Sanofi, Facebook, News Corp., Apple: Intellectual Property

Sanofi lost an appeals court ruling on its patent-infringement claims against Roche Holding AG’s Genentech and Biogen Idec Inc. for the cancer drugs Rituxan and Avastin.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit yesterday upheld a lower court ruling that the drugs don’t infringe two Sanofi patents. The opinion was posted on the court’s website.

Sanofi sued Genentech and Biogen Idec in 2008 after Genentech said it was canceling a licensing agreement that dated back to 1991. Paris-based Sanofi said the cancer drugs were made using inventions it owned to enhance the expression of a gene and make production more efficient.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco ruled that Genentech and Weston, Massachusetts-based Biogen Idec didn’t use the same steps as those covered by the Sanofi patents. Sanofi said Illston misconstrued certain terms of the patents. The Federal Circuit rejected the arguments.

Sanofi, which said it was disappointed in the decision, can ask the court to reconsider the opinion.

“The company is currently evaluating its options and next steps,” said Carrie Brown, a Sanofi spokeswoman.

Rituxan is Basel, Switzerland-based Roche’s top-selling drug, with sales of 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.6 billion) last year. Roche is the world’s biggest seller of cancer drugs. The drug is approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Avastin is approved for colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer in the U.S., as well as for breast cancer in Europe. Sales of the drug fell 18 percent last year to 5.29 billion Swiss francs from 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The case is Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH v. Genentech Inc., 2011-1397, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court cases are Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH v. Genentech Inc., 09cv4919, and Genentech Inc. v. Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH, 08cv4909, both U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Facebook Said to Acquire 750 Patents From IBM Amid Lawsuits

Facebook Inc. acquired 750 patents from International Business Machines Corp., adding intellectual property that may help it counter allegations of patent infringement, a person with knowledge of the transaction said.

The patents cover various technologies such as software and networking, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deal hasn’t been made public. The acquisition would swell the size of Facebook’s portfolio, which includes at least 56 issued patents and 503 filed U.S. patent applications.

Facebook, the world’s biggest social-networking service, is bolstering its legal defenses amid a standoff with rivals that have more intellectual property. Yahoo! Inc. sued Facebook earlier this month, accusing it of infringing patents covering functions critical to websites. Facebook had 22 patent suits against it last year, according to

The Yahoo suit involves patents covering Internet advertising, information sharing and privacy. Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo asked for an order barring Facebook from infringing the 10 patents. It’s seeking triple damages.

Facebook, which filed for an initial public offering last month, also had 33 corresponding patents and 149 filed applications in foreign countries as of the end of last year, according to the IPO filing. The Menlo Park, California-based company is seeking to raise $5 billion in the offering, making it the largest Internet IPO on record.

Facebook expects more patent lawsuits in the future, according to the IPO filing.

“We expect the number of patent and other intellectual property claims against us to grow,” the company said in the Feb. 1 document, before Yahoo’s actions.

Acquired patents made up $51 million of goodwill and intangible assets in 2011, up from $33 million in 2010, according to Facebook.

Jonathan Thaw, a spokesman for Facebook, declined to comment. Ed Barbini, a spokesman for IBM, declined to comment.

Bayer, Regeneron Lose U.K. Patent Fight on Blockbuster Eye Drug

A potential blockbuster drug produced by Bayer AG and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to treat a blindness-causing eye disorder infringes a patent held by Genentech Inc., a U.K. judge ruled.

Regeneron and Bayer asked a London court to revoke a Genentech European patent for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration and rule their VEGF Trap-Eye product, also known as Eylea, was valid.

Judge Christopher Floyd rejected that request, saying yesterday in a written judgment that VEGF Trap-Eye infringed the patent at issue.

Doreen Schroeder, a Bayer spokeswoman, said the ruling only applied in the U.K. and that the patent will expire in October.

“We believe that the decision by the U.K. patents court is wrong and will seek to appeal it,” she said in an e-mailed statement.

Regeneron said in January it expected sales of Eylea to reach between $140 million and $160 million in 2012.

“There is no impact at all of this decision on the commercial availability or prospects for Eylea in the U.S.,” said Peter Dworkin, a spokesman for Tarrytown, New York-based Regeneron.

Macular degeneration, a disorder caused by abnormal blood vessel growth behind the retina, is a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Genentech is a unit of Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG.

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Proview Says Talks With Apple in IPad Trademark Dispute Stalled

Proview International Holdings Ltd.’s Shenzhen unit said talks to arrange settlement negotiations with Apple Inc. regarding the rights to the iPad name in China have stalled.

