Archive: April 2017

1
Australian Patent and Plant Breeder’s Rights Year in Review
2
Momentum.africa – Opening of Top-Level Domain Name to Create Opportunities to IP Right Owners
3
Dispute over the similarity of the marks “NIMORAL” and “NEORAL” – ruling of the EU General Court
4
Markush Madness: Watson Avoids Infringement by Adding an Element to a Formulation
5
The Laguiole trademark saga: Victory can be a double-edged knife
6
Proceeding on a submission of a graphic trademark – ruling of the European General Court (Anta (China) vs. EUIPO)
7
Threats Not Groundless Because Proceedings are Ultimately Not Issued
8
“Vespa” scooters win twice against counterfeiting – Piaggio wins two lawsuits in a month

Australian Patent and Plant Breeder’s Rights Year in Review

K&L Gates has prepared the first edition of Patent and Plant Breeder’s Rights Year in Review which examines the significant judgments, development and events effecting patents and plant breeder’s rights in Australia.

The Review looks at a number of cases over the year including the Australian High Court’s decision in D’Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc in the biotech industry, whether an Australian affiliate of an international pharma company was an exclusive licensee and whether it had standing to sue, and the Productivity Commission’s “IP Arrangements” Inquiry Report plus other updates. Click here for the summary or click here for the ePublication.

By: Simone Mitchell, Veg Tran, Michael Christie, Alex Dunlop, Jillian Lim, Jamie Wolbers and Jessica Mandla

Momentum.africa – Opening of Top-Level Domain Name to Create Opportunities to IP Right Owners

The new generic top-level domain (gTLD) .africa, a regional domain for users located in and out of the continent, has been officially validated by ICANN.

More than a decade after its other regional counterparts, such as .eu or .asia, the .africa gTLD has been the subject matter of a legal conundrum for years.

Indeed, a conflict between two operators had to be escalated up to U.S. courts before a final decision entrusted the management of the gTLD to a South African company, ZA Central Registry NPC.

This new gTLD will allow the African continent to seize the full potential of the internet revolution, on a continent where the mobile connectivity is now allowing bypassing the expensive copper wire infrastructure development.

The new .africa domain name extension is expected to lead the continent in its global effort to take part in the global information society and become a strategic place to invest.

Accessibility to the new domain name will be gradual: starting on 6 April 2017, a 60-day preliminary phase will allow trademark owners or companies to benefit from a priority right, as well as African countries that intend to protect certain emblematic names such as “Mount Kilimanjaro”. Then, starting on 2 June 2017, an Early Access Phase (EAP) will take place to prevent any hindrance or ransoming by ill-intentioned people.

The .africa TLD will finally be open to all on 4 July 2017, on a first-come/first-serve basis.

K&L Gates has more than 225 lawyers, including approximately 100 registered patent lawyers, agents, and technology specialists with technical or advanced science degrees – nearly 20 with Ph.D.s – who devote their practices to helping clients establish, enforce, and leverage their intellectual property rights worldwide.

We can thus highlight the pitfall to avoid, the topics on which to focus the attention and better defend and protect our clients’ intangible assets with regard to the opening of this new gTLD, on this emerging market.

By: Claude Armingaud, Alexandre Balducci and Solenn Le Guen

Dispute over the similarity of the marks “NIMORAL” and “NEORAL” – ruling of the EU General Court

In a ruling on 6 April 2017, in case No. T-49/16, the EU General Court upheld a decision by the EUIPO Fourth Board of Appeal dismissing a complaint by the company Azanta A/S (Azanta) against a decision to refuse to register the word trademark “NIMORAL.”

Azanta submitted that mark on 23 October 2013, applying for protection in respect of goods belonging to class 5 of the Nice Classification corresponding to the following description: “Pharmaceutical preparations improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy in treating cancer patients.” On 2 December 2013, an objection against that registration was raised by the company Novartis AG based on the previous registration of the EU trademark “NEORAL” for goods belonging to class 5 of the Nice Classification corresponding to the following description: “Pharmaceutical preparations.”

