Actavis, Time Warner, Take Two: Intellectual Property

July 12 (Bloomberg) -- UCB Inc. sued Actavis Inc., Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit and more than 13 other drugmakers alleging patent infringement for plans to sell low-cost generic versions of the epilepsy medicine Vimpat.

The unit of UCB SA, based in Brussels, contends that U.S. sales of Vimpat before the patent expires in 2022 would hurt its business, according to one of the complaints filed July 10 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

UCB, formerly known as Schwarz Pharma AG, is “entitled to an award of damages for any commercial use” of the patented medicine, it said court papers.

Vimpat was the company’s third-best-selling product, generating 334 million euros ($437.4 million) in revenue last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Charlie Mayr, a spokesman for Parsippany, New Jersey-based Actavis, wasn’t immediately available to respond to a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit. Julie Masow, a spokeswoman for Novartis, based in Basel, Switzerland, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In dispute is patent RE 38,551.

In June, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest generic-drug maker, was sued for patent infringement in the same court by UCB over Vimpat. The case is pending.

The Actavis Case is UCB v. Watson, 13-cv-01219, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Time Warner Sued Over Sports Transmissions to Wireless Devices

Time Warner Inc. and its Turner Sports unit were sued by closely held Front Row Technologies on July 10 in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Front Row said Time Warner infringed three patents relating to a method of transmitting sports and entertainment data to wireless handheld devices over a telecommunications network.

Applications for NCAA sports, NBA Game Time, NBA League Pass Mobile, PGA Championship and PGA Tour are accused of infringing patents 8,086,184, issued in December 2011; 8,270,895, issued in September; and 8,401,460, issued on March 19.

Front Row seeks cash compensation and an order blocking further use of its inventions. The complaint also names Turner Broadcasting System and Turner Sports Interactive.

Front Row has filed other patent suits, including ones against Major League Baseball Properties and NBA Media Ventures.

The case is Front Row Technologies v. Time Warner Inc., 1:13-cv-00636, U.S. District Court, District of New Mexico (Albuquerque).

For more patent news, click here.


California Craft Brewery Will Quit Using ‘420’ on Beer Labels

Lagunitas Brewing Co., a craft brewery in Petaluma, California, will no longer use a code phrase for marijuana on one of its beer labels, the Santa Rosa, California, Press Democrat reported.

The brewery will defer to Sweetwater Brewing Co. of Atlanta, which claimed prior trademark rights to the use of the number 420, commonly associated with marijuana, the newspaper reported.

Lagunitas Founder Tony Magee said he made the change after receiving a demand letter from the Atlanta brewery, according to the Press Democrat.

Sweetwater produces a beer it calls “420 Extra Pale Ale,” which is one of almost 80 live trademarks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s database related to “420,” the Press Democrat reported.

Take Two Unit Registers ‘Rockstar Games’ Trademarks in Australia

Take Two Interactive Software Inc.’s Rockstar Games unit, a New York-based maker of video games, registered its name as a trademark in Australia after a five-year battle, the TM Watch news blog reported.

The games company’s application was opposed by JMBP Inc., Mark Burnett’s production company, according to TM Watch.

Burnett’s company, which produced the “Survivor,” “Apprentice” and “The Voice” reality-television programs, withdrew its opposition June 21, TM Watch reported.

Among Rockstar Games’ products are the Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne and Midnight Club series of games, according to TM Watch.

For more trademark news, click here.


Warner Bros. Can Pursue Counterclaims in Hobbit Games Suit

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Entertainment unit can pursue counterclaims in a lawsuit by author J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate over the right to license “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” online and gambling games.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins in Los Angeles yesterday denied a request by the estate and Tolkien heirs to dismiss counterclaims by Warner Bros. and producer Saul Zaentz, saying they are routine contract-based claims and aren’t improper because the estate sued first.

The estate sued last year, alleging that the movie studio and its subsidiaries have the right to sell and license only tangible objects, not downloadable video games. Warner Bros. also doesn’t have permission to license online slot machines and casino slot machines based on the late author’s books, according to the Nov. 19 complaint.

Bonnie Eskenazi, a lawyer for the Tolkien estate, didn’t immediately return a call to her office for comment on the ruling.

The case is Fourth Age Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Digital Distribution Inc., 12-cv-09912, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)

Japan May Extend Copyright Term to 70 Years, Daily Press Says

The Japanese government is considering revisions to that nation’s copyright legislation that would extend copyright terms so they will be in conformity with those in the U.S. and European Union, Japan Daily Press reported.

Presently, the copyright term in Japan for songwriters, composers and music publishers is the author’s life plus 50 years, as opposed to life plus 70 years in the U.S. and EU, according to the publication.

Impetus for the change comes from the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers and also from forthcoming negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, Japan Daily Press reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

One-Time Espionage Suspect Admits to Tampering With Computer

An ex-Medical College of Wisconsin researcher once suspected of trying to steal a developmental cancer-fighting compound for China pleaded guilty to a computer tampering charge.

Hua Jun Zhao, a Chinese national, was arrested in March on suspicion he had taken three vials of the cancer drug from a Medical College office in Milwaukee and then took steps to deliver them to China’s Zhejiang University. Initially charged with economic espionage, he was indicted on April 9 for computer tampering and lying to federal agents.

“As you gather facts, your view of a situation sometimes changes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Ingraham told reporters yesterday after Zhao pleaded before U.S. District Judge Charles N. Clevert in Milwaukee.

The three vials were never found, he said.

“Of course we’d like to resolve that,” Ingraham said. The missing vials, containing a powdery substance identified only as C-25, had a value of about $8,000, according to court papers filed when Zhao was arrested.

Zhao, who told Clevert he is 41, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 6. While his crime is punishable by as long as five years in imprison, the prosecutor said outside court the sentence imposed is likely to be less than that.

Zhao’s lawyer, Michelle Jacobs, declined to comment after her client entered his guilty plea.

The case is U.S. v. Zhao, 13-cr-00058, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

Treasury’s Lew, State’s Burns Meet Chinese and U.S. Executives

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with U.S. and Chinese business leaders yesterday as part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

The executives said their priorities include protection of intellectual property rights, cybersecurity and streamlining regulation, according to the statement released by the Treasury Department.

The American chief executive officers included Laurence D. Fink of Blackrock Inc., Ellen Kullman of DuPont Co. and Patricia Woertz of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., the Treasury Department said in a statement released in Washington.

Chang Zhenming, chairman of CITIC Group Corp., and Tian Guoli, chairman of Bank of China Ltd., were among the Chinese executives, the Treasury said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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