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Illumina Seeks Preliminary Injunction Against BGI in US Patent Infringement Case

This story has been updated to include comments from MGI Tech and to correct information about BGI's countersuit against Illumina. 

NEW YORK – Illumina has asked a US Court for a preliminary injunction to prevent BGI from distributing sequencers in the US to a handful of labs on a no-cost trial basis. 

In a motion filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Illumina asked for an order that would prohibit BGI or its affiliates from distributing sequencing systems and reagents that Illumina alleges infringe its intellectual property.

The accused sequencers include the MGISEQ-T7, DNBSEQ-G400 (previously MGISEQ-2000), DNBSEQ-G50, BGISEQ-500, and BGISEQ-50, "or any similar product," and the accused reagents include a long list of MGIEasy and MGICare library preparation and target capture assay kits.

The preliminary injunction is necessary because MGI is planning to distribute the DNBSeq-G400 to five or fewer key opinion leaders in the US, Illumina said in court documents filed Wednesday. "They plan to offer the infringing products on a 'no-cost trial basis' to these potential customers. Defendants state that such shipments may start in late March if they follow through, although they are not certain that such placements will happen," Illumina said, adding that the trial program "is designed to inflict irreparable harm" to Illumina.

"MGI believes that this motion is an example of Illumina attempting to tarnish MGI's reputation, stifle competition, and limit consumer choice in the US market," an MGI Tech spokesperson said in an email. "Illumina's motion for a preliminary injunction is not directed to MGI's novel CoolMPS reagent kits or the use of MGI's sequencers with the CoolMPS reagent kits. Rather, Illumina's motion is directed at preventing even minimal use of MGI's reagent kits for comparison with MGI's CoolMPS chemistry."

In a declaration filed along with the motion, Illumina Chief Commercial Officer Mark Van Oene said the program "would likely cause serious harm to Illumina's commercial reputation in the field, as well as its relationships with key opinion leaders, while unjustly enhancing MGI's reputation and relationships with these key opinion leaders and other US customers. This would encourage others in the field to use MGI's sequencers, reagents, and services instead of Illumina's competing products and services."

Illumina originally filed suit against BGI affiliate Complete Genomics in June 2019, alleging infringement of patents covering Illumina's sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry. In addition to the US, Illumina has sued BGI in several other countries including Switzerland, Turkey, and Denmark. Earlier this month, the US District Court narrowed a countersuit filed by BGI, but allowed allegations of induced infringement to proceed. Complete Genomics has also filed suit against Illumina, alleging patent infringement of two-color sequencing technology. 

Illumina declined to respond to questions about the motion, including why the trial program would harm the company's reputation, citing the ongoing litigation.

Illumina argued that a preliminary injunction would be appropriate because it would likely succeed on the merits of the case.