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Illumina Sues BGI Again, Alleging New CoolMPS Chemistry Infringes SBS Patents

NEW YORK – Illumina has filed an additional lawsuit in the US, alleging patent infringement by BGI and its affiliates.

In a complaint filed Thursday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Illumina said BGI's entire DNBSeq instrument line as well as its StandardMPS and CoolMPS reagents infringe three US patents covering Illumina's sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry.

"BGI has brazenly copied Illumina's proprietary sequencing chemistry," Charles Dadswell, Illumina senior VP and general counsel, said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor and defend our intellectual property by appropriate enforcement when our patents are infringed." 

Illumina alleged that the defendants directly and willfully infringed US Patent Nos. 7,541,444 and 7,771,973, both titled "Modified nucleotides," and US Patent No. 10,480,025, titled "Labeled nucleotides." The allegedly infringing products include "all defendants' sequencers, sample preparation systems, reagent kits, and any related products and services, past, present, and future, which use, prepare samples for use with, contain, or practice methods using nucleotides with a 3’-O-azidomethyl blocking group," Illumina said.

"MGI believes that this complaint is completely without merit and an obvious attempt by Illumina to maintain a monopolistic market position and prevent choice from being offered to customers," a company spokesperson said in an email. "We intend to vigorously defend our intellectual property, as we have in other jurisdictions, and strive for choice in the market."

MGI Tech said last week that it is launching several of its sequencing platforms in the US, but only with the CoolMPS chemistry.

Illumina's complaint also alleges induced and contributory infringement. The San Diego-based sequencing firm asked the court for a judgment that BGI has infringed the three patents, a protective order, monetary damages, a declaration of willful and deliberate infringement and treble damages, and costs and attorneys' fees.

The lawsuit adds to the pile of legal actions Illumina has taken against BGI in jurisdictions around the world. Illumina also sued BGI for patent infringement in the same court last year and last week asked the court for a preliminary injunction to prevent BGI from starting an allegedly planned no-cost trial program for its instruments in the US. Illumina has also sued BGI or its affiliates in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. 

BGI has countersued for patent infringement in the 2019 US case. Complete Genomics has also sued Illumina, alleging patent infringement of its two-color sequencing technology.

Illumina's '973 patent is expected to expire in 2023 and the '444 patent in 2024.

According to an exhibit filed with the complaint, Illumina said a BioRxiv preprint posted Feb. 20 proved CoolMPS technology infringed the '973 patent.