, the hot sauce industry does an annual $2 billion in business. In addition to “Spontaneous Combustion,” Southwest also offers “Hot Sauce from Hell,” “Ass Blaster Hot Sauce” and “Whoop Ass Chipotle Fire” hot sauce. Crazy Uncle Jester offers “Louisiana Firestorm” and “Ultimate Pepperhead,” in addition to its “Spontaneous Combustion” sauce.

The Arizona company claims it has suffered injury and damages from the Ohio company’s use of the mark and accuses Crazy Uncle Jester of conduct that “evidences an evil hand guided by an evil mind.”

Southwest Specialty asked the court for an order barring Crazy Uncle Jester’s use of “Spontaneous Combustion” and for awards of money damages, extra damages to punish the Ohio company for its actions, and for awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.

Crazy Uncle Jester didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Southwest Specialty is represented by Ray K. Harris of Fennemore Craig PC of Phoenix.

The case is Southwest Specialty Foods Inc. v. Crazy Uncle Jester’s Inferno World LLC, 2:11-cv-00048-0SRB, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

For more trademark news, click here.

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