Niro Firm, Anchor Brewing: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg) -- In an infringement case against HTC Corp., a federal judge in Chicago has ruled that lawyers from a firm that represents plaintiffs in patent disputes must pay attorney fees in the millions of dollars.

The case dates back to 2009 when lawyers from Chicago’s Niro Haller & Niro Ltd. filed a patent case against HTC, alleging the Taiwan-based maker of mobile phones infringed patents relating to picture phones.

In a Jan. 8 ruling, U.S. District Judge William T. Hart said that the inventor and his litigation counsel knew that false statements had been made to the patent office, and that one of the patents at issue was unenforceable.

He said the lawyers from Niro, Haller & Niro were aware of the problems with the patents and were therefore liable for the cost of causing unnecessary litigation.

While Hart didn’t make specific awards, he allowed the hourly rates of $365 for associates and $497 for partners representing HTC. He cut some requests, including reimbursement for first-class airline tickets for HTC’s counsel.

HTC has requested $4.8 million in fees and related expenses. Niro attorneys countered that the Taiwan company is entitled to no more than $2.4 million.

It’s up to the companies to “apply” his ruling to the “specific amounts claimed,” Hart said. If they fail to reach an agreement, the court will resolve any remaining issues, he said.

The case is Intellect Wireless Inc., v. HTC Corp, 1:09-cv-02945, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Gilead’s India Patent Snag May Spur Low-Cost Sovaldi Copies

The Indian patent office’s rejection of a key patent claim for Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi may pave the way for more low-cost copies in the country, potentially aiding local companies including Natco Pharma Ltd.

The New Delhi patent office this week rejected one of the patent claims for Sovaldi. Sovaldi’s $84,000 price tag for a 12-week course in the U.S. has drawn criticism from patient advocates.

Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc., Novartis AG and Roche Holding AG have seen patent applications for blockbuster drugs rejected in India because of stricter standards for innovation. India’s government also caps many drug prices to ensure that the country’s poorest can afford them.

A potential beneficiary of the patent office’s decision on Sovaldi is Hyderabad, India-based Natco, which is opposing the grant of another patent on the formulation of Sovaldi in India. Rajeev Nannapaneni, chief executive officer of Natco, declined to comment.

Gilead will appeal the rejection, which is for a patent on the compounds produced as Sovaldi metabolized inside the body, Gregg Alton, an executive vice president for Gilead, said in an e-mail.

While the product could be a big one for Natco, the company will face challenges beating other companies to the market and reaching patients in rural India, said Nimish Mehta, director of Research Delta Advisors. Competing with Natco will be seven other Indian drugmakers -- Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Hetero Labs Ltd., Mylan Laboratories Ltd., Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., Sequent Scientific Ltd. and Strides Arcolab Ltd. -- that were awarded licenses by Gilead in September to manufacture copies of the drug for 91 countries mainly in low-income regions. India has 12 million people infected with hepatitis C.

Gilead, based in Foster City, California, has said it plans to sell its branded version of Sovaldi in India at a cost of $900 for 12 weeks of therapy. The patent decision this week doesn’t change Gilead’s plans to make the medicine accessible in India, Alton said.

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Anchor Brewing Persuades Connecticut Brewery to Change Name

Griffin Group LLC’s Anchor Brewing unit has settled a trademark dispute with a Connecticut brewery and restaurant, Associated Press reported.

Hartford, Connecticut-based City Steam Brewing has agreed to abandon the “City Steam” label on its bottled beer in favor of “Citysteam,” according to the wire service.

San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing, which has been in business since 1896, makes Anchor Steam beer and had claimed that the “City Steam” label infringed its trademarks, AP reported.

Counsel for the Connecticut restaurant told AP that the company wasn’t going to allow Anchor to strip it of the brand name it had used for 17 years.

‘Je Suis Charlie’ Creator Says It Should Not be a Trademark

The originator of the “Je Suis Charlie” phrase, who created and circulated it in response to the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, said the phrase should not be used commercially, the BBC reported.

Joachim Roncin, an employee of the French edition of the fashion magazine Stylist, said he didn’t create the phrase to make a buzz, and has so far given permission for its use to Reporters Sans Frontieres, a group advocating freedom of the press, according to the BBC.

More than 50 applications have been filed to register the phrase as a trademark, BBC reported.

Roncin said it’s “terrible” to think that someone could own the phrase. He told the BBC he wants the message to “stay pure” and would be “disgusted” if someone tried to make money from it.

Monaco’s Trademark Application Rejected by EU General Court

Monaco, the principality on the French Riviera, is barred from registering “Monaco” as a trademark because the name is too famous, Associated Press reported.

The European Union’s General Court said trademark regulators properly refused registration of the term for a wide range of uses, including photos, printed material, entertainment and sporting activities, according to AP.

The court, in a ruling that can be appealed, found that the word already has associations to the principality, the royal family, and Monaco’s organization of a Formula 1 Grand Prix race and a circus festival, the wire service reported.

The World Intellectual Property Organization had granted Monaco an international trademark in 2010. European Union trademark authorities rejected the registration three years later, according to AP.

For more trademark news, click here.


Pirate Party Lawmaker Working on European Copyright Directive

A member of the Pirate Party is helping to shape the European Union’s new Copyright Directive to be voted on May 20, the U.K.’s Independent newspaper reported.

Julia Reda, a member of the European Parliament, was elected last year as a representative of Germany’s Pirate Party, according to the Independent.

Pirate Party Founder Rick Falkvinge said Reda is “writing the actual legislative document,” the newspaper reported.

Reda told the Independent that country restrictions should be eliminated and that present-day copyright rules are “too inflexible” to be adaptable to new forms of using cultural works.

Song in Sony’s ‘The Interview’ Unlicensed, Music Company Claims

Sony Corp., producer of the controversial film “The Interview,” is involved in a copyright dispute with a Korean pop singer whose song is featured in the film, International Business Times reported.

Singer Yoon Mi-rae’s music label Feel Ghood Music said it did not reach an agreement in discussions with the film production company and no contract was signed before the film was released Dec. 25, according to the newspaper.

Feel Ghood Music said it’s considering legal action against the film company, the newspaper reported.

Tokyo-based Sony became the target of a cyberattack in December by hackers who threatened retaliation if the movie, which features the proposed assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, was released.

For more copyright news, click here.

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 Sophia Pearson, David Glovin

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