AstraZeneca Plc (AZN), the U.K.’s second- biggest drugmaker, said it may appeal a U.S. court ruling that invalidated a patent on its Pulmicort Respules asthma treatment and cleared the way for generic competition.
The drugmaker “strongly disagrees with” the decision by the federal court in New Jersey that also said a second patent wasn’t being infringed by producers of a generic version of the treatment. Actavis Inc. (ACT:US), whose generic form of the corticosteroid has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said separately that it will begin selling its version immediately.
AstraZeneca “has full confidence in the strength of its intellectual property rights,” Paul Hudson, executive vice president of North America, said in the London-based company’s statement.
The ruling, which AstraZeneca said is restricted to the U.S., doesn’t change the drugmaker’s forecasts for this year of a mid- to high-single-digit decline in revenue excluding currency shifts and core earnings per share to fall significantly more than revenue, the company said. The invalidated patent covered the drug’s delivery method, while the second patent involved its formulation.
Generic competition will mean that royalty payments AstraZeneca receives from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) will decline from $260 million last year, the U.K. company said. AstraZeneca struck an agreement with Teva in 2008 allowing the Petach Tikva, Israel-based company to sell a generic version of the drug beginning in December 2009 in exchange for an undisclosed lump sum and royalty payments.
Pulmicort Respules patents expire in 2018, with protection of the children’s version extending to 2019, AstraZeneca said.
Actavis plans to begin marketing 0.25- and 0.5-milligram units of its asthma drug immediately, the Parsippany, New Jersey-based company said in an April 1 statement.
Another generic copy, from Apotex Inc., was approved in the U.S., though the Toronto-based drugmaker has been blocked from selling the product after AstraZeneca won an injunction.
AstraZeneca will lose patent protection on some of its best-selling drugs by 2016, including cholesterol treatment Crestor, which had sales of $6.3 billion last year.
E. Digital Files Patent Suits Against Tech Companies, Retailers
E.Digital Corp. (EDIG:US), a San Diego-based supplier of video-on- demand support technology, filed five new patent-infringement lawsuits in federal court in San Diego.
These filings bring to 21 the total number of recent patent cases the company has filed. The suits related to technology used in smartphones and tablets, such as file-management functionality, flash-memory integrity testing and noise suppression.
Defendants include Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE (USA) Inc. The company also sued retailers and distributors, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT:US), Target Corp., and Verizon Communications Inc., E.Digital said in a statement.
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U.K. Royals Register Their Foundation’s Name, Telegraph Says
While a charitable foundation set up by Prince William, his wife and his brother has registered the organization’s name as a trademark for a wide range of products and services, there’s no plan to bring out a line of logo-marked sportswear, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.
The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry included “clothing, footwear and headgear” among the categories for which it registered the mark, according to the newspaper.
Some categories were chosen to bar others from using the name without permission on such things as T-shirts or running shoes, according to the Telegraph.
In 2011, the foundation raised 4.8 million pounds ($7.25 million) and made grants to a range of charities, with a particular emphasis on those for members of the U.K. military, the Telegraph said.
Worldwide Fruit Signs up for ‘Papple’ License, Website Says
Worldwide Fruit Ltd., a U.K.-based fruit packer and distributor, took a license to the “Papple” trademark program developed by the Associated International Group of Nurseries, the Fresh Plaza produce news website reported.
“Papple” is used for a variety of Asian pear that is round like an apple and tastes like a European pear, according to Fresh Plaza. Papples, which look like apples with an orange blush on a yellow background, are a cross between Chinese and Japanese varieties of Asian pears, according to Fresh Plaza.
The fruit is being marketed with the slogan “A papple a day keeps the doctor...baffled,” Fresh Plaza reported.
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Jolie’s ‘Land of Blood and Honey’ Doesn’t Infringe, Judge Says
Angelina Jolie’s 2011 film “In the Land of Blood and Honey” didn’t infringe the copyright of a Croatian journalist, a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled.
