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This week in IP: brands want unitary SPCs, alcohol brands data released, are women excluded from patents?

Managing IP rounds up the latest trademark, copyright and patent news, including some stories you might have missed

Drug innovators dream of unitary SPCs

With the increasing likelihood of a functioning Unified Patent Court coming into existence next year, European drug makers are having a think about the benefits of a supplementary protection certificate that would be valid across all EU member states.

Elise Melon, head of IP policy and operations for UCB in Brussels, says she has noticed the pharma industry’s increased appetite for a unitary SPC system over the past five years. She believes many people have been waiting to see what happens first with the UPC.

“Parallel litigation in Europe can be quite intense,” she says. “We are really looking forward to the UPC, but for us in the pharma industry, the system needs to have unitary SPCs to be meaningful. This will facilitate the process and streamline the procedure for both applicants and offices.”

Click here to read more.

Other Managing IP stories published this week include:

Drug makers on why public funds not enough for vaccines

Podcast: Managing IP 2020 review – 12 months in 40 minutes

‘No useful policy justification’ for PTAB presumption change

In-house: brand restrictions may help low-quality goods flourish

2020 revisited: six stories that could reshape IP

In-house reveal US patent litigation trends they'll watch in 2021

USPTO comments should lead to e-commerce liability, say brands

Counsel split on practicalities of design discounts

China tops alcohol trademark list

Mainland China has filed more trademark applications for alcoholic drinks than the rest of the world combined since 2017, new data revealed this week.

According to Clarivate Analytics, a specialist in IP data, applicants from China filed the most applications in Nice classes 32 and 33 (covering alcoholic beverages).

Mainland China also topped the list as the leading innovator in that space, with 30,645 patent applications between the year 2000 and now, according to data from Derwent World Patents Index.

The report, Distilling the IP dynamics of the alcoholic beverage industry, adds that an increased demand for craft beer, a trend seen in many countries, is boosting China’s beer consumption.

Despite the global pandemic causing a slump in on-premises alcohol sales, booming online sales have meant that the market for alcoholic beverages is expected to increase from $515 billion at the end of 2019 to $528 billion by the end of this year, the report adds.

However, this online boom is not yet reflected in domain name take-up.

Most alcoholic beverage brands have not enhanced their web presence beyond a standard ‘.com’ homepage, the report notes, adding that top-level-domains such as ‘.gin’, ‘.whiskey’ and ‘.tequila’ have yet to be acquired.

Jeff Roy, president of the IP group at Clarivate, said: “The alcoholic beverage industry continues to adapt, evolve and flourish despite unpredictable market dynamics and changing consumer preferences.

“By tapping into the power of integrated insights from our data, we have an understanding of the innovation lifecycle and can project the likely trajectory of trends and their possible impact on the beverage industry.”

Nokia challenges CJEU referral of Daimler case

Last Thursday, December 10, Nokia filed an appeal against the Regional Court of Düsseldorf’s decision to refer one of three connected car lawsuits against Daimler to the Court of Justice of the EU.

The German court had asked the CJEU to consider whether the Finnish standard essential patent (SEP) owner was abusing its dominant market position by refusing to issue a licence to Daimler's suppliers and instead seeking a licence from the end user – in this case, Daimler. 

The regional court also asked if SEP owners had the right to choose which company in the supply chain to sue for an injunction over patent infringement.

A referral to the CJEU is probably bad news for Nokia because it could cause a potential two-year delay in what has already been a drawn-out negotiation process with the automotive maker.

Daimler, on the other hand, will see the referral as one small win among a series of losses, including one from this summer when the Mannheim Regional Court ruled that the automotive maker was unwilling to accept a licence offer on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

The Mannheim court also rejected Daimler’s request for a referral to the CJEU.

The Düsseldorf referral comes after Nokia made a licensing offer in September to tier-one suppliers of connectivity modules.

USPTO receives Senate letter asking if women are excluded from patent bar

Last week, US senators Mazie Hirono, Thom Tillis and Chris Coons sent a letter to USPTO director Andrei Iancu asking whether women had been excluded from the patent bar due to systemic bias.

The letter followed on the heels of a published paper by Mary Hannon at DePaul University in Indiana in which she argued that qualified women were excluded from the patent bar because of “the perpetuation of an institutionally biased and archaic set of scientific and technical requirements by the USPTO”.

Hannon wrote that even though the gender gap has been acknowledged by the USPTO, no attempts have been made to increase opportunities for women to participate in the bar.

In her paper, Hannon gave proposals for closing the gender gap, including expanding the types of technical degrees required for patent bar eligibility, and implementing an apprenticeship programme.

In the letter sent to Iancu, the senators cited statistics from studies from 2011 and 2014 which revealed that women made up only 18% of patent agents and patent attorneys in the US.

The letter’s authors argued that having more female patent prosecutors would help increase the patenting activity of female inventors because female prosecutors could contribute their expertise to goods and services catered to women.

To practise at the USPTO, candidates must pass a six-hour exam and have a university degree from one of 32 specific majors. These listed majors exclude relevant degrees to patent prosecution including industrial and fashion design.

The letter also cited outdated requirements for science degrees, which must be certified by one of two accreditation bodies, both of which excluded computer science degrees from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

The three senators asked the USPTO director to respond to six questions about patent bar eligibility by January 15 2021.

ICC publishes 2020 IP roadmap

The International Chamber of Commerce published its 2020 intellectual property roadmap on Wednesday, December 16, laying out the most important issues surrounding IP.

The report identified key topics including artificial intelligence and product piracy as being important to IP professionals in the future, and laid out how IP could act as a catalyst for sustainable development.

The 2020 roadmap was compiled from the knowledge of more than 100 IP experts from around the world.

Executive coordinator and project chair Mathias Karlhuber, partner at Cohausz & Florack, said: “The world is changing at a rapid pace, and with it also the conditions for innovation and creativity.

“Today, companies are challenged more than ever to assert themselves in the market with their IP strategies. The current edition of the IP Roadmap makes an important contribution to the understanding of the different market mechanisms and to the worldwide protection of intellectual property.”

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