The talks between the failed Hong Kong-listed display maker and the world’s most-valuable company were disclosed by Proview International Chairwoman Sun Min at the High Court in Hong Kong yesterday. The last face-to-face meeting with Apple was on Feb. 16, Proview founder Rowell Yang said when asked about the talks.

Apple on Feb. 29 appealed a November ruling by a lower court that its 2009 contract to buy rights to the iPad name in China was invalid because Proview’s Shenzhen unit, which owned them, wasn’t a party to the agreement. The unit’s lawyer, Roger Xie, said the Guangdong appeal court, which is due to rule within three months, tried to organize mediation.

Yesterday’s pre-trial hearing in Hong Kong was part of the Cupertino, California-based company’s lawsuit against Yang and his companies for conspiring to breach the 2009 sale agreement.

A Hong Kong judge ruled in July “there is clearly a serious question to be tried for the claim of conspiracy.” The Hong Kong case is parallel to the Guangdong proceedings.

Proview sold the rights to Apple and is misleading Chinese courts and customers, said Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple.

“We respect Chinese laws and regulations, and as a company that generates a lot of intellectual property we would never knowingly abuse someone else’s trademarks,” Wu said.

She declined to comment on whether the two sides have held settlement talks.

Xie said Proview is willing to hold them.

“We are trying to contact Apple and set up a formal negotiation,” Xie said. “We haven’t started any formal negotiation as of now.”

News Corp.’s ‘Glee’ Confusing, Not Amusing for U.K. Comedy Clubs

A British company’s suit against News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox Film unit claiming its “Glee” television series may be confused with U.K. comedy events using the same name was sent to a higher London court yesterday.

The trademark-infringement claim was brought by Comic Enterprises Ltd., which operates the “Glee Club” comedy venues in Cardiff, Oxford and Nottingham that began in 1994. The dispute was referred to a higher court by a patent judge.

The owner of Comic Enterprises claims the title of the U.S. series about a high school music club “led to clear confusion between his business and the program,” Judge Colin Birss said.

The claim for an injunction would have “catastrophic consequences” for Fox if successful and should be decided in a higher court, even if it means extra costs, Birss said in a written ruling.

David Stone, a lawyer for Fox, declined to comment on the suit or the judge’s decision.

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‘Spider-Man’ Battle Reveals Taymor’s Mysterious Treatment

In their court battle against director Julie Taymor, producers of “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” filed an outline, dated July 1, 2004, representing her densely plotted concept of “Spiderman/Caught.”

“The Dream: a city devastated, a huge battle is raging -- we see glimpses of Spiderman flying from one burning skyscraper to another,” the treatment begins.

The two-and-a-half page, single-spaced synopsis is among dozens of comic book excerpts, scripts and financial agreements filed March 21 in federal court in Manhattan. The treatment is to support the producers’ claim that Taymor isn’t owed author royalties, because there’s little similarity between the original book she helped write and the new one created after she was fired a year ago.

Taymor, 59, was removed from the $75 million musical after critics lambasted it during an extended preview period. She sued producers in federal court in Manhattan on Nov. 8, saying they violated her intellectual property rights by making changes without her permission and didn’t pay royalties.

Her team filed a letter with the court suggesting that producers were concerned that she would make a scene at the show’s much-delayed opening, on June 14, 2011.

A spokesman for Taymor didn’t return an e-mail. A spokesman for the lead producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, declined to comment on the letter.

Taymor behaved with “grace and forbearance” at the opening and throughout the “ordeal” of putting on the show, Gelblum wrote in the letter. He said she alone isn’t responsible for its problems.

In her treatment, the Green Goblin is defeated at the end of act one and then mysteriously returns in act two as part of a clique of villains.

The treatment, like her version of the show in previews, is centered on a love-hate relationship between Spider-Man and the mythic spider-woman, Arachne.

In a countersuit, the producers said Taymor made Arachne the focus of the musical and failed to make changes they requested. Arachne’s role was later minimized when a new director and writer created a more conventional story that hewed more closely to the source material.

The case is Taymor v. 8 Legged Productions LLC, 1:11-cv-08002-RJH, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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IP Moves

ArGen-X Hires Former Howrey Partner Rasser as IP Counsel

ArGen-X BV hired Jacobus C. “Koos” Rasser as intellectual-property counsel, the Rotterdam-based biotechnology company said in a statement.

Rasser previously practiced at Washington’s now-defunct Howrey LLP. He also was interim IP director at Akzo Nobel NV’s Organon unit.

Before he went to Howrey, Rasser was at Procter & Gamble Co., where he served as vice president and general counsel for patents.

He has a master’s degree and a doctorate in chemical engineering from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, and a law degree from Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law.