- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Supreme Court refused yesterday to decide whether the granddaughter of A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, can regain control of the copyright for stories featuring the popular children’s character.

Mr. Milne wrote the Pooh books between 1924 and 1928 and granted a license to Stephen Slesinger in 1930. Mr. Slesinger, in turn, granted his rights to Stephen Slesinger Inc. The company sublicensed certain rights to the Pooh works to Walt Disney Productions.

When Mr. Milne died in 1956, he did not bequeath ownership of the copyright to his family but to a trust that later became known as the Pooh Properties Trust.

Clare Milne, who was not yet born when her grandfather died, sought to use a 1976 copyright law to terminate the prior licensing agreement and recapture ownership of the copyright.

Lawyers for Mr.Slesinger urged justices to reject the appeal, accusing Disney of bankrolling Ms. Milne’s lawsuit because of a 13-year-old dispute over royalties owed to Mr. Slesinger. Disney is a co-plaintiff of Ms. Milne’s.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Milne had no termination right to exercise because the parties — the trust, Disney and Mr. Slesinger — entered into an agreement in 1983 designed to block the family from ever regaining control of the copyright.

Also yesterday, the Supreme Court refuse to hear an appeal of a drug-patent case that antitrust officials hoped would speed access to cheaper generic versions of nearly a dozen popular medicines that now cost consumers more than $25 billion a year.

The Federal Trade Commission asked the high court to review a March 2005 decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which ruled that settlements reached in lawsuits filed by the pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Corp. against two companies challenging its patent on a drug did not violate antitrust law.

The FTC maintains that the increasingly popular settlements allow brand-name pharmaceutical companies to pay off generic drug manufacturers in exchange for delays in the introduction of lower-priced — but otherwise identical — versions of medicines.

Schering sued two competitors that had challenged its patent for K-Dur 20, a potassium supplement given to patients on blood-pressure medications.

Eventually, Schering paid the two companies $60 million and $15 million in settling the separate lawsuits. It also received pledges that they would keep their generic versions of K-Dur off the market until 2001 and 2004, respectively. Schering’s patent on K-Dur expires Sept. 1.

Since last year’s appeals court ruling that the settlements were permissible, the number of similar settlements struck between brand name and generic drug companies has increased, according to the FTC. Companies had stopped making such deals in the late 1990s after legal challenges mounted by the agency.

The justices agreed yesterday to use a patent-infringement dispute over automotive gas pedals to decide when some inventions are too obvious to qualify for a patent.

The justices agreed to hear KSR International Co.’s bid to stop a suit over adjustable gas pedals originally filed against it by Teleflex Inc., which has since sold its auto-pedal business. KSR says the Teleflex patent isn’t valid because the technology was merely a combination of existing inventions. The Bush administration urged the court to grant a review.

The patent covers an electronic sensor combined with gas, brake or clutch pedals that adjust to the height of the driver. KSR makes the pedals for General Motors Corp.’s Chevrolet and GMC trucks and sport utility vehicles.

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