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Dow, Lancome, Wendy’s, Sinovel: Intellectual Property

June 28 (Bloomberg) -- Akzo Nobel NV accused Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, of misusing confidential information to seek two patents for coatings technology.

Dow entered a development agreement with a U.S. unit of Amsterdam-based Akzo in 2010, ended the agreement the following year, and in 2012, without Akzo’s permission, said it would file the patent applications, according to a lawsuit filed June 25 in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington.

By using confidential information, Midland, Michigan-based Dow is responsible for wrongly “usurping to itself and for its own benefit intellectual property entrusted to it by Akzo,” according to the complaint.

Akzo is seeking a ruling that Dow violated the contract, an order forcing Dow to sign over rights to the inventions and an award of unspecified damages and legal fees.

“Dow is aware of the new complaint,” Nancy Lamb, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Dow “believes it has acted in compliance with terms of the referenced joint development agreement” and will fight the lawsuit, she said.

The case is Akzo v. Dow, CA8666, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

Cadila Sued by Alpex Over Patent for Obesity Drug Suprenza

Cadila Healthcare Ltd. a generic-drug maker based in Ahmedabad, India, was sued by Alpex Pharma SA for infringing a U.S. patent for the obesity drug Suprenza.

Alpex, based in Mezzovico, Switzerland, contends Cadila, doing business as Zydus Cadila, wrongly applied to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to sell low-cost copies of the medicine before patent 6,149,938 expires in 2018, according to a lawsuit filed June 26 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Unless blocked by a judge, premature sales of the generic drug in the U.S. will cause “substantial and irreparable harm” to Alpex, the company said in court papers.

Sujatha Rajesh, a Cadila spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Alpex v. Zydus, 13-cv-01143, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Mongols Biker Club Files Suit to Block Seizure of Trademarks

The Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club LLC filed a suit in federal court in Los Angeles in response to an attempt by the U.S. to seek forfeiture of the 44-year-old club’s trademarks.

In a statement in October 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice said 61 members of the club had been arrested in an 86-count federal racketeering indictment that claimed the group was a criminal enterprise involved in murder, hate crimes against blacks, assaults, firearms violations and drug trafficking.

In the club’s complaint, it denied being a criminal enterprise and said members are often “presumed by others to be criminals due to stereotypes of biker culture and the clothing they wear.”

Many of its members are former U.S. military veterans who are “misperceived” because they practice a code of silence, respect and camaraderie “which appear intimidating to the misinformed,” the club said.

The club expels members who use, sell, transport or possesses illegal drugs or are convicted of a serious felony, according to the complaint. Members are forbidden from using their patches, which display the club’s trademarks, for any personal gain or criminal activity, the club said in court papers. One of the marks depicts a man riding a motorcycle with the words Mongols Nation.

The marks are “collectively owned by the club and the members as a whole,” the club said.

In the 2008 statement, U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien said if the court grants the request, law enforcement officers can stop a club member who is wearing the patch and “literally take the jacket right off his back.”

The club claims the marks are protected by the First Amendment and the seizure would be prior restraint on its freedom of speech.

The club asked the court to declare that the government has no interest in the marks, that they’re not subject to forfeiture, and that the club is their rightful owner. The club is also seeking awards of litigation costs and attorney fees.

The case is Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club LLC v. Holder, 2:13-cv-044374-DDP-VBK, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

Lancome’s ‘La Vie Est Belle’ Trademark Rejected by Taiwan Court

Lancome Parfums Et Beaute Et Cie. SNC, the Paris-based parfumerie, won’t be permitted to register “La Vie Est Belle” as a trademark in Taiwan, the Focus Taiwan website reported.

The company had filed an appeal of the Nov. 2011, rejection of its trademark application by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, according to Focus Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Supreme Administrative Court rejected the appeal, saying the phrase, which translates to “Life Is Beautiful,” isn’t distinctive enough to qualify for trademark protection, Focus Taiwan reported.

Lancome had hired actress Julia Roberts to promote its La Vie Est Belle brand, and argued unsuccessfully that the mark was totally distinctive because it represented her own wonderful life and perfect marriage, according to the news website.

Wendy’s Sued Ohio Dairy Over Claims ‘Frosty’ Mark Is Infringed

Wendy’s Co., the Dublin, Ohio-based fast-food chain, sued an Ohio-based dairy company for trademark infringement.

According to the complaint file June 21 in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, United Dairy Farmers Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio, is accused of infringing Wendy’s “Frosty” trademark and the trade dress used for that product.

Wendy’s said it has used the “Frosty” mark since 1969 for a product by the same name that is a cross between a milkshake and soft-serve ice cream. The product, which contains a proprietary cocoa formula, hasn’t changed significantly since it was first placed on the restaurant chain’s menu.

The company objects to the Frosties product produced by the dairy company. According to court papers and Wendy’s statements, the United Dairy Farmers’ product uses a red and yellow packaging that is confusingly similar to the containers in which the Frosty is served.

Wendy’s claims the infringement is deliberate and is aimed at causing consumers to assume falsely that an affiliation exists between the two companies’ products.

United Dairy Farmers didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Wendy’s asked the court to order United Dairy Farmers to halt the infringing actions and to engage in corrective advertising to correct what Wendy’s says is confusion in the marketplace. The company requests awards of the dairy company’s profits related to the alleged infringement, together with money damages, litigation costs and attorney fees.

The case is Wendy’s International Inc., v. United Dairy Farmers Inc., 2:13-cv-00596-ALM-NMK, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio (Columbus).

For more trademark news, click here.

For copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

China’s Sinovel Charged by U.S. With Stealing Trade Secrets

Sinovel Wind Group Co., a Chinese wind-turbine company, was charged with stealing trade secrets from its former U.S. partner, a case of industrial espionage that may heighten tensions in U.S.-China relations in the wake of the Edward Snowden affair.

U.S. prosecutors secured an indictment of the company and two of its executives in federal court yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin. Also charged was Dejan Karabasevic, who pleaded guilty in Klagenfurt, Austria, to stealing source code for the turbine controllers made by American Superconductor Corp., his former employer. The company lost more than $1 billion in market value after the theft.

The timing of the indictment is likely to give it prominence in U.S. dispute with China over economic espionage. That conflict has only been inflamed by Snowden’s disclosures of U.S. computer-based spying and China’s decision to allow the ex-National Security Agency contractor to fly to Russia from Hong Kong, where he had fled.

“My 5-year-old understands that this is wrong,” AMSC Chief Executive Officer Daniel McGahn said by telephone.

The indictment is the latest development in a legal struggle between AMSC, a maker of small industrial computers that fit inside wind turbines, and the company that was formerly its largest customer. AMSC, based in Devens, Massachusetts, is seeking more than $1.2 billion in damages from Sinovel in Chinese courts, accusing Sinovel of putting the stolen source code in more than 1,000 turbines that it sold in China.

Prosecutors allege that Sinovel, which was charged with conspiracy, theft of trade secrets and fraud, cheated AMSC out of more than $800 million.

The case is U.S. v. Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd., 13-cr-00084, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

Lofgren Introduced Private Trade-Secret Section to EEA

Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California introduced legislation to allow individuals to recover damages under the Economic Espionage Act.

HR2466 would give “any person who suffers injury” under a violation of this act to purse a civil case against the violator in order to be compensated. Under this legislation, a case must be brought within two years of the date of the action or the discovery of damage.

The legislation doesn’t cover reverse engineering. In fact, it specifically states that those who obtain information without authorization who have worked backward “from a lawfully obtained known product or service to divine the process that aided its development or manufacture” may not be charged.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at vslindflor@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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