Lawsuit Settled -- Sanofi-Aventis Agrees Not to Interfere With News Site AcompliaReport.com

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Eight months after Sanofi-Aventis sought to shutdown http://www.AcompliaReport.com, leading independent source of news about the new anti-obesity drug Acomplia (rimonabant), the parties reached an agreement under which Sanofi will not interfere with publication of the internet newsletter. The agreement was reached after the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued Sanofi in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Medical Week News, Inc., publisher of the news website http://www.AcompliaReport.com, announced it has withdrawn its lawsuit against French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis Group after an agreement was reached under which Sanofi will not interfere with publication of the internet newsletter.

The website, which has become the most comprehensive source of news and information about Sanofi’s anti-obesity drug Acomplia (rimonabant), will as part of the agreement use an approved disclaimer making it clear that http://www.AcompliaReport.com is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Sanofi-Aventis.

Sanofi, owner of the trademark Acomplia, in May filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) seeking to take the domain name http://www.AcompliaReport.com away from Medical Week News, alleging that the publisher was a cybersquatter.

Subsequently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of Medical Week News, seeking a ruling that its use of the domain name was not unlawful.

The settlement agreement provides that Sanofi will not seek the transfer of, object to, oppose or otherwise interfere with Medical Week News’ ownership and use of the domain name, subject to Medical Week News’ use of an approved disclaimer.

“We are happy to have this absurd dispute behind us, enabling us to focus on independent coverage of the regulatory process and further development of a novel drug that appears to have the potential to be of considerable benefit to obese and overweight individuals, smokers, diabetics, and persons at risk of coronary disease,” said Milton R. Benjamin, editor and publisher of http://www.AcompliaReport.com.

“We also are extremely grateful to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which immediately recognized that given how the internet works, with its enormous reliance on search engines, a news site needs to be able to make fair use of a trademarked name in reporting on a trademarked product,” Benjamin added.

“If people who type the name Acomplia into search engines looking for news about this drug are faced with a results page where all the sites containing the word Acomplia are exclusively owned by its manufacturer, their chances of getting the kind of objective news and information they are looking for on the internet would be greatly diminished,” Benjamin said.

“Sanofi’s tactics threatened to quash free and accurate speech,” said EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry. “The website uses the Acomplia mark solely to refer to Sanofi’s product. That use is a textbook fair use. And basic First Amendment principles barred Sanofi from using trademark law to shut down an independent news site.”

“We might also note that the website http://www.AcompliaReport.com has long carried a disclaimer making it clear that this is an independent news site not affiliated with Sanofi-Aventis. We certainly have no problem with an agreement that they believe makes it even more clear,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin, chief executive of Medical Week News, Inc., is a veteran journalist who has served in senior editorial positions at Newsweek and The Washington Post.

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