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Life Tech Sues Biosearch for Allegedly Infringing PCR Probe Patent

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This article was originally published on Jan. 3.

Life Technologies has sued Biosearch Technologies for allegedly infringing a patent related to oligonucleotide probes for PCR and other DNA-analysis applications, according to a recently filed court document.

In the suit, filed last week in the US District Court for the Southern District of California, Life Tech alleges that Biosearch has infringed upon US Patent No. 7,160,997, which pertains to methods of using fluorescent energy transfer-labeled oligonucleotides that include a 3'-to-5' exonuclease-resistant quencher domain.

The patent, which names Chou Quin and Spasic Dragan as inventors, was awarded to Life Tech in January 2007. According to its abstract, the subject probes are useful for "a variety of different applications, and are particularly suited for use in high-fidelity PCR based reactions" such as SNP and allelic variation detection.

Life Tech claims that Biosearch is infringing one or more claims of the '997 patent through the manufacture, sale, and use of its BHQplus probes for quantitative PCR applications.

"Biosearch has directly infringed, contributorily infringed, and/or actively induced infringement of one or more claims of the '997 patent … and … is continuing such infringement by practicing or causing others to practice one or more of the inventions claimed in the '997 patent," the complaint states.

In an e-mail to PCR Insider, Biosearch President Ron Cook said that the company "strenuously denies" that it has violated Life Tech's patent and that it will "actively defend itself from these groundless charges." Cook noted that the BHQplus technology is covered by Biosearch IP and IP licensed from Isis Pharmaceuticals.

"This is yet another example of Life’s attempt to control markets by manipulation of the USPTO and civil judicial system," Cook added. "It is disappointing that Life has chosen the courtroom to compete rather than the marketplace."

BHQplus probes are compact qPCR probes featuring Biosearch's Black Hole Quencher "duplex-stabilizing" dye technology, according to Biosearch's website. The company claims that the BHQ dye permits the design of shorter oligonucleotides to detect more difficult nucleic acid targets such as AT-rich regions and even SNPs.

Life Tech is seeking judgment that Biosearch has infringed the '997 patent; that an injunction be issued against Biosearch to prevent further infringement; and that Biosearch pay Life Tech actual damages "no less than a reasonable royalty" to compensate for the alleged infringement.

Life Tech and Biosearch are also embroiled in a separate ongoing legal dispute related to oligonucleotide PCR probes: Last September, Life Tech sued Biosearch for allegedly infringing five patents — US Nos. 5,538,848; 5,723,591; 5,876,930; 6,030,787; and 6,258,569 — covering various aspects of self-quenching fluorescent probes.

The outcome of that lawsuit, which was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, is still pending, according to the most recently filed court documents.

In July of this year, the US Patent and Trademark Office awarded Life Tech US Patent No. 7,754,453, which, like the '997 patent, also relates to FET-labeled oligonucleotides that include a 3'-to-5' exonuclease-resistant quencher domain (PCR Insider, 7/15/2010).

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