Gun Patents, Idenix-Gilead, Sony, Amazon: Intellectual Property
By Ellen Rosen - Dec 3, 2013 12:01 AM ET
Gunmakers such as Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger & Co. (RGR) are boosting firearms sales by building weapons that are more accurate and easier to use, with gun-related U.S. patents at a 35-year high.
Demand is growing as more states allow people to carry concealed weapons and lawmakers discuss limiting sales after mass shootings at public venues like schools and movie theaters. Ownership is rising among women and the elderly, Bloomberg News reports.
Manufacturers are competing for sales with improvements such as magazines that increase a bullet’s accuracy or are lower in cost. Of 6,077 patents issued since 1977 in the firearms class, 19 percent were in the past four years, with a record 370 issued last year, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“There’s money to be made and everybody wants to protect their moneymaker,” said Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, which has been in business for more than 50 years and carries more than 7,000 guns. “There is a huge amount of technology going into these products.”
Recent innovations include patents issued for voice-command shooting, rifle scopes and a new trigger system. Not all are for the weapons themselves: there’s a gun rest that could attach to a hunter’s leg and a pistol holder for next to the bed. The rise in patents has brought on litigation, with at least eight lawsuits filed since the start of 2013.
By many measures, U.S. firearms sales are growing.
Background checks, conducted every time a buyer attempts to purchase one or more firearms, surged 54 percent from 2008 to 2012, with a record 19.6 million checks completed in 2012, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
Sturm Ruger, of Southport, Connecticut, the largest publicly traded U.S. gun maker, reported a 45 percent jump in third-quarter sales this year due to high demand for new firearms including the LC380 pistol, the SR45 pistol and the Ruger American Rimfire rifle.
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Idenix Files Two Suits Against Gilead Sciences
According to a statement yesterday from Idenix, the Massachusetts infringement lawsuit alleges that Gilead infringes two U.S. patents co-owned by Idenix (6,914,054 and 7,608,597) that cover methods of treating the hepatitis C virus.
The Delaware infringement and interference lawsuit alleges that Gilead infringes a separate U.S. patent co-owned by Idenix (7,608,600) that also covers methods of treating the hepatitis C virus.
Idenix is suing Gilead ahead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s expected approval of sofosbuvir, Gilead’s new drug for hepatitis C.
Cara Miller, a Gilead spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that the company wasn’t “surprised by the Idenix lawsuit and expected the company to file around the time of the sofosbuvir launch. We do not believe that sofosbuvir will infringe any valid patent claims of Idenix and we believe the lawsuits have no merit.”
Maria Stahl, senior vice president and general counsel at Idenix, said in the statement that the company has been “building an intellectual property portfolio that aids in the discovery and development of drugs for the treatment of the hepatitis C virus and other viral diseases.”
The companies, she said, have “attempted to resolve this matter” without litigation.
Idenix and Gilead are involved in a separate patent interference before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Gilead Sciences has also filed suit against Idenix in various jurisdictions outside the U.S., according to the Idenix statement.
The Massachusetts case is Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (IDIX) v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., 1:13-cv-13052, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Boston). The Delaware case is Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., 1:13-cv-01987, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).
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Sony Sued by Musician Over Sample of Song Used
Sony/ATV Music Publishing was sued by a musician who claims one of his songs was sampled and used on the rap recording “Letter to the King.”
Dominic Ierace, known as Donnie Iris, co-wrote the song “Memoirs of the Traveler” when he was a member of the Jaggerz. Ierace’s biggest hit was “The Rapper,” according to the Nov. 27 suit.
Ierace, joined by two former band members, contends that samples from the song were used by the rapper “The Game.”
They claim in their copyright suit that they hadn’t received royalties for the use of their song. According to the suit, The Game’s label, Geffen/Universal, paid royalties to EMI Music Publishing Co. while EMI hadn’t paid the “Memoirs” songwriters. Sony/ATV was sued because Sony bought EMI in 2012.
Jimmy Asci, a spokesman for Sony, declined in an e-mail to comment on the suit.
The case is Rock v. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, 2:13-cv-01697, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh). For more copyright news, click here. For trademark news, click here.
Amazon Rejected by U.S. Supreme Court on New York Sales Tax
The U.S. Supreme Court stayed out of the multibillion-dollar fight over Internet sales taxes, leaving intact a New York law that forces Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) to collect money from customers in that state.
Acting on one of the biggest online-shopping days of the year, the justices yesterday made no comment in rejecting appeals by Amazon and Overstock.com Inc. (OSTK), another Internet retailer. The companies said the law, upheld by New York’s top court, violates the Constitution by demanding tax collection from businesses that don’t have facilities in the state.
States lose an estimated $23 billion a year in uncollected sales taxes from web retailers. Although Amazon has agreed to collect taxes in some states as it sets up distribution centers, it has resisted efforts by others to impose sales taxes unilaterally. New York’s measure is among a handful that have been dubbed “Amazon laws” because they affect only the largest online sellers.
The New York law “subjects Internet retailers to significant burdens on pain of serious civil and criminal penalties,” Seattle-based Amazon argued in its appeal. The world’s biggest online retailer now collects taxes in 16 states.
The rebuff leaves it to Congress to craft a nationwide approach to the sales-tax issue. Amazon supports federal legislation that would explicitly let states require tax collections by all online retailers above a certain size.
The cases are Overstock.com v. New York State Department of Taxation, 13-252, and Amazon.com v. New York State Department of Taxation, 12-259.
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