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Affymetrix and Incyte Settle Long-Standing Patent Suit

NEW YORK, Dec. 21 - Former arch-enemies Affymetrix and Incyte Genomics have buried the legal hatchet, settling their four-year patent infringement battle and agreeing to cross-license the patents at issue, the companies announced on Friday.


The companies agreed to cross-license Affy's microarray patents and Incyte's RNA amplification patents and to explore future commercial collaborations. The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the settlements.


This settlement is somewhat of a pyrrhic victory for Incyte, as it comes just seven weeks after it announced plans to exit the microarray manufacturing business, and effectively removing itself as a direct competitor to Affymetrix. But as Affy competitors Agilent and Motorola still use Incyte's content, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based genomics and pharmaceutical company was still a thorn in Affy's side.


From Affymetrix's perspective, the conclusion of this litigation is the latest in a series of settlements the company entered into this year. In March, the microarray giant settled its patent infringement suit with Oxford Gene Technology and took a first-quarter charge of $19 million on top of legal fees. Then, in October, it settled its four-year litigation battle with Hyseq over alleged infringement of the same microarray-related patents.


Affymetrix first filed suit against Incyte in January 1998, alleging that the company was infringing on its patent number 5,445,934, which covers an "array of oligonucleotides on a solid substrate. Eight months later, Affymetrix added patent infringement claims for numbers 5,800,992, which outlines a "method of detecting nucleic acids," and 5,744,305, which refers to "arrays of materials attached to a substrate." Additional patents in the suit included 5,871,928 and 6,040,193.


Incyte countersued Affymetrix in August 2000 for infringing patents numbered 5,716,785 and 5,891,636, which cover the so-called Eberwine protocols for linear amplification or RNA and to which Incyte has been granted the exclusive license. In the suite Incyte alleged that Affymetrix recommended to its customers to use this amplification method in their standard sample preparation.

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