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February 2007

Court Rules In Pfizer's Favor In Norvasc Patent Case, Finds Synthon Obtained Patent By Inequitable Conduct

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) has ruled that Synthon IP obtained, by inequitable conduct, two U.S. patents alleged to cover a process and an intermediate compound used to make the active ingredient in Pfizer's widely-prescribed hypertension medication, Norvasc, Pfizer said today.

Pfizer said the court found that Synthon had knowingly failed to disclose to the U.S. Patent Office Pfizer publications and other information it had in its possession that described the process Synthon sought to patent. "It's very difficult to meet the standards for establishing inequitable conduct," said Allen Waxman, Pfizer's general counsel. "But in this case it is clear that Synthon improperly used Pfizer's own published material to obtain a patent that it then tried to enforce against us."

Pfizer said it intends to seek attorneys' fees from Synthon. The case may be appealed.

Synthon had asserted that Pfizer's process for manufacturing Norvasc --a process Pfizer had not only published but has been using for 15 years --infringed Synthon patents issued in 2003 and 2005. In August of last year, a jury unanimously ruled that one of those patents was not infringed by Pfizer and was invalid on multiple grounds, principally because it was based on Pfizer's prior published work. Synthon had dropped its claim of infringement on the second patent prior to trial.

Chips push through nano-barrier

The next milestone in the relentless pursuit of smaller, higher performance microchips has been unveiled.

Chip-maker Intel has announced that it will start producing processors using transistors with features just 45 nanometres (billionth of a metre) wide.

Shrinking the technology that underpins the basic building blocks of chips will make them faster and more efficient.

Computer giant IBM has also signalled its intention to start production of microchips using the technology.

"Big Blue", which developed the technology with partners Toshiba, Sony and AMD, intends to incorporate the transistors into its chips in 2008.

Full story.

$5 million grant goes to MU

Money will help upgrade College of Engineering
Posted: Jan. 30, 2007

Marquette University on Tuesday announced a $5 million contribution toward a "transformation" of its College of Engineering, which if successful would advance the region's scramble to compete in research, technology and scientific innovation.

"In some senses, Milwaukee is playing catch-up," said Stanley Jaskolski, dean of Marquette's engineering college.

The grant from an alumni couple, Jim and Kelly McShane, adds momentum to a $167 million campaign to modernize Marquette's engineering curriculum and hire "game-changing, world-class faculty," Jaskolski said. The university also hired an architect to design a new engineering building to be called the Discovery Learning Complex.

Full story.

Third Wave gains from patent fight

By Jeff Richgels
Third Wave Technologies Inc. today announced that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Stratagene Corp. that includes a $10.75 million cash payment by Stratagene to Third Wave.

The settlement stems from Third Wave's win over Stratagene in a patent battle that began in 2004.

A federal court jury in Madison found in September 2005 that the California company infringed on two of Madison-based Third Wave's patents, awarding Third Wave $5.3 million. Judge Barbara Crabb later tripled the damages to $15.9 million in the case, which Stratagene was appealing.

Stratagene also has a separate lawsuit pending against Third Wave in Delaware.

Under terms of the settlement announced today, the two companies agreed to stay any further litigation for nine months, and to either seek dismissal without prejudice or an extension of the trial date for the Delaware lawsuit.

The companies also agreed to resolve that case or any other disputes by either arbitration or a royalty-bearing license.

Full story.

Therese M. Newholm, JD Joins Gehrke & Associates, S.C.

Gehrke & Associates, S.C. is pleased to announce that Therese M. Newholm, JD has been named of counsel to the firm. She is a registered patent attorney whose practice focuses on patent prosecution, reexamination and reissue proceedings, PCT applications, and appeal practices. She will be augmenting Gehrke & Associates, S.C.'s growing patent practice.

Therese is a former Patent Examiner and earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and a J.D. from George Mason University-School of Law.

More info.

Rockwell, UWM finally teaming up

$1 million grant aimed at fostering technology research program
Posted: Jan. 22, 2007

Rockwell Automation's chief executive flew halfway around the world this month to cut a ribbon at a technology lab at the University of Pune in India, where the Milwaukee-based company aims to train engineering students and hire them when they graduate.

