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UPDATE: EPO Upholds Molecular Devices Patent with Amendments

a GenomeWeb staff reporter

This story has been updated to include comments from Nanion Technologies.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The European Patent Office has upheld Molecular Devices' foundation planar patch-clamp patent, but with amendments, ending a dispute filed against the patent by Nanion Technologies.

The ruling is final and cannot be appealed. The EPO will issue a written decision in the near future, Molecular Devices said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The patent, EP number 1 040 349 B1, covers a novel use of an electric field to position and seal cells for electrophysiological measurement on a planar subtrate. According to Molecular Devices, "This capability has revolutionized the way pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies screen new chemical entities against ion channel targets implicated in diseases," including hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, and cystic fibrosis.

The EPO granted the patent to Molecular Devices on Sept. 5, 2001. Nanion opposed the patent, however, challenging the novelty and inventiveness of parts of the patent.

While Molecular Devices said in its statement that it was "extremely pleased that the European Patent Office will uphold our planar patch-clamp patent," Nanion said that the EPO decided that the patent must be amended to "exclusively describe a positioning method using electrical fields produced by voltages in the range of -200 to +200" millivolts.

As a result of EPO's mixed decision, both Molecular Devices and Nanion are claiming victory in the dispute.

"In effect, this final decision secures freedom to operate for everyone marketing or developing automated patch clamp devices with respect to the opposed patent," Jan Behrends, Nanion's co-founder and chairman, said in a statement following the decision last month. "Besides, it contributes to a fair appraisal of important work done long before the patent."

Molecular Devices, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. was part of the MDS Analytical Technologies business that was purchased by Danaher earlier this year.

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