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Jury Orders Illumina to Pay $96M for Infringing Syntrix's Array IP

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This story was originally posted on March 15.

A federal jury decided last week that Illumina has infringed a patent held by Syntrix Biosystems and ordered Illumina to pay Syntrix $96 million, based on a 6 percent royalty rate for Illumina BeadChip products sold between 2005 and May 2012.

Illumina CEO Jay Flatley said in a statement that the firm "strongly disagrees" with the decision and plans to appeal it, and will also continue to sell the BeadChip products that are the subject of the suit.

As the firm plans to contest the verdict, Flatley said that "no damages will be payable to Syntrix until all appropriate appeals have been taken, which may take a number of years."

The trial in the case, which was held in the US District Court for the Western District Court of Washington, commenced earlier this month (BAN 3/5/2013). Auburn, Wash.-based Syntrix sued the San Diego vendor in 2010, alleging that its BeadChip products infringed its IP, specifically US Patent No. 6,951,682, "Porous Coatings Bearing Ligand Arrays and Use Thereof." Syntrix also alleged that Illumina obtained access to its IP while the two firms were negotiating a potential business relationship 13 years ago.

Syntrix filed a US provisional patent in 1998 and a utility patent in 1999 that describes its technology, which is related to synthetic matrices and arrays. Based on those filings, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded the firm the '682 patent in 2005. It is set to expire in September 2019.

In response, Illumina had sought to prove that the '682 patent was invalid, asserting that claims made in other patents to which Illumina holds licenses anticipated the claims made in the '682 patent. Among the patents Illumina cited in the case are US Patent No. 6,023,540, "Fiber optic sensor with encoded microspheres," and US Patent No. 6,327,410, "Target analyte sensors utilizing microspheres," which were filed in 1997 and 1998, respectively, and are held by Tufts University. Illumina co-founder and scientific advisory board member David Walt is listed as the lead inventor on both of those patents.

The jury, however, did not agree, and determined Illumina had infringed on all of the claims asserted by Syntrix, while denying Illumina's counterargument.

Illumina apparently will continue to press its case that its arrays are based on technology developed in Walt's laboratory and not by Syntrix.

"Our BeadChip products are based on Dr. David Walt's technology that was licensed from Tufts University when Illumina was founded in 1998," said Flatley."We continue to feel very strongly about our position that Syntrix's allegations are without merit," he said, "and that, ultimately, our position will be vindicated."

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