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Fluidigm Sues IonPath for Patent Infringement, Interference

NEW YORK – Fluidigm has sued IonPath in US federal court, alleging infringement of two patents on mass cytometry technology as well as interference in contractual relations.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 6 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Fluidigm said IonPath directly and indirectly infringed two patents for mass cytometry technology, US Patent Nos. 10,180,38, titled "Mass Spectrometry Based Multi-Parametric Particle Analyzer," and 10,072,104, titled "Polymer Backbone Element Tags." 

Fluidigm also alleged "tortious interference with Fluidigm's contractual relationships with its customers" by IonPath.

"IONpath's publications establish that not only had IONPath been developing its mass cytometry system employing Fluidigm's antibodies and reagents, but also wholesale adopted and is using Fluidigm's patented methods and systems — and is selling its infringing products and systems in the marketplace," Fluidigm alleged.

Fluidigm seeks monetary damages for infringement, punitive damages for interference, attorneys fees and costs, and an injunction against IonPath, among other relief, and has requested a jury trial.

Fluidigm and IonPath compete in the area of high-resolution protein detection. 

Fluidigm's Hyperion platform uses mass cytometry, while IonPath uses mass spectrometry-based multiplexed ion beam imaging.

"Fluidigm has made substantial investments in the research and development of its CyTOF technology," Fluidigm President and CEO Chris Linthwaite said in a statement. "This lawsuit is aimed at protecting those investments and ensuring that the emerging Imaging Mass Cytometry market remains a competitive industry for the benefit of the many research customers who are driving new insights across a broad spectrum of diseases, including cancer and autoimmune and chronic inflammatory conditions. The legal action we are taking demonstrates our commitment to protecting our investments and defending our proprietary rights by enforcing our patents against those who unfairly use our proprietary technology."

According to Fluidigm's complaint, IONPath Cofounder Gary Nolan, also a professor at Stanford University, was a consultant to Fluidigm, having signed an agreement with the firm in March 2014. Fluidigm alleged that later that year Nolan cofounded IONPath and "began working on directly competing technologies" and commercializing products including IONpath's MIBIscope technology.

IONPath, based in Menlo Park, California, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.