MD Anderson to biotech billionaire Soon-Shiong: Get your own slogan. ‘Moon Shots’ belongs to us

Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong author NHS Confederation

Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong, credit NHS Confederation

MD Anderson has been promoting its cancer moon shots programs for four years. The banner for its cancer research initiative has helped raise some $380 million in charitable contributions over the years. And the vast Houston cancer center is not about to let some Johnny-come-lately biotech upstart like billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong come along and take it for himself.

Now they want a restraining order and damages. And they have one of the top legal gunslingers in the Lone Star state pleading their cause.

From the suit:

“Through such years of substantial and continuous use, Plaintiff (that’s MD Anderson) has acquired senior valid, subsisting, and continuous trademark rights and associated goodwill in and to the Senior Marks. Accordingly, Plaintiff is the exclusive owner of all rights, titles, and interests throughout the United States of America in and to the Senior Marks, together with all goodwill of the business(es) connected with the use of and symbolized by the Senior Marks, which are of significant value.”

That’s the gist of a lawsuit that MD Anderson filed in late October against Soon-Shiong and his network of Nant-named ventures: NantHealth, NantWorks and Nant Holdings.

First reported by The Cancer Letter, the lawsuit spells out the many ways that MD Anderson used Moon Shots, claiming senior rights that date back to long before the Nants came along to start using it in late 2015 or early 2016 as MoonShots.

The lawsuit was filed by Charles Babcock, one of the best known First Amendment attorneys in Texas. (Full disclosure, Chip Babcock was my attorney during part of my time as publisher of the Dallas Business Journal in the early ’90s.) Babcock represented Oprah Winfrey in her free speech defense in 1998 for a mad cow disease story and has the rare distinction of being one of the few, and perhaps the only, trial lawyer to appear on her show to discuss the constitutional protections for speech.

There is another Cancer Moonshot attracting attention in the US. Vice President Joe Biden has fired up his own campaign for a federal project, which enlisted none other than Patrick Soon-Shiong for the blue ribbon panel formed for its own promotion to tackle oncology. That tie-up apparently created something of an embarrassing overlap of moon shots. But MD Anderson doesn’t target Biden or his rival federal moon shot in its lawsuit against the biotech billionaire.

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