J&J, EU, Bavaria NV, Pork Board: Intellectual Property

Johnson & Johnson won its challenge to two Abbott Laboratories patents on antibodies that help curb the effects of the painful skin disease psoriasis.

A federal jury in Worcester, Massachusetts, yesterday said the patent claims were invalid. U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor had ruled in March that J&J’s Stelara drug infringed the patents. Had the jury found in Abbott’s favor, the case would have proceeded to determine how much J&J should pay.

The disputed patents -- 7,504,485 and 6,914,128 -- are for human antibodies that control a substance called interleukin-12, or IL-12, that regulates the immune system. Overproduction of the substance triggers an overactive immune system response, which in turn causes excess skin cells that pile up and form painful and disfiguring plaques, according to the complaint.

“We believe our patents are valid and are evaluating our options, including a possible appeal,” said Adelle Infante, a spokeswoman for Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, argued that Abbott didn’t properly explain what it claimed to have invented, and the inventions covered obvious variations of earlier know-how that relied on standard research methods. J&J’s Janssen Biotech unit said it was pleased that the jury agreed.

“We will continue to vigorously defend all intellectual property for Stelara,” said Monica Neufang, a spokeswoman for Janssen.

Abbott has been working on its own drug, known as briakinumab, for severe psoriasis. In January 2011, the company withdrew its application to get the drug approved in the U.S. and Europe, after regulators called for more analysis and possible new studies.

The Stelara suit was filed in 2009, after J&J won a record $1.67 billion patent-infringement verdict against Abbott over a process used to make Abbott’s arthritis drug Humira. A U.S. appeals court last year threw out the verdict -- the largest in U.S. history -- after saying the J&J patents were invalid.

Abbott has another case pending against J&J over the arthritis medicine Simponi, which generated $410 million last year for J&J. That case is pending, also in Worcester.

The Stelara case is Abbott GmbH & Co. v. Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., 09cv11340 and the Simponi case is Abbott Biotechnology Ltd. v. Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc., 09cv40089, both U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Worcester).

Spain, Italy Say EU ‘Misused’ Powers When Adopting Patent System

European Union member states abused their powers and “circumvented” Spain and Italy to push ahead with creating the bloc’s first common patent system, a court was told.

The Spanish and Italian governments’ “legitimate concerns” about the system were ignored so the other member states could approve the plans, lawyers for the two countries said to a 13-judge panel of the EU’s highest court yesterday.

In March last year, 25 EU nations agreed to move forward with a common patent system without Italy and Spain, under a mechanism called enhanced cooperation whereby member states can work together as long as at least nine agree. The two countries had objected to the plan largely over language concerns. The EU has 23 official languages and numerous compromises failed to satisfy political demands or risked increasing translation costs for companies.

Spain and Italy argued language isn’t the issue. Enhanced cooperation “should not be used or misused to circumvent other countries,” Nuria Diaz Abad, Spain’s lawyer, told the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg. It “was simply a way of bypassing this obstacle,” Sergio Fiorentino, a lawyer for Italy, said.

The other countries chose to proceed without Spain and Italy only when the language issue “had become an insurmountable problem,” Fernando Florindo Gijon, a lawyer for the European Council representing EU governments, said.

The cases are: C-274/11, Spain v. Council, C-295/11, Italy v. Council.

For more patent news, click here.


Dutch Brewery Can Continue to Sell its Bavaria Beer in Italy

Bavaria NV, a 300-year-old Dutch brewery, has the right to use the “Bavaria” name in Italy, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled, the company said in a statement.

The court affirmed a lower-court ruling that the Dutch company’s trademarks have priority over and don’t conflict with the protected geographical indication “Bayerisches Bier.”

The lower court had determined that the brewer’s trademarks registered between 1971 and 1995 for use in Italy were valid, legitimate and could be used, even with the 2001 registration for the geographical indication.

The Lieshout, Netherlands-based company said in its statement that this victory in Italy follows similar outcomes in Australia and Spain and a positive ruling from the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

Humane Society Sues USDA Over ‘The Other White Meat’ Trademark

The marketing arm of the U.S. swine industry responded to a trademark-infringement lawsuit the Humane Society of the United States filed over the trademark “the other white meat.”

