Bloomberg News

Genes, Fake Wine, Martha Stewart: Intellectual Property

April 15, 2013

Inventors who want to emigrate from their native countries put the U.S. as their top destination, according to economists at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva.

Canada and Australia are the next most popular among 17 countries studied from 1990 to 2010, while Germany, Italy and the U.K. are the least, said economists Carsten Fink, Ernest Miguelez and Julio Raffo in a report based on patent data and published at a migration conference in London last week.

The American advantage is even greater when only residents from countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are accounted for, reflecting sizeable inflows into America by skilled Indian and Chinese inventors, according to the report.

The pool of talent is probably growing too. Data from the United Nations show the estimated migrant population worldwide was 213 million in 2010, a 58 percent increase from 1990. The migration rate of inventors reached as much as 9 percent in the 2000s, the economists said.

That shows migration is a “critical pillar of the ongoing process of globalization,” they said.

Patent

Hitachi Loses Bid for Royalties on TPV High-Definition TV Sales

Hitachi Ltd. (6501) lost a U.S. patent-infringement trial in which it sought as much as four years of royalty payments from TPV Technology Ltd. (903) on sales of high-definition televisions.

A federal jury in Marshall, Texas, last week said TPV, the world’s fourth-largest maker of LCD televisions, didn’t infringe four Hitachi patents and that two of them were invalid.

The dispute is over inventions related to an industry-wide standard for a process to transmit digital audio and visual signals, as well as program data, over the airwaves. Hitachi claimed that televisions made by TPV and its units infringed the company’s patents.

TPV sells televisions under its own brands AOC and Envision, according to information on the company’s website. It also took over Royal Philips Electronics NV’s television operation last year. LCD televisions generated $3.7 billion in sales, about a third of TPV’s total revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

TPV denied infringing the patents and claimed at least some of them were invalid. Hong Kong-based TPV also is the world’s biggest contract maker of computer monitors.

Tokyo-based Hitachi ended 56 years of TV manufacturing last year as part of a turnaround from a record loss three years ago amid falling prices for the electronics. It outsources manufacturing while still selling Hitachi-branded TVs.

The case is Hitachi Consumer Electronics Co. v. Top Victory Electronics (Taiwan) Co., 10-cv-00260, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

Biotech Industry at Stake as U.S. Court Weighs Human Gene Patent

For 30 years, biotechnology innovators have secured thousands of U.S. patents on genes, defining the legal rights to medical and agricultural products worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether that was all a big mistake, Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr and Susan Decker report. The court will today hear arguments over the patenting of human genes. A group of doctors, patients and scientists who say patents are stifling clinical testing and research. The group is challenging Myriad Genetics Inc. (MYGN:US)’s patents on genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

A decision against gene patenting would ripple across a host of industries -- including biotechnology, agriculture, industrial microbiology and pharmaceuticals. The case has implications for the growing field of personalized medicine and efforts to map the human brain and discover new uses for embryonic stem cells.

The case, which the court will decide by June, is splitting the medical community. Trade groups for the biotechnology, agriculture and drug industries are siding with Myriad. They say gene patents have led to valuable treatments, including Amgen Inc. (AMGN:US)’s Epogen anemia drug and synthetic insulin developed by Genentech Inc., now part of Roche Holding AG.

Doctor groups such as the American Medical Association are backing the challengers to the patents. They have partial support from the Obama administration, which is urging the court to uphold parts of Myriad’s patents and void other aspects.

The dispute comes to the court in an emotionally charged package, with patient advocates accusing Myriad of standing in the way of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. The company at one point demanded that the University of Pennsylvania stop clinical testing of cancer patients. Breast cancer patient advocates are planning a demonstration outside the court.

Critics say Myriad’s patents effectively give the company ownership rights over a part of the human body.

The case is Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 12-398, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).

For more, click here.

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Trademarks

Macy’s Loses Bid to Broaden Ban on J.C. Penney Stewart Sales

J.C. Penney Co. (JCP:US) will be allowed to sell unbranded items designed by Martha Stewart’s company in certain categories exclusive to Macy’s Inc. after a New York state judge denied Macy’s bid for an order blocking the sales.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Oing on April 12 declined to expand an earlier preliminary injunction to cover products designed by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO:US) and sold at J.C. Penney that aren’t branded with the Stewart name.

Oing said Macy’s, the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, hadn’t shown that it would suffer irreparable harm if J.C. Penney was allowed to sell the unbranded goods. The judge said his earlier injunction issued in July only applied to goods branded with Martha Stewart’s name in categories exclusive to Macy’s, such as cookware and bedding.

Macy’s is suing both Martha Stewart Living and J.C. Penney, alleging that the sale of products designed by Stewart’s company in J.C. Penney stores violates an exclusivity deal between Martha Stewart and Macy’s signed in 2006.

“We’re going to appeal,” Ted Grossman, an attorney with Jones Day representing Cincinnati-based Macy’s, told reporters after the judge’s ruling. “We’re going to seek a stay and we’re going to do it immediately.”

The ruling means J.C. Penney can now start selling products designed by Martha Stewart Living in the categories exclusive to Macy’s under the name of “JCP Everyday” at least until the end of the trial.

Oing warned lawyers for J.C. Penney to avoid any mention of Stewart’s name in connection with the unbranded merchandise.

The three sides returned to court last week to resume a trial of Macy’s lawsuits following a monthlong break, during which mediation efforts ordered by Oing were unsuccessful.

The parties are scheduled to return to Oing’s courtroom tomorrow to determine the status of the case.

