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Dow's tax affairs, WW2 reparations and cases against Icann



Simon Crompton


IP developments today include Dow's creative tax strategies in the US, copyright reparations in Japan and events in Brazil, Serbia and California

Brazilian famers 'Roundup' against Monsanto

Things may be  going well for agriculture company Monsanto in the US courts, but the outlook is far from sunny for its patents in Brazil. The St Louis Business Journal  reports that a group of Brazilian farmers is planning to sue the corporation for R$1.2 billion ($606.7 million) after allegedly overpaying royalty fees relating to its patent on Roundup Ready soybeans. While Monsanto says the patent is valid until 2014, some farmers contend that it expired in 2010. The development follows a  ruling last week by Brazil's Superior Court against the corporation.

Dow loses out on tax bill

The tax affairs of multinational companies are under scrutiny like never before. While most have – legitimately – been able to arrange their IP affairs to reduce tax using transfer pricing rules or so-called patent boxes, one company provides a reminder of the dangers of being rather more creative when it comes to managing royalties. Bloomberg reports that a US court has rejected Dow Chemical's claim to $1 billion in tax deductions based on a complicated arrangement in which Dow benefited from deductions of royalty expenses it paid for the use of its own patents to a Special Limited Investment Partnership marketed by Goldman Sachs. Tax officials around the world are considering how to tighten up the tax rules applying to multinational companies. You can read more about the OECD's efforts, and about patent boxes [subscription required], on Managing IP.

World War II reparations

The Japan Times reports that the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) has petitioned the government to end a 10-year copyright extension granted to rights holders from countries on the winning side of World War II. The Treaty of San Francisco, signed in 1951 to officially end the war (right), extended Japan's copyright terms for the victorious nations by a decade on the grounds that Japan had not protected their copyrights during the conflict. Japan's standard copyright term is 50 years from the death of the author.

Welcome trade mark reform in Serbia

The market may be small but the changes are pretty fundamental. Last month Serbia's second attempt to reform its trade mark regulations to bring them into line with EU law came into force. Gordana Pavlovic of Cabinet Pavlovic reports that parallel imports will now be based on national exhaustion (not international), all trade mark cases can be appealed, 3D marks are allowed, damages have been increased and a system for ex-parte injunctions has been introduced. The only bad news for trade mark owners is that goods in transit can now no longer be seized automatically. With Serbia a common stop for goods from China, Bulgaria and Turkey, that could be the point to remember.

Claims against Icann over gTLDs thrown out

As brand owners look towards the introduction of new top-level domains later this year, there has been an increasing amount of interest in ongoing cases against Icann over how it allocates domains. A  feature in the March issue of Managing IP [subscription required] analyses three of those cases, and this week  Icann won a small victory in one of them as counterclaims brought by adult-entertainment company Manwin Licensing over the allocation of .xxx were thrown out. Still, the Manwin case has demonstrated that Icann can be attacked on antitrust grounds – the California judge ruled as such when he refused to dismiss the case last year. If you think you might suffer under the new gTLD system, it's worth paying attention.

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