Teva, Microsoft, Nestle, Uber: Intellectual Property


Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. won a U.S. Supreme Court patent ruling that will help forestall generic competition to its top-selling Copaxone, a multiple-sclerosis drug.

Voting 7-2, the justices yesterday gave a reprieve to a Teva patent that will protect Copaxone from rivals until September. The majority told a lower court to reconsider a ruling invalidating the patent.

The ruling is a blow to Teva’s prospective generic competitors -- Mylan Inc., which is teaming up with Natco Pharma Ltd., and Novartis AG’s Sandoz, which is working with Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The decision puts new limits on the power of the specialized federal appeals court that invalidated Teva’s patent. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit must accept the trial judge’s reading of a disputed patent unless that interpretation is “clearly erroneous.”

A judge who has presided over the entire case will be more familiar with the scientific issues than “an appeals court judge who must read a written transcript or perhaps just those portions to which the parties have referred,” Breyer wrote.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

The Federal Circuit’s longstanding practice had been to review patents without giving any weight to the trial judge’s interpretation. Google Inc. and Intel Corp. were among the companies that urged the Supreme Court to back that approach and rule against Teva.

The generic-drug companies pointed to a 1996 Supreme Court decision that said it was for the judge, not the jury, to decide what a patent covered. The companies said the logical conclusion is that an appeals court should be able to take a fresh look at the trial judge’s conclusions.

Teva argued that federal appeals courts generally are required to defer to the factual findings of trial judges, so long as they are reasonable.

The case is Teva v. Sandoz, 13-854.

Microsoft Patents Theater Mode of Operation for Mobile Devices

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software company, has received a patent on a technology aimed at making mobile phones less annoying to others in some settings such as movie theaters.

Patent 8,934,879, which was issued Jan. 13, covers what the Redmond, Washington-based company calls an “inconspicuous mode for mobile devices.” According to the patent, the invention would make the mobile device responsive to environmental conditions, such as the dimmed light in a theater.

This would switch the phone to a silent mode or dim its display so that a single notification, such as the time of day, could be seen on a darkened screen. Microsoft notes that today’s ubiquity of the mobile telephone, and many users’ tendency to use it in lieu of a wristwatch, can distract theater audiences..

Microsoft applied for this patent in March 2013.

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Nestle Unit Tells Artist Bottled Water Sculpture Infringes

Nestle SA’s Poland Spring unit told a New York artist a sculpture project infringes trademarks, the ArtNet news website reported.

Anthony Antonellis’s work is composed of Poland Spring bottles, still filled with the original water, into which he has placed rubber sports-accessory bracelets, and called the pieces -- selling for $300 apiece -- “Poland Spring Power Balance,” according to ArtNet news.

The Swiss company’s bottled-water unit sent Antonellis a cease-and-desist letter warning that customers are likely to assume falsely than an affiliation exists between the company and the artist, according to the art news website.

Antonellis said “not one person” has been confused and that his project is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, ArtNet news reported.

New Zealand ISP says It’s Harmed by Uber’s Negative Publicity

Uber Group Ltd., an Internet service provider based in Whangarei, New Zealand, said it’s being harmed because of a recent “wave of negative publicity” for the e-commerce car service Uber Technologies Inc., the New Zealand Herald reported.

The New Zealand company, which has used the Uber name since 2014, said it has hired a trademark specialist and that it intendeds to oppose the San Francisco car company’s application for a New Zealand trademark, according to the newspaper.

Police in New Zealand are scrutinizing the car company in the wake of reports that an Auckland resident was kicked out of one of their vehicles, the Herald reported.

When the Internet service company filed an application for its own trademark six months ago, New Zealand trademark regulators told it the name was too similar to the car company’s, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Pinterest Wins Sanction Against Pintrips Over Disclosure Refusal

Social-media scrapbook site Pinterest Inc. won a court order for sanctions against Pintrips Inc., a travel planning website, and its counsel for failing to provide information about its investors as part of a trademark lawsuit.

San Francisco-based Pinterest filed a complaint in October 2013 alleging Pintrips was attempting to ride on the social-media company’s fame by infringing its trademark.

Pintrips, a Sunnyvale, California-based company whose technology enables users to shop more efficiently for airline flights, had opposed Pinterest’s request for details on its investors, arguing it could lose funding by revealing the information.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore in Oakland, California, ruled Jan. 12 that Pintrips and its law firm, New York’s Kenyon & Kenyon LLP, must pay $9,075 in sanctions for failing to provide details about its investors. The company must pay the sanction by May 13.

Pinterest had accused Pintrips of setting up a “pin” button on its website that was confusingly similar to the San Francisco company’s “pin it” website button. It also objected to an application the flight-tracking company filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2012 to register “Pintrips” as a trademark, and said it filed the suit to prevent consumer confusion.

Pintrips countered that Pinterest was using the lawsuit to bully the company into giving up its right to use a “generic common term that merely describes a core function of its service.”

Westmore rejected Pinterest’s request for $31,962.50 in sanctions, ruling the company’s use of estimates “unacceptable” without actual billing records. The judge ruled in August that the information Pinterest sought may shed light on Pintrips’s “intent” with regard to name choice.

The case is Pinterest Inc., v. Pintrips Inc., 3:13-cv-04608, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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U.S. Film Group Says It Sued Xunlei Unit for Copyright Violation

Studios of the Motion Picture Association of America Inc. said they sued a unit of Xunlei Ltd. in China over copyright infringement.

The studios sued Shenzhen Xunlei Networking Technologies Co., a Chinese online video-streaming and pay-per-view service, on Jan. 19 in the Nanshan district court in Shenzhen, China, according to an MPAA e-mailed statement. Chen Yuanyuan, a Xunlei spokesman, said by phone that he didn’t have information on the case available.

Xunlei and the MPAA on June 3 announced an agreement to work together to promote legitimate access to film and television shows online, about three weeks before the company raised $101 million in a U.S. initial public offering. In a statement, MPAA said the studios now allege “various acts” of copyright infringement, without supplying details.

“For too long we have witnessed valuable creative content being taken and monetized without the permission of the copyright owner,” Mike Ellis, president and managing director of the Motion Picture Association for the Asia Pacific region, said in the statement.

Members of the MPAA include Paramount Pictures Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Universal City Studios LLC, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

There was no immediate answer at the numbers listed on the court’s website and the court didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for confirmation of the filing.

For more copyright news, click here.