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Sanofi, Kweichow Moutai, Microsoft: Intellectual Property

A patent dispute between Actavis Group HF and Paris-based Sanofi over a drug to treat diabetes and hypertension was referred to a European Union court by a London judge.

Actavis, owned by Iceland-based private equity firm Novator EHF, wants to sell a generic version of Sanofi’s Aprovel treatment, according to a written ruling by Judge Richard Arnold yesterday. Aprovel, also sold as Avapro, generated 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in sales in 2011, according to Sanofi’s annual report.

Sanofi and the drug’s distributor Sanofi Pharma Bristol-Myers Squibb SNC argue that, although Aprovel’s patent expired, their right to exclusively sell the product is covered by a supplementary protection certificate.

The issue is unclear and should be referred to the European Court of Justice, Arnold said.

The referral to the European court to determine the meaning of rules covering supplementary protection certificates will be made shortly, Sanofi spokeswoman Marisol Peron said in an e-mail.

Actavis spokesman Frank Staud said in an e-mail the certificate was invalid and the company sought to have it revoked by the European court.

“Actavis is confident” the court will decide in its favor, he said.

The case is Actavis Group PTC EHF & Anr v. Sanofi-Aventis, High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, HC12C02525.

For more patent news, click here.


Moutai’s ‘National Liquor’ Mark Opposed by Other Distillers

Five Chinese distillers objected to Kweichow Moutai Co.’s application to register “national liquor” as a trademark in China, the Global Times reported.

They submitted a petition to the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry & Commerce, stating that permitting Moutai to register the mark would permit unfair competition, Global Times reported.

Granting the registration also would harm the government’s reputation, the distillers said, according to Global Times.

Separately, Fenjiu Group of Shanxi, China, said in an Aug. 6 filing with the trademark office that the Moutai products weren’t good enough to “represent or symbolize the whole nation,” Global Times reported.

Vandy Halts Use of ‘12th Man’ After Texas A&M Complains

One lesson learned by incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University this year is that trademarks of other schools need to be respected, the Inside Vandy student news service reported.

T-shirts worn by Vanderbilt students in the annual Freshman Run that read “12th Man Tailgate: Class of 2016” were found to have infringed a trademark registered to Texas A&M University, the news service reported.

The “12th man” mark dates back to 1922 when a Texas A&M student was called from the stands to play for the school’s short-handed football team, Inside Vandy reported.

While Vanderbilt didn’t recall the t-shirts, once it was informed of the infringement, the school removed about 30 references to “12th man” that were used in calendars, videos and photos related to the event, according to the news service.

‘Rape Nation’ Stickers May Infringe University’s Trademarks

A man seen on security-camera footage placing “rape nation” stickers in the University of Montana’s school colors around Missoula, Montana, is a potential defendant in a trademark infringement action by the school, the Missoulian newspaper reported.

The sticker uses a stencil of a bear paw print that is the same as the university’s logo, the director of the school’s trademark and licensing office told the Missoulian.

The federal departments of education and justice are investigating reports of sexual assaults at the school, some of which involve athletes, the newspaper reported.

In addition to trademark infringement, the placer of the stickers also faces a possible criminal-mischief charge, police told the Missoulian.

For more trademark news, click here.


Microsoft Said to Ask China to Stop Piracy at Four State Firms

Microsoft Corp. asked China to stop the alleged use of pirated versions of its Office software by China National Petroleum Corp. and three other state-owned companies, three people familiar with the situation said.

The world’s biggest software company filed its complaint against CNPC, China Post Group, China Railway Construction Corp. and Travelsky Technology Ltd. last month to a government panel led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, said the three people, who asked not to be identified because the filing isn’t public. Microsoft alleged that more than 40 percent of Office and Windows server client software used by CNPC, parent of China’s largest company by value, is unlicensed, the people said.

Microsoft spokesman Charles Shen said he didn’t immediately have any information on the filing. Liu Weijiang, a Beijing-based spokesman at CNPC, said the company hadn’t heard about Microsoft’s complaints. Liu declined to comment on whether CNPC used pirated versions of the Office software.

