Business digest 06/14/05

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Top court ruling means more drug research

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court gave drug companies more freedom to develop new disease-fighting therapies, ruling Monday that rival firms' patents do not bar them from starting research on competing medications. The unanimous ruling set aside a lower-court ruling for patent holder Integra LifeSciences Holdings Corp. It means that major pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer Inc. can start experiments sooner, leading to faster drug development, perhaps billions in savings and lower costs for consumers. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said a lower court was wrong to automatically prohibit early stage research conducted to identify new drugs. Such experiments are OK so long as the drug could not be feasibly be marketed until after a rival's patent expired, he said.

Microsoft to help censor Chinese Web portal

SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. is cooperating with China's government to censor the company's newly launched Chinese-language Web portal, a spokesman for the tech giant said. The policy affects Web logs, or blogs, created through the MSN Spaces service, said Adam Sohn, a global sales and marketing director at MSN. Microsoft and its government-funded Chinese business partner work with authorities to omit certain forbidden language, Sohn said, declining to provide specific examples.

Airbus gets good news at French air show

LE BOURGET, France -- On the first day of the Paris Air Show, Airbus came out swinging in its fight against Boeing, saying it has won enough orders to launch its mid-sized A350 jet after beating its rival to a 60-plane deal with Qatar Airways. After a run of bad news for the European plane maker, Qatar Airways announced it chose to buy up to 60 of Airbus' A350s instead of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Although the Doha, Qatar-based carrier also said it plans to buy at least 20 Boeing 777s, the A350 announcement is a major boost for Airbus and a blow to Chicago-based Boeing Co. -- which had hoped Qatar would add to the 266 Dreamliner orders already on its books. Before the Qatar deal, which has yet to be finalized, Airbus had announced just 10 nonbinding A350 orders from Spanish carrier Air Europa. Boeing's claims -- that the A350, derived from the existing A330, was no match for its all-new jet -- were gaining credibility.

OPEC expected to raise daily quota this week

VIENNA, Austria -- OPEC is expected to raise its daily output quota by half a million barrels when it meets later this week, though analysts said the move would have little impact on oil prices -- an opinion that appeared to be verified by a $2-a-barrel surge on Monday. The anticipated increase would bring the official quota to 28 million barrels per day -- a symbolic gesture, analysts said, since the cartel is already pumping that much. Including Iraq, which is not bound by the official quota, OPEC's daily output was 29.3 million barrels a day in May, according to the International Energy Agency. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries produces enough crude oil to meet about 35 percent of daily demand, which is about 82.5 million barrels a day now and is forecast to average more than 84 million barrels a day for the year.

-- From wire reports

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