Bloomberg News

Astellas, Huawei, Formula One: Intellectual Property

May 25, 2012

A unit of Japan’s Astellas Pharma Inc. (4503) sued Hospira Inc. (HSP:US), accusing the generic pharmaceutical company of infringing a patent for the drug adenosine, used to diagnose heart blockages.

Astellas contends Lake Forest, Illinois-based Hospira is planning to market its own version of the drug before patent 5,731,296 expires in 2015, according to a complaint filed May 23 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Astellas “will be substantially and irreparably damaged and harmed” if a judge doesn’t stop the infringement, plaintiffs’ lawyers said in court papers.

Full-year profit for Astellas, Japan’s third-largest drugmaker, will rise by 25 percent because of lower taxes and an absence of costs related to last year’s earthquake and tsunami, the company said May 10. Astellas reported about $12 billion in revenue for the most recent fiscal year.

“As the world leader in generic injectable drugs, we remain committed to bringing high-quality, low-price products to market as soon as possible,” Daniel Rosenberg, a Hospira spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement commenting on the lawsuit.

Adenosine is injected to help diagnose coronary artery disease in patients who can’t exercise adequately during cardiac stress tests.

The case is Astellas v. Hospira, 12cv652, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Huawei Files Antitrust Complaint With EU Over InterDigital

Huawei Technologies Co., China’s largest phone-equipment maker, filed an antitrust complaint with European Union regulators that accuses InterDigital Inc. (IDCC:US) of refusing to license key wireless patents.

Huawei alleges that InterDigital is abusing a dominant position for 3G technology patents agreed as industry standards and has made “unreasonable and discriminatory demands” on license fees, said Roland Sladek, a spokesman for Huawei in Shenzhen, China. Huawei filed the complaint May 23 because there was “no foreseeable resolution” to talks on the fees, it said in a statement.

“Such inflated demands from InterDigital could penalize European consumers” if they had to pay more for mobile phones and other products, Sladek said.

Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) are being probed by the European Commission over whether they violated agreements to license standards-essential patents to other mobile-phone manufacturers on fair terms. The EU probe into Motorola Mobility followed complaints from Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. this year.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, said regulators had received the complaint and “will examine it.”

“InterDigital has not seen the complaint that was filed so we can offer no specific response to whatever issues might be raised,” Lawrence Shay, the president of the company’s digital holding units, said in a statement. “We have in the past licensed, and continue to license, technologies on the terms set forth in our commitments” to standards organizations.

The owner of about 1,300 U.S. patents related to mobile phones, InterDigital filed a case last year with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, alleging that Huawei, Nokia Oyj, ZTE Corp. and LG Electronics Inc. infringed patents related to so-called third-generation wireless technology. It has also sued the companies in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, making the same allegations.

In January, InterDigital said it concluded a review on a potential sale without finding a buyer for the company and has instead decided to focus on patent sales and licensing. The company has said its patents were deeper and stronger than those that Nortel Networks Corp. auctioned for $4.5 billion.

Apple Reaches Settlement With SimpleAir Ending Patent Litigation

Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) reached a patent-license agreement with SimpleAir Inc., ending a lawsuit brought against the world’s biggest technology company in 2009, according to a May 24 court filing.

SimpleAir, based in Marshall, Texas, owns patents covering areas including wireless content delivery, mobile applications and so-called push-notification market spaces. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, was the sole remaining defendant in a case that also accused Facebook Inc. (FB:US), Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US) of patent infringement.

The case is SimpleAir Inc., v. AWS Convergence Technologies Inc., 2:09-cv-00289-MHS, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

For more patent news, click here.

Trademark

Ford Raised to Investment Grade Means Regaining Blue Oval

Ford Motor Co. (F:US) was raised to investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, enabling Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally to reclaim assets including its blue oval logo put up as collateral to obtain $23.4 billion in loans in late 2006.

“When we pledged the Ford blue oval as part of the loan package, we were not just pledging an asset, we pledged our heritage,” Bill Ford, 55, the company’s executive chairman, told reporters May 22 on a conference call. “To get that back feels wonderful and this is one of the best days I can remember.”

Moody’s boosted Ford’s senior unsecured ratings to Baa3 from Ba2 and raised its finance arm, Ford Motor Credit, to Baa3 from Ba1. Moody’s joined Fitch Ratings in assigning an investment-grade rating, and with two such ratings, Ford regains control of the logo and other assets, including factories, its Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters and vehicle trademarks.

Moody’s had ranked the second-largest U.S. automaker’s debt as junk since August 2005. Fitch returned Ford to investment grade in April after assigning it junk status in December 2005.

“The upgrade of Ford recognizes the strength of the company’s position in North America, its robust liquidity position, and our expectation that the company will continue to embrace sound operating and financial disciplines,” Moody’s said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe that these strengths will enable Ford to maintain an investment-grade profile in the face of the sector’s ongoing cyclicality and weakness in the European market.”