The cases are Macy’s Inc. (M:US) v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., 650197/2012; Macy’s Inc. v. J.C. Penney Corp., 652861/2012, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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Counterfeits

Billionaire Koch Wins $12 Million Wine Trial Punitive Award

Billionaire William Koch, after winning a $379,000 verdict against a consigner who sold him 24 counterfeit bottles of wine from France’s Bordeaux region, was awarded $12 million in punitive damages by the same jury April 12.

A federal jury in Manhattan on April 11 found against the consigner, Eric Greenberg, concluding he made fraudulent representations about the authenticity and provenance of the wine, including many purported grand crus that cost Koch tens of thousands of dollars. The award comprised the amount Koch paid for the wine at a 2005 auction and $1,000 in compensatory damages for each bottle.

The jury of six men and two women, who heard Koch and Greenberg testify during the three-week trial, returned to court on April 12 to consider punitive damages. Koch, the brother of conservative Tea Party funders David Koch and Charles Koch, is the founder of West Palm Beach, Florida-based Oxbow Carbon & Minerals LLC.

Koch sued Greenberg, the founder and chairman emeritus of Scient Corp., alleging he defrauded him and had falsely advertised the authenticity and quality of the wines. Koch said in his 2007 complaint that Greenberg falsely promoted the collection as “the Best of the Best,” claiming that some dated back to the Belle Epoque.

The suit was one of several filed by Koch against wine consigners and auction houses that he says sold counterfeit wine. An earlier lawsuit against New York-based Zachys Wine & Liquor Inc., where he had bought the wine, was settled for an unspecified amount.

Arthur Shartsis, a lawyer for Greenberg, told jurors during the trial that his client hadn’t misrepresented the wines and had instead relied on wine experts at Zachys to inspect and authenticate his bottles for the sale. Shartsis said that the auction catalog also included a provision that the wines were sold “as-is” and said Koch hadn’t bothered to inspect the bottles before the sale or make any inquiries.

The case is Koch v. Greenberg, 07-cv-09600, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Technology

Google Offer to Settle EU Antitrust Probe Won’t Suit Rivals

Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s offer to settle an antitrust probe with the European Union by labeling its own services more clearly in Web search results is a “non-starter” for a group of competitors such as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US), Foundem and Streetmap.

The companies and at least 10 other rivals that filed complaints with the EU will be able to give feedback on the remedies submitted by the Mountain View, California-based company to settle the almost three-year-old investigation.

Google, operator of the world’s largest Internet search engine, told the Brussels-based EU that it would create more distinction in searches between its own services and competitors, a person familiar with the negotiations said last week. Google also proposed to offer links to rival search engines, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details of the offer aren’t public.

“If what has been proposed is labeling or a modified form of labeling, frankly that’s a non-starter,” said David Wood, a lawyer for Brussels-based industry group ICOMP, which includes Microsoft. “We haven’t seen the proposals and the commission hasn’t explained them to us. We’re in the dark.”

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has urged Google to address four points, including allegations that the company promotes its own specialist search services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.

The EU probe is another chance for Google competitors and complainants to get the changes they’re seeking from Google. The U.S. in January closed a 20-month investigation into whether Google unfairly promoted its own services in search results over competing websites. The Federal Trade Commission concluded that Google was motivated more by wanting to improve its search results than by a desire to stifle competition.

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BlackBerry Asks Regulators to Probe ‘False’ Returns Report

BlackBerry (BBRY:US), the Canadian smartphone maker, said it will ask securities regulators to investigate a report that its new phones have high return rates, arguing that the “false” information may have been released in a deliberate attempt to manipulate its stock price.

Detwiler Fenton & Co., a financial-services firm in Boston, said April 11 that U.S. retailers were seeing a significant increase in customers returning their Z10s because they found the interface unintuitive. The report contributed to a 7.8 percent plunge in BlackBerry shares (BBRY:US) the same day, marking the stock’s worst one-day drop in almost two months.

BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, responded that sales are meeting expectations and return rates are in line with the rest of the industry. It asked both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Ontario Securities Commission to review the Detwiler report, saying it was either “a gross misreading of the data or a willful manipulation.”

BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion Ltd. (BB), is counting on the new Z10 phone -- and its pending companion device, the Q10 -- to fuel a turnaround after years of market- share losses. While its stock has more than doubled since September on optimism about the company’s prospects, more short sellers are betting that the comeback will fail. Short positions by investors looking to profit from a drop in the shares are near a record high.

Anne Buckley, a spokeswoman for Detwiler Fenton, declined to comment.

Netflix’s Hastings Posts User Data on Facebook as SEC Shifts

Netflix Inc. (NFLX:US) Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings posted quarterly viewer data on Facebook, a day after announcing he would take advantage of new rules that allow material information to be disclosed over social media.

“Over the last three months, you all watched over 4 billion hours on Netflix,” Hastings wrote April 11 on his page on Facebook Inc. (FB:US)’s social-media service.

Hastings is staking out a lead role in the use of social media to communicate with investors. Netflix said on April 10 it may use Facebook and Twitter for material announcements, permissible under guidelines issued last week by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which ended a probe into Hastings’ earlier Facebook posts on viewer usage.

The new SEC guidelines clear companies to use Facebook and Twitter as long as investors are notified first.

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, said it will continue to make financial announcements on its website, in filings and in press releases. The company said it may also release material information on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, Hastings’s Facebook page or on the Netflix Blog and Netflix Tech Blog.

For more, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net

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


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Companies Mentioned

  • MYGN
    (Myriad Genetics Inc)
    • $38.06 USD
    • 0.46
    • 1.21%
  • AMGN
    (Amgen Inc)
    • $119.77 USD
    • 0.82
    • 0.68%
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