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News Update (May & June 2021)

1. Epic Games sues Nreal for alleged trademark infringement

Epic Games has a registered trademark of its infamous gaming engine called the “Unreal”. It is one of the most advanced platforms for developing 3D games. Nreal is a company involved in developing virtual reality equipment that is used in gaming. Epic Games filed a suit against Nreal in the US District Court of North Carolina stating that “Nreal” is deceptively similar to “Unreal”. It was also added that Nreal is planning to enter into the game development industry, hence there is more scope for “consumer confusion”. Earlier, Nreal’s attempt to register their mark with the USPTO was opposed by Epic Games.’

2. Natco filed for compulsory licensing of Baricitinib drug

Natco Pharma Limited, a Hyderabad-based company applied for compulsory licensing with the Controller of Patents for producing a drug called Baricitinib. Eli Lilly, an American company holds the patent for it. The drug’s demand peaked as it was used in treating COVID-19 along with Remdisvir. This drug is prescribed to those who require supplementary oxygen, invasive mechanical ventilator extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).[1]

Eli Lilly agreed to enter into a royalty-free and non-exclusive agreement with Natco and other Indian pharmaceutical companies such as Cipla, Lupin, Sun Pharmacy, etc. Natco therefore agreed to withdraw its application for compulsory licensing. The Controller of Patents observed that there was a demand for this drug and such demand was not met due to lack of production and affordability.

3. USA approves patent waivers over COVID-19 vaccines

On the 5th of May, the US government released a statement stating that they would temporarily waive the IP protection awarded to the inventors and producers of the COVID-19 vaccine to allow the global demands to be met. Not only this, the US government went forth to propose other countries and international trade organizations waive patent restrictions with regard to the COVID-19 vaccine. This decision was criticized by the EU countries as it undermines the IP Laws. Among others, the President of France suggested an alternate solution to enable the growing demands to be met. He recommended that the US lifts its export ban on the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine ingredients. The Chancellor of Germany also expressed his dissent by stating that a waiver would discourage much-needed innovation.

4. Banksy’s Radar Rat, Monkey Sign, and Umbrella Girl loses trademark protection in EU

The EUIPO has stripped Banksy of his trademark in his works Radar Rat, Umbrella Girl, and Monkey Sign. This followed the series of rejections faced by Banksy for IP protection over her works. A greeting card company called Full Colour Black Limited had applied for the cancellation on the basis of lack of distinctiveness. Banksy had previously opened a shop and provided a statement to the media that he had to indulge in these activities to merely meet the trademark protection requirements. He also had a history of showing disrespect and disregard to IP laws. The EUIPO, hence, held that Banksy and his legal representatives had acted in bad faith. This bad faith was proved by the words of Banksy himself as there was no real intention to use the mark for reasons other than obtaining trademark protection. Another persistent factor is that Banksy continues to remain anonymous and refuses to reveal his identity to the registering authorities, hence it becomes hard to determine absolute ownership.

5. Miley Cyrus emerged victorious in the CJEU

Miley Cyrus, the international pop artist had applied for trademark protection over her name “MILEY CYRUS” in European Intellectual Property Office. Miley’s company applied for registration of the mark under various classifications, including the sale of mobile phone accessories, music records, etc. It was met with an opposition by an English company called Cyrus Trademarks Ltd. on the grounds of likelihood of confusion. The European Intellectual Property Office rejected the singer’s application and accepted the opposition. The case went in appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union, where it was held that there is no likelihood of confusion between the two marks as the singer has a big reputation internationally.

6. T-Series requests for a takedown due to copyright infringement against Bolo Indya

T-Series, a production house has lodged a takedown request against Bolo Indya, an Indian social media app on the Google Play store. They claim that the app has infringed their copyrights in certain musical works. In September 2020, T-Series had sent a notice regarding the said infringement to Bolo Indya and other social media apps such as MX Taka Tak, Mitron, etc. Bolo Indya claims that efforts were made to acquire licenses from T-Series, but all attempts were ignored. T-Series claimed that the damages amounted to approximately Rs.3.5 crores, while Bolo Indya claims huge loss in business as Google removed their app from the play store behest T-Series’ request.

7. Sony Pictures Network India secures a dynamic injunction to protect its exclusive media rights.

Sony Pictures had acquired exclusive media rights over the streaming of the Sri Lanka international series that will take place in July 2021 and the India – England international series that is scheduled to take place in August and September 2021. The company approached the Delhi High Court to seek a dynamic injunction against any third-party website that will infringe their exclusive rights when the stream goes live. The dynamic injunction was granted against Ashok Kumar (India equivalent of John Doe), whereby Sony will identify the defendants as and when an infringement occurs. Along with the injunction, the Delhi High Court also appointed two Local Commissioners to monitor possible infringement by rouge third-party websites.[2]

8. Tussle over ‘KSRTC’ mark between Kerala and Karnataka comes to an end

‘KSRTC’ was previously known as both Kerala State Road Transport Authority and Karnataka State Road Transport Authority. This abbreviation was used by both states to depict their state’s road transport services. The tussle arose officially when Karnataka made an effort to register its mark 7 years ago. Both the states have fought to retain sole ownership over the mark. The Central Trademark Registry announced its decision in June holding that Kerala has the right to use the mark KSRTC since they were the first to use the mark, though this right was held to not be exclusive to Kerala. Karnataka authorities have stated that they will take further steps once they receive the official order from the Central Trademark Registry.

Sources: [1] [2]

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