Natco, HSBC, Zoggs, Gay Days: Intellectual Property

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(Bloomberg) -- Natco Pharma Ltd., the Indian drugmaker that challenged Gilead Sciences Inc.’s patent claims on a blockbuster hepatitis C treatment, said it signed a licensing agreement with the U.S. company for the medicine.

The deal allows Natco to make and sell generic versions of Sovaldi and combination therapies using its active ingredient in 91 developing countries, the Indian company said Sunday in a statement.

The agreement expands on one Gilead made with eight other Indian drugmakers to make the drugs for mainly low-income countries including India, Indonesia, Cambodia and many nations in Africa. The agreement with Natco may help ensure the Hyderabad-based company won’t challenge its patent on the $10 billion drug.

“Natco will now back off its aggressive stance on the patent,” said Hitesh Mahida, an analyst at Antique Stock Broking in Mumbai. “Gilead wouldn’t have agreed to license the product to them earlier -- Natco is a small company, it doesn’t have the international clout of companies like Cipla. They got noticed by doing this patent challenge.”

M. Adinarayana, a Natco spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.

“The launch of generic Sovaldi will be competitive, but the market is huge in the countries covered by these licenses -- India, Egypt,” Mahida said. “This is a huge opportunity.”

The Indian patent office rejected a key claim on Sovaldi in January. Natco was challenging another patent claim on the grounds that the therapy “lacks novelty” and lacks an “inventive step,” according to a filing with the office. The Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, a group of scientists and lawyers, has opposed the patent on similar grounds.

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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Falciani Says He Can Prove HSBC Management Knew of Tax Abuses

Herve Falciani, who took a trove of data from HSBC Holdings Plc that spawned investigations of tax evasion by the bank’s clients, said he also has proof senior managers knew about the practices.

Falciani, a former HSBC employee, is accused of stealing client data and passing it to French authorities. The Swiss attorney-general indicted him in December on charges of industrial espionage and violating bank secrecy, acknowledging that he has “sometimes been celebrated as a hero abroad.”

In a Feb. 27 interview with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua, Falciani, a software technician, said, “I can prove, and it has to be explained, that the top management is aware and was aware of the problem.” He declined to identify any bank executives and he declined to describe his evidence, saying only that his files provide “logical proof.”

“I don’t have documents signed by top management,” he said.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank by market value, is under scrutiny after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a report last month, based on Falciani’s data, that shows how HSBC allegedly advised customers including convicted drug dealers, arms sellers and other criminals on evading taxes and laundering money.

The information that Falciani, 43, took from the bank in 2008 allegedly reveals the practices of HSBC’s private-banking unit in Geneva.

Heidi Ashley, an HSBC spokeswoman in London, declined to comment on Falciani’s allegations, referring to the bank’s earlier statements on the ICIJ report.

The ICIJ’s release was “just a subset of the information available” to authorities in France and elsewhere starting in 2008, Falciani said in the video interview, over Skype. There is more “information to be, let’s say, analyzed in a public way,” including from an HSBC whistle-blower in Luxembourg, Falciani said, without identifying the person.

Falciani said he may return to Switzerland to fight the charges and is in touch with Swiss politicians, whom he didn’t name, to seek assistance in making his legal case.


Zoggs Denied Registration of Name as New Zealand Trademark

Zoggs Ltd., a U.K.-based maker of swimwear, won’t be permitted to register its name as a New Zealand trademark after a decision by that country’s Supreme Court, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The company had been rebuffed by New Zealand trademark authorities on the ground that consumers might be confused with a brand of surfboard wax made by Sexwax Inc. of Carpinteria, California, according to the newspaper.

Sexwax argued that its product is known as Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax, or “a bar of Zogs,” the Herald reported.

The supreme court said it didn’t see denying Zoggs the registration of its mark “as involving the risk of a substantial miscarriage of justice,” according to the Herald.

California City Changes Festival Name After Trademark Complaint

A festival set for Easter weekend in Cathedral City, California, has had to change its name after a complaint from a Florida company, the Desert Sun newspaper reported.

Gay Days Inc. of Gotha, Florida, told festival organizers that “Cathedral City Gay Days” would infringe a trademark it registered seven years ago, and it threatened litigation if the name wasn’t changed, according to the Desert Sun.

The Florida company organizes gay-oriented parties in Orlando and Las Vegas and charges $1,000 to $50,000 for a license to use its name for an event, the newspaper reported.

The California festival has been renamed Cathedral City LGBT Days, according to the newspaper.

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Painting Removed From Library Over Mother Teresa Copyright Issue

Town officials in Trumbull, Connecticut, have ordered the removal a painting from display in the town’s public library because of possible copyright issues, the NBC Connecticut news website reported.

The painting, which was donated to the library, contains images of women marching and carrying various signs such as “Remember the Ladies,” “Not for Ourselves Only” and “Onward We March,” according to NBC Connecticut.

In a statement, Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst said the painting had to come down because of copyright infringement allegations with reference to the inclusion of an image of Mother Teresa, the sari-clad founder of the Daughters of Charity order of nuns, NBC Connecticut reported.

Herbst, who didn’t identify the source of the complaint, said the painting was removed because “I have a legal and fiduciary duty to protect the taxpayers from significant financial liability,” according to the website.

Dentist Misused Copyright Law, Violated Ethics, Court Rules

A New York dentist misused copyright law by requiring her patients to assign all copyrights to her on any after-the-fact written comments they may make on her services, a federal court in New York ruled.

Robert Allen Lee of Huntington, Maryland, sued in 2011 after Dr. Stacy Makhnevich warned him he was infringing her copyrights by posting criticism of her services on Yelp Inc.’s social networking site.

According to court papers, Makhnevich also demanded the removal of Lee’s comments under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The dentist’s staff began sending invoices to Lee, charging him $100 a day for his alleged infringement. He was also sent a letter by counsel for the dentist, warning that “ all legal actions” would be pursued against him for violating the agreement, Lee said in his pleadings.

In a Feb. 27 ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty in New York said that despite the dentist’s claims, Lee’s posting of public comments fell into U.S. copyright law’s fair-use provision.

He said that forcing Lee to sign an agreement not to publish criticism, and claiming he infringed copyrights when he did so, violated dental ethics and breached the dentist’s fiduciary duty to her patient. Therefore, the assignment of the copyrights to the dentist and the promise to forgo criticism “are null and void for unconscionability,” Crotty ruled.

The judge also ruled that Lee’s commentary about the dentist’s services “is not actionable defamation under New York common law.”

The case is Lee v. Makhenevich, 1:11-cv-08665, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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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