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GE Healthcare Sues Beckman Coulter Genomics for Infringing Nucleic Acid Purification Patents

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This article was originally posted Dec. 21.

GE Healthcare UK has filed suit against Beckman Coulter Genomics, alleging that the firm is infringing two patents that cover technologies for isolating and purifying nucleic acids.

The complaint, filed Dec. 18 in the US District Court for the District of Delaware, claims that Beckman Coulter Genomics is infringing US Patent No. 5,523,231, issued in 1996 and titled "Method to isolate macromolecules using magnetically attractable beads which do not specifically bind the macromolecules;" and US Patent No. 5,681,946, issued in 1997 and titled "Precipitating polymers."

Both patents describe methods for using "suspended magnetically attractable beads" for isolating nucleic acids. They were originally assigned to Amersham, which GE acquired in 2004.

GE Healthcare charges in its complaint that kits and instruments sold by Beckman Coulter Genomics based on the Agencourt Solid Phase Reversible Immobilization, or SPRI, technology "contain instructions to use the products in a manner that infringes one or more claims of the '231 and/or '946 patents.

Beckman Coulter created Beckman Coulter Genomics in August to combine the operations of its Agencourt Bioscience group with that of Cogenics, which it had acquired earlier in the year.

Specifically, GE Healthcare claims that the infringing products include the Agencourt AMPure, CleanSEQ, CosMCPrep, FormaPure, Genfind, Orapure, RNAClean, RNAdvance, and SprintPrep kits, as well as the SPRI-TE Viral NA Extraction Kit, SPRI-TE FFPE NA Extraction Kit, and SPRI-TE gDNA Extraction Kit.

GE Healthcare also claims that instruments used to isolate or purify nucleic acids with the SPRI technology — including the Biomek NX, Biomek FX, Biomek FX dual pod, Biomek 3000, and SPRI-TE Nucleic Acid Extractor — are infringing one or more claims of the patents.

GE Healthcare charges in the complaint that Beckman Coulter was aware of the "objectively high likelihood that [its] actions constituted infringement of the '231 and '946 patents and that the patents are valid." As evidence, GE cites the fact that the company "filed reexamination requests for both patents in 2008."

The complaint adds that after the US Patent and Trademark Office issued reexamination certificates earlier this year confirming the validity of both patents, Beckman "responded, not by ceasing and desisting from the acts of infringement, but rather [by] filing further reexamination requests for both patents, which the US Patent and Trademark Office denied."

USPTO records confirm that the reexamination proceedings were initiated in 2008 and terminated in September.

GE added in its complaint that Beckman has carried out additional actions intended "to punish or retaliate against [GE] for pursuing its claims for infringement."

Specifically, the GE Healthcare claims that earlier this month, Beckman subsidiary Lumigen, which manufactures certain detection reagents for GE Healthcare under a supply agreement, approached GE "with a 'take it or leave it' offer of terms under which Lumigen would continue to supply" GE Healthcare.

"The new terms include numerous material changes that significantly benefit Beckman at [GE Healthcare's] expense," GE claims in the suit.

GE Healthcare has asked the court to find that Beckman Coulter Genomics has willfully infringed the patents and is seeking a permanent injunction, triple damages, and attorneys' fees and other costs.

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