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Fluidigm Loses Patent Suit Against IonPath

NEW YORK – Fluidigm this week lost its patent suit against IonPath after the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that IonPath's MIBIscope technology does not infringe on its patents.

The court's judgment is appealable, however, and Fluidigm has indicated that it will likely appeal, telling GenomeWeb in a statement this month that it "intend[s] to continue to pursue all legal remedies available to us against IonPath."

Fluidigm sued IonPath in September 2019, alleging that the company had infringed two patents covering its mass cytometry technology and had interfered in its contractual relations.

In January 2020, the court dismissed Fluidigm's interference claims but left open the infringement claims. The parties also agreed to dismiss, without prejudice, patent infringement claims regarding the technology used to create the metal-conjugated antibodies that both systems use to tag proteins for analysis.

This left the infringement claims covering the instrumentation itself, which were ruled upon this week.

South San Francisco-based Fluidigm and Menlo Park-based IonPath both sell into the single-cell proteomics space, with IonPath's MIBIscope competing directly with Fluidigm's Hyperion imaging mass cytometry system.

While both systems use mass spectrometry to measure proteins by reading out metal-tagged antibodies, there are a number of differences between them. For instance, the MIBIscope system uses an ion beam as opposed to a laser for ionizing samples. It also uses a secondary-ion mass spec with a time-of-flight analyzer for its sample analysis while Hyperion uses Fluidigm's CyTOF analyzer.

In the court's ruling, the key distinction between the two systems proved to be fact that the CyTOF technology analyzes single cells in sequential fashion, while the IonPath analyzes cells by scanning repeatedly across regions of a tissue sample spatially, meaning it does not fully analyze a single cell and then moves on to the next as does Fluidigm's technology, but instead returns multiple times to the same portion of tissue, sampling different molecules in each pass.

In a motion granting IonPath summary judgment of noninfringement filed by the court on January 28, 2021, the court noted that "under the correct claim construction of the term 'sequentially,' and on an undisputed description of the operation of the accused product, the MIBIscope does not literally infringe" the Fluidigm patents at issue.

This week's judgement also dismisses Fluidigm's contractual interference claims with prejudice and dismisses IonPath's counterclaims for declaratory judgment of invalidity without prejudice.

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