Such long-haul trips have become commonplace for Rockwell executives, who for years have endowed research centers at top engineering schools across Asia, Europe and the United States. Rockwell has 29 alliances with research universities in China alone.

Conspicuous by its absence in Rockwell's global strategy, until now, has been the largest university in the company's own hometown.

The industrial automation concern is preparing to announce this week a $1 million grant to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a first step toward a technology research program tailored to bolster the region's manufacturing industry, Rockwell and UWM officials said.

Full story.

Certain fees for stem cells waived


Licenses and fees of up to $400,000 will be waived for non-commercial stem-cell research, UW-Madison's tech transfer organization said Monday in a move welcomed by researchers who had complained the cost impeded their work.

"This is a really good step in the right direction," said Jeanne Loring, a stem-cell researcher in California. She joined consumer watchdog groups last year in forcing a federal review of the university's wide-ranging stem-cell patents. The review continues.

"I think they were getting a lot of pressure from researchers all over the world," Loring said.

Full story.

Nanopolymers make their debut

Researchers in the US have made a new class of materials called "nanopolymers" -- the first nanoscale equivalents of polymers. The breakthrough was made by Francesco Stellacci and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and involves introducing defects onto two opposing areas on the surface of spherical-shaped metallic nanoparticles. The resulting divalent particles are then chained together to make freestanding films (Science 315 358).

Nanoparticles are nanometre-sized collections of atoms that can be used as building blocks to make a wide variety of materials, such as supercrystals or ionic liquids. However, they lack the ability to bond along specific directions -- like atoms and molecules do -- which means they are not easily joined together to make large structures like filaments or films. This is because nanoparticles are typically coated with a capping layer to prevent further growth or clustering.

Now, Stellacci and colleagues have found a way to overcome this problem. The researchers effectively break the symmetry of the round nanoparticles by bonding two different types of ligand, such as thiol molecules, onto the poles of the spheres. The ligands on one nanoparticle are then free to bond with the ligands on the other particles so they can then be chained together to form the nanoscale equivalent of polymers (figures 1 & 2). The chaining reaction, which takes just a few hours, is very similar to way nylon polymerizes to form chains, says Stellacci.

Full story.

Synchrotron accelerates neutral molecules

A synchrotron that can accelerate neutral -- rather than charged -- particles has been unveiled by physicists in Germany. The device opens up the possibility of colliding neutral molecules at temperatures close to absolute zero, where molecules behave less like particles and more like waves (Nature Physics doi:10.1038/nphys513).

Synchrotrons are large circular devices in which particles – usually electrons – are made to travel near the speed of light round a ring using a combination of electric and magnetic fields. Since the first charged-particle synchrotrons were constructed in the 1940s, physicists have toyed with the idea of a neutral-particle synchrotron. In principle, "polar" molecules, which have a small electric dipole, could be accelerated in a synchrotron using a large electric field that switches at high speed. Unfortunately, the technology to do so was not available, and idea lay dormant.

Full story.

New Technique Stores and Retrieves Entire Image from a Single Photon

Ultra-Dense Optical Storage — on One Photon

Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image's worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.

While the initial test image consists of only a few hundred pixels, a tremendous amount of information can be stored with the new technique.

The image, a "UR" for the University of Rochester, was made using a single pulse of light and the team can fit as many as a hundred of these pulses at once into a tiny, four-inch cell. Squeezing that much information into so small a space and retrieving it intact opens the door to optical buffering—storing information as light.

"It sort of sounds impossible, but instead of storing just ones and zeros, we're storing an entire image," says John Howell, assistant professor of physics and leader of the team that created the device, which is revealed in today's online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. "It's analogous to the difference between snapping a picture with a single pixel and doing it with a camera—this is like a 6-megapixel camera."

"You can have a tremendous amount of information in a pulse of light, but normally if you try to buffer it, you can lose much of that information," says Ryan Camacho, Howell's graduate student and lead author on the article. "We're showing it's possible to pull out an enormous amount of information with an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio even with very low light levels."

Full story.