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Markush Madness: Watson Avoids Infringement by Adding an Element to a Formulation

On February 1, 2017, in Shire Development, LLC v. Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that Watson’s proposed generic version of Shire’s LIALDA® did not infringe claims 1 and 3 of Shire’s U.S. Patent No. 6,773,720 (the “’720 patent”).[1]  In reversing the district court, the Federal Circuit determined that Shire’s claim to an outer layer “consisting of” a list of specific elements closes the universe of elements for infringement purposes, and Watson’s addition of an ingredient (“magnesium stearate”) to the outer layer of its accused product created non-infringement because it was outside the claimed list of elements.[2]  The Federal Circuit’s opinion rests on a strict reading of the Markush groups within the ’720 patent and a rejection of the district court’s broad reading of the Federal Circuit’s opinion in Norian Corp. v. Stryker Corp.[3]

Background
A Markush-type claim (also known as a Markush group) allows a patent drafter to capture independent, related claim elements in a single limitation.  The claim is characterized by the form “selected from the group consisting of A, B and C.”[4]  The “consisting of” language closes the group from including other members, such as “D.”  “Consisting of” limits an element to only the named members of the group, and an element selected from outside that group will not be covered by the claim.  In contrast, patent drafters frequently use an alternative preamble “comprising” to keep the claims open to additional, unrecited elements.[5]

Here, Shire sued Watson for infringing claims 1 and 3 of the ’720 patent by filing an Abbreviated New Drug Application (“ANDA”) with the Food and Drug Administration seeking to market a generic version of Shire’s drug LIALDA®.  The ’720 patent is directed to a controlled-release oral composition of mesalamine (5-amino-salicylic acid) used to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  The claimed composition includes the mesalamine active ingredient; an inner, lipophilic matrix that “resists dissolving in water”; an outer, hydrophilic matrix that “readily dissolves in” water; and other optional excipients.

To read the full alert, click here.

By: Kenneth C. Liao and Peter Giunta

The Laguiole trademark saga: Victory can be a double-edged knife

The European Union Court of Justice confirmed the intellectual property rights owned by the French company “Forge de Laguiole”, but solely in areas in which it pursued an actual business activity.

A decision [1] dated 5 April 2017 of the European Union Court of Justice (EUCJ) put an end to the longstanding series of court decisions about the Laguiole trademark before the European Union jurisdictions (EU Jurisdictions), on which relied the right for French company “Forge de Laguiole” to keep using its business name. This decision also gave the EUCJ the opportunity to clarify the application of national case law by the EU Jurisdictions within the framework of proceedings based on Article 8 (4) of Regulation No 207/2009  (the “Regulation”) [2].

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Proceeding on a submission of a graphic trademark – ruling of the European General Court (Anta (China) vs. EUIPO)

The EU General Court upheld a decision by the EUIPO Board of Appeal in the case of Anta (China) vs. EUIPO, in accordance with which a graphic mark consisting of two lines forming an acute angle, submitted in respect of various goods from classes 18, 25, and 28, does not possess distinctiveness (case No. T-291/16 of 5 April 2017). In this context, it is worth paying some attention to the conditions concerning distinctiveness for a trademark that is purely graphic in form (i.e., that has no verbal component whatsoever), in particular in respect of goods such as footwear and clothing.

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Threats Not Groundless Because Proceedings are Ultimately Not Issued

In the UK, in a decision that will provide additional comfort to trade mark owners seeking to protect their intellectual property rights in the UK, the High Court held that a threat issued by a trade mark owner was not groundless simply because it was never followed up by proceedings being issued.

In Vanderbilt v Wallace & Ors [2017] EWCH 45 (IPEC), the High Court held that “the emphasis is on whether the acts actually infringe or, if done, would infringe, not on whether a proprietor actually sues for infringement. The phrase does not impose an obligation to commence legal proceedings for every act complained of.”

The case involved a long running trade mark dispute between the claimant and defendant, including several concurrent actions. In this instance the defendant had argued that section 21 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 established that where threats are made the trade mark proprietor has to bring a claim in relation to everything that is the subject of a threat, and that if they fail to do so then the threats can never be justified, even if there is infringement.

The Court disagreed. It stated that there are often valid commercial reasons why a trade mark owner may elect not to issue proceedings even if there is an obvious infringement. The Court will consider the validity of the claim on its own and whether the acts complained of constitute an infringement, regardless of whether proceedings have been issued following any threats to sue.

In addition to providing clarity, this outcome will please trade mark owners. Provided that they have established infringement they can send cease and desist letters without worrying about issuing legal proceedings that may not be commercially desirable.

By: Nóirín McFadden and Jamie Kershaw

“Vespa” scooters win twice against counterfeiting – Piaggio wins two lawsuits in a month

In just a few weeks, Piaggio – the Italian company manufacturing iconic Vespa scooters – obtained a double victory before Italian courts both under the intellectual property and the copyright perspectives.

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