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This week in Other Barks & Bites, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) rules against Apple in a trademark dispute; Arbutus and Genevant Sciences file a patent infringement lawsuit against Pfizer related to the COVID-19 vaccine; and Sweetgreen promptly changes the name of a menu item after Chipotle files a trademark lawsuit against the salad chain.
EUIPO Details Achievements Over Last Five Years
On Wednesday, April 5, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) released a report detailing the organization’s achievements over the last five years. The report highlighted the Office’s outreach to small and medium enterprises during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its commitment to institute quality improvements based on user feedback. Executive Director Christian Archambeau said, “as we continue to face new challenges in the future, our resilience, innovation, and strong collaboration with our partners and stakeholders will ensure that we weather any storm and continue to build a properly functioning IP system fit for the 21st century that generates IP value for customers and citizens in the EU.”
Pfizer Hit with New Patent Infringement Lawsuit Related to COVID-19 Vaccine
On Tuesday, April 4, Arbutus and Genevant Sciences filed a lawsuit against Pfizer and its partner BioNTech alleging patent infringement of mRNA technology. The pharmaceutical companies claimed Pfizer “could not have accomplished the feat of creating and manufacturing a vaccine at a speed unprecedented in the history of medicine but for their use of Plaintiffs’ existing and proven LNP technologies.” The firms had previously had licensing discussions over the technology; however, this did not result in an agreement or settlement.
Apple JAZZ Trademark Owner Wins Appeal Over Apple
On Tuesday, April 4, the CAFC reversed a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) decision which had dismissed the Apple JAZZ trademark owner’s opposition to Apple’s trademark application for Apple Music. The CAFC judge ruled that the Board erred in allowing Apple to claim absolute priority for all of the services listed in its application based on a showing of priority for one service. The issue at hand was “whether a trademark applicant can establish priority for every good or service in its application merely because it has priority through tacking in a single good or service listed in its application.” The CAFC ruled that the Board incorrectly applied the tacking doctrine. Read the full IPWatchdog coverage.
Valve Receives Mixed News in Split CAFC Ruling for Video Game Controller Patent Case
On Monday, April 3, the CAFC affirmed in part a district court ruling that found video game company Valve willfully infringed an Ironburg patent. However, the judges reopened the door for Valve in its bid to dismiss the case by ruling that the district court erred when it estopped Valve from raising several grounds that were not the subject of its partially-instituted inter partes review (IPR) petition against Ironburg. Judge Clevenger dissented and argued that another patent in question is indefinite. For full coverage of the case, click here.
USPTO Begins Transition to Patent Center e-Office Action Program
On Thursday, April 6, the USPTO announced that it was beginning the transition to Patent Center e-Office Action program. According to the Office, this will streamline service delivery processes and modernize the e-Office action process. It plans for the Patent Center to be “a more modern, user-friendly system that provides improved system performance and a more intuitive user experience.” The USPTO is also seeking public comment on its plan to offer users a new option to receive e-postcards as a reminder that the user has not viewed or downloaded USPTO communications. Ultimately, this will replace postal postcards in the future.
Sweetgreen Changes Menu Item Name After Chipotle Launches Trademark Infringement Lawsuit
On Wednesday, April 5, Sweetgreen changed a new menu item just one day after Chipotle sued the company for trademark infringement. In the lawsuit, Chipotle accused Sweetgreen of using its namesake trademark in its new Chipotle Chicken Bowl to “sell a product that is very similar and directly competitive to Chipotle’s chicken burrito bowl.” Just one day after the lawsuit was filed, Sweetgreen attempted to sidestep the accusations by changing the name of its bowl to the Chicken + Chipotle Pepper Bowl.
ITC Launches Investigation into Shopping Cart Patent Infringement
On Wednesday, April 5, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) announced an investigation into the importation of electronic anti-theft shopping cart wheels that potentially violate six patents from Gatekeeper Systems. The three companies being investigated are based in the United States, China, and the Netherlands.
Amazon Brand Protection Report Says 6 Million Counterfeits Were Seized Last Year
On Tuesday, April 4, Amazon released a Brand Protection Report indicating that more than 800,000 attempts to create new selling accounts were thwarted in 2022, down from 2.5 million attempts in 2021, and 6 million attempts in 2020. The report also said that the number of valid notices of infringement filed by brands in Amazon’s Brand Registry decreased by over 35% and the company’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit sued or referred for investigation over 1,300 criminals in the U.S., UK, EU, and China; and, in conjunction with brands and law enforcement, identified, seized, and disposed of over 6 million counterfeit products.
USPTO Decreases Several Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Fees
On Saturday, April 1, the USPTO updated several PCT fees. The majority of the changes were decreases including search fees and preliminary examination fees. The only fee that was increased was 1712: International search, IP Australia, which increased from $1,419 to $1,523.
This Week on Wall Street
Layoffs Increased by 15% in March
On Thursday, April 6, Challenger, Gray & Christmas released a report showing US-based employers fired 89,703 employees, a 15% increase from February. The increase is much larger looking year-on-year with a 319% increase compared to March 2022. The first quarter of 2023 had the sixth-highest job cuts since 2000.
Germany Threatens Twitter with Fines
On Tuesday, April 4, Germany’s Federal Office of Justice announced it had begun legal proceedings against Twitter for failing to take down content that was clearly illegal. If found guilty Twitter could be fined up to €50 million. Within days of taking over the company, new CEO Elon Musk fired over half of the company’s workforce.
Quarterly Earnings – The following firms identified among the IPO’s Top 300 Patent Recipients for 2022 are announcing quarterly earnings next week (2022 rank in parentheses):
- Friday: Wells Fargo (109), JPMorgan (183)
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