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Natera Pre-Emptively Sues Sequenom, Claiming Non-Infringement of Prenatal Diagnosis Patent

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Prenatal diagnostics company Natera has sued Sequenom, claiming that it does not infringe a patent on noninvasive prenatal diagnosis held by Sequenom, and that the patent is invalid.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company, until recently called Gene Security Network, filed its suit on Jan. 6 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

In its complaint, Natera seeks a judicial declaration that the noninvasive prenatal paternity test it is developing does not infringe US Patent No. 6,258,540, entitled "Non-invasive prenatal diagnosis." Sequenom licenses the patent, which is assigned to Dennis Lo of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, exclusively from Isis Innovation.

In addition, Natera asked the court to declare that at least one of the patent's claims is invalid "for failure to comply with the requirements" of US patent law, according to Sequenom.

Sequenom said in a statement that it intends to "vigorously defend against the judicial declarations sought in the complaint."

The suit follows a few weeks after Aria Diagnostics, another company developing a noninvasive prenatal test, filed a similar action against Sequenom. In its complaint, Aria also requested a declaration that its test, for the diagnosis of fetal aneuploidies, does not infringe the '540 patent, but it did not contest the patent's validity (CSN 12/21/2011).

The '540 patent is at the core of Sequenom's recently launched MaterniT21 sequencing-based test for the noninvasive prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as well as other prenatal tests the company is developing. The company has stated repeatedly that other groups planning to launch a similar test would infringe the patent.

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