James J. Braddock, who also goes by Josip J. Knezevic, claimed in his complaint that Jolie’s movie contained “similarities so substantial” to his Croatian-language book “The Soul Shattering” as to infringe his copyright. The suit was originally filed in federal court in Chicago and transferred to California in July.
Among the similarities Braddock cited were the fact that both the book and film are love stories set in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s. The main female character in each is a Muslim who is abused and raped by soldiers and officers. He said that the main male character in both works is a high-ranking “Greater Serbian” nationalist and army officer.
In her March 29 ruling, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee said the works weren’t “substantially similar” and that some of the perceived similarities aren’t entitled to copyright protection.
The common feature of the works’ protectable elements, taken separately or together, wouldn’t lead a trier of fact to conclude that the works are substantially similar,’’ Gee wrote.
Braddock claimed that he met repeatedly with a Bosnian resident and film producer who is a co-defendant with Jolie and that they discussed making a film from his book. He learned of Jolie’s film in 2010 and found out that the Bosnian film producer was “actively involved in its production.”
Braddock was seeking damages, litigation costs and attorney fees. He also asked for an order barring the distribution and performance of the movie.
The case is Braddock v. Jolie, 12-cv-05883, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (Los Angeles).
David Datuna Sued Over $210,000 ‘Steve Jobs-Ayn Rand’ Artwork
David Datuna, a mixed-media artist, was sued for copyright infringement by a New York photographer for allegedly using a portrait of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs without permission.
The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court by photographer Albert M. Watson, involves Datuna’s “Steve Jobs- Ayn Rand,” which sold for $210,000 in 2011.
Watson said Datuna’s work makes unauthorized use of a portrait that he shot and that was included in a series of pictures of influential business people in Fortune magazine in 2006. The picture was also used on the cover of Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography.
Watson said he didn’t authorize Datuna’s use of the photo and its unauthorized use has diminished his opportunities to sell and license the image. The photographer is seeking money damages, attorney fees and litigation costs, and the surrender of all infringing works and copies.
Datuna didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment on the suit.
The case is Albert M. Watson Photography Inc. v. Cao, 13- cv-02175, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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Trade Secrets/Industrial Espionage
Wisconsin Researcher Accused of Economic Spying for China
A Medical College of Wisconsin researcher was charged with economic espionage for stealing a patented cancer-research compound to give to a university in China.
Hua Jun Zhao, 42, may have stolen the compound from a medical college office in Milwaukee and taken steps to deliver it to Zhejiang University, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“There is probable cause to believe that Hua Jun Zhao has committed the crime of economic espionage,” FBI Special Agent Gerald Shinneman wrote in an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint. Theft of trade secrets to benefit a foreign government is punishable by as long as 15 years’ imprisonment.
A preliminary hearing is set for April 11 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Gorence in Milwaukee. Dean Puschnig, a spokesman for Milwaukee U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle, declined to comment on the status of the case. Juval Scott, a federal public defender representing Zhao, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the charges.
Zhao conducted pharmacology research at the medical college as an assistant to Dr. Marshall Anderson, according to Shinneman. On Feb. 22, Anderson told college security three bottles of a powdery compound identified only as C-25, for which he held the patent, had disappeared from his office, the FBI agent said. The vials were worth about $8,000, Shinneman said.
A review of security video showed Zhao was the only person to enter or leave Anderson’s office around the time the bottles disappeared, according to the affidavit.
College security also learned Zhao had been in China from December to February and stated on his resume that he was an assistant professor at Zhejiang University, Shinneman said.
Zhao claimed on the website ResearchGate that he had discovered a cancer-fighting compound and wanted to bring it to China, the FBI agent said.
Federal agents, with a search warrant for Zhao’s residence on March 28, found a receipt for a package sent to his wife in China a month earlier, together with plane tickets for a flight from Chicago to China, scheduled to depart yesterday, Shinneman said.
The case is U.S. v. Zhao, 13-mj-00220, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee).
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