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Illumina Sues BGI, Affiliates Over Sequencing Patents in US, Switzerland, Turkey

This article has been updated with comments from BGI.

NEW YORK – Illumina has filed patent infringement suits in the US, Switzerland, and Turkey relating to BGI's sequencing instrumentation and chemistry, the company said today.

The suits, targeting products that include the BGISEQ-500 and MGISEQ-2000 platforms, add fuel to the ongoing patent dispute between the two firms.

The US suit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, is against Complete Genomics, which is part of MGI, the instrument manufacturing business of BGI Group, and other BGI entities. It alleges infringement of US Patents Nos. 7,566,537 and 9,410,200.

The Swiss suit, filed in the Federal Patent Court of Switzerland, is against Latvia MGI Tech, a subsidiary of BGI Group, and alleges infringement of European patents EP 1 530 578 B1 and EP 1 828 412 B1. Earlier this year, Illumina filed a similar suit against Latvia MGI Tech regarding the 578 B1 patent in a German court.

The third suit, filed in the Istanbul Civil Court for Intellectual and Industrial Rights in Turkey, is against BGI distributor Genoks Genetik Hastaliklar Tani Merkezi and alleges infringement of European patent EP 3 002 289 B1.

Illumina said the patents asserted in these actions cover its proprietary sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry.

"We believe BGI's infringement is pervasive," said Illumina Senior VP and General Counsel Charles Dadswell in a statement. "Their continued unauthorized infringement requires that we enforce our intellectual property and protect the substantial investments that have been made in our sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry."

The new suits add to several others filed this year. In addition to the suit against Latvia MGI Tech, Illumina filed a patent infringement suit against BGI Europe in Denmark in May.

In response, last month, Complete Genomics filed its own patent infringement suit against Illumina in the US District Court of the State of Delaware, alleging infringement of its US Patent No. 9,222,132.

In a statement responding to the latest round of suits, BGI said that it has confidence in its own technology and that the current patent disputes will not affect the development of its overseas business.

"We believe Illumina's claims are without merit but a tactic to use litigation to maintain a monopolistic market position," BGI said.

The firm added that MGI has invested more than RMB 5 billion ($728 million) in research and development to establish a patent portfolio around its sequencing technology.

"We are actively responding and will take corresponding legal actions to protect our legitimate rights and interests," BGI said. "MGI’s subsidiary has sued Illumina for patent infringement in the United States and applied for a permanent injunction requiring that they stop selling infringing products immediately."

"All along we have attached great importance to complying with the laws and regulations on intellectual property rights in the countries and regions where we operate, and we are also prepared to fight over the long term."