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Awaiting Settlement of Patent Suit with PacBio, Helicos Sets Sights on Life Tech and Illumina

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This story has been updated from a version published May 2 to include information from documents filed with the SEC.

Helicos is in the final stages of settling a patent dispute with Pacific Biosciences — one of three defendants in a suit that has been ongoing since 2010.

The settlement with PacBio has not yet been finalized, but Helicos CEO Ivan Trifunovich told In Sequence that the agreement will allow the company to "focus on Illumina and Life [Technologies]," the other defendants named in the suit.

PacBio disclosed that it had settled the Helicos suit — as well as another dispute with Life Tech — in its first-quarter earnings call last week (see story, this issue). The company took a $1.8 million charge during the quarter related to the settlement of the two IP matters.

According to PacBio's quarterly report, which was filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the settlement includes "worldwide, non-exclusive licenses" to the patents. Additionally, PacBio will "refrain from challenging, or helping others to challenge, the validity, enforceability, or patentability of any patent or patent application to which it is granted a license under the settlement terms" and will "refrain from filing, or assisting others to file, any papers in the re-examination proceedings concerning the four patents."

Neither PacBio nor Helicos would disclose financial details of the settlement, which both companies said had not yet been finalized.

"Between PacBio, Illumina, and Life Tech, there's quite a big difference in terms of traction in the marketplace," said Trifunovich. "We just felt that working with PacBio to put this behind us would be a good thing to do," he added. "It will make it easier for us to focus on Illumina and Life."

The suit has been making its way through the courts and is scheduled to go to trial in September (IS 4/10/2012).

Helicos first brought its patent infringement suit against PacBio in 2010, claiming that the company infringes on four of its patents, US Patent Nos. 7,645,596 and 7,037,687, both entitled "Method of determining the nucleotide sequence of oligonucleotides and DNA molecules"; US Patent No. 7,169,560, entitled "Short cycle methods for sequencing polynucleotides"; and US Patent No. 7,767,400, entitled "Paired-end reads in sequencing by synthesis."

Later, it added Life Tech and Illumina, claiming that Life Tech infringes on the '596, '687, and '560 patents and Illumina on the '687 and '560 patents. It also alleged that Illumina infringes on an additional patent, US Patent No. 7,593,109, entitled "Apparatus and methods for analyzing samples."

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