Pfizer, AstraZeneca, LVMH, Ikos: Intellectual Property

Pfizer Inc. said it filed patent-infringement lawsuits yesterday against generic-drug makers including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. to prevent them from selling a low-cost version of the painkiller Celebrex until December 2015.

Pfizer won a ruling in 2008 preventing Teva from entering the market until May 2014. In that case, an appeals court invalidated a patent that expires in December 2015. Pfizer said yesterday that it had persuaded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reissue that patent with changes.

Celebrex, also known by its active ingredient celecoxib, generated $1.75 billion in U.S. sales last year, the company said Jan. 29. Each day that Pfizer can delay generic competition means about $5 million in revenue for the New York-based company.

The reissued patent -- RE44084 -- covers methods of treating osteoarthritis with celecoxib. In addition to Petach Tikva, Israel-based Teva, the world’s largest maker of generic drugs, Pfizer said it sued Mylan Inc., Actavis Inc., Lupin Ltd. and Apotex Inc. in federal court in Virginia.

“Continued development of new medicines that enhance patient lives is supported by protecting intellectual property and innovation,” Pfizer General Counsel Amy Schulman said in a statement.

AstraZeneca Says Australian Court Invalidated Crestor Patents

AstraZeneca Plc, maker of the Nexium ulcer drug and the Xylocaine topical anesthetic, said an Australian court found three patents protecting its Crestor anti-cholesterol drug to be invalid.

In a March 5 statement, the London-based pharmaceutical company said the Federal Court of Australia invalidated one patent covering Crestor’s formulation and two others related to the use of the compound in the treatment of high blood cholesterol.

Annual sales of the drug in Australia have reached about A$350 million ($359 million), according to the statement. AstraZeneca said it’s evaluating options, including filing an appeal. The Australian patents were challenged by Apotex Pty Ltd., Watson Pharma Pty Ltd. and Ascent Pharma Pty Ltd.

In December, a federal appeals court in the U.S. issued a ruling blocking generic versions of the drug from coming onto the U.S. market until July 2016. The drug generated $2.3 billion in sales in the U.S. in the first nine months of 2012, and accounts for 22 percent of the company’s revenue.

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Louis Vuitton Tells Chinese Hairdresser His Furniture Infringes

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, the French luxury-brand company, accused the owner of a Hong Kong-area beauty salon of trademark infringement for using a covering on its chairs that the company says infringes its mark, the South China Morning Post reported.

The salon owner said the luxury-goods company is demanding a published apology and money damages, according to the newspaper.

The furniture came from Shenzhen, in China’s Guangdong Province, and the salon owner said he was unaware the pattern belonged to Louis Vuitton, the newspaper reported.

He told the newspaper he couldn’t afford to pay what Louis Vuitton is seeking, even after the luxury-goods company cut its damages request in half, and that he may have to close.

Philips Wins Challenge to Spectrum’s ‘Steam Glide’ Trademark

Royal Philips Electronics NV successfully challenged a U.K. trademark belonging to Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc.’s Russell Hobbs Ltd. unit.

The European Union’s Court of Justice affirmed a lower-court holding that the “Steam Glide” trademark registered by Salton Europe in 2008 for use with irons was too generic to be afforded protection.

Salton changed its name in 2009 to Russell Hobbs, which merged with Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin, in 2010.

Russell Hobbs argued that the combination of “steam” and “glide” acts to “stimulate the imagination to create a mental image of suspension and hovering, which does not in fact exist.”

The court disagreed, saying “the smooth movement of an iron across clothes, which results from the steam, corresponds to what the consumer may expect from a product of that type, the description of that movement by the word in question thus does not ‘conjure up’ an image of hovering but is clearly descriptive of a very real characteristic of the goods in issue.”

The court said there was nothing unusual about combining the two English words, and “there is no perceptible difference between the expression ‘steam glide’ and the mere sum of the words of which it is composed.”

Spectrum’s appeal was dismissed and the court said the Madison-based company had to pay its own costs, the costs of the European trademark authority and Philips.

The case is Spectrum Brands (UK) Ltd. v. Office for the Harmonization of the Inner Market (Trademarks and Designs), T‑ 544/11, General Court, European Court of Justice.

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Ikos Co-Founder Coward Sues Hedge Fund Over Software Copyright

Martin Coward, the co-founder of Ikos Asset Management Ltd., sued his estranged wife’s businesses in a U.K. court over ownership of copyrights to software that runs the hedge fund’s trading platform.

Coward was the “architect” of the “bedrock of the family business,” he created with Elena Ambrosiadou, his lawyers said at the start of a three-week trial in London yesterday.

“Practically all of the financial markets expertise at Ikos resided in Coward,” said Michael Bloch, his lawyer.

Ikos, a hedge fund with $1.36 billion in assets under management that uses computer algorithms to spot profitable futures markets trades, has been embroiled in litigation involving Coward and other former employees around the globe. The estranged couple, who started divorce proceedings in Greece in 2009, have filed more than 40 lawsuits against each other in at least four countries.

Ambrosiadou, who was dropped as a defendant in the suit and is expected to testify this week, has denied Coward’s version of events -- dating back to how the company was formed in 1995. The couple’s “relationship has turned toxic,” Bloch told the court.

Coward, who left Ikos in 2009, paid 50,000 pounds ($75,800) in damages and apologized to Ambrosiadou in January for providing divorce papers containing personal information to journalists.

Ambrosiadou “has tried to get Coward sent to prison,” for allegedly copying software, put tracking devices on his car and wire-tapped their family home, Bloch said.

Coward, who faces criminal charges in Monaco and Cyprus, was “caught red-handed stealing” the software, lawyers for Ikos said in documents filed at the London court.

Ikos counter-sued Coward for copyright infringement and breach of confidence for downloading the software, described as the fund’s “crown jewels, on which the entire business is based,” according to the filings.

“Electronic-theft laws need to be introduced in U.K. and Europe,” Ambrosiadou said in response to an e-mail requesting comment.

The case is Coward v Phaestos Limited, U.K. High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, case no. HC10C02788

EU to Quiz Germany Over Draft Rules for Google’s News Clips

Germany will be questioned by European Union regulators over a draft law that limits what Google Inc. and other so-called aggregators can use to bundle news clips on the Internet.

EU regulators analyzed the bill passed by German parliamentarians last week and will seek further information from the country’s government, Carlo Corazza, a spokesman for the European Commission, said in an e-mail. The Brussels-based authority received complaints over the draft law on ancillary copyright, he said.

Google and others may continue to show short news items on their websites without being required to pay, German lawmakers decided in last week’s parliamentary vote. German publishers including Axel Springer AG and Bertelsmann SE, which face falling revenue from newspapers and magazines, have argued that search engines and aggregators like Google News should pay for displaying short excerpts from news stories.

Publishers would retain the exclusive right of use for any content exceeding “single words or very small text excerpts,” under the draft agreed last week. The bill by Germany’s Justice Ministry gives publishers one year during which they have the sole rights to commercially use their journalistic content. The draft needs to be approved by Germany’s upper house before it can enter into force.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, declined to comment. Mountain View, California-based Google said last week in response to the German vote that “ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped” and the best outcome for Germany would be no new legislation that may threaten innovation.

Google, which doesn’t display ads on its news aggregator pages in Europe, argued that its so-called snippets are actually helping publishers by driving traffic to their sites.

Corazza referred to EU rules that seek to cut technical standards set by one country which may hamper trade across the 27-nation bloc. He didn’t say who complained to the EU regulator.

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