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Life Tech Sues Illumina over Alleged Infringement of Amplification Patents by Genome Analyzer

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By Julia Karow

This article, originally published Sept. 23, has been updated with comments from Illumina.

Life Technologies and several co-plaintiffs filed a patent infringement suit against Illumina and predecessor Solexa this week, claiming that Illumina's DNA sequencing products and services, including its Genome Analyzer, infringe three of their DNA amplification patents.

In the suit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Delaware, plaintiffs Life Technologies; its Applied Biosystems division; the Institute for Protein Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Pushchino, Russia; and three individuals claim that Illumina and Solexa, which Illumina acquired in 2007, infringe US patents No. 5,616,478, entitled "Method for Amplification of Nucleic Acids in Solid Media; No. 5,958,698, entitled "Method for Amplification and Expression of Nucleic Acids in Solid Media," and No. 6,001,568, entitled "Solid Medium for Amplification and Expression of Nucleic Acids as Colonies."

Two of the plaintiffs, Alexander Chetverin and Helena Chetverina, are inventors on the patents, which issued in 1997, 1999, and 1999, respectively. Another plaintiff, William Hone, "appears to have an ownership interest in the patents," Illumina said in a statement this week.

ABI holds an exclusive license to all three patents, which, according to Illumina, expire in 2012 and 2014.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs claim that Illumina's DNA sequencing products and services, including its Genome Analyzer and Genome Analyzer II, infringe the three patents. Specifically, they say that the company is directly infringing one or more claims of each patent; is inducing others to infringe these claims; and is contributing to their infringement.

The patents describe nucleic acid amplification technology in which the clonal amplification products stay in a fixed location. For its Genome Analyzer, Illumina uses a cluster amplification technology, where DNA is amplified in discrete spots on a solid surface.

The alleged infringement, the plaintiffs claim, "has caused, and unless enjoined will continue to cause, irreparable harm" to them, and they have "no adequate remedy at law and are entitled to a permanent injunction against further infringement." Life Technologies and ABI, they say, "have suffered and will continue to suffer substantial damage to their business" as a result.

Life Tech and co-plaintiffs asked for a jury trial, and requested the court to determine that Illumina and Solexa have infringed the patents; that the companies be permanently restrained and enjoined from infringing the patents; that all infringing products be delivered to the plaintiffs for destruction; to award the plaintiffs damages; and to make the defendants cover attorneys' fees and other costs.

"We will defend this suit vigorously," said Illumina President a nd CEO Jay Flatley in a statement this week. "We respect the valid and enforceable intellectual property rights of others and, consistent with that policy, we believe that we acted properly with respect to these patents. In the meantime, we will continue to defend and support our customers against Life Technologies' unfounded claims."

The suit follows about a month after LadaTech filed a similar suit regarding a different DNA amplification patent in the same district court. In that suit, the company claims that the Genome Analyzer and related products and services infringe a patent that was originally awarded to Genelabs in 2000 (see In Sequence's sister publication, GenomeWeb Daily News, 8/21/2009).

That patent, US patent No. 6,107,023, entitled "DNA Amplification and Subtraction Techniques," was the subject of a re-examination request filed by a third party on behalf of Illumina in January 2008. Last month, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued a notice of intent to issue a re-examination certificate, confirming the patentability of the claims of the '023 patent and giving LadaTech the right to sue for infringement.

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