Photo credit: Shutterstock

Ger­man Mer­ck bests US Mer­ck in UK copy­right tus­sle of Mer­ck v. Mer­ck

Be­fore Mer­ck and Mer­ck, there was on­ly Mer­ck.

A sin­gle com­pa­ny was found­ed as a drug­mak­er in the pre-Bis­mar­ck­ian days of an in­dus­tri­al­iz­ing Ger­many that, in 1891, de­cid­ed to launch an out­post in New York. It was a suc­cess­ful idea, launch­ing a small­pox vac­cine just 7 years lat­er, un­til World War I, when the US gov­ern­ment seized the US branch un­der the Trad­ing with the En­e­my Act, split­ting the glob­al cor­po­ra­tion in two and set­ting off a cen­tu­ry of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal brand con­fu­sion.

Here’s the long-run­ning agree­ment: The US Mer­ck can use the Mer­ck name in the US and Cana­da. The Ger­man gets the Mer­ck name every­where else, and when ad­ver­tis­ing north of the Rio Grande us­es the name “EMD Group,” or Mer­ck KGaA. Ex­cept that deal, first ham­mered out in the 1950s, has frayed over time. A decade ago, the com­pa­nies tus­sled over their Face­book page, a fight that in­clud­ed a brief so­cial me­dia takeover. Me­dia cov­er­age de­scribed a very con­fused and in­dig­nant Mer­ck KGaA: “Ger­man phar­ma com­pa­ny Mer­ck KGaA has lost con­trol of its cor­po­rate Face­book page and wants to know how its US name­sake Mer­ck & Co came to be in pos­ses­sion of it,” PM Live wrote in 2011. (Face­book would lat­er apol­o­gize).

Around the same time, Mer­ck KGaA al­so ob­ject­ed to the US com­pa­ny’s use of the name in the UK. In 2016, Ger­man Mer­ck lost that case. But yes­ter­day, on ap­peal, the High Court of Jus­tice sided with KGaA, rul­ing that the US cor­po­ra­tion had in­fringed on the Ger­man com­pa­ny’s copy­right nu­mer­ous times.

Re­view­ing 16 in­stances brought forth by Mer­ck KGaA, a judge found that the US com­pa­ny has caused a “dis­tur­bance” of Mer­ck KGaA’s copy­right.

“The dis­tur­bance has tak­en the form of (a) the in­tro­duc­tion of a num­ber of spe­cif­ic “Mer­ck” brand­ed web­sites (in part tar­get­ed at the UK); (b) the in­creased pro­mo­tion of the “mer­” do­main it­self in the UK; (c) the use of “@mer­” e-mail ad­dress­es for em­ploy­ees based out­side the Per­mit­ted Ter­ri­to­ries; (d) an un­re­strained use of “Mer­ck” in con­tent on so­cial me­dia plat­forms (YouTube, Twit­ter and Face­book),” Judge Alas­tair Nor­ris wrote.

The in­fringe­ment, he said, did not come from “dis­hon­esty” but was nev­er­the­less will­ful.

“The im­pugned acts were part of a con­scious pol­i­cy,” he wrote. “Mer­ck US sim­ply chose to act ac­cord­ing to its own untest­ed views of its oblig­a­tions and in­sist­ed on con­tin­u­ing to do so even in the face of ob­vi­ous­ly rea­son­able com­plaint.”

Still, the judge ruled there were places where KGaA’s copy­right shouldn’t ap­ply. And this won’t be the end of the bat­tle. A sec­ond law­suit, filed in New Jer­sey by Mer­ck US against Mer­ck KGaA ac­cus­ing them of trade­mark in­fringe­ment, is af­ter four years still on­go­ing.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Covid-19 roundup: Eu­rope pur­chas­es 80M dos­es of Mod­er­na's vac­cine; CO­V­AXX se­cures $2.8B in emerg­ing mar­ket pre-or­ders

With the announcement of its vaccine efficacy data last week, Moderna is starting to line up customers for its Covid-19 mRNA jabs.

The Massachusetts-based biotech announced Wednesday it has agreed to sell an initial round of 80 million doses to the European Commission, with the option to double the amount to 160 million. Once the member states rubber stamp the approval, the deal will be finalized.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Al­ny­lam gets the green light from the FDA for drug #3 — and CEO John Maraganore is ready to roll

Score another early win at the FDA for Alnylam.

The FDA put out word today that the agency has approved its third drug, lumasiran, for primary hyperoxaluria type 1, better known as PH1. The news comes just 4 days after the European Commission took the lead in offering a green light.

An ultra rare genetic condition, Alnylam CEO John Maraganore says there are only some 1,000 to 1,700 patients in the US and Europe at any particular point. The patients, mostly kids, suffer from an overproduction of oxalate in the liver that spurs the development of kidney stones, right through to end stage kidney disease.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 94,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Bax­ter con­tin­ues on-shoring push with $50M In­di­ana ex­pan­sion

It’s been a banner year for the once humdrum business of manufacturing drugs, particularly vaccines. Billions have been spent ramping up facilities for Covid-19 jabs, while individual CDMOs have expanded their facilities, apparently anticipating demand or responding to a government-led push to onshore drug manufacturing.

Now Baxter Biopharma Solutions, the CDMO wing of the many-armed healthcare giant Baxter, is getting in on the game. On Tuesday, they announced plans to spend $50 million to expand their flagship, 600,000 square-foot facility in Bloomington, IN.

Eu­ro­pean Union aims to es­tab­lish patent workaround in case of emer­gen­cies while try­ing to strength­en its own IP

The European Union is looking at ways to bypass patent protections and make it easier to make generic drugs in cases of emergency such as the Covid-19 pandemic, a new document says.

Normally, under WTO regulations, the practice known as “compulsory licensing” is allowed in exceptional circumstances and could be applied as a waiver to bypass patent holders. Wednesday’s document was published as part of the EU’s plan to shore up the intellectual property rights of its member states.

Pur­due Phar­ma pleads guilty in fed­er­al Oxy­Con­tin probe, for­mal­ly rec­og­niz­ing it played a part in the opi­oid cri­sis

Purdue Pharma, the producer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, admitted Tuesday that, yes, it did contribute to America’s opioid epidemic.

The drugmaker formally pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, the AP reported, including getting in the way of the DEA’s efforts to combat the crisis, failing to prevent the painkillers from ending up on the black market and encouraging doctors to write more painkiller prescriptions through two methods: paying them in a speakers program and directing a medical records company to send them certain patient information. Purdue’s plea deal calls for $8.3 billion in criminal fines and penalties, but the company is only liable for a fraction of that total — $225 million.

PhRMA sues Trump gov­ern­ment over drug im­por­ta­tion rule — days be­fore it's set to be ef­fec­tive

Ever since President Donald Trump floated the idea of using state-sponsored importation to lower drug prices, PhRMA has made its opposition abundant. Not only is the proposal dangerous and futile,  but the trade group has also argued that it may even be illegal.

Now that the FDA has issued its final rule permitting states to bring certain drugs from Canada, PhRMA is taking the government to court — just a few days before the rule is slated to take effect.