Moody’s said the outlook for Ford and Ford Credit is stable.

Formula One Wins Court Challenge Overturning ‘F 1’ Mark

Formula One Licensing BV won a challenge that sought to overturn another company’s European Union-wide trademark for the term “F 1.”

The European Court of Justice, the 27-nation EU’s highest tribunal, rejected earlier decisions to award the EU trademark to Racing-Live, a motor sports website based in Montpellier, France.

The EU’s trademark office and an EU appeals court “failed to acknowledge, in relation to trademarks, the distinctive character of the ‘F1’ sign” and shouldn’t challenge the validity of trademarks awarded by the EU’s member states, the Luxembourg-based tribunal said in a statement yesterday.

The group in charge of licensing for Formula One, the world’s most-watched motor sport, in 2005 appealed the French company’s application and had won the EU trademark agency’s backing that such a trademark would be confused with the group’s existing F1 trademarks. The agency overturned that ruling in 2008. Formula One lost an initial challenge to the EU’s General Court last year.

Formula One Licensing didn’t immediately respond to an e- mail seeking comment.

Yesterday’s ruling asks the EU’s General Court to re- examine the case.

The case is: C-196/11 P Formula One Licensing BV v Office for the Harmonisation of the Internal Market.

Lindt Can’t Seek Trademark on Chocolate Bunnies, EU Court Says

Lindt & Spruengli AG (LISN), the world’s largest maker of premium chocolate, can’t seek a trademark for chocolate rabbits with a red ribbon, according to a ruling from the EU’s top court.

The European Court of Justice backed an earlier refusal from the EU trademark office that stopped Lindt from winning trademark protection for a chocolate rabbit with a red band.

“The shape of a chocolate rabbit with a red ribbon cannot be registered as a community trade mark,” according to a statement from the Luxembourg-based tribunal. “The Court of Justice confirms that this shape is devoid of any distinctive character.”

Lindt, based in Kilchberg, Switzerland, has since 2004 failed to get EU-wide trademark protection for the shapes of a plain chocolate bunny and chocolate bunnies and reindeer wrapped in gold foil with red ribbon around their necks. It also failed to get protection for the ribbon and attached bell. The EU trademark agency based in Alicante, Spain, said in 2008 that the shapes were too common.

Lindt didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The chocolate maker in 2001 gained a trademark valid across the 27-nation EU for a chocolate Easter bunny wrapped in gold foil emblazoned with the word “Lindt” and bearing a red ribbon. In yesterday’s case, Lindt was seeking protection for the same bunny, minus the name, which would have given it wider rights.

Lindt already used its existing EU trademark to block an Austrian chocolate maker from selling products similar to its own Easter rabbit. This led to a dispute that resulted in a ruling by the EU’s top court that the trademark can be challenged if the Austrian chocolate maker proves Lindt registered it in bad faith.

Yesterday’s ruling from the Luxembourg-based tribunal is binding.

The case is: C-98/11 P Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli v OHIM

For more trademark news, click here.

Copyright

Google Says Microsoft Leads Requests to Take Content Off Search

Google Inc. (GOOG:US), owner of the world’s most popular Internet search engine, said a new report shows that Microsoft Corp. makes the most requests among copyright owners to remove content from Google’s search service.

Microsoft, or others on its behalf, has requested more than 2.5 million Web pages, or URLs, be removed because of copyright infringement, while Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US)’s NBCUniversal was No. 2 with almost 1 million, according to data released by Google that measured all requests going back to 2011. Member companies of the Recording Industry Association of America, including EMI Music North America, were No. 3 with more than 400,000 requests.

“We’re providing information about who sends us copyright removal notices, how often, on behalf of which copyright owners and for which websites,” Fred von Lohmann, Google’s senior copyright counsel, said in a blog post. “As policy makers and Internet users around the world consider the pros and cons of different proposals to address the problem of online copyright infringement, we hope this data will contribute to the discussion.”

Google is under scrutiny from companies and governments around the world over what type of content it shows on its services. The new data is a now part of Google’s Transparency Report, which tracks traffic on its services, general user-data requests and removal queries.

While scrutinizing copyright requests, the company also is trying to improve the efficiency of the process. Last week, the average turnaround time for a request was less than 11 hours. Google said it has received 1.2 million requests on behalf of more than 1,000 copyright owners to remove search results in the past month.

The Mountain View, California-based company rejects some requests. For example, sometimes they’re used for “anticompetitive purposes,” or to remove content that is unfavorable toward a particular person or company yet doesn’t infringe any copyrights, Google said.

Microsoft (MSFT:US), the world’s largest software maker, competes with Google in the market for Web search with its Bing service.

For more copyright news, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Slind-Flor in Oakland, California, at vslindflor@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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Companies Mentioned

  • HSP
    (Hospira Inc)
    • $52.46 USD
    • -1.39
    • -2.65%
  • IDCC
    (InterDigital Inc/PA)
    • $40.24 USD
    • -0.77
    • -1.91%
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