Aventis suit strips Advancis of name

September 29, 2006|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN REPORTER

Just when it looked like Advancis Pharmaceutical Corp. had finally caught a few breaks - marketing a new product and releasing positive clinical trial results after several setbacks - the Germantown biotech got this news: It has to find a new name.

A U.S. District judge in Delaware ruled Wednesday that the label infringes upon a trademark held by the former Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc., which filed a lawsuit in 2003. Advancis now has about a month to figure out what to do.

"We'll probably say, `OK, you won, we'll go ahead and change our name,' " spokesman Robert Bannon said yesterday. But the company likely will ask for a little more time to do it.

The company will have to change its labels, figure out what to do about products already on pharmacy shelves, and alter its stationery, logos and Web site.

It's going to be a hassle, yes, Bannon said, but not necessarily life changing.

"There's not a lot of value in [the name Advancis] per se, we're not wed to that name," he said.

Unlike the Googles and Nikes of the world, biotechnology companies don't tend to rely on their image to brand their products. Consumers are more familiar with a drug's name, than its maker.

Still, in a 39-page-opinion, Judge Sue L. Robinson wrote that direct-to-consumer advertising by drugmakers, touting their goods and their names, is increasing, and therefore "confusion is risky."

It all started in late 2003, when Advancis got word that French company Aventis - which has since merged to become Sanofi Aventis - had filed a lawsuit, alleging trademark infringement. A trial was held in May 2005. The companies didn't hear anything until Wednesday.

"We were surprised, our attorneys were surprised," said Bannon, who thought the merger and addition of "Sanofi" should have cleared up any possibility of confusion.

Advancis is looking at ways to possibly reverse the ruling, through an appeal, or by reopening the case. But the most likely scenario is a name change.

Employees already are offering tongue-in-cheek ideas at the office. But Bannon wouldn't say what they were.


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