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Sequenom Gets USPTO Notification of Withdrawn Patent Issuance

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Sequenom said Friday evening that it has received notification from the US Patent and Trademark Office that a patent that was scheduled to issue next week has been withdrawn.

The USPTO said that it has withdrawn the issuance of US Patent No. 8,340,916 due to an anticipated patent interference proceeding between parties with pending patent applications or issued patents covering similar subject matter. Sequenom said that it had previously been notified by the USPTO that the patent would issue on Dec. 25.

The patent, entitled "Diagnosing Fetal Chromosomal Aneuploidy Using Massively Parallel Genomic Sequencing," lists Dennis Lo, Rossa Chiu, and Alan Chan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong as inventors. Sequenom has licensed exclusive rights to the patent.

The non-invasive fetal aneuploidy testing market has proved highly litigious over the past year with a handful of competitors — including Sequenom, Verinata Health, and Ariosa Diagnostics — filing IP suits against each other.

Though the USPTO didn't mention the name of the competing firm involved in the anticipated patent interference, analysts have speculated that it is likely Verinata, which has licensed rights to similar patents issued to Stephen Quake at Stanford University.

"It is assumed that the other party referenced is privately held Verinata, and given the contentiousness between them and Sequenom and with this being a crucial piece of IP, it is not terribly surprising that we are now looking at a lengthy interference proceeding," William Blair analyst Brian Weinstein wrote in a note published this morning. "For now, it will not impact anything in the marketplace, where Sequenom continues to be the clear market leader with significant cash to fund IP battles, facility expansion, and broad sales-and-marketing coverage."

Similarly, Oppenheimer's David Ferreiro called the news an "incremental negative" for Sequenom and noted that it has no bearing on US Patent No. 6,258,540, which is at the core of Sequenom's IP estate.

In Monday morning trade on the Nasdaq, shares of Sequenom were down 4 percent at $4.62.