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US Appeals Court Rejects Bio-Rad's 'Zombie' Claims to 10x Genomics' Single-Cell Patents

NEW YORK – The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has rejected arguments made by Bio-Rad Laboratories that it is a co-owner of patents covering single-cell sequencing technology held by 10x Genomics.

The ruling was part of a broader decision that also rejected Bio-Rad's appeal of a US International Trade Commission (ITC) determination that the firm imported and sold products infringing three patents held by 10x Genomics.

Bio-Rad has been alleging in this and other legal cases that some key 10x technologies were actually invented while 10x Cofounders Benjamin Hindson and Serge Saxonov were still employed by Bio-Rad. Bio-Rad acquired Quantalife, another company cofounded by Hindson and Saxonov, in October 2011; 10x was founded in 2012.

In an opinion issued Thursday, a three-judge panel affirmed the December 2019 ITC ruling, which was based on the findings of an administrative law judge. In the opinion, Judge Richard Taranto noted that Bio-Rad had revived the inventorship allegations on appeal.

"We see no lack of substantial evidence in support of the findings that underlie, and no error in, the rejection of Bio-Rad's co-inventorship contention—or, therefore, in the [ITC's] rejection of Bio-Rad's ownership defense," Taranto wrote.

"10x Genomics pioneered single-cell analysis and today the Federal Circuit affirmed that Bio-Rad has been infringing 10x patents in its ddSeq products," 10x General Counsel Eric Whitaker said in an email. "Today's decision puts a stake firmly through the zombie argument, that Bio-Rad has been unsuccessfully making since 2014, that 10x's technology was created at Bio-Rad."

Bio-Rad did not respond to request for comment. However, on a Thursday conference call with investors following the release of the company's first quarter financial results, Bio-Rad COO Andrew Last addressed the decision, saying only that it "was not unexpected at all and it really doesn't impact our business."

Bio-Rad and 10x continue to be embroiled in a legal battle over single-cell droplet technology. Bio-Rad introduced a version of its inventorship allegations into 10x's patent infringement suit against Celsee, which Bio-Rad acquired in April 2020. How this week's ruling could affect that case is unclear.