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13 Life Science Tool Firms Sued for False Patent Marking

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A consulting firm focused on invalidating overly broad patents has filed suit against thirteen life science technology firms for describing technologies as "patented" in marketing materials after the patents have expired.

In a qui tam suit filed Monday in US District Court for the Southern District of California, the firm, called Troll Busters, claimed that the companies are marketing products or services falsely because they are based on patents that have expired.

Defendants in the suit include: Roche Diagnostics, Roche Molecular Systems, Roche Applied Sciences, Eurogentec North America, Clontech Laboratories, Integrated DNA Technologies, Life Technologies, Qiagen, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Quanta Biosciences, Cepheid, Trilink Biotechnologies, GeneScript, and EMD Chemicals.

"Each of the thirteen defendants has and continues … to mark upon, affix to, and/or use expired patents in advertising, sales and promotion through online sales channels and in providing their products through the Internet," the complaint states, adding that the suit covers fifteen expired patents.

"More specifically, defendants, with the purpose of deceiving the public, make, sell, advertise or have made, sold, advertised or at least have required either suppliers and/or consumers to obtain licenses in one or more of the fifteen expired patents."

The patents involved in the suit include those pertaining to nucleic acid polymerase detection, nucleic acid sequence amplification, methods for generating DNA through PCR, cloning of nucleic acids, as well as other related patents.

The suit explains that false patent marketing "is a serious problem" because falsely marketed patents "deter innovation and stifle competition in the marketplace" and increase costs for users.

"False marks may also deter scientific research when an inventor sees a mark and decides to forego continued research to avoid possible infringement," the suit claims.

Troll Busters is seeking damages of no more than $500 for each of the defendant's violations of the patent code laws in question, with half of the damages to be paid to the US and the other half to go to the plaintiff.

The firm has filed the suit on its own behalf and is doing so in order to "act in the public interest to enforce the policy underlying the false marketing statute," according to the filing.

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