Xu Zhaohui, who is in charge of hardware and software for China Post, said Microsoft’s allegations were “inaccurate.” The company, which delivers mail, received a complaint from Microsoft within the past month and has sent a written response, Xu said by telephone yesterday.

Microsoft alleges that 84 percent of China Railway Construction’s Office software is unlicensed along with 97 percent of its Windows server client software, according to the complaint, the people said.

Those estimates “greatly exaggerated” the use of unlicensed software by China Railway Construction, the company said in an e-mailed response supplied by Kevin Mao, an outside public relations representative for the listed unit.

Calls to the Travelsky headquarters number listed on its website weren’t answered.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer met Wang in Beijing in May, and the vice premier pledged to crack down on software piracy, the official Xinhua News Agency reported at the time.

China’s illegal software market was worth almost $9 billion last year, compared with a legal market of less than $3 billion, according to the annual report of the Business Software Alliance released in May.

In its complaint, Microsoft also alleges that almost all of Travelsky’s Office software is unlicensed, with 93 percent of China Post’s coming from pirated versions, the people said.

The allegations were based on Microsoft’s own estimates and calculations, the people said.

China agreed during December 2010 meetings with U.S. officials in Washington to take steps to counter losses from piracy for software companies. Wang, who led that Chinese delegation, was named head of a panel created in November with responsibility for ensuring the protection of intellectual-property rights.

‘Avatar’ Copyright Infringement Case Dismissed in Los Angeles

A federal judge in Los Angeles threw out a copyright infringement case against filmmaker James Cameron and News Corp’s 20th Century Fox unit.

The suit, filed in January by a Los Angeles writer, accused Cameron and the studio’s blockbuster film “Avatar” of infringing copyrights to a children’s story. “Avatar” is the highest-earning film of all time, according to the website.

Elijah Schkeiban claimed in his court papers that a third party passed along his self-published “Bats and Butterflies” screenplay to the “Avatar” producers.

He said there were many similarities in plot, sequence of events, themes, characters, moods, settings, time and place.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real disagreed, finding that Schkeiban failed to demonstrate that Cameron and the studio actually had access to “Bats and Butterflies.”

The judge granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit on Sept. 17.

The case is Schkeiban v. Cameron, 12-cv-00636, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Penn State Fights to Keep Operations Secret After Sandusky

Pennsylvania State University is standing fast against efforts to open its records to public scrutiny as it overhauls its administration after the Jerry Sandusky child-sex case, President Rodney Erickson said.

Erickson, a former provost who took over as president when President Graham Spanier resigned in November, said making the university disclose documents and communications to the public raises “issues related to our research,” because of trade secrets and proprietary information it gets from working with private industries. He also said many donors want their gifts kept secret.

Lawmakers and Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who sits on the school’s Board of Trustees, say they want to make it subject to all the provisions in the state’s Right-to-Know law, which permits people to seek e-mails, contracts and other records from government institutions. While almost all U.S. public universities are subject to such statutes, Penn State was excluded when Pennsylvania overhauled its law in 2008.

Pennsylvania, Delaware and Alaska are the only three states that exclude public universities from open records laws, according to Terry Mutchler, executive director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records.

Penn State, which was established by the legislature in 1855 and got about $280 million in state support last year, has been assailed for a culture of secrecy. Investigators found university leaders sought to protect the football program by covering up allegations more than a decade ago that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, sexually abused children on campus. A grand-jury report last year revealed the scandal, leading to perjury charges against two administrators, the resignation of President Graham Spanier and firing of football coaching legend Joe Paterno.

While Erickson said in an interview this week that the president’s office has been made more open and accountable to the university’s Board of Trustees, the university opposes legislation filed in Harrisburg that would extend all of the provisions of the open records law. Instead, it supports a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi that would subject campus police to the law while also increasing disclosure of how the university spends state funding.

Pileggi, a Republican elected in 2002, sponsored the overhaul of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law in 2008, which made it easier for the public to get internal information from government agencies. Penn State opposed its inclusion, with the former president testifying that it would have a “profound negative impact.”

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