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Crestor, Google AdWords, Twitter patent and EU Action Plan

James Nurton

Today’s blog looks at AstraZeneca’s Crestor settlement and today’s Supreme Court hearing on reverse payments, the harmonisation of Google’s AdWords policy and a patent on twitter. We also cast a critical eye over the latest EU Action Plan

Crestor of a wave

CrestorExecutives (and shareholders) at AstraZeneca will be relieved today after the company settled a challenge from generic rivals over the company’s cholesterol drug Crestor. The deal will see Watson Laboratories drop its litigation in the US courts over the validity of the Crestor substance patent. In return Watson can sell a generic version of the product from May 2 2016 if it pays AstraZeneca 39% of net sales until the end of pediatric exclusivity on July 8 2016.

But cosy deals between originator and generic drugs companies are under threat. Today the US Supreme Court begins hearing arguments from government antitrust officials concerned about the competition effects of such agreements. The Federal Trade Commission’s case against a group of pharmaceutical companies focuses on whether so-called reverse-payment agreements are anticompetitive and unlawful. Several amicus briefs have been filed, from economics professors and the AIPLA to the IPO and consumer groups, indicating that there is plenty of interest in the case, and lots of cash at stake.

Google AdWords policy goes global

Trade mark attorneys always welcome harmonisation in international law and practice, right? Well perhaps not when the standardisation involves dismantling existing protection for trade mark owners. Google last week revealed its latest policy on AdWords, explaining that from April 23 it will no longer restrict the use of trade marks as AdWords in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil. The change means that Google now has just one policy on AdWords, after bringing these eight jurisdictions in line with its international approach. It shifts the onus for trade mark protection from Google to the affected brand owner, who will be able to complain about the use of their trade mark in advertising text. Google explains: “[A] consistent policy and user experience worldwide benefits users, advertisers and trademark owners alike”. But do trade mark owners agree?

Twitter patented

twitterCongratulations to Twitter founders Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone, who have been granted a US patent for a messaging service whereby users follow each other and send messages to non-specific recipients – in other words, tweeting. Stone immediately tweeted: “Look Ma, I’m officially an inventor (my dream as a kid)!” There’s some concern on the web that the patent might be over-broad. But, as we have blogged previously, twitter has a policy only to use IP for defensive purposes. Let’s see how long that lasts, now the patents have started to be granted.

Where’s the action?

“Action Plan” are two words that always sink the spirits, and the recently published Council Resolution on the EU Customs Action Plan to combat IPR infringements for the years 2013 to 2017 is no exception. Once you’ve got through the legalese, the platitudes and the review of the previous Action Plan (2009-2012 – I hope you didn’t miss it?) you finally come to a list of “specific objectives”. Unfortunately, they seem to be neither specific nor particularly original. Moreover, some of them just seem to promise more bureaucracy and further pointless discussion. Are we wrong to be so cynical? I suppose at least we have reason to hope that under Paul Maier the new EU OHIM Observatory might provide some more practical and useful services for IP owners who are the victims of counterfeiting and piracy.


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