Myriad, Google, Sturgis, HMV, EFF: Intellectual Property

In the wake of Myriad Genetics Inc.’s infringement suit against a competitor that said it would offer breast and ovarian cancer tests, the head of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary has called for mandatory licensing of the Utah-based company’s tests.

In a July 12 letter to Dr. Francis S. Collins, head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, asked that the government require Myriad to license the patent under “reasonable terms” or license the patent itself.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in June that parts of Myriad’s patents on genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer improperly covered natural phenomena. Other parts, the court said, involve enough human intervention to be eligible for legal protection.

Leahy said in his letter that Myriad does all its testing for the genes in-house “and charges between $3,000 and $4,000.” He said that because the research that gave rise to the patented test was based partially on federally funded research, federal law has encouraged commercialization.

He said he fears that the health needs of the public aren’t presently being satisfied by Myriad, and called for what are known as “march-in rights” to mandatory licensing.

Salt Lake City-based Myriad said in a July 15 statement that the company was setting up a program to provide financial assistance to uninsured patients. Beginning July 22, the company will offer financial assistance to reduce qualified underinsured patients’ out-of-pocket costs to no more than $275, the company said.

Lilly’s Loss of Patent Protection Means Pay Cut for Most Workers

Eli Lilly & Co., the maker of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug in late-stage testing, says the loss of patent protection on some of its key products required the company to freeze pay this year for most workers, including executives.

Ed Sangebiel, a spokesman for the Indianapolis-based company, said that the pay freezes will save Lilly $400 million through 2016.

In December the company loses patent protection for Cymbalta, an antidepressant that is the company’s biggest seller at $5 billion per year. Its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa lost patent protection in 2013, ending its peak sales in 2009 of $5.03 billion. Evista, Lilly’s drug used to treat both osteoporosis and breast cancer, goes off patent next year. It generated upwards of $1 billion in 2012.

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Google Urged to Improve EU Antitrust Probe Accord Proposals

Google Inc. must present the European Union with “better” proposals if it wants to settle the almost three-year-old EU antitrust probe into the way it operates its search service, the bloc’s competition chief said.

Google’s offer in April, which included “clearly” distinguishing its own search services from those of rivals for five years, won’t be sufficient to allay the EU’s concerns, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said at a press conference in Brussels yesterday. He said he wrote to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt asking to improve their offer.

Google, the owner of the world’s largest search engine, in April offered to label its branded search services and show links “to three rival specialized search services close to its own” as part of a series of commitments to end the probe. Competitors and users had two months, until June 27, to send comments on the proposed remedies, which the EU will consider before reaching a decision.

Google’s remedies seek to address concerns that the company promotes its own specialist search services, such as Google News and Google Finance, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.

The EU probe also includes any search services Google may develop in the future.

“Our proposal to the European Commission clearly addresses their four areas of concern,” Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for the Mountain View, California-based company, said by telephone yesterday. “We continue to work with the commission to settle this case.”

While Almunia has sought a deal to end the Google matter, Google rivals have stepped up pressure to block any settlement. The commission has received “very negative” feedback from Microsoft Corp. and other companies, Cecilio Madero, the EU’s deputy director-general for antitrust, said in June.

“Google’s proposed commitments across the board retard rather than promote competition; they do more harm than good,” Thomas Vinje, a Brussels-based lawyer for FairSearch Europe, said in a statement today. Google’s proposed changes “attract the vast majority of searchers to the company’s own products, and discourage them from visiting rivals, according to a study commissioned by the group.

Thailand Going After Pirated Soccer Team Jerseys, Souvenirs

Thailand is cracking down on the sale of counterfeit soccer jerseys and gear in markets and outside stadiums where games are played, Thailand’s National Multimedia news website reported.

Large numbers of counterfeit goods marked with the trademarks of the Manchester United Football Club had been found, and people from 40 different businesses have been arrested for piracy, according to the National.

Deputy Commerce Minister Nuttawut Saikuar said his ministry is asking for cooperation from retailers in efforts to put an end to the sale of pirated souvenirs and other products, the National reported.

Future matches in Thailand involving teams from Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona will receive particular scrutiny, according to the National.

Sturgis Seeks Residents’ Support of Trademark Litigation

The city of Sturgis, South Dakota, home to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that draws hundreds of thousands of bikers every year, is asking residents to support Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., holders of the rights to the rally’s trademarks, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Trademark holders filed a trademark infringement suit against Rushmore Photo & gifts and Wal-Mart Stores in 2011, claiming the two retailers sold unauthorized merchandise, the newspaper reported.

City Manager Daniel Ainslie said July 15 that even though SMRI’s possession and defense of the trademarks is contentious, their licensing generated almost $270,000 in 2013, which was used to fund the town’s library, volunteer fire department, police department, community center and parks, according to the Journal.

Residents have been urged to attend the July 22 City Council meeting to discuss any concerns they may have over the city’s choice to support the trademark holders in the infringement suit, the newspaper reported.

Ex-HMV Employee Flips Logo in Effort to Avoid Infringement

In the wake of HMV Group Plc’s decision to close a store in Londonderry in Northern Ireland, an ex-employee who is opening his own independent music store has turned his former employer’s sign upside down, in an effort to sidestep possible trademark issues, the Complete Music Update website reported.

London-based Hilco U.K. Ltd., which is reopening some of the HMV stores, had sent the company’s former employee a letter threatening infringement action after he initially decided to call his new shop HVM and use a color scheme and logo similar to those used by the chain, according to Complete Music Update.

Tony Gregan, the ex-employee, simply flipped the sign upside down so that it now spells “WAH,” according to the website.

He told Complete Music Update that this way he hopes Hilco’s lawyers won’t feel he’s trying to infringe or trade on his former employer’s reputation, Complete Music Update reported.

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Trade Group Agrees Not to Sue Over Posting of Industry Standards

An air-conditioning industry trade group has agreed back down in a copyright suit over a set of standards relating to the industry.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights organization, filed a suit in federal court in San Francisco in February, seeking a court declaration that a public interest group was free to post the standards online.

According to the complaint, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association Inc. had sent Public Resource of Sebastopol, California, a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, demanding the standards be removed from the website.

EFF had argued in its pleadings that the posting was lawful and consistent with U.S. copyright law. The rights group said in a statement that “as part of its work, Public Resource acquires and makes available public safety documents such as fire safety codes, food safety standards, and other regulations that have been incorporated into U.S. and international laws.”

In a July 8 court filing, the parties agreed that the trade group would neither sue Public Resource for the publication of four different sets of standards, not claim copyright interest in them. In return Public Resource agreed not to sue the trade group for a period of two years, unless it is sued by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.

Additionally, the trade group agreed to pay $1 to Public Resources and both parties said they would pay their own legal fees and litigation costs.

The case is Public v. Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association Inc., 3:13-cv-00815-SC, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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