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In New Suit, Illumina Says Ion Torrent PGM Infringes Bead Array IP

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In a lawsuit filed last week, Illumina alleges that Life Technologies' Ion Torrent PGM sequencer infringes a patent protecting Illumina's bead array technology.

In a complaint filed Dec. 27, 2011, in the US District Court for the Southern District of California, Illumina claims that Life Technologies and its Applied Biosystems and Ion Torrent Systems businesses infringe US Patent No. 7,060,431, entitled "Method of Making and Decoding of Array Sensors with Microspheres."

The '431 patent, issued on June 13, 2006, covers, among other things, "methods for making dense arrays using beads that do not have an optical signature," the complaint states.

The complaint cites in particular the first claim, which describes a method of making a bead array that comprises "a) contacting a substrate with a surface comprising discrete sites at a density of at least 100 sites per 1 mm2 with a solution comprising a population of different beads, wherein said beads do not comprise an optical signature; and b) applying energy to said substrate or said solution, or both, such that at least a subpopulation of said different beads randomly associate onto sites."

Illumina alleges that Ion Torrent's Personal Genome Machine platform and OneTouch System platform use dense arrays of beads without optical signatures and therefore infringe the '431 patent.

Specifically, the complaint notes that the users' manual for the PGM platform and OneTouch template-preparation system includes "instructions to contact a substrate with a surface comprising discrete sites at a density of at least 100 sites per 1 mm2 with a solution comprising a population of different beads," which "do not comprise an optical signature."

Illumina has asked the court to declare that Life Technologies is willfully infringing the '431 patent. It is seeking a permanent injunction against the company and its businesses, as well as pre- and post-judgment damages.

It has also asked the court to declare the case exceptional, which would treble any damages awarded.

This is the second suit ongoing between Illumina and Life Technologies related to the companies' sequencing platforms. Another suit, filed by Life Technologies and co-plaintiffs in 2009, claimed that Illumina's Genome Analyzer infringes three Life Tech patents related to DNA amplification: US Patents No. 5,616,478, 5,958,698, and 6,001,568 (IS 9/29/2009).

Illumina later countersued Life Tech, claiming that its SOLiD system infringes four of its patents: US Patent No. 6,654,505, 6,831,994, 7,232,656, and 7,598,035 (IS 10/20/2009). Separately, Life Tech requested in 2010 that the US Patent and Trademark Office re-examine the same four patents. The USPTO has since rejected the four patents in non-final office actions and Illumina is currently appealing the decisions.

In late 2010, A District Court judge ruled on claim construction for that suit, siding with Life Tech for most of the terms where the two firms provided different interpretations (IS 12/21/2010).

While a jury trial for that case was originally scheduled to begin in November 2011, both parties requested additional time in order to conduct discovery, which was slated to be completed on or before Dec. 8, 2011.

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