Pfizer, Alibaba, Rightscorp, Netlist: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg) -- Pfizer Inc., the maker of Lipitor and Viagra, sent a letter to physicians in the U.K. warning them that even through the patent on its anti-epilepsy drug pregabalin has expired, a patent on its use remains in effect.

The letter, published on the biotech and drug patent news blog, specified that while the patent has expired for the drug, which Pfizer markets as Lyrica, European patent EP 0 034-061, which covers its use to treat pain, extends to 2017.

That patent doesn’t cover the use of Lyrica to treat epilepsy or generalized anxiety disorder, New York-based Pfizer said.

Pfizer warned that the patent may be infringed, “even potentially unwittingly” by pharmacists and others in the supply chain if they supply generic pregabalin for use with pain.

The drugmaker recommended that physicians who want to use pregabalin to treat pain should prescribe Lyrica by brand.

Pfizer did acknowledge that both Generics Ltd. and Actavis Group PTC are challenging the validity of the use patent in the English patents court, with a trial set for June.

Pfizer said it believes the pain-use patent is valid and “will be contesting the case vigorously.”

Apple Gets U.S. Patent on Touchless Computer Control System

Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone and iPad, received a patent on a technology that enables users to control their computers without even touching the screen.

Patent 8,933,876, issued yesterday, covers what the Cupertino, California-based company calls a “three dimensional user interface session control.” The invention lets a computer read and respond to a hand gesture within the field of view of a sensing device coupled to the computer.

The sensing device operates by performing three-dimensional scans of parts of the user’s body, according to the patent.

Apple applied for the patent in December 2011, with the assistance of D. Kligler IP Services Ltd. of Tel Aviv.

For more patent news, click here.


Alibaba Group Wins Control of Namesake Marks in Russia

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., operator of the Chinese Internet search engine, has prevailed in a trademark dispute before Russia’s Supreme Court, the Russian Legal Information Agency known as RAPSI reported.

The dispute was with Holmrook Ltd., a British Virgin Islands company that had registered Alibaba trademarks in Russia and not used them for three years, according to RAPSI.

In earlier court battles, Holmrook failed to hang on to Russian registrations it has made for marks belonging to Swiss watchmakers Rado Uhren AG, Longines SA and Tissot SA, and to Major Auto, a Russian car dealer network, RAPSI reported.

According to RAPSI, Russian courts are also looking at a dispute between Alibaba and Holmrook over the Internet domain name.

Belgian Files ‘Je Suis Charlie’ Trademark Application in Europe

One day after the attack that killed staff members of the French satiric publication Charlie Hebdo, an application was filed in the Benelux Trademark Office to register “Je Suis Charlie” as a trademark, the Register reported.

The phrase has been used around the world as an expression of solidarity with the magazine and in support of free speech, according to the Register, a U.K. technology news website.

The application, filed by a resident of Belgium, covers items ranging from laundry products to beer and Christmas decorations, the Register reported.

Pieter Veeze of the Benelux Trademarks Office’s legal division told the Register that the application will be discussed this week and that applications which fail to be sufficiently distinctive will be rejected.

For more trademark news, click here.


Rightscorp Signs On Two Clients That Hold 250,000 Copyrights

Rightscorp Inc., the Santa Monica, California-based company that polices the Internet for copyright infringement, said in a statement that it has signed on two new clients with catalogs of more than 250,000 copyright titles.

It didn’t identify the clients.

The company, which calls itself a “provider of monetization services for artists and holders of copyright intellectual property,” said that to date it has closed more than 130,000 cases of copyright infringement and reached settlements from subscribers of more than 200 Internet service providers.

According to the Rightscorp website, the company uses software that monitors peer-to-peer file-sharing networks in search of illegally downloaded digital content. Copyright infringement notices and demand letters are sent automatically to those it says have downloaded content without permission, and the alleged violators then send payment to Rightscorp, which passes it along to the content owners.

Many of those who don’t pay are disconnected by their Internet service providers, Rightscorp said.

Canada Says Demand Letters Are Out of Touch With Penalties Law

Canada is contacting content owners, warning them that some of the demands they are making to countrymen accused of downloading movies, music and books without permission go far beyond what the laws permit, the Financial Post reported.

Some Canadians have received demand letters threatening them with penalties of as much as $150,000 an infringement, the Financial Post said.

According to the newspaper, the maximum penalty allowed for non-commercial infringement in Canada is $5,000.

To halt demands that go beyond Canadian law, the government is also contacting Internet service providers that are passing infringement notices on to their customers, the Financial Post reported.

For more copyright news, click here.

Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Netlist Wins Temporary Order Barring Sale of Competitor’s Chips

Netlist Inc., an Irvine, California-based maker of memory chips, was granted a temporary order barring the manufacturing and sale of a chipset developed by Diablo Technologies Inc. of Ottawa.

In a Jan. 12 ruling, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said Netlist established the likelihood it would succeed on claims related to supply and nondisclosure agreements between Netlist and Diablo. She said Netlist hadn’t met a higher burden of proof that would require a recall of the chipsets that had already been shipped.

Netlist claimed that after it created a memory-interface technology and contracted with Diablo to make the chips, Diablo stole the trade secrets for its own products. According to court papers, the supply agreement with Diablo didn’t give it the right to use the designs and technology to build a competing product.

The court found that the head start Diablo achieved thanks to Netlist’s technology caused enough harm to the California company that money damages alone wouldn’t remedy the problem.

The same day the judge issued her order, Diablo filed a request for a stay, with a hearing on that motion set for Feb. 24. Rogers has also advanced the trial date for the dispute to March 9.

The case is Netlist v. Diablo Technologies Inc., 4:1-3-cv-05962, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at Andrew Dunn, Joe Schneider

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