In a Sept. 24 statement, the National Pork Board said that it bought the mark in 2006 from the National Pork Producers Council. The mark was sold for $35 million and the sale was approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, with the board paying $3 million a year against the balance.

Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board, said in the statement that the mark is “an incredibly valuable asset, which is why the board in 2006 took steps to assure it would always be owned by pork producers.” He said that a 2000 survey conducted by Northwestern University concluded that “the other white meat” was one of the five most recognizable taglines in contemporary advertising

The board, which is funded by mandatory fees of 40 cents for each $100 of pork sold or imported, promotes pork production, consumption, education and environmental issues.

The National Pork Producers Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, said it is reviewing the complaint, which the Humane Society filed in federal court in Washington on Sept. 24.

In a statement, the NPPC called the suit “the latest bullying tactic” by the Humane Society to force the council to “abandon its position on allowing farmers to choose production practices that are best for the welfare of their animals.”

The council deemed the complaint “another desperate attempt by the radical activist group to severely curtail animal agriculture and take away consumer choices.”

In its complaint, the Humane Society says the purchase of the trademark by the council violates provisions of the law that enable the mandatory 40 cents pork-marketing checkoff. The society argues that the purchase in essence transfers some of the marketing money for advocacy purposes, which is barred under the law.

The society asked the court to set aside the “unlawful expenditure approvals” for the trademark, and to bar further payments from the board to the NPPC. Additionally, the society seeks awards of attorney fees and litigation costs. The USDA is the defendant because it had to approve the use of the marketing funds for the purchase of the trademark.

The case is Humane Society of the United States v. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service, 12-cv-01405, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington)

BBQ Restaurant Seeks New Drink Name After ‘Painkiller’ Is Taken

A South Carolina barbecue restaurant is running a contest for the best name for one of its cocktails after it learned a name it used in the past is a registered trademark belonging to someone else.

Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ LLC, of Charleston, South Carolina, and Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, is seeking a new name for the frozen drink it used to call the “Painkiller.”

According to the database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, “Painkiller” was registered in September 2003 by Pusser’s Rum Ltd. of the British Virgin Islands.

Entries for a new name can be submitted through Oct. 12, with the first prize a $25 gift certificate per week for a year, according to the restaurant’s website.

Target Sued Over Moccasins With Beaded Thunderbird Design

Target Corp., the Minneapolis-based discount retail chain, was sued for trademark infringement by a maker of moccasin shoes.

Minnetonka Moccasin Co., also based in Minneapolis, accused Target of selling unauthorized knockoffs of its thunderbird design moccasins, according to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Minnesota.

Minnetonka said it’s used the design -- with a beaded thunderbird stitched to the toe of the shoe -- since the 1960s, and that it is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The shoe company said Target began contacting it in November 2011 with offers of “prime real estate on the floor” of its stores to use in selling Minnetonka moccasins. Minnetonka “promptly and politely passed on the sales opportunity,” according to court papers.

In early 2012, Target began selling similar-looking moccasins with a beaded thunderbird design, Minnetonka said. The design is “confusingly similar” to Minnetonka’s own, the company claimed, saying it’s harmed by the retail chain’s actions.

It asked the court to bar further infringement and to order a recall and destruction of all infringing products and promotional material. Minnetonka also asked for awards of Target’s profits derived from the alleged infringement, together with money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs.

Target didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the complaint.

The case is Minnetonka Moccasin Co. v. Target Corp., 12-cv-02455, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota.

For more trademark news, click here.


Event-Management Company Barred From Sponsoring Live Performance

An Indian event-management company was ordered to quit using content belonging to members of the Indian Performing Rights Society, India’s Lawetalnews.com reported.

The company is barred from offering any live performances of the lyrics or musical scores whose copyrights belong to members of the society, according to Lawetalnews.com

AC Venture Communications India Private Ltd. was also ordered to pay money damages to the society, the website reported.

The ruling, by the Delhi high court, came in response to a petition filed by the society in which it claimed the company failed to get the proper license before offering live performances of the copyrighted work, the website reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

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