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PerkinElmer Sues Life Tech, MDS, MDS Analytical Technologies Alleging Mass Spec IP Infringement

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By Tony Fong

PerkinElmer is suing Life Technologies, MDS, and MDS Analytical Technologies, alleging they are infringing five patents held by PerkinElmer for certain mass spectrometry technologies.

The lawsuit filed on Jan. 20 in US District Court in Massachusetts relates to patents that were originally granted to Analytica of Branford by the US Patent and Trademark Office between 1997 and 2001. PerkinElmer acquired AOB last year.

In its complaint, the company alleges the Applied Biosystems/MDS Sciex QStar line of mass spectrometers infringes on the patents, and added that other unnamed products may also infringe on them.

ABI, now part of Life Tech, shares a mass spec joint venture with MDS, the parent firm of MDS Analytical Technologies. Life Tech currently offers two models of the QStar system used for proteomics, protein analyses, metabolomics, and drug discovery.

The patents covered by the suit are:
• 5,962,851 "Multipole ion guide for mass spectrometry," granted in Oct. 15, 1999;
• 5,652,427 "Multipole ion guide for mass spectrometry," granted on July 29, 1997;
• 6,188,066, "Multipole ion guide for mass spectrometry," granted Feb. 13, 2001;
• 6,020,586 "Ion storage time-of-flight mass spectrometer," granted Feb. 1, 2000; and
• 6,011,259 "Multipole ion guide ion trap mass spectrometry with MS/MSN analysis," granted Jan. 4, 2000.

The first three patents cover multipole ion guides that are incorporated into an atmospheric ion source mass spec system. The guides improve performance and lower the cost of atmospheric pressure ion mass spec instrument, according to the patent abstracts. The inventors are Craig Whitehouse and Erol Gulcicek.

Patent 6,020,586 covers a method and apparatus combining one or more linear 2D ion guides or a 2D ion storage device "in tandem with a time-of-flight mass analyzer to analyze ionic chemical species generated by an ion source," according to the abstract. The technology improves the duty cycle and sensitivity of the instrument. The inventors are Whitehouse, Gulcicek, and Thomas Dresch.

Patent 6,011,259 pertains to a technology in which a TOF mass analyzer is "configured with a multipole ion guide in the ion path between the ion source and pulsing region of the mass analyzer, and enables trapping or transmission of ions from an atmospheric pressure ion source," its abstract said. The inventors are Whitehouse, Dresch, and Bruce Andrien.

In an e-mail to ProteoMonitor, Joel Goldberg, general counsel and secretary of PerkinElmer, said that the company is "committed to protecting our innovative and patented technology." AOB was a "pioneer" in TOF technology and "has fundamental patents which we are seeking to protect across the industry of TOF providers. The enforcement of these patents is a process that began with AOB and transitioned to PerkinElmer, who began the industry-wide enforcement in the fall of 2009.”

In addition to Life Tech and MDS, other undisclosed parties have been "induced" by the two companies to infringe on the patents, PerkinElmer said in its complaint. The company is asking the court to issue an injunction against Life Tech and MDS from further infringement. It also is seeking undisclosed damages and court and lawyers fees.

In a statement to ProteoMonitor, Life Tech said it sees "no merit to PerkinElmer’s lawsuit and we expect our mass spectrometry divestiture to close in the first quarter of 2010.”

In an e-mail, Janet Ko, MDS' senior vice president of communications, said the company is reviewing the lawsuit, and "we believe we have very meritorious positions."

LifeTech and MDS are in the process of selling their mass spec joint venture to Danaher. MDS is also selling its Analytical Technologies business to Danaher, which is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Last month, PerkinElmer took a legal challenge to MDS' plan to sell its Analytical Technologies division to Danaher. PerkinElmer has a joint venture with MDS on inductively coupled plasma mass specs. As part of the Analytical Technologies deal, MDS would need to divest its half of the PE JV — a transaction that PE would need to approve. The company has not consented, and in a Notice of Application sought alternative remedies, including an injunction to prevent MDS from selling the Analytical Technologies business.