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The Digest

Amgen Wins One Round Thousand Oaks-based Amgen Inc. won an initial victory in its patent infringement case against a rival biotech company when a federal judge in Boston issued a summary judgment in its favor. Judge William G. Young wrote in his finding that Transkaryotic Therapies Inc. infringed Amgen’s patent for its top-selling drug Epogen. The drug, used to prevent anemia in kidney dialysis patients, has generated worldwide sales of $4 billion, making it the biotech industry’s best-selling drug. Transkaryotic, in partnership with European drug company Aventis, wants to sell its own version of Epogen. Amgen’s five patents on the drug expire in 2013. The April ruling covers one claim of the 18 that Amgen has filed in the case. Amgen officials said the judgment was an important step. The two companies will go to trial on the remaining claims in federal court in Boston on May 15. Meanwhile, Amgen announced that its first-quarter earnings rose 8 percent to $266 million (25 cents a share) for the quarter ended March 31, compared to $247 million (23 cents a share) for the like period a year ago. Revenues were $814 million vs. $746 million. Qualcomm Teams With NetZero Qualcomm Inc. bought a 10 percent stake in Westlake Village-based NetZero Inc. in a deal that will add high-speed wireless access to the NetZero offerings. Qualcomm paid $144 million for its stake, or $12.50 a share for 11.5 million shares of NetZero, a 51 percent premium over the company’s closing stock price of $8.28 on April 20, the day the deal was announced. Eventually NetZero, one of the top three Internet service providers, will use Qualcomm technology for high-speed wireless Internet access. NetZero officials said the wireless service will come at a price. NetZero’s dial-up Internet service, supported by advertising, is free to customers, but they will have to pay for wireless connections. Vitesse in the Chips Vitesse Semiconducter Inc. announced plans to buy network equipment maker Sitera Inc. for $750 million in stock, making it the company’s third acquisition in the last year. The acquisition is expected to be completed in June, and Vitesse officials said the purchase would have a slightly negative impact on Vitesse’s earnings this year. Vitesse bough XaQti last May and Oralogic in March, both of which are makers of network processing chips. Sitera also makes processing chips. Homestore.com Under Scrutiny The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division has opened an investigation into Thousand Oaks-based Homestore.com Inc., one of the largest Internet real estate listing services. The investigation is part of a probe into the online realty industry and possible anti-competitive practices. The Antitrust Division, which is prosecuting Microsoft, requested information from Homestore about its business practices and the dynamics of the industry, and the company complied, company officials said. Homestore officials have said they don’t believe they have violated any laws. Homestore’s partner, the National Association of Realtors, was also asked for information. Homestore.com provides information and services in real estate, financing, home improvement and related areas through relationships and exclusive agreements with real estate listing services and other partnerships. Valley VOTE Maps City The group leading the drive for San Fernando Valley secession filed documents outlining its vision of a separate Valley city, as requested by the Local Agency Formation Committee. Valley VOTE is calling for a bare-bones startup government that would use existing city buildings and employees until a more permanent governing body can be established. VOTE submitted a 24-page document to LAFCO, which will use the statement as the basis of a study that will determine whether the split would be financially neutral for Los Angeles and a new Valley city, a requirement if secession plans are to move forward. VOTE’s plan calls for a full-time mayor and part-time, 15-member city council. The new city would have its own police and fire services. VOTE has proposed that the two cities operate some services jointly or divide assets and liabilities on a prorated basis, with the new city receiving 36.25 percent of the value of L.A. regional and central assets like city hall. Facilities would become the property of the city they are located in.

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