Shire, ‘Three’s Company,’ Seeds: Intellectual Property

(Bloomberg) -- Kyle Bass is expanding his campaign against pharmaceutical companies.

Shire Plc is the newest target of the hedge fund manager’s strategy to challenge drug patents, according to filings last week with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Bass is challenging patents on Lialda and Gattex, according to the filings, which together made up 12 percent of Shire’s 2014 revenue.

“A small minority of drug companies are abusing the patent system to sustain invalid patents that contain no meaningful innovations but serve to maintain their anti-competitive high-price monopoly,” Bass said in an e-mail.

Cosmo Pharmaceuticals SA owns the Lialda patent and licenses it to Shire. Cosmo isn’t listed as a party but is cited as having been served with the petition.

“We are aware of the two petitions that were filed, and will vigorously defend any proceedings that may be instituted at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,” Stephanie Fagan, a spokeswoman for Shire, said in an e-mailed statement. “Shire is confident that the validity of our patents will be upheld.”

Bass, founder of Dallas-based Hayman Capital Management, in February challenged two of the five patents covering multiple sclerosis drug Ampyra, which accounts for 91 percent of the revenue of Acorda Therapeutics Inc. Acorda’s stock dropped after each of the filings: by 9.7 percent on Feb. 10 and 4.8 percent on Feb. 27.

Bass had pledged to challenge patents on numerous medications, accusing drugmakers of misusing the patent system to keep drug prices high and low-cost copies away from customers. He previously declined to comment on whether he was shorting shares of Acorda.

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Play Parodying ‘Three’s Company’ Is Fair Use, Court Rules

A Broadway play that parodied a 1970s-era television series fell under U.S. copyright law’s “fair use” provisions, according to a ruling from a New York federal court.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska made her ruling in a case brought by playwright David Adjmi against the owners of the copyright for the “Three’s Company” situation comedy.

Adjmi was seeking a court declaration that his play “3C” didn’t infringe copyrights held by New York’s TLT Entertainment Ltd.

Preska said she considered the aim of copyright, noting the “body of law is designed to foster creativity.” Adjmi’s work was a “highly transformative parody” of the television program, she said.

Barring a parody as infringing would do “little to promote creativity,” and “places substantial inhibition upon the creativity of authors adept at using parody,” she said.

She said equating the play and TV program to one other as a thematic or stylistic matter is “untenable.” She found the play to be “a fair use ‘sheep,’ not ‘an infringing goat.’”

The case is Adjmi v. DLT Entertainment Inc., 1:14-cv-00568, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Helen of Troy Acquires P&G’s Vicks VapoSteam Business, Marks

Procter & Gamble Co., which said in 2014 that it would shed almost 100 brands, sold its Vick VapoSteam unit and licensed its VapoSteam trademarks to Helen of Troy Ltd.

In a March 31 statement, El Paso, Texas-based Helen of Troy said that as part of the transaction it also acquired a license to Cincinnati-based P&G’s Vicks VapoPad trademarks. The products are used in humidifiers, vaporizers and other health-care products Helen of Troy already markets, according to the statement.

The company didn’t disclose terms of the agreement. It said it planned to finance the purchase through a revolving credit facility. Helen of Troy markets personal care and household consumer products under trademark licenses from Honeywell International Inc., Revlon Consumer Products Corp., Unilever Plc and MSD Consumer Care Inc.

Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Doesn’t Infringe Sign, Court Says

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s trademark challenge to a Florida pizza chain has come to a halt following a court ruling.

The authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway, accused Jersey Boardwalk Franchising Co. of infringing the parkway logo, which is a registered U.S. trademark.

In a suit filed in federal court in Newark in July 2014, the authority said the pizza company’s logo “blatantly copies” the parkway logo. With illustrations included in the complaint, the authority noted the pizza chain’s logo is circular, green and yellow, and features a map of the state in the center -- just like the parkway’s logo.

Instead of saying “Garden State Parkway,” the pizza chain’s logo reads, “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co. subs cheesesteaks pasta,” the authority said.

The authority claimed the chain’s logo was likely to confuse consumers and cause them to believe, falsely, that an affiliation existed between the two entities.

U.S. District Judge William J. Martini said in a March 26 ruling that his court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute because the chain didn’t have sufficient contact with New Jersey. He said the chain’s sending a truck with supplies to New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy wasn’t enough reason to enable the suit to proceed in the state.

While the pizza chain is “evoking sentimentality with New Jersey natives in Florida,” its appeal to the idea of “Jersey” bears “an element of nostalgia or even exoticism that is clearly directed to consumers outside New Jersey,” he said.

The case is New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Jersey Boardwalk Franchising Co., 2:14-cv-04589, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage

Filing in Chinese Seed Theft Case Claims FISA Involvement

One of seven Chinese nationals charged in 2013 by the U.S. with conspiracy to steal corn seed genetically modified by companies including Monsanto Co., asked the court to suppress evidence obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Mo Hailong, director of international business at Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co., part of the Beijing-based DBN Group, is accused of conspiring to obtain the intellectual property of U.S.-based seed companies to benefit Kings Nower Seed, DBN’s corn seed unit, according to the criminal complaint in Iowa federal court.

Mo, with his conspirators, collected seeds from farms in Iowa and Illinois and attempted to ship them to China from the U.S. and through Canada, according to the complaint. The seeds can be cultivated to reveal their genetic makeup, the U.S. said. Companies develop the seeds to carry particular traits, such as resistance to weed killers.

In the court filing, defense counsel said the case involved “a breathtaking and unprecedented expansion of the government’s use” of FISA. FISA surveillance must target a foreign power and such surveillance may be used only when the information at issue can’t reasonably be obtained by normal investigative techniques, according to the pleading.

The defense accused prosecutors of ignoring those limitations and said this case marks the first time in history the government has used FISA “to investigate a trade secret dispute between two privately owned companies.”

Mo hasn’t received access to applications for surveillance, orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court established under FISA, or related materials, his counsel argued.

This filing was made March 13 and the government hadn’t responded as of April 2, according to the court docket.

The case is U.S. v. Shaoming, 13-cv-00147, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Iowa.

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 David Glovin, Joe Schneider

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