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Illumina Sues Complete Genomics for Infringement; Two Patents in Case Under Reexamination with USPTO

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By Julia Karow

This story was originally published on August 5.

Illumina and its predecessor Solexa sued Complete Genomics last week, alleging that the human genome sequencing service provider infringes three of Illumina’s patents.

In its complaint, filed Aug. 3 with the US District Court for the District of Delaware, Illumina claims that Complete Genomics infringes US Patents Nos. 6,306,597; 7,232,656; and 7,598,035.

All three patents have been the subject of recent legal quarrels between Illumina and Life Technologies, including reexaminations by the US Patent and Trademark Office, and two of them were recently rejected by the USPTO in the first stage of a reexamination.

In the Complete Genomics suit, Illumina requested a jury trial and asked the court to declare that the three patents are valid and enforceable. Further, it asked for a preliminary and permanent injunction against Complete Genomics, restraining it from further infringement; destruction of infringing products, systems and materials; damages for infringement; and reimbursement of attorney fees.

Illumina is flexing its muscles in court at the same time that it is mounting competition to Complete Genomics in the marketplace by launching its own human genome sequencing service through a network of providers that are also its customers (IS 8/3/2010).

The suit comes less than a week after Complete Genomics filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, seeking to raise up to $86.25 million (IS 8/3/2010).

The ‘597 patent, entitled “DNA sequencing by parallel oligonucleotide extensions,” expires in 2015. It was part of a recent lawsuit between Illumina and Life Technologies regarding the ownership of this and two other patents.

In early 2009, a jury decided that Illumina owned the three patents but that Life Tech’s Applied Biosystems SOLiD technology, which uses sequencing by ligation, did not infringe them (IS 2/23/2009).

In 2008, Applied Biosystems asked the patent office to reexamine the first claim of the '597 patent, and in May of 2009, the USPTO rejected the claim in a non-final action. In a final action in September, however, it said that claim 1 and a number of other claims are patentable, while it rejected several other claims. In March 2010, the patent office then issued an ex parte reexamination certificate for the ‘597 patent, in which it not only confirmed the patentability of the first claim, but also added a number of new claims.

Complete Genomics' combinatorial probe anchor ligation, or cPAL, sequencing technology infringes the patent, Illumina claims, because it uses an anchor oligonucleotide that is hybridized to a target DNA, a labeled oligo that is ligated to the anchor, and identifies nucleotides on the basis of the label.

The ‘656 patent, entitled “Arrayed biomolecules and their use in sequencing,” expires in July 2019, and the ‘035 patent, entitled “Method and compositions for ordering restriction fragments” expires in February 2018. Illumina claims that the Complete Genomics Analysis Platform infringes both patents.

Those two patents are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit between Illumina and Life Tech, in which Illumina claimed in a countersuit that the SOLiD system infringes these and two other patents it owns (IS 10/20/2009). In response, Life Tech requested an inter partes reexamination of the four patents, and the USPTO in May rejected all their claims as unpatentable in a non-final office action.

While the patent office’s final decision on the patents’ validity could take years, Illumina’s countersuit is proceeding in court (IS 6/15/2010).

An Illumina spokesperson declined to comment on the latest suit. Complete Genomics is currently in a quiet period due to its recent IPO filing.

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